Sunday, September 6, 2015

Chocolate Farm Cake

What could be better than a simple, quick chocolate cake? This recipe is perfect for any time you'd like something yummy and easy. 

Preheat oven to 350'
Grease and flour 8x8 pan

Dry ingredients:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 baking powder

Blended ingredients:
6 tablespoons softened butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
3/4 cup milk 

Stir together dry ingredients. 
Beat butter until smooth, gradually add sugar until well combined. 
Add eggs one at a time, beat well after each. 
Add vanilla. 
Alternately add dry ingredients and milk, beating until just combined after each. 
Beat on medium to high for 20 seconds more. 
Pour into pan. 
Bake 30-35. 
Frost with your favorite frosting or dust with confectioners sugar. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

YA thriller series Cherry Grove, Book 1

Be careful who you keep secrets with
Best Friends Never

Lexi Welks wants two things—respect and a college acceptance letter that’ll get her out of too-good-to-be-true Cherry Grove. The problem is that the nasty, life-ruining secret she shares with Monica Sanders is about to go public. If their ugly truth comes out, her plans for college? Not happening. And that’s only the beginning of her end.

Monica is the kind of student teachers adore—well behaved, hard-working and always follows the rules. She’s the kind of friend other girls follow—well-dressed, popular and always knows the right thing to do. If only they knew the truth about her. The truth Lexi found out the hard way, after spending the past summer letting Monica talk her into doing things she knew could come back to ruin her.

Preorders start August 4.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Fetish 101 Ponyplay: Tricked out in leather, adorned with plumes, trained with whips...what you might not know about ponyplay

Show pony, art by John Willie
A recent reading of A. N. Roquelaure’s Beauty’s Kingdom made me curious. About what you ask. Spanking? Sex slaves? We are talking about Ann Rice, after all. But nope, I wasn’t wondering about those things. I was curious about ponies. To be more accurate, people pretending to be ponies: ponyboys and ponygirls.

If you read the second two of the Sleeping Beauty series, you know doubt remember Tristan’s fate of being forced to pull the Captain of the Guard’s cart in book 2, Beauty’s Punishment, then being sent to the stables as a punishment in book 3, Beauty’s Release. Ann Rice’s latest book, the fourth in the series, Beauty’s Kingdom, features extensive description of the stables and human ponies. It was that lengthy detail that got me wondering about real life human ponies and ponyplay.

Ponyplay is just what it sounds like, animal role-play when one or more person involved pretends to be a pony. Ponyplay may or may not involve BDSM and in some instances, it is non-sexual or involves little “normal” sexual contact. Typically, the sexual thrill comes from the fantasy created by the pony, the concept of actually being a pony under the control of a groom, trainer, or owner. The trainer, groom or owner is dominant, in control of their animal. “Normal” sex may occur if the ponies are engaged in ‘stud services,’ meaning one pony is bred to another. This studding requires permissions and arrangements of the ponies’ owners. 

One of the draws to ponyplay is that there are many opportunities for individuals to put their own
creative twist on their preferred activity. Many ponyboys and ponygirls create a distinct ‘personality,’ or temperament, for their pony. They, as their pony self, are a particular breed and have detailed nice and naughty characteristics. For example, their pony self may be a hard-working even-tempered pony that thrives on praise or their pony self may be a naughty pony that often misbehaves and requires constant direction and punishments.

Cart ponies, art by John Willie
Most often, all ponies wear tack and other adornments. Tack may include a bridle, with bit, saddle, designed especially for human or actual ponies, harness, plumes, and horsetails. There may also be a lot of leather or rubber suiting. Rains or riding straps are another possibility. And of course, pony shoes which are shoes designed to look and sound like horse hooves. The trainer and/or rider will also have equipment: whips and crops, for example.

Generally, there are three types of ponies.
Riding ponies.
Cart ponies.
Show ponies.

Riding ponies are ridden by their riders who may also be their trainers and owners. Riding ponies can be two or four legged and there are saddles designed for both. Real, actual horse, saddles can also be used. Obviously, riding ponies must be strong and agile to bear the weight of riders.

Cart ponies pull carts, carriages, wagons, sulkies…you get the idea. These ponies pull something someone else rides in. The cart pony many or may not wear fancy gear but cart ponies do have tack that is designed to get the job done. Typically the vehicle pulled by the cart pony seats one or two people, but there are larger carts pulled by a team of ponies. Team ponies, most often two-legged, require specialized training and often have matching tack. Additionally, they often have matching physiques or are arranged by physique.

Show ponies are tricked out in fancy tack and ornate accessories. As the name indicates, these ponies are valued for their beauty and ability to perform. They learn human pony gaits and are taught intricate routines by their trainers. Most often these ponies who off their dressage skills, sometimes in organized events.

Cart pony, art by John Willie
Ponyplay is not new. Historians have debated the notion that Aristotle was in the habit of pretending to be a pony for the enjoyment of his wife and/or other women. This explains why ponyplay is sometimes known as “The Aristotelian Perversion” and also reveals that this penchant has been around and thriving for a long, long time. Images of ponyplay in the US can be found in books, magazines and artwork. It’s the sort of thing that once you start looking for it, you’ll see it. One place to start looking is in decades old copies of the American fetish magazine, Bizarre, which featured ponygirl stories throughout the 50’s and 60’s. The artwork by John Willie is intriguing, to put it mildly. Were to look next? I'll leave that up to you.

Want some more right now? I suggest this ten minute video that offers a great overview as well as some ponies in action:  ponyplay tv5

Interested in why people are involved in ponyplay? Try: Pony and Master, interview and Addicted to PonyPlay.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I am who I am: fiction writer. Why I chose not to use a pen name for my young adult work

Before signing the contract for Cherry Grove, my young adult suspense series, the question of a pen name came up. Since I also write erotic romance, should I use a pen name for my young adult books? Would that be the better? The more I stewed on my eventual answer, the more complex the question became. Here’s how it went.

I started by…um…thinking about myself.

If I create a new name, I'll need to create a whole new online identity and wow… time? Creativity? Rather use those for writing more stories. Besides, the online identity that I do have is not all *that* steamy. I post mostly vintage pics, talk about movies I've seen, all "nicer side of naughty" stuff. No worries that YA readers or the YA community will be scandalized by what I post.

Next I thought about YA readers themselves. Will publishing a YA series under the same name as my erotic work be confusing or inappropriate?

Nah. Many YA readers have read 50 Shades, seen the movie and talked to their moms, friends and boyfriends about it. They aren't shocked by the sex and they're very thoughtful about the content and the relationship.  Also, there is a long tradition of edgy in young adult books. There are, and have been for decades, many books and movies for the YA audience that have "adult" content. My point, YA readers are already exposed to intense situations, violence, sex, drugs, abuse, in stories. Most importantly, YA readers are savvy, intelligent and sensitive to the complexity of what it is to be human.

Sexuality and the acceptance of non-traditional sexuality is the new wave of human rights. Young people are a big part of this movement. High schools have GLBT student organizations, students are "allowed" to be openly transgender in school, wearing clothes that aren't traditionally aligned with their physical sexuality (guys wearing dresses, girls wearing boys' style clothing). This is world we live in, one that is open discussing sex, sexual relationships, and non-traditional roles. Given this reality, most young people, especially those who are likely readers of my YA work, will not be bothered, confused or offended by anything I post or write. In fact, my sincere and open approach to sexual topics would be appreciated.

What about parents?

I asked around, talking to parents, booksellers and librarians. I found out parents are happy to support reading of all types and most don’t place limitations on what their teen reads. Parents are not actively trying to prevent their teenager from being exposed to “adult” books. Teens are “allowed” to read whatever draws their attention, this include adult books of all types. The benefit to a teen being exposed to adult material is that it starts or maintains a dialogue that both the teen and parent are comfortable with. Parents find this extremely beneficial. The parent and teen can discuss what to read and why. When the teen does read something, either a YA book or an adult book, the questions asked by the teen are not, “If I want to drink, have sex or quit school, what would you think of that?” Instead, the questions are “I was reading this book and the character did___. What do you think of that?” These conversations come from the content of books themselves, not from the author who has written them. If a parent is concerned about the content of a book, the concern is applied to a specific book, not to an author.

Me being me, I did some research. Here’s what I found. Teens typically select their own books. Based on numbers from a 2012 Bowker study, only 12 percent of 28 percent--roughly 3%--of YA books are purchased by adults for YA readers. And, as mentioned above, in instances where an adult does have input on selection, the focus is on the content of the book in question. If the author has written something the parent does not want to teen to read, that conversation is just as welcome and beneficial as the more common ones about the contents of books.

Lastly, I considered the publishing world in general and the YA market in particular.

The line between YA and adult readership is blurring. YA and new adult books sales are rising and not only because teens are reading more. More adults are reading YA books. Consider The Hunger Games, Divergent, Twilight and the Harry Potter series.

According to the Bowker study:

"More than half the consumers of books classified for young adults aren’t all that young. Fully 55% of buyers of works that publishers designate for kids aged 12 to 17 – nicknamed YA books -- are 18 or older, with the largest segment aged 30 to 44. Accounting for 28 percent of sales, these adults aren’t just purchasing for others -- when asked about the intended recipient, they report that 78 percent of the time they are purchasing books for their own reading. The insights are courtesy of Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer in the Digital Age, an ongoing biannual study from Bowker Market Research that explores the changing nature of publishing for kids."

Even more compelling, and, I imagine, of interest to everyone in the YA book market is this analysis from the same study:

The trend is good news for publishers as these adult consumers of YA books are among the most coveted demographic of book consumers overall. Additional insights from the Bowker study show these readers are:
  • Early adopters. More than 40 percent read e-books, equivalent to the highest adoption rates of adult genres of mystery and romance
  • Committed: 71 percent say that if an e-book of their desired title was unavailable, they would buy the print book instead
  • Loyal: Enjoying the author's previous books has a moderate or major influence over the book choice for more than two-thirds of the respondents
  • Socially active: Although more than half of respondents reported having "no interest" in participating in a reading group, these readers are very active in social networks and often get recommendations from friends.
Consider also, Megan Abbott’s Dare Me and The Fever. These books reflect the trend of blurring the line between YA and adult fiction in both content and marketing. Her books feature YA characters in typical teen settings but are marketed in a way that appeals to both adult and YA readers. This strategy is beneficial to the readers, who get the books the desire and publishers, who enjoy business success.

And so that’s how it went. In the end, I decided that potential readers won't think, "I don't want to buy/read that book because Isabelle Drake also writes Fifty Shades type stuff." In fact, I think it's the opposite. I think potential readers will think, "Cool, she wrote something for us."

Monday, May 25, 2015

What fiction should do, writer-y thoughts

Occasionally I get all writer-y and think about my creative process, goals for fiction and whatnot. Coming back to what I think fiction should accomplish and how it should be constructed helps me whenever I get stuck with a scene, plot point or manuscript revisions. I use my 4 basic assumptions to create questions. Asking myself the questions just about always solves my dilemma by helping me figure out what's missing.

My assumptions for fiction.
  • A story ought to show, not tell.
  • A writer ought to care about and tend to the reader and the reader’s experience with the story. The reader does not read to be impressed by the awesomeness of “the author,” the reader reads to enjoy the story.
  • A story ought to have scope/size/texture. It ought not be a flat listing of events.
  • A story ought to have to have conflict. Internal & external conflict for character. External for the story world (in other words, conflicts exist in the story world).

So hey writers, if you're ever in a slump, try making a list. Make a list of 3-5 "things" you think should always (or just about always) be true in fiction. Then, flip them into questions and use those questions to sort stuff, whatever is slowing your process down, out.