Dear Indie | Book Editing Software & Sites

Hi, Indies!

Last time, I mentioned that I kind of got scammed by more than just that ridiculous font site – and I did. By Amazon.

I know, shocker.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m just really late to the party…like, there aren’t even Solo cups or streamers left laying around, I’m THAT far behind. But, while I was in my state of madness, determined to make Amazon do what I wanted with my chosen fonts, I came across an option I’d never heard about before: Kindle Create.

And that’s how Amazon scammed me. The website for it promised great things, so I spent hours downloading the software, going through the whole tutorial step-by-step. Anxiously, but patiently waiting for it to get to the part where it would tell me how to make the inside of my book look pretty…and it never did. KC offers 4 Theme choices – all of which went out of style in the ’80s when we were still making Minecraft-worthy pictures in computer lab on boxy old Apple desktops.

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In my continued search, I came across another book editing program provided by Reedsy. Now, if none of you have ever heard of Reedsy before (like me) it’s kind of like a community website where a bunch of professionals hang around waiting for an author to hire them. It’s blatantly focused on connecting writers with editors, cover artists, etc. – HOWEVER – they are also about helping Indies do their own thing for FREE.

One of those ways, is by providing an online book editor that – just like Grammarly Premium – stores your work in a cloud. So, there’s no downloading yet another program onto your already bogged computer and hassling with installation, tutorials, or any of that nonsense. Here’s a look:

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Scrivener users will find the left-hand task bar (indicated by the red arrow) familiar and easy to navigate with the ability to open and collapse the different sections of your book. But, the most “forward thinking” feature this program provides is indicated by the blue arrow. That’s right – online collaboration with your editor! You and your editor can make all the changes to your manuscript right there in one place. No emailing an entire manuscript back and forth, or worrying about conversion issues.

Conversion issues? : I use LibreOffice and my editor uses MS Word, so when we switch back and forth, it sometimes causes glitches in the recorded changes.

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Another similarity to Scrivener is the “Drop and Drag” feature that allows you to rearrange chapters, break your book up into parts, and even change a chapter to a back matter page, as indicated by the red arrow above. For my book showing, this would be a bonus chapter, but you could title it as the Afterward, Epilogue, etc.

Also, the title of the book you’re working on is always in the upper left corner, as shown inside the green circle, so you could have multiple tabs open to multiple projects at the same time without losing track of which one is which.

My favorite feature is the “Other Works” page (showing above) – not only does it allow you to upload book covers, as you see Hexed there, which we all know would grab a reader’s attention faster- but it allows you to include buy links from multiple retail sites all in one nifty little box, as shown with the blue arrow.

Granted, I do mostly KDP Select, but my Permafree book, Collar Me Foxy, is available all over, so this is a great option.

I’m still navigating the editor and will go through the entire process of at least one book to get a better idea about whether or not it’s worth writing there versus LibreOffice or Scrivener. But, I have to say the idea of starting a book in one place and taking it through the entire process without having to move it, is very appealing!

Once your book is 100% ready to launch, you’re supposed to be able to export it right from the editing program to every platform you plan on publishing with.

I’ll write a follow up post once I’ve gone through all of the steps to let you know how it goes. In the meantime, if you’re looking for new ideas &/or resources, Reedsy has a ton of other offers on their site like a Free 10-day publishing course, weekly prompt writing challenge, and check out this handy list of Tools:

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That’s it for now, Indies! As always, feel free to leave a comment, ask questions, or share some of your own experiences below. I’m forever on the lookout for ways to make the writing & self-publishing journey less painful for all of us, so you know I’ll be back as soon as I find more helpful tools or resources.

❤ Happy Sunday! If you’re an #SLS’er – I’ll see you on the flip side! ♫♪♫

Dear Indie | Fonts, Vectors, & Scams, Oh…snap!

Hi Indies! I’m back, and I have links!

In my last post, I touched base on some of the issues we DIY’ers face when working with a small budget and little-to-no experience. Formatting an eBook, which has “Floating Text” vs. formatting a paperback with “Fixed Text” is not only different, but sometimes it can be more difficult. Getting things to stay where you want them isn’t quite as easy when nothing’s pinned down.

But, Let’s Take It Back a Step

Before I was reminded of the whole issue with mobi changing fonts, my plan was to make the interior formatting of my eBook more cohesive with the cover. At first, I thought I could use the same title page I’d created on Canva for my paperbacks and insert it as an image into the document, like so…

Avarice Unleashed Title Page-page-001

Note: Canva only uses ‘free for commercial use’ fonts, so don’t worry about including something you create there in your books. If you’re ever in doubt, you can run a search online to make sure there are no restrictions on the font(s) you used.

The problem with using images happens when converting to a different file type. I not only use Calibre to create my ARC’s in EPUB, PDF & MOBI, but to get a general idea of what my eBook will look like on a Kindle once it’s published. Unfortunately, Calibre detects the title page image as the cover, even when I try to leave the first page blank and insert the image on the second page. That means, I can’t add the real cover without it replacing the title page, altogether.

So, I went in search of the next best thing: Free fonts!

I don’t know about your relationship with search engines, but mine is abysmal at best. I can never conjure the accurate key words to get the results I’m looking for. I’m especially leery about searching for things that will have potentially scammy results. Instead, I always look for articles about the best sites for that particular item. Because, there are a million bloggers who’ve already made that list for me. 😉 (Thanks, bloggers!)

I found an article naming the top free font sites that are not only legit, but specify license use types – This is crucial when dealing with publishing, because just like photographs, anything that is created by someone (a designer/artist/writer) is protected by copyrights and you don’t want to risk backlash of any kind.

Now usually, I end up checking out most, if not all of the sites an article lists–but I fell in love with the very first one I clicked on.

Font Squirrel is 100% legit and they go beyond awesomely user-friendly, right into amazeballs. Most sites will have a list of things you have to click on to find out what kind of license it has–not with this site. They tell you right under the font name with 4 little icons which appear in the order of: a monitor, a globe, a tablet, and a mobile phone.

FontScreenShot

These indicate what kind of license the font provides. If all of them are lit up as you can see in the red circle, then you’re good to go and can use that font everywhere for any reason. But, as shown by the blue circle near the bottom, if only 1 or 2 are lit up then you need to be careful how you use the font. 

For us writers, the icon you want lit up is the tablet – this is the commercial license that allows you to use the font in Ebooks and PDF documents. So, for the example screen shot above, the fonts “Chausson” and “Mondia,” would NOT be permitted in publishing eBooks or PDF files of any kind, but “Go,” and “Be Vietnam” would be allowed.

And when I searched their site for a font they didn’t have, it didn’t just pop up with a “Sorry,” it also gave me this: 

FSSS1Hi, can we get any more user friendly and super helpful than this? I know several sites that should be taking some serious notes here! 

Next, I wanted to find those decorative elements I’ve seen in other books and came across Public Domain Vectors. The absolute best feature this site offers, aside from a massive amount of FREE for commercial use vectors and clipart, is the SVG Editor.

PDSS1PDSS2

An SVG Editor is what you need to convert a Vector file into a Picture file like JPEG or PNG. Without the conversion, you’re not going to be able to use that image anywhere. Every other SVG editor online requires that you sign up, even if it’s free, they won’t let you use it without first becoming a registered member. No, thanks. I don’t plan on converting enough vectors to warrant a ton of spam mail.

The SVG Editor on this site is fast, easy to use, and best of all – doesn’t require a login! 😀

Another good place to search for vectors and clipart is Pixabay. Almost everyone uses Pixabay already for their license-free photos because they’re one of the rare sites that doesn’t require you to attribute/credit or link back to the photographer/designer, and often the site will have items you can’t find anywhere else.

One final mention is a site I would caution you TO AVOID and that is: all-free-download[dot]com. This site and the site it “links” to when you click on an artist’s name – are both 100% SCAMS.

One vector I downloaded, unzipped as an entirely different image altogether, so I went back to the original image on their website and “saved as” then ran a Google Photo search and that same sheet of designs has been circulating as a scam for years AND originated in Asia.

Another Vector file I downloaded and unzipped gave me only an .ai file. The extension .ai stands for and is strictly used with Adobe Illustrator. Now, if you happen to get a LEGITIMATE .ai file, you can convert it easily and for free with an online converter, or even by changing it to a PDF in your own computer and opening it that way. However, these were NOT legit extractions, since the only thing that opened was a warning from Adobe that the file belonged to them.

I ran my C-cleaner & virus software after that to put a stop to any tracker bugs or malware those files likely downloaded onto my computer. People don’t scam you for no reason. So, if they’re not charging money, then they’re probably attacking you through your own computer. It’s best to just avoid that site completely!

In my next post, I’m going to confess to another sort-of scam I fell for and talk about book editing sites/software. 

❤ Does anyone have a tummy ache from eating all that chocolate yesterday? I know, I wish I did, too… 😐 

p.s. If you’ve never installed fonts onto your computer before, I’m excited to say I just learned how to do that, myself. This is only for Windows, though (sorry, Mac users!)

  1. Go to Start Menu
  2. Click on Control Panel
  3. Find the “view by” option on the screen (usually in the top corner)
  4. Choose one of the icon options (large or small) – as this will allow you to see ALL of the folders
  5. Find the “Fonts” folder (it might take a minute or two for your computer to load all of your available fonts.
  6. Drag and drop your new font files anywhere on the screen and it will do the rest for you.

Vjola! Now, when you open your word processing software, those new fonts should be available to you.

Dear Indie | Book Formatting: More Error than Trial

First, Happy Free to Consume as Much Chocolate as You Want Without Feeling Guilty About It Day! ❤ I mean, why else do we celebrate it, really? 😛

Hi Indies! Long time, no post. I’ve been up to no good this past week, which has given me a ton of new resources and info to share with you about the nasty, tedious self-publishing step of formatting your book. Dun-dun-duuuun…! As such, I’ll have to break these up into separate posts (oh, darn).

The Biggest -ish With Book Formatting?

Money. Most writers are on a tight budget, so you’re probably not paying a professional to format and style the layout of your book. I made the mistake of hiring a cheap formatter with my first Indie book and ended up not even using the file because I was able to make one that was more attractive. This lesson taught me two valuable things:

  1. You definitely get what you pay for sometimes, and
  2. If and when you can, always ask for an example of a professional’s work BEFORE you hire them.

The second biggest -ish, is experience &/or training in professional formatting. Many of us just don’t have it. This whole issue came about for me, not because I’m awesome and have a new book coming out – but because I noticed that even on Kindle Unlimited, people who read the Avarice books never go on to read Hexed, which is the next book in line for the series.

It dawned on me that Avarice “looks” like a trilogy, rather than the beginning of a series, and added to that, there’s no information about Hexed in the back matter of those books because it didn’t exist at the time they were published. I decided that needed to be updated ASAP.

That’s when the publishing gods pushed me down the rabbit-hole and straight into Formatting Hell. Don’t laugh, it’s a real place.

The madness that ensued sounded something like this: “Well, since I’m already updating these files, I might as well make them look prettier while I’m at it!”

When you’re done laughing, we can move on…

What’s So Hard About Formatting, Anyway?

As readers, I’m sure you’ve noticed that some author’s eBooks have stylized fonts and decorative elements – even on Kindle! If you’re an Indie who’s formatting your own books without extensive, professional training, then you know that mobi is the only file extension that won’t support your beautiful font choices and will immediately change them when you upload to KDP or convert via Calibre.

That’s because Amazon likes to give people the choice of changing the fonts on their Kindle devices to one that’s easiest for them to read. So, how is that some authors manage to have these spectacular looking books that stand out in the competitive crowd? If you guessed it’s because they’re paying fancy professionals, that would be correct.

Unfortunately, after taking many avenues, all of which led to dead ends, I have hoisted my white flag and surrendered to the fact that there is no way for a non-professional, non-experienced formatter, to create a book file that KDP won’t strip bare upon arrival. Pervs.

So, if you’re in the same boat as me, my advice is this: just use a supported font like Times New Roman and apply ‘font effects’ such as Small Caps or Italicize to spice things up, so mobi won’t have a hernia. Save yourself the head-and-heartache, I already went through all of that for you the last few days.

‘Twas Not All in Vain

During this painful process, I managed to find some good sites and after a couple of days of vicious tweaking, I finally got one of my files completely updated and polished with a prettier interior than before. Wanna see?

BEFORE
AFTER

And I also changed out those ordinary **** scene break indicators for a decorative divider. See?

Vjola!

On top of those items, and adding all of the info for Hexed, I went ahead and cleaned up/reorganized some of the other front and back matter pages that were suffering from “This was the first book I ever formatted” syndrome. LOL I haven’t uploaded the new file to KDP just yet to know if there will be any issues – so fingers crossed!

Quick Note For Aspiring Writers: Never worry about updating books you already have published on KDP, it doesn’t render that book unavailable, your original version will stay active for purchase until Amazon approves and publishes the new file.

Up Next, I will go over the sites I found with links and details for fonts, clipart/vectors, graphics –  plus my experience with two different eBook editing programs so far!

❤ Seriously, who’s got the chocolate?

Confessions of a Hybrid Author | WTF?

Stop spending money on marketing. Seriously, put your credit card down and back away from the computer, this is not a drill.

Confession Time: I’ve written a couple of books that you’ve never seen or heard about because I don’t have them linked to any of my social media accounts, nor do I have them listed on my Goodreads or Amazon Author Page.

Why?

Because they’re old, excessively under-edited, and my publisher pissed me off (multiple times), so I decided that I was going to let them hide under the radar until I’m given my rights back. I can be a petty bitch that way.

How does any of this relate to marketing?

Because, they freaking sell! They sell even though I have done EVERYTHING in my power to keep them from selling. My publisher doesn’t provide marketing services – which is common with ePubs – and I have never advertised these books. They weren’t given to beta readers, I didn’t announce their release dates, and they have ZERO reviews.

If you were to go off the advice of every well-known, respectable marketing guru in the world, there is absolutely no way these books should be selling at all, let alone more copies in a 6 month span than my highly-marketed Indie books with 5-Star reviews!

I’m so gobsmacked right now. I just got my 6 month sales report and all I could do was stare at the print out like WTF just happened? First and foremost, it was not a good surprise – I’d been banking on NO book sales helping me get my rights back sooner. Secondly, it totally blew all of my beliefs right out of the water that it’s lack of MARKETING hurting my other book sales.

What a load of crap. Just stop. Don’t bother wasting your money. Apparently, if you want your books to sell, authors, all you have to do is try to make them NOT sell.

❤ And, I’m out.

p.s. If by some weird chance you decide to put this exercise into practice and it actually works, please, please let me know! It would be a trip to find out that I just inadvertently stumbled across the real secret to selling books – and yes, I’m still unhappy about it.

Dear Indie | Prologues, Prefaces, Forwards, Introductions & Epilogues

Hi Indies! I’ve been thinking about prologues a lot lately. Mainly because most of my original works have them and when I get the rights back from my publisher, I plan to polish them up and have them re-edited. But, it seems that more and more readers are expressing their dislike for prologues these days. It makes me wonder if I should cut them out of my revised books, or just leave them as is.

Looking back on when I was gobbling books up by the dozen as a teenager, it seems that ALL books had some kind of Prologue, Preface or Introduction and usually an Epilogue to boot. When I first started writing, I used them all of the time because I thought they were standard and therefore, made my manuscripts look more legit. But, are they really necessary for your book? What exactly is their purpose?

I had to do a bit of research, because I wasn’t too sure on the differences between some of these extra areas of a book, or why they’re used. Here’s a short breakdown of what I learned:

FORWARD: In my experience, I’ve only ever seen a Forward used when the book has been re-edited or translated by someone other than the author. Maybe it’s an adaption of The Master and Margarita, something that wasn’t originally written in English – or it’s just an extremely popular classic novel that’s been re-published a hundred million times. Either way, a Forward is never written by the author of the book. It is always written by someone else, usually with some kind of ‘authority’ on the subject or other credentials.

Your book doesn’t have to be re-edited or translated to have a Forward, though. You can have a Forward written for your book by another author as a marketing tool. The Forward sells YOU as an author to readers. The writer of the Forward will highlight what they liked most about your writing style, vocabulary, etc. It’s not about the book or the book’s content as much as it is about you as an author, and what the Forward’s writer thinks the readers will enjoy most about your awesome skills.

PREFACE: I’ve noticed that most authors use a “Dear Reader” rather than labeling it a Preface, but essentially, they’re the same thing. Like the Forward is designed to “sell” the author, the Preface can be used by the author to “sell” the story. It’s when they talk to readers about where the idea for their story came from, and how it evolved along the way. It can cover the writing process or character development, as well. For example: I recall reading a Preface by one of my favorite authors where she explained how she’d scrapped hundreds of pages of her original idea, because her MC had better ideas and wanted to do it his way, LOL – this kind of insight in a Preface can be endearing to your readers and have them already feeling some kind of connection to your main character.

As a marketing tool, a Preface can be just as big of a selling point as the “Blurb” or “Book Description.” You can use it to speak directly to your readers and boast about how much you think they’ll love your book, while leaving baited hooks that will further pique their interest in the story.

INTRODUCTION: The perfect example of an Introduction that comes immediately to my mind is actually from a movie, rather than a book and that was the opening scene of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone where Hagrid first delivers the newly orphaned, infant Harry to the Dursley’s doorstep. This one short scene covered the entire foundation for the story to come, and gave just enough of the backstory that viewers knew exactly what kind of journey they were about to embark on with Harry.

The use of an Introduction seems to be more frequent and popular in Fantasy genres because they usually take place inside of a fictional world with elements unfamiliar to readers. By Introducing the story to your readers, you’re not only preparing them for what comes next, you’re also attempting to further pique their interest – so, once again, it can be a great marketing tool.

PROLOGUE: I think we’re all pretty familiar with and understand the purpose of a Prologue, I just didn’t want to leave it out. Typically, a Prologue is used to provide information to the readers about characters, a referenced event, or anything else that isn’t fully explained in the main story, itself, but you feel is vital for them to know to understand the plot completely. For example: In one of Nora Roberts’s series, she uses a Prologue in each book to show what happened to the ancestors of the main characters. Not only did this provide her the opportunity to share vital information with the readers, but it further invoked the ‘mystery’ of the whole, deepening her readers’ investment and interest in how the present-day plot would play out.

Most of the Prologues I’ve ever used was to flesh out a past event that will either come into play later on in the main story, or will explain one or more of the characters’ reasoning/personality/connections,etc. Prologues are good to use when the information you want to provide isn’t enough to flesh out a whole scene in the main story, or like the example above, doesn’t involve your main characters’, themselves, and may even take place long before their time. Prologues can help keep those bad “info-dumps” from showing up in your main story, as well.

EPILOGUE: Generally, an Epilogue is used to give readers a glimpse at your Main Characters at a future point. It can be an immediate future or years later. This can be for multiple reasons, either to tie up any loose ends, or to “introduce” some of the things that will be happening in the next book, if it’s a trilogy/series. While a lot of Epilogues seem to be geared toward satisfying the readers’ curiosity about what happens to the MC’s after the end of the book, sometimes it can be from a whole new character’s POV that is somehow connected to the story or Main Characters.

For example: I used an Epilogue at the end of Hearthstone Alpha to explain something that would happen in the next book, Little Queen. There were two purposes for this. One: it allowed me to give my readers pertinent information without the use of a dialogue info-dump later on in Little Queen – and two: it tied up a loose end from Hearthstone Alpha about a ‘missing’ sub-character. Since the Epilogue is written from that missing sub-character’s POV, it satisfies the readers’ curiosity about whatever came of him.

One thing that almost all of these extra areas have in common, is that they’re usually shorter than the length of one of your book’s chapters. Although, I have seen some pretty lengthy Forwards and Introductions before.

So, Indies, what’s your opinion on using these extra areas in novels? Do you think it’s solely dependent on the genre, or do you prefer your books without them? I’m mostly ambivalent, but in all honesty, those ‘extras’ can feel like treasured bonuses when they’re in a book I absolutely love and enjoy reading.

I do feel genre has a lot to do with whether or not an author uses a Preface, Introduction, or Forward, where Prologues and Epilogues tend to be more flexible. In today’s market, though, and especially for the Romance genres, I think readers appreciate when they’re used more sparingly. So, if there’s a way to work the same information into the main story, that might be the better way to go.

❤ Happy Tuesday! (Hey, at least it’s not Monday anymore) 😀

Dear Indie | Writing BDSM / Kink Part 2: From The Inside

Hi Indies! I’m back with part 2 of Writing BDSM/Kink. Today, I’d like go over how you can use your characters’ reactions, emotions, and thoughts to add even more realism to the fantasy and talk a little about the different dynamics/areas of Kink.

Note: Everything I share here will be generalized and ‘under normal circumstances.’ There are always exceptions to the rule, but to keep my posts as short as possible, I’m sticking to the most common dynamics, personality types, and situations we find in BDSM fiction. Also, I don’t read, write or have any experience in Femdom, so my references mainly pertain to male Dominants and female submissives.

USING TRUE TO LIFE REACTIONS, INNER-MONOLOGUE & EMOTIONS WHEN WRITING BDSM/KINK

While Kink is essentially a physical desire and practice, it’s not emotionless. When writing BDSM/Kink, it is just as vital – if not more so – to show your readers the emotional stages your characters are going through. Especially, your subs. The “Act of Submitting” is an emotional need, not just a physical one. Most natural submissives crave their submission. It’s when they feel the most whole as a person; emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually fulfilled. By no means, does that equate to a sub falling to their Dominant’s feet as the perfect example of ‘pleasing’ the world has ever seen. There are plenty of other emotions and outside factors that come into play. 

Ingrained mindsets and beliefs can contribute to your characters’ internal and external struggles. As readers, we often see this displayed in the newbie or novice submissive: those heroines being introduced to BDSM for the first time. It’s quite realistic for your female lead to be defiant against submitting, or to at least to have conflict within herself both mentally and emotionally over the fact that she likes it. We’re not supposed to like it, that’s what we’re taught our whole lives.

Most real life experienced Dominants are prepared for the ‘fight’ when they’re taking on a novice sub and tend to show a bit more patience, use positive reinforcement and encouragement because they want their submissive to embrace her role completely, not have more reason to run from it. That doesn’t diminish their authority or make them any less firm with their expectations because…

About 80% of a typical BDSM dynamic is Behavior Modification.

How many books have you read where there was a contract that came with a list of rules and expectations? That is all about Behavior Modification, not about kinky pleasure. A majority of the rules and expectations are “standard,” the ones a Dominant will use for all of their submissives, no matter what. This foundation of rules enables a Dom to mold a woman into the kind of sub he desires most, one that will meet his needs and fetishes. Often, the process and challenge of ‘molding’ his sub is something that gives him great pleasure. Other rules and expectations will be added to the “standard” list, and derive from what the submissive is hoping to gain from the dynamic.

Most subs have things they don’t like about themselves and are asking the Dominant for help with changing them, because they can’t do it alone. They need someone there enforcing the change, someone they’ve agreed to obey with the consequence of discipline, should they fail. We can always disobey ourselves and get away with it, but when there’s a higher authority to answer to, we’re less likely to revert to our old, bad habits. 

Using Behavior Modification practices between your hero and heroine can not only add realism to the fantasy, but provides an area for possible tension/conflict. Most of that tension and conflict would realistically stem from the internal struggle of your submissive character, because it’s uncomfortable and scary as hell to change, even when we know it’s for the better. Subs are going to lash out in their behavior because they are fighting against themselves just as much as being ‘forced’ out of their comfort zone. Note: Behavior Modification doesn’t require an actual contract or list of rules. A lot of dynamics are established with ‘verbal’ rules and expectations, rather than a printed copy.

What about heroines who aren’t new to the Lifestyle? How can we show the same kind of inner struggle or emotional upheavals with an experienced sub, as we do with a novice? The most obvious way is the most realistic: No two dynamics are the same. Your heroine might have years of experience in the Lifestyle, but she’s never been in a dynamic with your hero before. His fetishes, expectations, and reactions are going to differ from those she’s previously known. Those can cause her a little or a lot of struggle, depending on how you want your story to play out. Maybe your hero provides a secret fetish she’s always been ashamed of having, and being given the freedom to explore it puts her through an emotional roller-coaster as she learns to embrace/accept it and release all of the negative connotations she’s always associated with it.

For example: In my Avarice Trilogy, my heroine is an experienced submissive, but her most shameful desire is to be rendered completely helpless by a Dominant. To have no say, no choice, no control over any aspect of her life. Naturally, when she comes up against the hero and that’s exactly the kind of dynamic he’s proposing, she’s ready to run the other way. She goes through the emotional and mental wringer–even after she’s already submitted–every time he does or says something that reinforces this ‘shameful’ desire of hers. Because she’s a modern-day, independent woman and society says that what she wants, what she craves above all other things, is degrading and wrong. 

None of her past experience in the Lifestyle could prepare her for a Dom willing to go to such an extreme version of domination and stay there. Yet, in no way did my heroine stop being a strong, modern-day woman by submitting to this type of dynamic. Although, she willingly gave up most of her independence because what she ended up inside of was a TPE dynamic (see below). Most of my submissive heroines retain a good portion of their independence and always their inner-strength. 

How can my submissive character be naturally submissive and naturally independent/strong at the same time? Simple: Submission takes a butt-ton of courage. To allow yourself to be vulnerable, exposed, uncomfortably honest, and put all of your trust into another person that they won’t permanently damage you emotionally, mentally or physically, is one of the bravest things a human being can do. That goes for male and female subs. In the Alternative Lifestyle, submission is regarded as a Gift that’s given to a Dominant. Many believe that it’s really the sub who holds all of the power, because they are consenting and giving a Dominant permission to act out their desires on them. I think it’s more equal than that, simply because submissives equally desire being Dominated, so it’s a mutual exchange: need for need. No matter how you choose to view it, in no way does your character need to come across as timid, weak or easy to push around just to be considered submissive. And honestly, if your Dominant is coming across as someone who would push around, bully or walk all over their sub, they are not Dominant…they’re just an abusive asshole labeling themselves as such. There’s a huge difference between being Dominant and being Domineering.

Another positive result of submission is that it can heighten your heroine’s sensuality and boost her confidence/self-esteem. Submissives are highly aroused by being dominated in every possible way. They are turned on when their Dom flexes his authority muscles both verbally and physically, in and out scening. Praise coupled with the knowledge that they are bringing pleasure and/or pleasing their Dom can positively influence your heroine’s confidence, her body image/self-esteem and allow her to become more adventurous with her own sexuality. This is a good area of ‘personal growth’ to show to your readers, if one of your heroine’s flaws is a low self-esteem, lack of confidence or bad body-image. Since heroines with these flaws are the most relatable in romance fiction, I wouldn’t skip out on letting readers see her overcoming them and learning to love herself more as she becomes more comfortable with her own sensuality and body.

COMMON TYPES OF DYNAMICS IN BDSM FICTION VS REAL LIFE DYNAMICS & WHAT THEY ALL MEAN

D/s:  This simply means Dominant/submissive. It’s the umbrella term for any dynamic in the Lifestyle that involves a Dominant and a submissive, regardless of how they identify otherwise. 

The most common D/s dynamic used in BDSM fiction is Mono (meaning monogamous) – while in real life this is extremely rare. In fact, it’s safe to say that Monogamy is the #1 Fantasy element in BDSM fiction. More often than not, a real life Dominant is NOT monogamous, even if they spend more time with one submissive over others. This includes situations where they are legally married to their main submissive, as well. Most areas of kink follow the “open relationship” view, although submissives and slaves in committed dynamics are at the mercy of their Doms/Masters, unless otherwise agreed upon between both parties.

Tops & bottoms: This can be interchangeable with Dominants and submissives, but not always in the same regard. A Top is a person who is providing stimulation to a bottom, i.e. whipping, flogging, edging, etc. The bottom is the person receiving the stimulation. But, in D/s situations, Dominants do not become ‘bottoms’ just because they receive stimulation by ordering their submissive to pleasure them in some way. A Servicing Top is at the service of the bottom, therefore they’re not providing stimulation of their own choosing, but that which the bottom has requested.

In most BDSM fiction novels, the terms Tops and bottoms are used primarily for Kinksters who are not in a D/s dynamic with each other, they are only scening together, usually at a community or public venue like a kink club or Dungeon Party.

Switch: A Switch is a Kinkster who enjoys being both a Top/Dominant and a bottom/submissive, depending on how the mood strikes them.

M/s: This means Master/slave, and is a TPE (Total Power Exchange) dynamic (often referred to as TTWD This Thing We Do in cases of Domestic Discipline.) 

Unlike subs who still retain a certain amount of freedom, choice, and independence, a slave has given all control and power over her existence to her Master. He will tell her if she can or cannot work, what to wear, how to eat and take care of her body, what household chores/routines she will be expected to do on a daily basis, etc. The list, of course, depends on the individuals. A slave has no say over what her Master does or doesn’t do, either, like take on multiple other submissives or turn their house into a Poly Household (Polygamy/Polyamorous). Slaves are “consensual” and willingly place themselves in their dynamics just like every other submissive, but they’ll still have moments of defiance and disobedience. They tend to be more wary of consequences than the average sub, though.

Note: While most Master/slave dynamics are Total Power Exchanges, not all TPE dynamics are M/s. How a Dom and sub identify individually or as a couple, doesn’t always determine what kind of dynamic they’re going to end up in.

DD/s, DD/lg, DD/bg: In these instances, DD means Daddy Dom and is the second most popular type of Dom in BDSM fiction. Daddy Doms usually have more patience, less sadism, and gain pleasure through being the Protector, Provider, Teacher and Nurturer to their submissives. Daddy Doms take on a large variety of submissives from little girls, baby girls, brats, princesses and even subs who don’t identify as anything in particular. While most Doms who partake in Age Play are Daddy Doms, not all dominants who identify as Daddy Doms partake in Age Play dynamics. Note: When seen on its own, DD usually refers to Domestic Discipline, which is one of many sub-cultures in the Lifestyle.

Pets/Pet Play: Pets are popular in BDSM romance, and can range from exploratory to fully-realized. Exploratory pet play is when the Dom calls his sub by a pet name like “kitten” and maybe has her wear ears and a tail, sometimes makes her eat and drink from pet dishes on the floor and might even go as far as having her sleep on a “pet bed.” Fully-realized pet play is when the Dom treats his sub like a pet all of the time, including feeding, grooming, bathing and housing their submissive exactly like the animal they’re portraying. Fully-realized pet play dynamics may also include Humiliation and Degradation fetishes. The most popular pet types are kittens, puppies, horses/ponies, and pigs.

SM: Sado-Masochism is one of the more common types of dynamic situations in BDSM fiction. Rarely does a BDSM/Kink book not include some form of SM, even if it’s just spanking. SM can range from the standard SSC (Safe, Sane & Consensual) to R.A.C.K. (Risk-Aware Consensual Kink).

Just to be clear: Safe, Sane & Consensual covers ALL areas of the Alternative Lifestyle, regardless if there’s any SM involved or not. I’m simply using it here to clarify the difference between mild and extreme Sado-Masochism. The most common acts of SM, like spanking, flogging, caning, whipping, edging, wax play, sensory deprivation, etc. which don’t result in extreme pain or wounds that have the potential of scarring would be considered the ‘norm’ that falls under SSC. Though some bleeding can occur with whipping no matter how mild.

R.A.C.K. covers the areas of extreme SM that explores dangerous or risky fetishes such as Erotica Asphyxiation (Breath Play), Blood Play, Piercing/Sewing, Machines, Body/Limb Stretching, Nipple Torture, Breast or Genital Mutilation, or any other fetish that could result in permanent bodily damage, scarring, and even death. As I’m sure you’re already aware, R.A.C.K. is the least common type of kink explored in most BDSM fiction, especially under the Romance genre.

Cuckolding: Cuckolding is becoming more and more popular in BDSM fiction every day, though isn’t necessarily experienced between individuals who identify as Dominant or submissive or even belonging to the “Alternative Lifestyle” at all. The fetish of cuckolding is when a man becomes sexually aroused by watching his wife have sex with other men. Sometimes in fiction, this will also include Humiliation and Degradation fetishes, portraying that the husband is further sexually aroused by being made to feel inferior or inadequate compared to his wife’s lovers. In some scenarios the wife is the Dominant force, in others it’s her lover who is dominant over both her and her husband – or it can be a team effort by both the wife and her lover. 

Bondage: Bondage is usually happening in one form or another in BDSM fiction, but can be the main theme when the Dominant identifies as a Rope/Shibari Master. Rope Bondage is its own sub-culture in the Lifestyle, just like Leather is. It’s also common for a Rope Bondage scene NOT to result in or involve sex. Rope Bondage is commonly accompanied with photography, and those in this particular lifestyle thoroughly enjoy conducting  both private and public performances to show off their craft/art. Outside of Rope/Shibari, other forms of Bondage can and will result in sex, especially with the use of a bondage table, pillory (or stocks), shackles on a bed, suspension cuffs, St. Andrews’ Cross, etc. It covers a wide range of Kink Scenes in both real life and fictional BDSM.

Discipline: This circles back around to Behavior Modification in most cases, and is seen quite frequently in BDSM fiction and real life. The use of Discipline, of course, varies depending on the Dominant and the situation. A sub can be made to stand in a corner, suffer a humiliation (as long as that’s not a trigger or hard limit for them), perform a difficult task, be denied a reward/pleasure, get spankings, floggings or whippings, etc. Some Dominants have been known to keep a tally of ‘wrongs’ and will discipline their sub for them all at once, so they can be forgiven, get a clean slate and move on. Disciplinary Acts should absolve the submissive of guilt afterward. They did wrong, they suffered the consequence, and now it’s done. Their wrong doing shouldn’t continuously be held over their heads or brought up in conversation, unless they are committing the same ‘bad behavior’ repeatedly. Natural submissives suffer in guilt, even when they consciously make the choice to disobey, the guilt over it will consume them. They will actually crave being disciplined because it’s the only way they can let go of the guilt.

One of the cruelest things a Dom can do is NOT discipline their submissive, and especially never forgive them for their bad behavior. If a submissive’s behavior is that extreme, a Dominant is more apt to ‘release’ them from the dynamic, which in itself, is the “Ultimate Punishment.”

Discipline is used to correct a bad, disrespectful, rule-breaking, or self-destructive behavior, it is NOT ever to be conducted out of ANGER. If your Dominant is whipping his submissive while he is angry, that is ABUSE. It is not–in any way shape or form–discipline! Shaming and Degrading out of anger is also ABUSE. Any act where the Dominant treats their submissive with abnormal cruelty just because they are angry is 100% abuse.

Most acts by a submissive that would result in a Disciplinary Action tend to cause their Dominant disappointment, not anger. If your Dominant gets angry, have them walk away until they’ve calmed down or issue a partial Discipline like standing in the corner, until they can calm down. In no way should you ever write a scene where your Dominant verbally or physically assaults your submissive while angry as a form of Discipline.

Another type of dynamic that I’ve seen “touched on” more often than fully-realized in BDSM romance is Primal. Primal is pretty much exactly how it sounds. It’s based on the desire to follow natural instincts and urges, rather than conventional ones, which is also why it’s a less defined or structured type of dynamic, and might be harder to pin down. Some Primals identify as wild animals such as wolves or lions, and live in Poly Households run by an Alpha or Alpha Pair with multiple betas. Other Primal scenarios include the “hunter and the prey”: a kink scene where the Primal Hunter will chase down the Primal Prey and then ‘ravage’ them with much rougher sex than normal. Some Primals simply identify as such because they prefer to live their lives as raw and unfiltered from society’s expectations as possible, and that includes the entire spectrum of emotions and behaviors, not just rough or savage.

Okay, I think that’s all for this post. I probably won’t have a Part 3, as I’ve covered more than I anticipated with just the 2. But, let me know if I missed one of your favorite types of dynamics or if there’s a related topic you’d like to see a post about. Also if you have any questions or feedback, those are always welcome! 😀

❤ Happy Saturday!

Dear Indie | Writing BDSM / Kink Part 1: Balancing Realism With Fantasy

Hi Indies!

This is a subject I’ve been wanting to tackle for awhile, but since not everyone writes BDSM/Kink, I thought I would cover the more common areas of romance first.

It might surprise some of you to learn that BDSM/Kink literature has been around…well since the Kama Sutra, at least, which many agree was written in the 3rd Century AD. You might not even realize how many BDSM/Kink novels were turned into movies before the 21st Century, like The Story of O published in 1954 and adapted to film in 1975. Or Anne Rampling’s (Anne Rice) Exit to Eden adapted to film in the ’90s, which I refuse to watch because I love the book and the movie description reads like a parody. Unfortunately, some people’s response to things they don’t understand is to turn it into a joke.

Under different pseudonyms, Anne Rice also penned The Erotic Adventures of Sleeping Beauty (4 books) and Belinda (a taboo novel), both of which cover the BDSM genre. And if you think Fifty Shades of Grey was such an ‘original’ idea, then I challenge you to watch the movie: The Secretary released in 2002, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader and draw your own conclusions over the numerous similarities.

That wasn’t to be slanderous, honest, but to point out the fact that BDSM/Kink is far from being a “new” topic in literature or film and whether consciously or subconsciously, writers of Kink are drawing inspiration from other BDSM works. The thing is, about 85% of BDSM authors have absolutely NO real life experience in the Alternative Lifestyle. Kind of like 100% of writers of vampire lore have NO real life experience being a vampire. They’re simply doing what we always do as authors when writing about a topic we know nothing about and (hopefully) that’s a ton of research first! The key is where they’re finding all of their information. If you’re writing about something real, like Kink (not vampirism) and your ‘resources’ for ‘facts’ is the endless list of FICTIONAL BDSM novels in your Kindle, that’s the equivalent of seeking medical advice from an actor who plays a doctor on TV.

So, in Part 1 of Writing BDSM/Kink, I would like to cover Real Life resources to use as research (also good for inspiration!) for your books and the simple, but effective elements you can incorporate into your story line to make your Kink Scenes more believable while still maintaining the fantasy of it all.

THE REAL LIFE RESEARCH RESOURCES AVAILABLE FOR WRITING BDSM/KINK

EVENTS: The Alternative Lifestyle covers a large community of people who often identify as “Kinksters” and they are quite active. All of the things we read about in our fictional BDSM books have the potential of being real. Not just the Kink Scenes, but the venues. Kinksters have dungeon parties, munches, private parties, clubs, annual conventions in places like Las Vegas, and they also have ‘public’ events for a variety of purposes to celebrate one or more area of the Lifestyle. There’s even a BDSM Event Calendar you can download to your phone so you can check which events might be going on in your area. I know my area has quite a bit, but one of the big one’s is the Seattle Erotic Art Festival which is open to the general public for an admission fee. This is not a “kink scene” event, there is no public nudity or sex (outside of the artwork) involved, but an event like this would be a great place to meet Kinksters and learn more about the various lifetyles in a less nerve-wracking environment than say a Kink Dungeon.

WEBSITES: Here’s a fact: the Kink Community is far more open and willing to talk about their lifestyles than you could possibly imagine. They are not ashamed of who they are or what they do, and just like any other person in the world who’s outside of ‘mainstream society’ in some way, they would much rather you ask, than just assume and paint them in a negative light. There are countless blogs, forums, and websites dedicated to educating people on the various BDSM lifestyles. FetLife is by far the largest community website for Kinksters, but it requires you to register with a username and password. However, there are many blogs authored by their members that don’t require any kind of log in. I won’t list them here without their permission, so I suggest you simply search both WordPress and Blogger (Blogger has the majority that I know of) or even just Google search.

Submissive Guide is a community site for submissives authored by lunaKM (who has given me permission to share her sites here today) and has countless resources, articles and guest-posts from Real Life submissives, mentors or other Kinksters. It’s geared toward helping new and experienced submissives navigate the Lifestyle and keep them safe while interacting with the community. She also runs the sister site: Dominant Guide, which is available to help novice and experienced Doms/Dommes in the community. It likewise offers numerous articles and guest posts that cover many topics about the Lifestyle, usually written by and for Dominants. The articles on either one of these sites can give you an amazing look at both sides of a dynamic, the perspective on certain practices or tools used in kink and so much more. I highly recommend perusing the articles if for no other reason than to get a better understanding of your characters, of the thoughts and real views, not some fictional view, on different areas of the Lifestyle. It can help you tremendously when it comes to writing from both the submissive’s and the Dominant’s POV, especially their inner-monologue and what they might be feeling or experiencing at any given time during a scene.

MEMBERS: On top of sites and blogs that offer an endless supply of reading material, there are members of the community who regularly work with BDSM/Kink authors and state as much on their profiles/blogs/sites. I’m not sure if they charge fees or offer their assistance for free, it may differ between members. Again, all you have to do is Google or visit sites where you may find these members and the way to contact them. If they are charging fees, I imagine they’re easier to find, as they are likely advertising their services somewhere.

PROFESSIONALS: Did you know there was such a thing as Professional Doms/Dommes? Yes, these Kinksters charge a fee to scene with them and are usually highly experienced in a larger variety of fetishes than normal, so they can cater to a wider range of clientele. Professional Doms/Dommes may also be open to assisting authors with their works, but might be more apt to charge a fee.

SOCIAL MEDIA: By using Hashtags and Keywords, it’s easy to find Kinksters and kink-related groups/sites on Social Media. Many members have Twitter, Facebook, and/or Instagram accounts and clearly state in their bios what they are to the Alternative Lifestyle community and may even provide links to their blogs/websites where you can learn more about their area of expertise and possibly find more resource articles or posts. There’s even a BDSM Group on Goodreads, whose Moderators, and possibly most of their members are all Kinksters.

ACTIVE AUTHORS: Another great resource is to connect with BDSM/Kink authors who ARE members of the Alternative Lifestyle and may be open to answering questions or discussing their preferred writing tools for blending Real Life with Fantasy. Many authors who are Real Life Kinksters usually state as much in their Author Bios or openly talk about it in their blogs/Tweets, etc.

Yes, I am a Real Life Kinkster, and I am openly sharing with you my own writing tools and resources for writing BDSM outside of personal experience, but I am just one author/person and everyone’s journey in Kink is different. No, I don’t publicly announce/discuss my involvement in Kink, mostly because I write a variety of sub-genres in romance, so don’t want to single-out just my BDSM works to potential readers.

SIMPLE AND EFFECTIVE ELEMENTS TO ADD REALISM TO YOUR BDSM/KINK NOVEL

DON’T SKIP ALL THE DETAILS (JUST MOST OF THEM): The bare bones truth about BDSM/Kink novels, even those written by Real Life Kinksters, is that the majority of it is Fantasy. That’s for entertainment purposes, obviously, because if we were to detail an actual “Kink Scene” between a Dom/Domme and their sub it would bore our readers to tears. In the real Kink world, and especially between members who have never scened together before, two or more consenting adults sit down and completely map out the entire scene they want to do together, what they want to accomplish, which fetishes they want to explore, their hard and soft limits, any possible triggers, the safeword (if used) or talk about what they use instead of safewords, health and/or physical conditions/concerns, what they will offer or expect in way of After Care, if they provide Before Care…the list can go on and on, it just depends on the individuals–and this discussion can take place days, weeks, or even months before the actual scene, not just the day of. If it’s discussed in advance, then it will be reiterated on the day of the scene before anyone even steps into their respective ‘roles.’

No one wants to read a damn instruction manual with all of these preliminary details in their fictional novels. Readers are happy to live in the fantasy-mindset that Kink scenes happen instantaneously and fluently–even between strangers. Real Life kink can happen quite fluently and more quickly between long-term partners, but sometimes it still includes a ‘discussion,’ especially, if it’s a kind of kink or fetish they’ve never tried before. Also, because Dominants like to state things, it’s in their bossy nature to do so. The more they say, the more their sub has to follow orders, see? LOL So, some ways you can add a little realism to your fictional Kink scene is have the sub pose a question or concern, or have the Dom/Domme state what they want to get out of the scene, and maybe cover the safeword/hand-signal. It’s a small piece of dialogue, but it’s effective. Also, any Dom/Domme worth their weight in gold will ALWAYS provide After Care, and that doesn’t have to be discussed, it can just happen, and viola, another piece of realism added to the fantasy.

SAFETY FIRST: In common, human, modern-day situations: Make sure your characters are practicing Safe Sex. Believe it or not, Kinksters tend to be more anal-retentive about safe sex than the average person. Some of them won’t even perform oral sex without a condom. Sex toy sites offer a number of safe sex items like oral and vaginal dams, body and finger condoms, on top of regular condoms. That’s because Kinksters are usually involved with multiple sexual partners, even if not all at the same time. They’re also prone to taking on ‘new’ sexual partners more frequently. Submissives/slaves are at the whim of their Dom/Domme who can at any time bring in random Dominants or subs to have sex with them. Dungeon and private parties may offer attendees the ability to scene with random Tops/bottoms, and even though not all Kink scenes result in or involve sex, condoms still come into play (or should) when they do. Just like with anything else, though, there are always exceptions to the rule, but that would be dragging you way down the rabbit hole into a whole other arena of Kink (maybe some other time, in another post) LOL.

Your characters have no need to go to such extremes as using dams or body condoms, but practicing safe sex by way of regular ol’ condoms is a fan favorite no matter which sub-genre of romance readers enjoy, so it should definitely be used in BDSM/Kink.

LET’S GET PHYSICAL: Be somewhat mindful of physical limitations and injuries. This isn’t always going to apply to your characters. Paranormal/Supernatural beings are going to have less limitations and stronger bodies, phenomenal healing abilities, etc. But, when I read about a human woman getting whipped bloody (actually detailed as bloody) and then getting up and walking out the door, driving home without so much as a wince, I just have to shake my head and stop reading. Labeling your story as BDSM doesn’t magically make your human character’s body any more resilient to damage than a Psychological Thriller would. “Enjoying” getting spanked doesn’t give your character super powers vs someone who doesn’t enjoy it, and it certainly doesn’t shut off their pain receptors (they get off on the pain, they want to feel it).

The Sciatic Nerve is the longest nerve in the human body. It runs from the lower spine through the BUTTOCKS, down the legs and into the feet. It is the part of your body that’s at the highest risk of damage in real life Kink, because of where whips, floggers, hands, canes or paddles strike and also because of how ropes/straps are tightened in bondage. Real Life Dominants are (or should be) knowledgeable of these things and the slew of other possible injuries that can happen if they’re not careful. Lending this ‘Knowledgeable/Mindful’ trait to your fictional Dom/Domme can go a long way toward adding realism to your Kink Scenes, as well as endearing them to your readers.

Okay, that’s all for this post or I run the risk of boring you to tears! LOL I’d like to take a second to once again thank the Amazing lunaKM for granting me the okay to use her sites here for you all as possible resources. They really are a gold mine of information! In my next post, I’m going to cover the ways you can use reactions, inner-monologue, and emotions to add even more realism to your BDSM/Kink novels and then I’ll touch on some tropes and possibly the various ‘types’ of kinks, fetishes, and dynamics if I can. If not, then I guess there will be a part 3!

❤ What’s your favorite part about reading or writing BDSM/Kink? Do you prefer books with a good balance of realism and fantasy, or don’t mind either way as long as it’s not way out of the realm of possibilities? Once again, if there’s a topic or segment you’d like to see discussed in any of these posts, please let me know in the comments below. 🙂