Friday, August 31, 2012

Interracial Quandary

Opinions are strong and dissenting on the subject of interracial relationships.

I recently became part of a somewhat heated discussion on this subject on a social networking site. I learned that there still exists, those people that truly believe that each should keep to their own kind, and that relationships involving differing cultures, races, or ethinicities are still taboo, or in the case of a sexual relationship, fetish.

Should one consider the written expression of a relationship between people of differing backgrounds taboo, or fetish? I think that would depend on the context in which the story of the relationship is written. I believe that, in America and throughout the world, there still exists an element of taboo in such a relationship. But should it? I personally do not understand how some have come to a point in their thinking that they might believe that interracial relationships are akin to bestiality. Yes, there are those that believe this, even today.

First, a little background.

Quite possibly, this attitude is left over from a time (I believe this thinking fell out of favor in medieval times) when peoples commonly subscribed to the practice of endogamy in marriage. This is when a community practices marriage among those within their own community. Communities prescribed to this practice in an effort to preserve the purity of their race, community, or culture. This practice was especially common among royalty.

It did not take long for people to begin to realize the ill-affects of inbreeding. Oddly enough, as much as many think that those of African descent are somehow less advanced than those of Anglo-European, communities within Africa discovered these problems long before Europeans and prescribed to the practice of exogamy or outbreeding. Villagers would sometimes travel for days to forge relationships and arrange marriages among those of another village.

Why all the hate?

Interracial relationships have always been considered out of the norm, or taboo. This belief permeates all cultures, ethnicities, and races. As our world moved more toward a global community, the occurrence of this type of relationship became more prevalent, but not commonplace. Relationships between those of differing backgrounds was normally one-sided, being a product of purchase, or even kidnapping.

During the colonization and increased exploration of America, new farms and a fledgling economy brought with it a voracious appetite for labor. The most cost-effective form of labor at the time was slavery. There existed some Anglo-European slaves and indentured servants in the country but the slave trade took off like a rocket with the discovery and transport of people from Africa. These new slaves were easily identifiable, inexpensive, and would not demand their freedom after their term of indentured servitude. The concept of rounding up entire tribes, sometimes against their will, and shipping them across an ocean in disease-laden conditions was made easier to swallow with the falsely perpetrated belief that these people were somehow less than human by those that might wish to purchase them.

Of course, many female slaves ended up pregnant by their masters. This was the beginning of ill-feelings toward relationships between those of differing skin color. Now, don't get me wrong, it wasn't just African slaves that brought about this belief . It was perpetuated by those of all backgrounds. Many also demonized relationships between Whites and Indians, or Whites and Chinese during the Westward expansion.

In America, our strange beliefs revolve mostly between those of African descent and those of Anglo-European descent, or Blacks and Whites.

Even after slavery was abolished, there remained a deep-seated hatred of blacks from whites and an equally deep-seated distrust of whites from blacks. I will use the term "whites" and "blacks" from this point only for ease of distinction, although I personally find the term crude and misleading. More than any other race, ethnicity, or immigrant, those of African descent continued to suffer prejudicial treatment until, some would argue, today.

For a white man to have a relationship with a black woman was considered taboo. It was frowned upon. But for a black man to enter into a relationship with a white woman, could be deadly. In fact, in America and other countries, lawmakers commissioned anti-miscegenation laws. The very name of these laws expresses the long-standing misunderstanding of nature, and more specifically, the human race. The term "miscegenation" refers to breeding outside of a genus. This strikes me as odd since all of human race (emphasis on race) falls within the same genus.

On a more personal note, I find it difficult to understand how people can actually think that relationships between different cultures and ethnicities can be so wrong. After all, if we were really all so very different, one might think that nature would have accounted for our vast differences by making us incompatible.

For those of a religious background, I offer this. If God had not intended for us as humans, as diverse as we seem, to join together, then I would think that we would have been made incompatible. The fact that when those of differing "races" have sex they produce viable offspring, proves that we are compatible. So, in my belief, that is what God intended.

For those believing in evolution, I would say the same thing. We are an adaptable species and we know that, over time, many species have had to adapt in order to survive. This being the case, it is still true that the union of a cat with a dog cannot produce viable offspring. On the contrary, the union between humans of all backgrounds produce viable offspring. With this fact, I must surmise that all humans are close enough in their genetic make-up to be compatible. Therefore, the union is natural.

Although it is a well known fact that people of all backgrounds produce viable offspring, social fears remit a response quite different than one might think logical. In America, relationships between those of differing backgrounds was so frowned upon that laws were passed in an attempt to discourage people of different races to marry. The laws served only to strengthen the resolve of those in legitimate relationships and fuel the taboo and exoticism of sex with someone "different."

Yes, we actually had "anti-miscegenation" laws forbidding the marriage between whites and those of other backgrounds such as: African, Chinese (or any Mongolian or Asian) Indian, and even Mexican. These laws continued to exist, at least in Southern states, until June 1967 when Richard and Mildred Loving persevered in having the law rescinded after being married and discriminated against since their marriage in 1958.

Is it taboo? Fetish?

Yes and no for both. Taboo is based on community or societal norms, while fetishism is something more personal. But is reading about interracial relationships titillating? Again, the answer is yes and no. Some writers specifically put interracial relationships into their stories for the benefit of their readers. They do this because they are catering to the group of readers that enjoy reading about those of differing backgrounds engaged in sexual acts. Some focus specifically on physical differences to gain the arousal of their readers. But is that necessarily a bad thing?

I might ask, should we think it bad to think about, or dare I say, fantasize about having sex with someone different from ourselves? Why should it be shameful or prejudicial to think of such things? How many of you can honestly say that you've never had the slightest fantasy about someone different from yourself, and the fantasy revolved around, and was perpetuated by those differences? Again, I don't understand the problem in this.

I have an erotic story on the market right now called Pleasure Doing Business involving a three-way relationship between a white man, a black woman, and a Hispanic woman. They are the best of friends and astute business professionals. They join together to help their friend expand her fledgling business and their old feelings boil up until they must express them in a most physical way.  Did I put these three people together on purpose? In the case of this story, the answer would be no. These are just the personalities that came out of my head as I wrote the story. Is is possible that it was my own fantasies fueling the creation of these characters? Of course, and I would hope that it would be something readers would fantasize about as well.

Anyway, not more that two months after the publication of this story, I received a review accusing me of being "racial" in naming my one of my characters Reshonda. I think the reviewer wrote something to the affect of "using the name Reshonda reeks of prejudicial beliefs." Well, just in case you're wondering, Reshonda may be considered a stereotypical, even racial name elsewhere, but down here in the South, it's fairly common. And by the way, there are plenty of white girls named Reshonda too.

While I like to use diverse characters in my stories, I also like to write them in as if the relationship, whether it be only sexual or long-term loving, happens in the natural course of of their lives. I try to be honest and have my characters make the same considerations as they would in any relationship.

In Lexi's Run my lead character Kyle Frost, a black man, meets his future leading lady, a white woman. The original manuscript contained a small section where Kyle considered his budding relationship with Alexis. He actually had some self dialogue about about how his mother would be turning in her grave if she knew he was falling in love with a white woman. It may seem bold, but people of color have these issues about interracial relationships too. White folks do not have a monopoly on prejudice. After harsh prompting, I removed all references of his consideration as more than one beta reader stated their concern that some readers would not understand his actions.

But, is the relationship between Kyle and Alexis fetishism? Does their coupling explore something considered taboo? I would hope that I wrote the story in a fashion that the reader will hardly notice their "racial" differences. That is not to say Kyle is completely free from prejudicial treatment. He is still considered a "feral" by the rest of Alexis' werewolf community.

The question remains with Kyle and Alexis, are they a contrived relationship, put into the story for the purpose of satiating reader's desire for an interracial relationship? Well, kinda.

Kyle and Alexis originally appeared in my novel Lovestruck Succubus. They had to work and live in close quarters for great lengths of time while hunting down rogues. Even though they are recently married or "mated" they bicker and then make up like an old married couple. This provided an avenue of dichotomy for me--a kind of yin and yang within their characterization. I wanted others to see this dichotomy so I took it a step further making Kyle a very dark-skinned black man with a bald head, while in contrast, Alexis was very pale-skinned and of obvious Eastern European descent. Yes, they have sex in this novel but it was written as erotica, what else would one expect?

Now, was their sexual encounter derivative of their differences? No, and any thought that I planned it that way is only in the reader's mind. While I like to show diversity within my stories, I also like to make these relationships seem natural. Does that mean it is not alright to write or read material that glorifies a person because of their background? Of course not. I believe it is perfectly okay, normal even, to show loving relationships between people of different "races" and think is is just as natural if we want to go a step further and celebrate, or even provide taboo or fetish titillation for someone different from ourselves.

Why not celebrate and relish our diversity rather than discourage such openness? What are your thoughts on interracial relationships, whether they be in a story or in real life. Certainly we've made advances in our civilization in order to understand that this is natural--something that should be accepted as a natural fact. It is the perceived prohibition of such a relationship that makes it into a subject of taboo and fetish, and that is something I would hope that we as humans could certainly rise above.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Werewolf Love

I would never have thought when I began my first novel that I would be writing about werewolves. I was attempting to write a character study (more or less) dealing with the dichotomous problem faced by a woman wanting a normal relationship but unable to sustain one.
Of course, what I came up with was a demon succubus. Hey, why not? Using a character such as this allowed me to explore the problems many face of wanting a lasting relationship, but somehow sabotaging themselves.
But, given the nature I invented for my succubus, how would she ever find a lasting relationship if she kills all her lovers? Who could possibly survive her love? That's when werewolves made their entrance into the story. I would just have my main character fall in love with a werewolf. In my mind anyway, a werewolf can survive a succubus. Oddly enough, I later found the very concept I dreamed up, was used in a television show called Lost Girl.
Of course, my werewolves were different. In fact, my werewolves were created eons ago by demons such as Azra and Tarmin. More about that later. The werewolves in my world are just like other humans, living among the rest of the population. They do tend to keep to themselves, and they have a definite hierarchy within their group. My werewolves also (for the most part) mate for life. Now there may be a rogue out there having relationships with more than one partner, but that will be another story. Also, my werewolves communicate just like married humans, oftentimes arguing or engaging in banter. Here's an example of this using Alexis and Joseph from the novel Lovestruck Succubus.
Joe Johnson sat in a darkened car next to his wife and mate, Lexi. The car was a rental and they had been sitting inside of it for nearly four hours watching Raif Lungren's apartment building. The air outside had cooled some but there was no breeze and now the day's heat radiated off the buildings and the concrete. Hot moist air filled the car making their skin stick uncomfortably to the seats. The windows were cracked open but they could not run the air conditioner for fear of attracting attention, even on the deserted street in the dead of night. The inside of the car stank of coffee, french-fries, and body odor.

They had watched Raif walk home from work. They had watched a woman follow behind him. They had watched her hide beside a tree for more than two hours. Now, they watched as she moved to the apartment entrance door, and they would wait until morning if they had to, just to see if the woman stayed in his apartment for the night. They had been watching Raif for more than two weeks. All of his activities had been noted and relayed back to their pack leader and alpha in Northern Georgia. But the woman was new, and why she was hiding outside his apartment building they had no idea, although the arrival of this new woman did bring some excitement to their normally dull observations. Lexi wrote notes on a small notepad. She listed the general characteristics of the woman approaching the apartment building, approximate height, hair color and length, and clothing worn. She noted the time, 1:43 AM, and wrote it down.

"Did you see that?" Joe poked at Alexis, and then pointed at the apartment entrance.

"See what? She just went into the apartment building." Alexis gave him a stern look through the darkness, peeved about his habit of poking her when he wanted her attention.

"No, Lexi, I didn't see her open the door." Joe always called her Lexi, and she called him Joe, unless they were mad at each other, and then it was Alexis and Joseph.

"What do you mean? I'm sure she opened the door and then went inside, you just missed it."

"I don't know. It looked to me like she went through the door."

"Maybe you need more coffee." Lexi held the thermos up for him. "I think all this stakeout stuff just makes you loopy."

Joe resigned the argument, thinking she was right and he was probably just seeing things that were not there. He lifted his Styrofoam cup out to her and smiled in acceptance of her terms. Lexi filled his cup, smiled back at him and settled back in her seat. They fell into silence, Joe slowly slurping coffee, Lexi huffing and shifting abruptly in her seat in annoyance at his loud, sloppy drinking.

They had sat in the car another forty minutes when the apartment building door flew open and a kind of half-human half-wolf creature came through at a full run.
This scene from Lexi's Run served as part of the introduction of Joseph and Alexis (Joe and Lexi) in the first Novel. It is told from Joe's point of view. It may seem strange to some readers that the second novel went backwards, but I thought this was a great way to highlight the relationship of Joe and Lexi. I thought it would show how they became so familiar with each other. They weren't always so informal. In fact, this next scene shows how they almost never got together.

Joseph walked across the old crumbling asphalt parking lot, and over patches of loose gravel in front of the abandoned auto parts store toward the bar. As he crossed the alley, he heard a voice and, looking into the darkness, he saw a man and a woman in the shadows by a garbage dumpster. The man said something, and the woman jerked her hand away from him. Joseph's body reacted before his mind even realized the two were not standing in the dark for romance. The woman was backing up, and the man was advancing toward her.

"You alright Ma'am," he heard himself say as he closed the distance between him and the assailant grabbing at the woman.

He made it to the man in five easy steps. The man was preoccupied with the woman, allowing Joseph the opportunity to wrap his arm around the man's neck and drag him away from the woman, making sure to jerk his knee into the man's back at every step backwards. Joseph kept dragging the man backwards until he was brought off balance and went to the ground. He rolled the man over as forcefully as he could and then knelt down with his knee in the man's back, yanking the man’s arms around his back to meet his knee. Joe grabbed his zip straps out from the left side of his waistband, and tightened them around the man's wrists before bringing his attention back to the woman.

"Are you okay? Did he hurt you?" Joe looked up at the woman, standing among the dark shadows of the alley.

He could only make out her general shape in the dark, but he was certain he saw her eyes, just for a brief moment, nearly glowing, something primal reflecting in them through the darkness. His eyes adjusted to the darkness of the alley, and the two standing in front of him came into better view. He recognized the man as Lefty, the local sleaze ball, and the very skip Jake contracted him to bring in. His luck was certainly changing from earlier in the day. The thug wannabee down and secure, Joe turned his attention back to the woman again.

"It's alright, I got him under control," He said to the woman, as he jerked Lefty up by his cuffed wrists.

Standing closer to the woman, he got a better look at her. She was looking not too pleased that he stopped Lefty from doing to her ... whatever it was he was thinking of doing. In fact, the smug look on her face made her seem completely ungrateful that he just saved her life, or, at the very least, her honor. Her pale skin reflected the dim light from the crescent moon overhead, and contrasted sharply with her dark hair. Joseph didn't usually think much of women one way or the other since his mother died, but even in the dark, he saw something special in her, a kind of confidence, a deep, animalistic skill for survival. He was beginning to wonder if he hadn't shown up, if she would've taken care of Lefty herself. Then she spoke, and removed any doubt about her confidence.

"I'm alright," the woman said. "I didn't need any help." She crossed her arms, and moved into a stance that, even in the darkness, came off as arrogant.

"Yeah, I could tell, you had everything under control," he said, with as much sarcasm as he could muster.

She glared at him; a cold hurt showing in her eyes, even through the dark, and he regretted the words as soon as he said them. Truth was, the woman looked like she could take care of herself. She was taller than most women, with a solid build. She was more voluptuous and toned than stick-thin, and her eyes showed strength. Even in the dark alley, her eyes conveyed volumes. Joseph liked beautiful eyes, and he liked a strong woman. He decided to take on a different approach in talking to her.

"I didn't get your name."

"I didn't give it." She turned, and began to walk away. "Like I told you already, I had everything under control until you showed up."

"Sorry if I interrupted your ass-kicking, but I've been looking for this guy." Joseph left out the fact that he had just started looking for him.

"Well, you got him," she said, not even looking back as she walked toward the street. "Can I get back to work, now?"

"You work here?"

"No, asshole, I don't work here.” She turned and looked back at him, planting her feet at shoulder-width. “Not on the street. I'm a waitress at the Pink Pony." She huffed and turned again, walking toward the alley entrance.

"Oh, I didn't mean ...” But it was too late. She'd already rounded the corner and disappeared.

"Wait," Joseph yelled after her as he moved as quickly as he could toward the street, pushing Lefty in front of him.

He reached the crumbling parking lot just as the woman stepped into the building, the door closing behind her.

"My name's Joseph," he yelled as the door closed.

"Damn you, Lefty," Joseph yelled in his ear as he jerked him toward his truck and pushed him along, making him stumble across loose gravel. "You just cost me a date."

"More like, I just put the two of you together," Lefty countered. "Who are you, anyway?"

"Nobody really, Lefty.” Joseph told him as he opened the passenger door of his truck and threw lefty inside. “I'm just the guy that gets paid for collecting trash like you and bringing them to jail."

It seems these were just two normal people meeting for the first time but soon, it is revealed that Lexi, and her relationship with Joseph is nothing close to normal. I write all this because I am attempting to warn my readers and possible future readers that the direction of this ongoing story is going to change even more with the third novel. What started as a story about a lonely demon succubus is becoming a story of the relationship between demons of old and the shape-shifting werewolves they created in an attempt to rid the Earth of humans.
My werewolves are not demons but they are definitely paranormal. They have special healing abilities, advanced hearing and smell but they are not completely immortal. They do grow old, and eventually die, as shown in Lexi's Run. Nonetheless, they do have the ability to shift to any form between human and wolf.
When it comes to love, there is only one kind for my werewolves—everlasting. With few exceptions, they stay with their mate (chosen or selected) for life. I hope this article provides some insight into my personal world of demons and werewolves. I hope that you would make it your world as well. And, I hope you stay with me because, in the next installment of this ongoing saga, things are going to get a little bumpy.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Stay in Your Lane

The few readers that frequent my website know that I've recently published a new novel in the Immortal Desires series.

I wonder how many reader I've lost because they were expecting erotica, and instead, found romantic suspense. That's the nice thing about being a completely independent writer-I can write whatever I want. Nonetheless, I must also suffer the consequences of jumping genre and confusing readers. And now, with a newly published work set out there in the big cold world, I realize that, to a certain extent, I must start again and build an entirely new audience ... or do I?

So I ask you for your thoughts. Would you stay with an author you like if they suddenly jump genres? Do you make your purchase selections solely on the author, or are you apt to give something new a try if it is written by an author you are familiar with?

I ask this for two reasons. First, the next two novels (and a few free shorts as well) in the series will continue in the same vein as Lexi's Run. I know the first novel has a strong erotic element but the rest of the story just does not call for it.

As all of my readers know, I write erotic stories just like fantasy or romance or suspense. To me, it's all about the story. That may explain why my writing is, as some have said, "all over the place." But again, that's the nice thing about independent writing.

So, tell me, will you follow an author you like if they write across genres? Do you prefer series books to all tie in together or do you like standalone books within a series?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Paranormal Romance Today

credit: Robert Giordano, design 215

Why are so many readers discovering and falling in love with paranormal romance lately? There's no doubt that books like Twilight have played a key role in fostering a new demand for stories of romance beyond the normal. The trend is continued in other genres such as EL James' Fifty Shades, which was originally listed within the erotica genre, until it was picked up by a mainstream publisher and re marketed as romance, but that's another story.

Not long ago, if one searched under 'paranormal' in any book-buying medium, they would be directed to horror books or books about ghosts. Soon though, things changed and authors began to make those characters normally associated only with the strange and fantastic, into more 'normal' characters. What I mean by this is that the characters in stories started to become more like regular old mortal humans. This made the characters more identifiable, while maintaining the allure of them being somehow special, somehow more than normal.

Next, we introduce the romantic element and, viola! We fall in love with super characters that, although they have problems and flaws like everyone else, they are still superhuman, or even more, not human at all.

So, why do you love to read paranormal romance stories? Is it the excitement of characters that are beyond human? Is it the possibility of a relationship between a human and say, a werewolf or vampire?

Personally, the reasons I like to read paranormal romance are the same reason I like to write stories within this genre.

I love the possibilities that come with a character that has special powers. I like to think about those special powers, and how they must be used to resolve a conflict of kind, or even save the character's life. I like the special problems and joys that I imagine one might find when pursuing a romantic relationship with another that has some kind of power. Maybe they have to learn how to control that power and their is an element of danger in the relationship.

In my stories, I like to make my special characters as normal as possible (most of the time.) I want the reader to forget that the characters are werewolves, or demons, or even telepathic. I want the reader to be pleasantly surprised when are suddenly reminded that their beloved character can shape shift or use their special powers to detect danger.

So, for those of you out there that love your paranormal romance, keep reading, and I'll keep writing. Oh, and be sure to check out my books under Ellison James at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and everywhere else. Sorry, just had to get that plug in there.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Surprise Early Release

My latest novel is now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble for the very frugal price of just $2.99!

In this story, Alexis is on the run after refusing an arranged marriage to the future pack Alpha when she meets hunky bounty hunter, Joseph Johnson. Together, they find themselves in more trouble than they can handle alone, If they can't come together to solve their problems, they may not live another day. Follow Alexis as she battles drug-dealing thugs, amorous bar patrons, her own betrothed mate, and a growing love she cannot deny.

Please help support this work by purchasing, reviewing, or at the very least, liking the sale pages on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. While this novel contains no erotica and is suitable for most adults, I promise it will keep you on the seat of your pants, and routing for Alexis and Joseph declare their love.

Please help spread the word on this new novel by tell friends and forwarding this post.

Here's the links:

Lexi's Run at Amazon

Lexi's Run in paperback

Lexi's Run at Barnes and Noble

Lexi's Run at Smashwords

This novel should be available soon at Apple ibooks, diesel, kobo, and everywhere else.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Some Fine Tuning

It appears Lexi's Run is on track for a September release. With edits underway, I thought it would be a great time to take another look at something that I feel can make or break a novel before it has a chance to be read - the cover.

Since the second novel marks my commitment to the Immortal Desires series, it stands to reason that I should create a brand or some item that remains constant and identifiable throughout the series.

Enter the series banner.

Take a look at the covers below and comment with your opinion on whether this works as something that ties the series together.

I've also remade the cover for the first novel as seen below:

What do you think? Does the branding work?

The cover you see for the first novel comes from the ebook version. The paperback version still shows Azra's face behind the night skyline of Atlanta, Georgia. This cover will soon replace both version currently on sale.

As some of you may know already, I take great pride in being a completely independent author, even creating my own cover artwork. In the updated cover for Lovestruck Succubus, I moved the photo of the man and woman down to minimize the, uh, exposure of the woman's nakedness. Although this image may seem to risque for some readers, I feel it best depicts the main character of the story, Azra. As most paranormal readers know, the Succubus like to be on top.

The new cover above will likely be the final for publication of Lexi's Run. The new cover for Lovestruck Succubus will appear after the book goes through a late rewrite and the second edition is ready for publication.

For those who might be wondering, writing is underway for the next novel in the series, Demon Among Wolves, and will likely be ready for release next September.