The Quirky Ladies is a group of eclectic (and dare I say quirky?) ladies who are passionate about writing romantic fiction. All types of romantic fiction...paranormal, fantasy, historical, erotic and contemporary. Bring it on!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Interview with Dalton Diaz and Samantha Cayto

The Quirky Ladies are thrilled to announce the release of Dalton Diaz' second book with Ellora's Cave, Illegal Moves. She and co-author Samantha Cayto have written a sexy menage story that is sizzling hot! We are celebrating her new release with the following interview. Please check out the full book blurb and an excerpt on the Ellora's Cave site, and leave a comment for these two talented authors on our blog.

Here's a brief description of Illegal Moves...

Attorney Caroline Ellis and hunky businessman Jordan Fox have some old business to settle, and secretly bisexual Seth Foster is all for playing judge. Illegal Moves by Dalton Diaz and Samantha Cayto will be released on May 29.


The Quirky Ladies Welcome Dalton Diaz and Samantha Cayto!

The Quirky Ladies (TQL): Welcome Dalton and Samantha! Thank you so much for joining us today. First up, we want to know the background on this story. Can you tell us how you came to write it?

Dalton Diaz (DD): We still argue about that. We're friends from way back when we first joined RWA, and I went through a rough patch with my health. Samantha wanted to help me out, and to get me back into the writing game she offered me a chance to help rework one of her first manuscripts into an erotica.

Samantha Cayto (SC): Yeah, Dalton likes to remember it as my helping her, and I sure wanted to help her get back to writing, but I needed help, too. I'd been knocked around pretty good by the whole submission/rejection thing and she'd been there to help pick me back up. It was during dinner at Nationals one year when she turned to me and suggested we try writing erotica together. I sent her an old story and she ran with it!

DD: See, that's where we disagree. I don't remember being the one to ask. I thought you offered. Water under the bridge, really. I have something to add, too, that still makes me laugh. Samantha and I were already collaborating when the opportunity came up to work with Ashlyn Chase on Love Cuffs. I asked Sam if that would be cool since that would mean setting Illegal Moves aside for awhile, and her response said it all: "What are you, stupid?"

SC: LOL! I don't remember putting it quite that way, but yes that was the sentiment. I am very grateful to Ashlyn for giving us both a leg up. She is a very generous person who is happy to give advice and help to a new author.

TQL: How do you come up with your ideas?

DD: It starts with a germ, and evolves as I write. I'm what's known as a pantser/puzzler. I don't plot my books - I go where my characters take me, and I don't necessarily write in order. You'd think that would make it harder to write with someone else, but it doesn't, especially if they ARE plotters. It keeps me in line.

SC: I start with a germ, too, but I always begin at page one and keep going until the end. Writing with Dalton was my first taste of seeing more detail throughout the story from the start and back filling as we went. It gave me new perspective.

DD: And I learned a lot from Ash about moving forward instead of obsessing. OK, I still obsess, but not nearly as much. Not as much. Not so much. Huh.

SC: Sure, Dalton, not so much.

TQL: Do you have future plans for your characters in Illegal Moves? Will they show up again?

DD: I hope so! I believe there's room for a couple of replays. Samantha?

SC: Oh, absolutely. I always want to revisit my characters. Their story never ends and I like to see how they're doing.

TQL: What's your biggest writing challenge?

DD: For me, it's making the heroine strong but likable.

SC: I have trouble making my heroines likable, too, I think. Oddly for an erotica writer, I find writing the sex scenes are hard. I worry about making them realistic as well as hot. I remember one night in particular sitting on a hotel bed showing Dalton how something I was thinking was physically possible. So glad no one else was watching!

DD: Didn't I tell you? I was taking video. It's going to be our trailer on Youtube...

SC: Hey, I hope it goes viral! All publicity is good, right?

TQL: Something tells me EC isn't going to use that video for promotional purposes. Next question...What was the easiest part of Illegal Moves to write?

DD: Any part with Seth in it. Yeah, he's pretty much demanding his own story. You game for that, Samantha?

SC: Need you ask? MM has been my passion for years. I love writing it.

TQL: Which character did you most fall in love with and why?

DD: Seth. We had to constantly beat him back with a stick, and we're not really into that kind of thing...

SC: Ah, speak for yourself, Dalton! Yeah, Seth won my heart.

TQL: What's it like to co-author a book?

DD: I've done it twice, and I love it. There's always someone there to bounce ideas when you're stuck, and that input is coming from someone who has just as much invested in the characters and the storyline.

SC: Agreeing to write with Dalton was easy because I'd seen her work before and I knew that not only was she a good writer, but our styles are so similar. I really have trouble knowing which words are mine and which are hers. The other important thing is that neither of us is so wedded to our words that we can't agree to change them if the other has a better way.

DD: That's actually a great point. It's really important to remember that there's always a third option.

TQL: What's your favorite genre and how does it affect your own writing?

DD: I don't have a favorite, as long as it's romance. I do prefer the HEA.

SC: I like different ones, too, and I definitely need the HEA. I do tend to favor stories with a kick-ass heroine, though.

DD: That's because you kick ass. I'm a wimp.

SC: You're not a wimp, just quietly assertive.

DD: If you're calling me passive aggressive, I'm going to have to kick your ass. Is there a third option?

TQL: All right ladies! No ass-kicking on The Quirky Ladies blog! Thanks Dalton and Samantha for a very informative and humorous look at the glamorous life of erotica co-authors. I can't wait to re-read your fabulous book. And something tells me that a review of Illegal Moves just might show up on Penelope's Romance Reviews. Look for it!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

BDSM Erotica Can Save Your Sanity

I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted, but I’ve been getting slammed at work. Add to that a 2-year old whose decided to go into his first “Mummy, Mummy, Mummy, it’s all about MUMMY!” phase, a husband who works as long hours as I do, two dogs, one nanny whose idea of clean and organized is vastly different than mine, and a commute, and, well, something has to give.

What ends up giving, far more often than not, is my writing. And not just the act of putting words on the page. “Writing” and all that goes into it includes a lot of things for me: critiquing, writing blogs, reading, brainstorming, meeting with the Quirkies. All things I would rather be doing at any given moment than working at my job. (Sorry, boss. Hope you don't see this.)

It’s not that I can’t find the time to write my next story. It’s that work has me so wound up, I can’t find the words. This is not a pleasant state of being for me. It’s seriously stressful and pokes at me, continuously, until it’s resolved. The good news is that this feeling has often been what has brought me back to my keyboard. Pushed the next story from me. The bad news is that it can make me want to quit my job on the spot. Often.

Instead of risking my career, this time I devoted my time and energy to working on a different aspect of writing. Other than creating my own stories, reading and critiquing those of the other Quirkies is my favorite way to exercise my writing skills. I admit I’m a weirdo, but I simply LOVE to line edit.

I’m extraordinarily lucky that timing and Michelle allowed me do a full read-through of Bound Odyssey over the past few weeks. I think I would have gone stone-cold crazy sitting home at night, not doing anything because I was too burnt to write. Instead, I was submerged in the future and the lives of Michelle’s incredible characters. I fell in love with Mira, Roman and Jace. I despised the evil government and their nefarious plots. I rooted for the underdogs, in this case our characters and the entire D/s community in New Denver. I had the pleasure of reading mind-numbingly erotic love scenes. Lots of them. I’m not generally a reader of BDSM erotica, but Michelle creates a world, and a space within that world, where it worked for me. Where, I believe, it would work for almost anyone.

We all know the pleasure of losing ourselves in a great book. Of just tearing right through it. Line editing slows it down to 12-15 pages an hour for me, which for many would make the process insufferable. I love it. The story lasts longer. Means more. Sinks in deeper. Michelle can know she’s written a kick ass book because at the end, some 30+ hours into it, I was still sad to have to say goodbye (while totally delighted by a great HEA ending).

I started to volunteer to do full manuscript line edits because the success of each Quirky Lady matters to me. That’s still the case, but as a remarkable bonus, I derive an enormous amount of satisfaction from devoting myself to the process. Never more than in the last two weeks did I need to feel like I was still doing SOMETHING with my writing. That I was still moving my goal forward.

So come Tuesday, when I’m struggling through another week of hell at the office, I’ll be calm and get it all done (or, at least, will try). That’s a paycheck. My REAL work, my writing, will be waiting for me at home. If I can’t find the words yet, so be it. I think Vicki has something she needs me to look at anyway.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Torturing Heroes: The Inside Scoop

I love dark, tortured heroes. I love to read them, I love to write them. But why do I create such characters? What appeals to me about these injured men? Inquiring minds want to know. Or at least I do. And since this blog is an awesome opportunity for self-indulgence, I thought I'd corner three gorgeous, dark hero specimens and ask them their opinions about why I like to rake them over hot coals in my stories.

Today I've invited three tortured heroes from the pages of my manuscripts to share the blog stage. I'd like to introduce: Gabriel, a sexy angel/incubus hybrid from Ruling Eden, Lucan, the imprisoned Prince from The Demon's Whip, and Jace Argo, the cowboy diplomat from Bound Odyssey. Michelle Picard, one of my two alternate egos, is responsible for creating Gabriel and Lucan's stories. Michelle Polaris, the naughtier of the Michelle triplets, dreamt up Jace and his post-apocalyptic existence introduced to the world of bondage and submission. (Told you Ms. Polaris is the naughtier triplet--grin.)

MP: Well, why don't we go ahead and begin this discussion. Welcome, Gentlemen.

Gabriel: Honored to be here, Michelle.

Lucan: A pleasure, My Lady.

Jace: Likewise.

MP: Okay guys, we're here to talk about my nasty habit of torturing heroes. Any thoughts to jump us off?

Jace: Sure. First, I'd suggest you think about therapy. You've filled our back stories with abusive fathers, murdered or suicided parents, childhoods spent hated by our peers, enemies who want us dead, tendencies toward extreme self-castigation and a lot of other crap that no single man should face in his lifetime. Working out some issues in your books are you, Michelle? Give a guy a break.

Lucan: Argo, stop blaming the Lady. Insult her again and I'll call you out and slit that precious throat of yours.

Jace: Oooh, the sword's scary, Prince, but watch it or I'll shove it someplace too unwholesome to mention on a clean blog like the Quirky Ladies.

Gabriel: Gentlemen, perhaps we can avoid devolving the discussion into a slug fest and focus on the topic at hand.

MP: It's fine, Gabriel. And I appreciate you coming to my defense, Lucan, but I asked for honest opinions. Jace, is it possible that I believe in you guys so much I'm confident you can overcome incredible odds? I mean you're all intelligent, honest, incredibly strong, and carry around that integrity bug. You coped with tough childhoods, sure, but you overcame them and look at the payoffs. You get paired with beautiful, kick-ass women and fall in love.

Lucan: And I appreciate that outcome, My Lady. But perhaps you made us suffer so much because the real world is a dangerous place. If you write heroes strong enough to overcome such hardship, you create men who can come to your defense when you feel threatened.

Gabriel: Prince Lucan, I do not believe females are a weaker gender in need of being saved. In many ways I believe they are the stronger sex. My Rachel has faced the destruction of the world itself and found the courage to do what's necessary to save it, even at her own expense.

Jace: (Grunts and nods) Before the hell that was my storyline in Bound Odyssey I might have agreed with Lucan. But I've seen how scary a woman can become with a whip in her hand, and a little wicked in her eyes, and Rambo has nothing on a Mistress with a mission. Women are definitely the stronger gender.

Lucan: (Begrudgingly) Perhaps you're right. Simone certainly proves your point. She'd sacrifice all for the good of her people, kill to protect those she loves. Even when her power scares her most she does what she believes necessary.

Gabriel: I think my Rachel and your Simone have a lot in common. Though Rachel's tendency for blunt speech is an acquired taste.

Jace: Oh, she'd love Mira, then. Not much need to censor your speech in the Mistress business.

MP: We're getting off point, gentlemen. I love it that you're so supportive of your heroines. Maybe I'll get the gals together for their own group discussion soon. I think this must be an example of characters getting away from an author. But really, we need to get back to tortured heroes.

Jace: Okay, if we throw out my earlier idea that you need a good dozen years of psychoanalysis, then maybe it's this instead. I stole it from one of your earlier Quirky Ladies blogs about strong romance sales and why romance does well during hard times. Maybe, Michelle, you torture us so when we overcome our dark natures or dark pasts we inspire hope. Your readers may have a lot of crap going on in their own lives. Even if its not as dramatic as the trauma you put us through, sometimes it sure feels like it. And if the heroes (and also the heroines) you write about end up kicking the sh*!#*t out of their problems and growing beyond them, doesn't that give your readers that hope that they can overcome theirs, too. I mean, I know there's this fantasy of women fixing the broken male and love overcoming all. But you're not really writing those stories, Michelle. Sure, Mira shoved me in the right direction, but you're still leaving your characters responsible for their change. And they do change and it does get better.

Gabriel: I agree. And you do the readers a favor by allowing us to keep some of our faults, some of our struggle, even in the end. It doesn't all disappear by magic. (Even when characters do possess magic of their own.) Instead we take our difficult pasts, grow beyond the worst of our stumbling blocks to offer our honest selves in relationships, but still remain imperfect, struggling through the day to day even when we've healed some. You give us partners with whom we'll continue to share the struggle while we honor one another. It is a form of hope without the rosy colored glasses of a perfect world that tells readers they can find happiness and overcome even as they continue to struggle day to day.

MP: Boy, you guys are quite the philosophers.

Gabriel: When you live many hundreds of years you find a lot of time to reflect.

Lucan: If I may interject, I would like to thank you, My Lady, for allowing me to expand my world view. It's quite an eye opening for someone who lives an extreme childhood, and so develops a particular vision of life, to have that entire vision called into question by story challenges. It calls to mind the possibilities for readers to open their own eyes and question the assumptions they have about their lives. A hidden benefit of the tortured hero who is forced to do the same in a dramatic way.

MP: Wow, you guys have really thought about this. Maybe you can forgive me for the depressing back stories? I love you guys. I wouldn't have written you if I didn't. And I can't stand to think you're pissed at me for my use of creative license.

Gabriel: There's nothing to forgive, Michelle.

Jace: The winged guy's right. Sorry I implied you're screwed up. You're not. Or at least no more than anyone else I know. And how can I be mad when you gave me Mira and Roman?

Lucan: And me Simone. We owe you our very lives. Literally. And I try not to spit in the face of my creator. Doesn't bode well for much of a future.

MP: (LOL!) Okay, guys. I feel much better now. Unfortunately, time's up. You've given me lots to think about. Next time I invite you over we'll try something more upbeat. Maybe a party? Bring the significant others and the assorted secondary characters and we'll have a rocking time.

Gabriel: Farewell, Michelle.

Jace: Bye, sweetheart.

Lucan: Until later, My Lady.

(The boys walk out the door and I appreciate the view.)

MP: Well, Quirky blog readers, that's all for now. I'm a little overheated having three such intense, gorgeous men around. I think I'll go stick my head in the freezer for a few minutes. Thanks for stopping by, and keep reading and writing those tortured heroes. And if you have any insight onto why I or anyone else loves to write these type of guys, drop a comment.

In Quirkydom,


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

More Random Musings on Pen Names…Could a Porn Star Name be in your Future?

So the Quirky Ladies have been on a pen name kick lately, as you may remember from Michelle’s previous blog, and it’s turned into an amusing side project – at least for me. I decided I should go with a family name, something with personal meaning, but also a name easy to remember, and, of course a marketable name.

After much deliberation, I narrowed it down to two: Tara Blake or Tara Truesdale. Given I write women’s fiction and single-title contemporary I leaned heavily towards Tara Blake mostly since Tara Truesdale sounded more akin with a historical romance writer. Also, Tara Blake has the same number of syllables as my given name, rolls off the tongue (as I would soon learn quite literally so), and could potentially put me in a good alphabetical position should my manuscripts ever hit the bookshelves.

As I was about to declare a pen name winner, I decided to do the proverbial Google sanity check first. Well, let’s just say I am now even more acutely aware of how wonderful a resource the Internet can be. It seems Tara Blake, who I am sure is a lovely lady indeed, was a porn star in the 1980s, starring in such classics as Holly Does Hollywood 3, Breast Stroke 2, and Deep Inside Trading, to name just a few.

For hours, since I do still like the name, I played around with the idea of using a former porn star name as my pen name. I consider myself an open-minded person, and have nothing against the porn industry (as long it only involves consenting adults), so maybe Tara Blake could fit.

As I was trying on the name in my mind, I even went so far as to envision what my traditional porn star name would be (you remember, your first pet’s name and the name of the street you grow up on). Well, I wound end up with the moniker Obi Wan Kenobi Oak. Interesting on many levels (I can’t believe my parents let us torture a cat in such a manner), especially if you are a Star Wars fan (I am), but certainly not a name that evokes romance on any level.

But could I really use a porn star name as my pen name? I kept asking myself again and again, especially after I found more information on the Internet (Ms. Blake once played a character named Virginia Beaver), but for every time I thought maybe I could, twice as many times I decided against it.

I tried to give it another go though since I felt as if Tara Blake, a long-ago porn star, and I, a would-be romance author, are sisters in arms in some strange way. I didn’t want to cast her aside without ever having seen her work the way so many people disparage romance novels despite never having read one.

Could I do it; could I pull it off?

I asked the Quirky Ladies their opinion since they know me well. Was a porn star name too much of a stretch? From the howls of laughter I received when they learned of the illicit past of my potential Nom De Plume, I realized my gut reaction was valid and it was probably not an association that was in any way believable. In fact, it borders on a leap of faith not seen since Jesus rose from the dead after being nailed to the cross. Let’s face it, if you know me or have read more than a few paragraphs of anything I have ever written, Snow White is a whore compared to me or my heroines.

Nope…no porn star name for me. I’m too tried and true, which leads me back to my other possible pen name, which is actually where I should have ended up in the first place. You see Truesdale will be a tribute to my Dad’s mother, who I bare an uncanny resemblance to, but unfortunately never got to the chance to meet. From what I know about her, she would get a kick out of having her name attached to romance novels.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Do politics and romance mix?

Check out this ridiculously fabulous post by Hillary Rettig, a fellow member of the New England Chapter of the RWA, entitled The Eroticization of Equality and Social Justice, May 11, 2009, The Huffington Post.  This rocks. 

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Strong Romance Sales

While the recent economic news is depressing, it was nice to hear some good news: the economy may be down, but sales of romance novels are up.
This news of strong romance sales delighted me, but it didn't surprise me.  Romance readers are the most loyal of book fans and mass market paperbacks are cheaper than a lot of adult fiction. But the truth of the matter is that in depressing news cycles, people often seek to escape through the pages of a book. I am no stranger to this.
During difficult periods in my life, I turn to romance novels because I want my guarantee of a  happily-ever-after ending. I do this for the same reason children watch the same Disney movie over and over or demand to be read the same picture book again and again. Why?  Because they already know what's going to happen and how it will end. This gives them a feeling of safety and control in a world they don't understand.
Adults who turn to romance novels are seeking a similar sense of safety and control. We know that when we turn those pages, we enter a world where no matter what conflict the characters encounter or what rollicking adventures the author sends us on, we'll all arrive safely at our happy ending. Mainstream fiction gives us many wonderful things, but it doesn't promise to deliver this guarantee to its readers.
In the summer of 2006, my husband complained of bad stomachaches. We dismissed it as nothing serious, attributing it to the stress of moving into a rental house while we were having construction done on our own home. One month into the project, my husband's stomach pain became so severe, he nearly passed out in CVS while up the medicine his doctor had prescribed.
He returns home and curls into a fetal position on our bed. I am frantically trying to extract information from him. He tells me if the pain gets worse, he is to call his doctor and go to the emergency room. This is a man who is in shape, works out, runs consistently and is rarely if ever sick. His only experience with the hospital was during the birth of our two children. He also can't stand to be a passenger in his own car, so when I'm advised to drive him to the nearest emergency room and he probably has something called Diverticulitis, I'm terrified. His doctor might as well have said he has supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and expect this to calm me. Nothing is worse than fear of the unknown.
Thank God for my brother-in-law, who is a doctor and who studied infectious disease. He explained that my husband had an infection in the colon and that while causing extreme pain, is treatable. And thank God for Jennifer Crusie whom I was reading in the midst of this crisis. My husband and I spent over twelve hours in the emergency room of the hospital that day.  My husband lay on a cot in the hall of the ER, taking morphine to control his pain, while we waited for a room to open.  His infection was so severe he had to be admitted into the hospital for a week.
During this period, I devoured Crusie's sweet, feel good romances, Anyone But You, Strange Bedpersons, and Getting Rid of Bradley. I escaped with Janet Evanovich's kick ass bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum, reading the first three books in her series.
I wanted to laugh when my present situation wasn't giving me anything to laugh about. My husband stopped responding to the antibiotics, and we had to cut short a weekend get-away to Vermont to switch his drugs. I took comfort in knowing that despite whatever the conflicts the characters were experiencing in these stories I read, I knew everything would resolve happily. When we learned surgery that would remove ten inches of my husband's infected colon was the best treatment for his case, for awhile I escaped to a happier world through these novels.  When we were told my husband may have to have two separate surgeries and wear a colostomy bag between the operations, I followed Stephanie Plum's madcap adventures.  In her world, I relished Stephanie's ability to kick ass even when half the time she was screwing up.
After surgery and missing two months of work, my husband fully recovered.  He'd visit the construction crew at our house and joke to them that if they missed with the staple gun, they'd look like him.  He'd then lift up his shirt to proudly show off his twenty-something titanium staples in his chest.  Lovely.  He quips to friends that they can now call him semi-colon.
I'm an eclectic reader.  I'll read anything and everything with historical fiction being my favorite.  I just finished and loved, Dennis Lehane's 700-page novel, The Given Day.  It brings post WWI Boston alive in its story about the fight to develop a police union.  Before this, I read The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee, which takes place in Hong Kong before, during and after WWII.  These are wonderful, richly informative books, but reading them was a journey into the unknown.  There were no guarantees of how they would end, no automatic ticket to a happy resolution for all involved.  This is fine, but not when my life is spiraling into its own cycle of conflict.  How can I read about another's crumbling world when mine is falling apart?  I can't have both my escape route and my real life be stress filled.  That's double jeopardy.
When a friend of mine went through radiation therapy for her cancer, I loaned her my audiotape of Sophie Kinsella's Can You Keep a Secret?  She loved it for making her laugh during a difficult period.  For a few minutes, she was able to escape.
So it's little surprise that the sale of romance novels are up during these difficult times.  For anyone looking for a happy ending when their own lives aren't giving them one, pick up a romance, sit back and enjoy.  As an added bonus, you just might fall in love with its handsome hero.  But that's a blog for another day....

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Romantic Times '09 was a Blast!

I can't believe I've been home for nearly a week. Where did my alter ego go? That woman who used make-up and hairspray ever day and night? The one who brought specific outfits for events, and wore - gasp - heels and strapless gowns? OK, so my roommate had to double sticky tape me into two of the dresses, and the special bra necessary cost almost as much as the dress. Hey, there's a reason for the DD of Dalton Diaz. Hmm. There's an answer I'll have to use in a contest some day. Anyhow, back to this TMI blog... Better yet, let's move on.

I have to say, the conference itself is the best large scale conference I have ever been to. The hotel sat on over 40 acres of tropical beauty, and it was set up like 2 story apartment buildings dotting the grounds. While that meant you could find yourself somewhat far from the convention center, restaurants, etc., it also meant that you didn't disappear in a gloomy, bad air hotel, never to see the sun for five days. I loved it.

The conference itself was well thought out, with workshop offerings for everyone at every stage of writing and bookselling, and parties/mixers galore for readers. There was always something interesting going on! Some of my favorite authors were there, including Joey Hill, Jessica Andersen, Cricket Starr, Ciana Stone, of course Ashlyn Chase, Emily Bryan, and oh too many to keep naming! I met fabulous people - special shout out to Lacey Savage, Liddy Midnight, Cheryl Dragon (who I got to sit next to at the booksigning!), Christine D'Abo, Brooke London, and Frances Stockton for making me feel welcome. Goes for Jess Andersen, too, but only as much as she wants to admit! Flat iron says hi. He misses you so. Oh, and I got to meet the best reader ever! Mary Stubbs, you rock! Not actually sure on the last name, but you know who you are.
A very special thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of the effort made to support our troops and their families, past and present. Yeah! I didn't break down and cry this year, thanks to Emily Bryan and Bobbi Smith.

Next up? The Maine retreat starting May 15th, and then Romanticon in Oct. Can't wait!