Friday, June 27, 2014

OUT NOW: "JOSHOKU." Book 6 of Ren'Ai Rensai

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A year after "KOIBUMI.", I am now pleased to announce the return of the RR overworld series. "JOSHOKU." takes us back once again the 90s in Japan, focusing on the period of time when Reina and Aiko realize the true potential of their lives together.

Please enjoy the blurb and the excerpt below!

One year into their relationship, Reina and Aiko embark on a journey into the world of academia. For Reina it's about changing her situation in life, even it means returning to a world ran by a foreign religion and young women who claim to be both her best friends and worst enemies. For Aiko it's proving to her mother, to the world, and to herself that there is more to life than husband hunting. For them both it's late nights finding unconventional ways to study for tests as they find new reasons to love each other.

Adulthood lurks in every shadow, from coming to terms with mortality to straining against the shackles that threaten to keep their lives stagnant. Reina wants to find direction in her life; Aiko wants to control her own destiny. Together they want what will become the foundation of their relationship - love, safety, and the exploration of their burning joshoku, or the passion that leads one to women again and again. Even if one of them is an impostor herself.

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            “Excuse me,” Aiko said, stopping a saleswoman and holding up a green bra. “Does this come in any other color?”
            While the saleswoman took the bra to go look in the back, Reina dangled a silky black bra and panty set in front of Aiko.
            “You should get this one,” she said, jerking the hanger back and forth. “I bet you’d look really sexy in a piece like this.”
            Aiko glanced around the shop, only temporarily relieved when she saw no one paid them any mind. The cramped store was stuffed with racks of underwear and women talking over one another as the cars on the street drowned out their voices. Nothing could drown out Reina’s voice, however. It was right in Aiko’s ear, taunting her with that seductive tone that had once awakened her inner lesbian.
            “I need something practical.” Aiko tried to be collected, but whenever her girlfriend teased her like that, she turned into jelly. She busied her hands by flipping through a rack she had already inspected twice before. “That material would scratch my skin if I wore it all day.”
            “You’re not supposed to wear it all day. This is shit you wear to make you feel sexy and to make your girlfriend want to jump your bones.”
            “Like you need help with that.”
            The saleswoman came back with a pink version of the bra Aiko liked. “Would you like me to open a changing room for you?”
            “That would be great, thanks.”
            Reina stayed out of the changing area while Aiko was shown into the one at the far end of the hall. After locking the door, she stripped off her top and the one bra she had left that Reina had yet to destroy with her pawing. One strap drooped down her arm as she admired – as in criticized – her figure in the mirror.
            Have I gained weight? Aiko turned to her side and stuck her leg up in the air behind her. It made her back suck in and flatten her stomach. Maybe not. Skin stretched across her abdomen as she twisted it around to get a better look. By the time she decided she was not obese – yet – both of her bra straps had fallen down, reminding her of what she came in there for.
            Three bras hung from the door, each one the usual style and colors Aiko liked. When a woman knows what she likes... She hopped up and grabbed the pink bra she wanted.
            Trying on clothing of any kind was a test in patience. There was getting the damn things on; making sure they fit snugly, but not too snugly; checking to see that the color matched her skin tone; looking for any spots that would itch or irritate her later; turning in every direction to catch the best angles; pretending to be a model in a sexy magazine. Aiko spun on her heels and laughed in frivolity as someone pounded on the door.
            “I’m fine!” she called, assuming it was the saleswoman. “I’ll be out in a bit.”
            Another thump. “Ai-chan!” It was Reina. “Open up! I wanna show you something.”
            “Eh?” Aiko snatched her shirt and held it up to her chest. Slowly, as if the dressing room was full of people ready to check out her nipples, Aiko eased the door open and gazed at her girlfriend through the crack.
            Reina swung the door open and marched into the changing room, arm laden with bras.
            “Are you trying something on?” Aiko dropped her shirt and bent to pick it up again. When she stood, she saw her girlfriend latching the door shut, a sinister smile on her visage. “I didn’t think you wore...”
            The sexy black bra popped into her face. “I brought some stuff for you to try on.”
            “What? Me?” Aiko backed against the mirror. “I already have things to try on.”
            The black bra did a dance in the air, and puppet master Reina continued, “Nothing sexy.”
            “I’m not buying anything sexy like that.”
            “Aw, come on, you’re not even gonna try them on? How boring.” Reina dropped the bra to her side. I’m still not used to this haircut. If it weren’t for those thin lips and the usual clothes Reina wore, Aiko would not recognize her without long hair. “Not even for me?”
            “Why would I do it for you?”

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Trip To The Japanese 90s Day 2: Maki Ohguro

Maki Ohguro is one of those artists that you never really hear about, and yet left a huge impact on Japanese music in the 90s. Undoubetedly you've heard one of her songs before, even if you don't really remember it. Indeed, she used to be a pretty big thing in the mid-90s with her heavy pop-rock sound. You don't find many people who declare themselves to be Maki's biggest fan, and yet if you see her giving out a free concert (because she can, that's why) you think, "Oh, cool! Free Maki concert? I'm in. Let's go!"

The best way to describe her style is "heavy and loud," and yet she's not hard rock or metal at all. She's squarely in the pop-rock category, but like most of her fellow labelmates of the 90s (which include ZARD and B'z, just to namedrop a couple superstar names) she has that edge to her music that you just can't deny. Her songs are catchy and infectious, even if you don't think about them much.

I like to think of Reina in particular being that kind of Maki fan. She would buy some of her albums and play them as background noise, but she would never fan over her. (Not that she fans over anybody, but I digress.) These days she would definitely have some classic Maki tunes on her cell phone and listen to them during her commute on the train.

Actually, I take some of that back. I could see Reina watching Maki videos on TV and thinking, "Hm, I could go for a style like that." Not that she would ever commit to it.

Below is a video of all of Maki's 90s songs, a perfect sampling for our theme this week!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Trip To The Japanese 90s Day 1: hitomi

I consider myself somewhat of an expert on Japanese pop 'n rock (colloquially referred to over there and abroad as "J-pop") and writing an extensive series that takes place through the decades in Japan and NOT expecting me to insert Japanese pop songs into every scene is next to impossible. At the REN'AI RENSAI website I even have a list of recommended listening soundtracks for every major novel.  One of my favorite decades of J-pop has to be the 90s. It was what I got into first back in 2003, and now it remains incredibly nostalgic (or as they say in Japan, natsukashii.

This week as we lead up to the release of "JOSHOKU." on Friday, I want to stop and listen to some tracks by artists that definitely influenced the 90s culture described in the book. These are artists and songs being played in the backgrounds of scenes - the CDs constantly falling off Reina and Aiko's shelves when they need some, er, mood music. 

Our first artist of the week is hitomi, a 90s pop idol who made her debut in 1994 with the Tetsuya Komuro (he is kind of a big deal people) written and produced track "Let's Play Winter." hitomi started her career as a model before quickly hitting superstardom in the 90s with her slickly produced dance tracks and heavy mid-tempo songs. She has a very unique voice even by J-pop standards, but it's absolutely infectious, just like her songwriting abilities and her tracks as she has matured through the years. (Yup, she's celebrating her 20th anniversary in the industry this year!)

I picked hitomi first for two reasons. 1) There is a new character in "JOSHOKU." named hitomi, and that's pretty funny. 2) I could see her first album getting a lot of spins in Aiko's room. Aiko really loves flashy, pretty, and charming female pop singers, and hitomi just jumps into my head as "the it girl" that Aiko would fawn over for a good 2-3 years. 

Below is hitomi's third and arguably most popular single "CANDY GIRL." I want you to imagine Aiko humming this to herself as she washes dishes today. Yes, today. Somewhere in RR land Aiko is washing some damned dishes and she is humming and singing "CANDY GIRL" and probably driving Reina nuts. Bless them both. 

I dare you to listen to this and not get it stuck in your head for a day too!

Monday, June 23, 2014

"JOSHOKU." Cover and Blurb Reveal!

"One year into their relationship, Reina and Aiko embark on a journey into the world of academia. For Reina it’s about changing her situation in life, even it means returning to a world ran by a foreign religion and young women who claim to be both her best friends and worst enemies. For Aiko it’s proving to her mother, to the world, and to herself that there is more to life than husband hunting. For them both it’s late nights finding unconventional ways to study for tests and as they find new reasons to love each other.

Adulthood lurks in every shadow, from coming to terms with mortality and straining against the shackles that threaten to keep their lives stagnant. Reina wants to find direction in her life; Aiko wants to control her own destiny. Together they want what will become the foundation of their relationship – love, safety, and the exploration of their burning joshoku, or the passion that leads one to women again and again. Even if one of them is an imposter herself."

"JOSHOKU." takes place between March, 1994 and Summer, 1996.

The sixth installment of REN'AI RENSAI will be coming out this Friday, June 27th! To celebrate, I will be posting a video every day this week showcasing some of my favorite Japanese songs to come out between 1994-1997... undoubtedly songs that Aiko and Reina listened to extensively in their youths. (And let's face it, today as well.) Please look forward to it!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

New S&M Anthology "MASTER OF DESIRE" featuring yours truly~ (Out Now)

Exciting announcement! I am fortunate enough to be in the anthology MASTER OF DESIRE: A Domination and Submission Romance Anthology being put out by Excessica. In it I have included a special short story version of “NIGOU.” that is slightly different from the full novel version. 
The story is called “MASTER/MISTRESS” and is about what you can probably guess. ;) 
I am pretty sure that all the other stories except mine are M/f, but if you don’t care about that and just want some great S&M romance, check it out! For a limited time it’s 99 cents!
Full blurb and buy links below! (Also check out the awesome RAFFLECOPTERwhere you can win up to $50 in Amazon gift cards!)
His every touch an imprint, His every word a potent command. To become His—both body and soul—is not to be owned. It is to be truly accepted. To belong. Only a precious few know the ecstasy of giving themselves over to the ultimate Dom. 

Ten bestselling domination and submission romance authors. Nine sensual novelettes of seduction and submission in one collection. The Master of Desire awaits. 

Stealing Aubrey by Candy Quinn - He needs to have her, to possess her. Just barely into adulthood, the beautiful young woman is screaming for him to take her, utterly. With his new wealth, he plans to do just that. 

As He Bids by Olivia Rigal - Applying for a summer internship at an upscale auction house just because she has a mad crush on one of the bosses, may be Career Fail 101 for Hannah. 

 Please, Maestro by Penelope L’Amoreaux - Once a promising cellist, Avery lost her hearing and her dreams until her conductor offers to teach her to play again. Can she withstand his harsh lessons or will she be undermined by her own desires? 

Anything He Requires by Michelle Fox - She thinks it’s just another job when wealthy businessman Jacob Daniels hires her to train his willful puppy, but the way he crushes her lips when they kiss says otherwise. Daniels has set his sights on dominating her, undertaking an irresistible seduction that leaves Jessica willing to do anything he requires. 

Becoming Jane by Jordan Bell - Avery doesn’t want the life her family insists on. She wants Oliver, the mysterious Dom she’s never met but who knows her heart. He can’t give her forever, but when she asks, he gives her one night. 

Master/Mistress by Hildred Billings - Two women, one exploring her true gender in the bedroom and the other an overworked businesswoman in the need of escape, embrace a domme/sub relationship under the darkness of Tokyo’s hot nights. 

Submission Therapy by Katie Salidas and Willsin Rowe - Billionaire Natasha Blakely is a control freak, fraying at the edges. When her therapist prescribes Submission Therapy she reluctantly agrees. Will she learn the sublime ecstasy of true submission? 

 The Master’s Exploits: Night Two by Jessi Bond - Dalton Alexander: alpha male, experienced dominant, alluring Master. He wants to turn his memoirs into erotic BDSM fiction, and ghostwriter Grace Reynolds is just the woman for the job. 

Unwritten Submission by Elsa Day - Amy has managed to sneak into the most secretive club in town. The story would save her journalism job, but her plans change when she meets J. He wants to be her new Dom. But will Amy submit? 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Tentative Release Schedule For The Rest Of The Year

Small preview of things to come!
As we approach the halfway mark of 2014, I thought it would be beneficial to myself and to all of you if I update the projected releases for the remainder of 2014. I talked about my hopes for the year around the New Year's, but of course things change and now I have a much better idea of how things are going to go from now until Dec. 31st.

Preliminary Schedule (all dates are tentative):

Late June/Early July: REN'AI RENSAI Book 6 "JOSHOKU."

Late August/Early September: REN'AI RENSAI Book 7 (Currently Untitled)

Late October/Early November: Standalone romance novel "THE LONGEST RIVER"

Late December/ Early January 2015: JIAI JOUWA Book 3 (Currently Untitled)*

*This will most likely end the REN'AI RENSAI universe for a while, or at least full length works. What I'll do immediately after I don't know yet!

There will be a few other goodies in there, but I'll talk about those more when I get closer to releasing them. ;) Yes, this includes the world guide for RR! I'm going to release it after Book 7 since that seems most fitting.

Most of these dates, especially the summer ones, are tentative because I'll be making a rather big move in July. It's a good move, and I'm super excited about it, but at the moment I have NO idea how it's going to affect my schedule.

I hope you're as excited for the rest of 2014 as I am. It's gonna be a bit of wild ride with new things coming and old things going, but I think it's going to be very fulfilling. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Interview With "NIGOU." Editor And Cover Designer Lindsay York

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with long time REN'AI RENSAI editor and cover designer Lindsay York to talk about the latest installment, "NIGOU." As someone who has been with the series since the very beginning, Lindsay has seen it and its characters evolve in ways neither of us expected. I couldn't think of anyone better to bounce some ideas off of, which you can see below!

I hope you enjoy these insights into the development of RR and how it has come to this point. I certainly wasn't expecting some of these questions!

Was it at all challenging opening up Reina and Aiko's relationship into the world of polyamory? They've always been happy to pick up new partners and have naughty antics *together*, but things definitely seem different this time, with both setting off and doing things on their own.

For quite a while now I’ve known that this is where their relationship would end up. I think since around “Seikou.” or so they’ve been working to this point, whether they knew it or not. Really, they’ve been polyamorous for quite a while, even before they started using that word. The only thing that has changed is how serious they’ve become about it.

So to that end, I didn’t think it was challenging at all for them. The other two were a whole different can-of-worms unearthed in the apple orchard.

In dealing with polyamory, there's a lot of talk about primary and secondary relationships in the novel. Did you ever worry that the secondary relationship (Reina and Jun) was overshadowing the primary relationships?

When you’re writing about polyamory in fiction, this is probably the most challenging thing to balance. While I was writing this novel, I often worried that my longtime readers who have been with me since “Daisuki.” would feel a little betrayed after investing so much in Reina and Aiko. But this novel isn’t about them and their relationship. Nor is it about Jun and Saya’s relationship. This novel is about Reina and Jun, although their primary relationships of course are a huge part of their lives (as they should be!) I wanted to focus on them and how they grow together in their own way. Nothing has changed between Reina and Aiko. They are still in love, they are still married, and they will be ‘til death they part. So does the secondary relationship overshadow the primaries? Of course it does. It’s supposed to. The narrative was constructed to do just that, because if I focused more on the primaries, I would be writing an epic treatise instead of a novel!

Did the differences between the primary relationships -- one being a long, established marriage between two older women of the same age, and the other being a relatively new love with an age gap -- offer a challenge in setting the stage for the novel?

I think so, particularly in the latter’s case. Reina and Aiko are very settled in their relationship. They know what they want and how to build a life together. Jun and Saya, on the other hand, have only been together for a year by the end of this novel. Jun often worries that she’s selfish and a terrible person for asking this of Saya... something that probably wouldn’t happen if they had been together longer and had more time to settle. They’re still learning about one another whereas Reina and Aiko have no secrets. But I think this is part of what made it fun to write. Every story needs to challenge the author in some way. For me, it was convincing my characters, myself, and the readers that this is a situation that can be embraced by everyone involved.

From the main cast, Saya is the one who struggles with polyamory. She's also the youngest though, by a decent margin. Do you ever see her "coming around," so to speak, and entertaining casual partners or even a nigou of her own in the future? 

It’s hard to imagine that Saya is in her late 20s now, because I feel like she’s so much younger. Not naive like Aiko was at the same age, but inexperienced with relationships and still trying to decide what she really wants from her girlfriend. I’m constantly learning things about her while writing her scenes and dialogue. Jun is her first serious relationship, and she’s understandably possessive to a degree. She’s always second guessing the validity of her relationship and whether or not she and Jun are really meant to be due to their outrageous differences, but a young person’s love can be very resolute. In this novel she’s discovering things about herself as well, much like Aiko did at her age. But I think she will choose a different path since she’s such an independent thinker. Not to rule out a second partner for her down the line, but Saya has to first take some time exploring her own limits and what she wants from her love life. The good news for her is that she has ten years to catch up with everyone else.

Aiko is remarkably okay with her spouse deciding to take a nigou, given her past insecurities and jealousy when it comes to Reina's bedroom habits. What was it like taking a character full-circle in development like that?

I had planned this since the beginning of Aiko’s development from the time of “Daisuki.” Funnily enough, the first story I wrote her in takes place in 2007, and she is very cool with Reina’s bedroom habits, as it were. Cautious, but cool. The character changed for what is now RR, but I always wanted to bring her back to how I originally envisioned her – a housewife with a sexually adventurous and promiscuous partner, but a smart woman who enjoys her life to the fullest.

When I am writing Aiko’s insecurities, I always remember her from “Hatsukoi.”, when she was hilariously naive about what life with Reina would be like. Back then, she didn’t care what it entailed, as long as it was fun and they were in love. I think it’s important to note that Aiko has never really changed. She still wants to have fun and be in love. Everything that seems to have changed on the surface is because Reina brought it out of her over the years. The potential for this sort of life was always inside Aiko. She was never forced into it and had lots of opportunities to leave early on. Why did she stay with Reina those first few years? Not just because she loved her, but because Reina was the first person to resonate with Aiko’s subconscious desires.

But to make this long response even longer, it was important to me that this be the novel where Aiko sets herself free, so to speak. She has depended on Reina for emotional validations for so long, that she needed to get the hell out of the house and be crazy on her own. Some people are late bloomers like that. And I think a large part of the reason Aiko is so nonchalant throughout the plot is because Jun is someone she knows and trusts. If Rena wanted a complete stranger for a nigou, this would be a much different – and much shorter – novel.

Aiko spends a heap of the book with her neighbor, Yuri, this time. Are Aiko and Yuri a sort of mirror of Reina and Jun, or does their dynamic represent something different?

The relationship Aiko and Yuri have is much different from Reina and Jun’s. Theirs is an intimate friendship that happens to include sex. Yuri and Aiko have been sexually involved for a few years now, even independent of Reina. It’s never come up in the series, but Reina was not originally involved with them. That came later, when Yuri was more comfortable with it. So, really, Aiko was the first of the relationship to have sex outside of it on her own, a fact that Reina probably has never thought about.

Reina and Jun are different. They are not really friends outside of the bedroom, but what they fulfill inside it make their lives better. There is also gender expression to keep in mind. Aiko and Yuri can get away with holding hands in public and being intimate since they are both very feminine. Unless they start making out, no one will really pay them any mind since it’s normal for two women to be close like that in traditional Japanese society. In the early 20th century it was even encouraged for Japanese women to have those kinds of friends. But Reina and Jun are more masculine, so they stick out and confuse even each other. I think instead of holding hands they would rather eat a bucket of live scorpions.

I always think of Aiko and Yuri as having this innocent affair built on friendship, whereas Reina and Jun have a friendship that came from a passionate affair.

There's definitely more than a dash of kinky sex in the novel. What sources did you look to for inspiration when it came to writing those scenes? Were any of them particularly difficult?

I don’t know what sources I would say I had, other than my own imagination. That sounds pretty embarrassing, huh? What I guess I mean is that the characters inspired me. I know what Jun wants in bed, and I know what Reina wants in bed. When I realized a long time ago that they are a perfect sexual match, the whole concept of “Nigou.” was born.

None of the scenes were very difficult. As a rule, I won’t write a graphic love scene if I’m struggling with it at all. I’ll either come back to it later or I’ll scrap it or fade it to black. But there is one scene in this novel, and if you’ve read it, you know already which one I am talking about. It’s in the second half, where their role-play reaches a new high. They are so trusting of one another that they are able to enter a sexual relationship built on a master-servant sort of thing. Not every time they have sex, but often enough it is usual to them. For Jun especially, there are some very serious control aspects that need rearranging. I wanted to portray her willingly giving up her control to Reina while still affirming that she had her agency. I suppose it was a difficult scene because it can easily fall into “humiliation” kink, which I think is hard for many women to come to terms with in their own desires. Even I surprise myself whenever I reread that scene – it’s always crazier than I remember!

Even for all of the kinky action, it's notable that you keep *certain* kinks out of play, like any violence or particularly harsh physical treatment. Was this because of the characters' desires, or a personal desire to keep that out of the book?

In a way it’s both, since a lot of their feelings are an extension of my own. Just like I wouldn’t want very hardcore kink, they don’t either. Partly because I wouldn’t want to write about it. (For example, there are a couple of other kinky things I could see them consensually doing that I don’t have much interest in writing about.) But it’s also inherent to the characters. Reina wants to dominate, but she doesn’t want to hurt. Jun wants to submit, but she doesn’t want to have her agency stripped from her. They can both stop the action any time they want. Plus, they are not violent people, nor are they into pain for the sake of it. Any pain they feel must lead directly to pleasure  or in some way be connected to it. No whips though.  Maybe later.

Any final thoughts?

This is a story I have been wanting to write for quite a while now. Maybe not this one specifically, but this type of story. I’ve always been attracted to writing tales where multiple lovers is acceptable. Like in any other romance novel I write, I want to give a reader a good, satisfied feeling at the end, whatever that means to them. I’ve felt very privileged these past two years to write about this universe and share it with all of you. Taking the RR universe to this level was something I wanted to do from the beginning, and now to see it come to fruition... whether it becomes a fan favorite or disappears into the digital ether, I am happy to have written it. I’m even more excited to wrap up the RR series this year knowing that this is what has become of the characters so far.