Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How Most Of My Characters End Up Being Polyamorous - A Tale Of Imagination And Author Woe

If you've read anything by me - and I pretty much mean anything - then you quickly discover that my MCs have a tendency to, uh, have more than one romantic partner.And they're pretty shameless about this. Nope, they're not cheating - 90% of the time their primary partner is well aware of what's going on and is A-OK with it. (Or at least, it's talked out beforehand.) For my MCs, this tends to be the norm.

Take Ren'Ai Rensai, for example. One of the core themes of that series is how polyamory affects relationships. That was one time when I knew, going in, that my characters were going to be polyamorous. But before RR, I was writing series that just naturally went that course with the MCs. I never really thought about it until some readers started discussing it. Then I considered why this has become a "thing" of mine. After about five seconds' worth of though, I think I have multiple answers! Oh, look, I'm about to share them~
  • Monogamy is boring. From this author's perspective, the idea of writing about the same relationship over and over with no variation in sexual partners makes me groan. There reaches a point when I decide a couple needs a little variation, whether short term or long term Plus, polyamorous couple characters have their own pockets of drama just waiting to be explored. "I'm totally not jealous of your second girlfriend, but I totally am. Here, let's angst." (Sound familiar???) That's just one example that I have been enjoying a lot lately.
  • Romance needs more free-lovin. One of the first things you learn as a romance writer is that there are so many "rules" that your head starts spinning. The Golden Rule of Romance that separates the genre from "Love Stories" is the happily ever after, or happily for now. Aside from trying to portray the relationship as healthy as well by the end of the story, this is the only rule I follow. Other "rules" like "MC may not sleep with anyone else, even if they're not in a dedicated relationship with the love interest," and "affairs with other characters is not permitted!" go out the window. B o r i n g. To me, that's just not realistic. And while romance is often seen as fantasies, I wouldn't be me if I wasn't injecting cold-hearted reality into anything. Such as women having sex with more than one person. (Scary!)

  • There ain't nothin' wrong with polyamory. There's still this idea even in modern society that polyamory is immoral, impossible, and somehow abusive. This can't be further from the truth. If a couple decides to open their hearts and open their beds to others, they are more than welcome to.Studies have shown that polyamorous families can even be healthier, stronger, and more stable than some monogamous counterparts - families with children included. Pushback is still often seen in romance, but don't polyamorous people deserve romances as well? I enjoy exploring the tickings of such extended relationships, how it changes the people involved, and how it can even make the core relationship stronger.
Apparently, it's a part of my branding now. Will I always have polyamorous MCs? No. After all, I like to portray reality, and the reality is many people consider themselves monogamous. And certainly, some characters just put their foot down and say "I'm a one lover kind of person, Hildred!" Okay, okay! But they will definitely show up in other series I write, and I am excited to write about them and their busy love lives.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Now 99 Cents Forever! "DAISUKI." Book 1 of REN'AI RENSAI

NOW 99 CENTS FOREVERor something like it.

"DAISUKI." book 1 of the REN’AI RENSAI lesbian erotic romance series.

Aiko and Reina have been together for almost 20 years, yet one thing remains unsaid between them: “Daisuki," or, “I love you." As they approach their anniversary, their relationship comes to an impasse as Aiko the Japanese housewife begins demanding “I love you" with a side of marriage and romance.

But Reina doesn’t understand complex concepts like “love" or other heavy emotions. She’s spent years supporting her girlfriend via a soul-sucking salary job and tending to their mutual needs in the bedroom. Isn’t that sufficient? In a culture demanding Reina choose between the “feminine" and the “masculine" worlds, it’s bad enough she’s trying to find her role without Aiko adding extra pressure.

Some words need not saying, but “I love you" is about to destroy a relationship already surviving strange side-lovers and even stranger exploits.

This series contains heavy themes of polyamory and gender dysphoria.

Some lovely comments from Amazon reviews:

"The characters were intriguing and well fleshed out. The relationship between the two protagonists was realistic, they both made sacrifices for the other in order to maintain their 20 year partnership. I understood why they loved each other and the conflict within the narrative was simple yet compelling… I would recommend this book to anyone who likes realistic and/or angsty romance."  - Dani

It can be hard in erotic romance to strike a good balance between sexy and emotionally satisfying, but “Daisuki." does it beautifully. Billings has an evocative narrative voice, her characters are compelling, and the story - a Japanese lesbian couple approaching their 20th anniversary, with some snags along the way - is very engaging. It doesn’t hurt that the sex scenes are top-notch, either." - Alexis

Now available for only 99 cents on ALL retailers in ALL regions!

Amazon .:. B&N .:. Kobo

Saturday, July 13, 2013

On Full Length Novels And Short Strories

On this beautiful Saturday morning at 5:30 am (don't look at me, I'm on my way to bed!) I thought I would talk about something that's been on my mind lately, since I've been asked about it a few times. It has to do with how I approach full length novels and short stories, particularly in the Ren'Ai Rensai series.

If you've read any number of them, you've probably noticed that there are sometimes very different approaches, sometimes within the same subsection. In general, the full length novels focus on the plot of the relationship between Aiko and Reina (and others, because lol polyamory.) Usually this is a snag or a huge chance that they're going through, such as moving in together, or dealing with gender roles and affection. Entwined with this is the sexual side as well, as that usually goes hand in hand with the plot since that's just how they roll.

Shorts are a different beast. They're usually smaller ideas that take place outside of the timeline of the novels, or are deleted scenes that just didn't fit in the novels. (Like "Mitsushin.") The shorts have a somewhat different function. They primarily focus on the sexual side of their relationship, and usually culminates in (or has scattered throughout) a climatic sex scene that brings the overarching theme together. Many kind readers have assured me that they enjoy the plot just as much as the sex, if not more, but I feel like I should say that the shorts aren't really about plot in the same sense the novels are. The novels are about how one big thing brings Reina and Aiko together and moves them forward in their development. The shorts are about the little, sexier things that make their days brighter.

Within the shorts, though, there are some other things I have to think about. I consider that there are two kinds of shorts: the first are self-contained stories that any new reader could pick up and enjoy, without needing much context from the overall series. The other kind are the shorts that I think would be best enjoyed by readers who have been following Aiko and Reina for a while now, and heavily depend on context. These are the ones that I offer for free and cross my fingers on. I have been burned by this before, in which readers did not like them much because of a lack of context. That's fine. It's a risk I take in my marketing strategies. Usually this latter type of story ends up being pulled out of Select after one or two runs and is uploaded to other vendors, like iTunes and B&N. I want my readers on those outlets to be able to enjoy some shorts as well, and it might as well be the ones that need context! ("Mitsushin." was the first to get this treatment. The next will be "Shimoneta.")

Then of course there are the two-part shorts that switch between POVs. An example of this would be "Nanpakai." and "Chinseki." The latter is difficult to enjoy on its own without the first part, but I think it can be done. And it has been done. One of my kindest readers got their start with "Chinseki." (Which happens to be my favorite short!) There will be another set of two-parters coming out later this year, and I think a lot of readers will like where it's going.

So that's how that works. Will I write an RR short that doesn't have a sex scene in it or at least revolves around sex? Highly doubtful. That just wouldn't be the RR way. But somehow, I think most people are A-OK with that. ;)

Monday, July 1, 2013

OUT NOW!: "Jihaku." a Ren'Ai Rensai Short

A large crowd of spectators await Reina and Aiko at the local cafe, where the “Couples’ Quiz Show" is going on that night. A Newlywed Game-style affair, Reina has only agreed to do it because she knows her wife really wants the prize: a romantic getaway for two. What she didn’t know, however, was that the opposing team would be the one couple she never wanted to go up against. Will Reina be able to follow her own advice by giving the "jihaku," or intimate confession, of her life? Or will her wife have to settle for a different kind of “romantic getaway?" Either way, Reina probably can’t win.

"JIHAKU." takes place on June 22nd, 2013.


Read an excerpt below!

            The swivel chair screeched as Haruka scooted farther away from Reina. She doubted it was because of the smoke. “I wasn’t talking about that!” Haruka sounded so flustered that she was bound to fly away on the next draft. “I’m not sure how I’m supposed to forget that.”
            Reina smirked as she watched her cigarette smoke snake into the air. “It’s a rare woman who forgets being with me…and wasn’t drunk at the time.”
            “That’s a bit conceited.”
            “Don’t I have a right to be conceited?” Reina knew her prowess. There was a reason women rarely forgot spending a night with her.
            “I guess.”
            Reina hopped up and deposited some ashes into the ashtray. More laughter drifted through the wall – hysterical laughter, by the sounds of it. God only knows what Aiko is telling all of them. She decided she should change the subject before Haruka clammed up and made the evening more uncomfortable. “So you want to go to an onsen, eh?”
            Haruka glanced over her shoulder. “Why not? Don’t you?”
            “Eh, I can take ‘em or leave ‘em.” Aiko was the one who liked hot springs. If Reina wanted to get naked and sit in a pool of scalding hot water, she would take a bath at home. More comfortable than “natural” rocks and pebbles jamming into her ass while aunties stared at her, waiting for her to stand up to see if she were male or not. “My wife is the one who wanted to do this. We can’t afford vacations after our honeymoon.” She hoped they wouldn’t have any financial emergencies in the coming year.
            “We can’t either. We’ve never gone on a vacation together.”
            Kawai sou,” Reina lamented.
            “I know. Three years together and no romantic getaway. It’s depressing.”
            Reina turned her head so she could hide her rolling eyes. “At least your girlfriend has her own place, so you can have some privacy.” Such an arrangement was a premium in Tokyo. Kaori probably had a tiny one-room abode with thin walls, but it was better than living with her parents when it came to sleepovers.
            “I guess. But it’s not the same. There’s no excitement or romance to it.”
            Gag me. Excitement Reina could understand, but romance was another ordeal. “What you should do is take her out on a whim. There’s a gay restaurant down the street from here that caters to that romance stuff.” Aiko may have dragged her there once or twice.
            “Those sorts of places are expensive…”
            “Well you can’t really do anything for free in this city.”
            “I know.” Haruka spun around in the chair, hand reaching out to catch herself on the desk. “It’s tiring because she only has this one-person futon in her place and she’s always worried about the neighbors hearing.” The moment she looked at Reina again, she returned to being a strawberry. “I mean…I shouldn’t be sharing such things.”
            Reina extinguished her cigarette. “Take her to a love hotel then.”
            The swivel chair screeched as Haruka spun to gape at her. “What’s romantic about that?
            “Well, it would solve the being noisy and small bed problem. There are romantically themed ones, but those are expensive. Take her to a cheap one and go crazy.” Reina couldn’t believe she was handing out such advice to the girlfriend of her coworker – let alone the girlfriend she once took to a love hotel and bedded herself. “Sometimes mixing up where you fuck prolongs your relationship.” Reina would know. She wanted to do it everywhere.
            Haruka opened her mouth to speak, but bit back whatever words gathered in her throat. She seemed to chew on them while she also chewed on Reina’s suggestion. “That’s your coworker you’re talking about, you know.”
            “Don’t remind me.”
            The chair eked back and forth with Haruka’s dandling knee. “She still doesn’t know that we…you know.”
            “I believe the technical term is ‘fucked.’”
          Reina waited for more laughter to die before continuing. “That’s your problem then.”
            “It would be your problem too if I told her.”
            True. If Kaori found out that Haruka slept with a certain coworker while they were broken up, the office would turn into one giant pit of tension. While not the same caliber of awkward as if Reina herself slept with Kaori, it would still create a rift between them. Seeing as how they worked in close proximity for nearly nine hours a day… fuck that.
            “I hope we can win this sort of game,” Haruka continued, her countenance falling. “We’re at a severe disadvantage compared to you and Aiko-san.
            “How’s that?”
            “Well, we’ve only been together three years, and you’ve been with your wife for how long? Twenty years?”
            Maa, it doesn’t make that much difference.” In truth, Reina worried about making an ass of herself in front of those women. Odds were they were asking questions like, “What is Aiko-san’s favorite meal to cook?” which Reina would never be able to answer in a million years. Food? But it seemed like the exact sort of question Haruka would know about her girlfriend. “The key to these sorts of games is to go with your gut. You know more about your lover than you give yourself credit for. You have to prepare yourself to go out there and give a big jihaku.
            Haruka frowned. “Jihaku?
            “Yes. You have to give the most truthful confession you can. To a bunch of strangers. Asking you all sorts of personal questions.” Reina wondered if she unnerved her competition.
            “See, you know so much more than I do…”
            Ain’t that the truth.