Sexy Stuff

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I put sex in my stories.  I addressed some of it in a podcast before the release of Red August – but I thought I would blog about it, to explore it a bit further.  If you want to listen to the podcast you can hop on over to Raven Heights Radio and listen to that episode HERE.

To state the obvious, some people aren’t bothered by sexual scenes in a story, and some people even seek out books with sexual passages.  Then, there are readers who don’t like sex in a story, and regardless of my reasons for including sexual scenes, it’s not going to really make them like it.  So, for those who are curious, here are some thoughts about about those sexy bits of Red August  and also, why you will find sexy bits in my second book in the series, Red Archer, as well.

When I first conceived of writing a fairy tale, I thought it would be fun to try my hand at an erotic short.  I had listened to a podcast from an erotica author who cranked out many erotic shorts a month and makes a good living at it.  I was at a bit of crossroads in my career life and wanted to switch from focusing on art and photography to writing.  Naturally, I wanted to write something that would be financially supporting.  So, I figured I would try out this model mentioned in the erotica writer’s podcast.  I’d write something under 10k words and I would self-publish it for 99 cents and move on to the next fairy tale.  However, once I got to writing the character of August Archer and her budding age-gap relationship with werewolf Faolan Conall, I couldn’t just stick to the erotic stuff – I wanted more story.  Eventually, there wasn’t a lot of sex in the story left, but what was there was pretty hot.  So, what could I do now but finish the story?

I had believed writing erotica might be a good route for me because my first ever paycheck as a writer was back in the late 90s and it was a short erotic story for Playgirl.  I figured I could channel that part of myself and write something short and steamy – but I failed.  I just wanted to know more about the characters.  I wanted to know where they would end up and all of the adventures they might get up to as their relationships developed.  So, I decided instead to write a modern fairy tale adaptation and put sex in where it felt right to me.  That’s how Red August was born.

I am a sensualist.  I immerse myself in the clicks of a keyboard and the smell of freshly brewed coffee, the sweet and rich melting of chocolate on my tongue, the tickle of the hair on the back of my neck and the warm pressing of my lover’s lips to my cheek – all while just sitting here at my desk.  These things cannot be sorted out from each other.  They are interwoven.  Eggs, flour, milk, sugar, all baked together – touching and creating a full experience.

Sex, passion, lust and hormones are a huge foundation of our motivations as humans, even if we don’t want to admit it, despite the reality of it being all around us.  I realize for some people, they’ve got that part of themselves pretty locked down.  They keep it private.  They don’t like it intruding on their stories about adventure or danger.  But, for me, there is a message in that:  sex intrudes, whether we want it to or not.  If people want to read it just to enjoy the idea that there is this horny teen girl who has an interesting paranormal back-story – I am totally fine with that.  The book belongs to the readers once you put it out there.  The author’s intent sometimes isn’t clear, or the person reading it might not have an experience or perspective that lets the message in.  There is nothing wrong with any of that.  If sexy writing isn’t for you, I’m not trying to convince you otherwise.  I’m just saying that I can’t help but include it.

The messages I got when I was younger, compared to those that I claimed for myself later, helped me come to a place where I recognize that sex is embraceable as a whole part of yourself and not something to try and put in a box.  There are so many contradictions in our society about sex.  We require consent, but don’t always prosecute rapists.  Or we get consent, then are accused of breaching a boundary we didn’t know was there.  We say girls are too young to dress in a sexy outfit or buy dolls that push sex, then we sell everything with sex.  There is a calamity about young girls wearing sexualized make-up and clothing, then we deny that clothing or appearance can be sexualized (feminist perspective).  It’s confusing as hell.  And there is no way for me as one human to un-confuse it.  But what I can do is write about a girl who is in touch with her sex drive.  I can also make an attempt to not romanticize things that are unhealthy.  I will write about things that are not healthy happening in a relationship, but I make great effort to not romanticize or objectify in my story.

I wrote about August’s desires and private actions because that is part of who she is.  Her body is doing things that are invisible to those around her, but hormones and chemicals rage on inside of her nonstop.

For me, I think part of the problem is that too often, women aren’t portrayed as whole individuals.   When we get explicit sex in a story some feel it defines the story, putting it into a specific slot (I know), saying “oh, this book is about sex.”  There’s nothing wrong with reading it on that level.  But that’s not what I’m trying to create – a story that’s primary objective is titillation.  My objective is simple – to show a whole girl, with her desires, menstrual cycles, awkwardness and cleverness–all the good and the bad–and sex is part of that story.

Take all of the above and add onto it the fact that August is not just a human girl.  She has hormones of something other than human coursing thorough her veins.  Her blood is rich and heavy with longing and the drive to procreate to a point she doesn’t understand it.  Furthermore, because as a general rule, people don’t talk much about sex to each other, she’s confused by it.  And if teenagers do talk about those things, particularly before the information age (my book is set in the 1980s), they can be misinformed.  They don’t know how normal it is to be having these aches and desires.  It’s an aspect of our animal side that is going on in our brains as we go on with all of the activities of our day.

There is a well-loved episode of the original Star Trek series in which this subject is the main theme.  Pon Farr highlights the power of hormones and instinctual drive.  You won’t get to see any steamy sex scenes with Spock, but I would have liked to.  I also wouldn’t be a bit surprised if there isn’t some fan fiction out there taking that episode much further than shirtless fight scenes on Vulcan.

Hormones and bonding chemicals, like oxytocin, are fascinating and still a bit mysterious.  I’ve learned a lot about bonding chemicals in the past four or five years. They are addictive and  powerful and can affect you like other drugs – clouding your judgment, making you feel euphoric, or numb.   When people have affairs, they can get the sense that they don’t love their earlier partner any longer because of the bonding chemicals that take over their brains with the new person.  This isn’t a mystery and it isn’t new, but it’s overwhelming and sometimes ruinous.  I like exploring the way these bonding chemicals can make us hold on to relationships that were cut short, or idealize people who aren’t good for us.

I attempt to write sex in my stories sensually rather than what somebody might consider raunchy.  But, if you like your sex tucked away, as an aside mention, or avoided like tip-toeing through a garden, then the Red August series probably isn’t for you.

Book Update

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I’ve updated my website HLBrooks.com to reflect all of the links that you need in order to purchase Red August.  The most recent addition is approval by Amazon yesterday.

The e-book is only $3.99.  There is not a print copy available as of yet.

Links for purchase:
Amazon
iBooks
Barnes & Nobel
Smashwords (you can read 33% of the book for free here)
Kobo

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Synopsis

What if you found out that you were descended from a long line of clandestine fighters, and that your family was still at war? Or that the love of your life was something other than human? August Archer thinks she’s a normal teenage girl–even though she has been having disturbing and erotic dreams about wolves lately. Still grieving over the loss of her bookish, charming father, and wondering over his final gift of a red hooded cloak, August is uprooted from her New York City apartment to a tiny town in Maryland, and the rambling Victorian house where he grew up. There she meets a wise woman with a gift for herbal medicine, the gentle old man who keeps the house in repair and the grounds thriving, and her new neighbor: an enigmatic, irresistibly fascinating man who refuses to talk to her, yet who seems to know her better than she knows herself, and fuels her most intense romantic fantasies. But it’s when August begins to coax her feisty Scottish grandmother out of her self-imposed catatonia that a strange tale of werewolves and hunters emerges–one in which the man of her dreams may be her family’s oldest enemy–in this modern-day telling of the Red Riding Hood story.

Sensual Sunday – You Are Going Gray

Sensual Sunday is meant to be writing practice.  I’m looking to hone my ability to write about sensual things or even to write sensually about regular things.

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You Are Going Gray

The soft smell of your spice.  Clove and salt tears.

Peachy, with black curls of hair, down, down, down.

Earthy musk, the taste of you…all of you.

Inside of me.  Each space filled.  And a woman has many spaces.

Slip, slide, into place.  Nestle there.  Rested there.  In your hair.

The smell of the top of your head.  Tickle, soft brown and pewter.  Pewter…what a word.  The color describes the soft turning of your fields from ripe wheat to stoney silver.  You’re only more beautiful for it.  But the word itself – pewter – is wrong because I don’t like the feel of it in my mouth.  And everything about you feels so good in my mouth.

In the dark it’s hard to tell what year it is.  Are we new or has it really been so many years?  The smell of the building and your skin and these sheets and my own spent aromas, a perfume I know well.  The sounds of the whirring fans, creaking branches just outside of our bedroom window, and your rhythmic breaths, just shy of a gentle snore, are such a familiar song.  Leaves dance shadows on the wall thrown there by streetlights as they have always done since the first day I slept next to you.  As you sleep, I watch them twist and rest.

Sensual Sunday – Bodice Ripper Train Ride

Sensual Sunday is a weekly sensual micro-story, poem or word association. It’s mostly sexy writing practice. I encourage others to do Sensual Sunday – share your links with me!

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This is a bit longer than a micro-story so we’ll just call it a short story. This is in the erotica category, so it’s NSFW. It is a rough draft. I have not gone through to do edits. I am still working on tense shifting, so I try hard these days not to shift tense in the first draft, but I have yet to manage that feat. I am sure somewhere in this story there are improper tense shifts. I can’t promise that I won’t go through and edit something if I see it later and it bothers the hell out of me. But part of these Sensual Sunday writing exercises is to push outside of my comfort zone. And leaving barely edited work hanging out there is definitely outside of my comfort zone.

Do you have any special writing exercises?  Do you have a blog where you practice?  I’d love to hear from you!

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SStrain

Lindy straightened her hat and stepped onto the train, a dainty gloved hand extended to the conductor. She placed one perfectly heeled white pump onto the first large step and felt her dress catch a draft and fly out behind her. She let out a little yelp and the conductor quickly saved her reputation by swatting the hem back towards her calves.

“Thank you,” she said, demurely. He simply nodded and touched the brim of his hat.

The train was mostly empty and it would be a long ride to Memphis from Sacramento, so once in the back she opened her small suitcase and fished for the bodice ripper her older sister had insisted she take along. She looked around, saw only a couple of passengers at least six rows up, grasped the book like a child thieving from the cookie jar and tucked it behind her back. She snapped the metal clasps closed with two satisfying pops and slunk down into her seat.

Proper young unmarried ladies just didn’t read this sort of thing. But she would be married in a few days’ time and she wanted to be prepared for the wedding night. Her mother never prepared her for the “big night” and her sister did her best to explain things. But Cora said the book would give her more detailed descriptions of what to expect. She crossed her legs, cheated her body towards the window and hunkered over the pulp as she began to read the first pages. It was long before the pirate in the story was popping a maiden’s bodice with his cutlass.

These scenes were full of words that Lindy had never seen before, but she somehow knew exactly what they meant. She devoured each page like a rich, sinful bon-bon. After a solid hour of reading, Lindy began to grow restless. She felt herself swell a number of times throughout the pages. At one point she gasped out loud. She kept shifting in her seat, trying to simultaneously ignore and relieve the ache.

After several hours of reading and the light failing, she left her car to use the lady’s room. She tidied up her dampness, feeling somewhat silly and sexy somehow. She splashed some cold water on the back of her neck and took a few deep breaths. She chided herself for allowing her hormones to get carried away, but she also couldn’t wait to get back to her seat to finish the book. She even took it to the lady’s room, only – of course – because she didn’t want anybody to find it. In all honesty, she couldn’t bear to put it down.

On her return one of the doors popped open and a man, tall and handsome and probably ten years older than she was, emerged. He was wearing a white dress shirt, rolled up at the sleeves. A royal blue tie with green diamonds, loosened and his top button was undone. They almost collided.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you there,” he said. His voice as rich as molasses. Eyes as green as emeralds. She looked down at his left hand. No ring.

Lindy felt herself start to perspire, even though the car was pleasantly cool for June. She smiled at him and pressed herself against a bit of wall as he started to squeeze by. As he did she put her hand on his torso and said, “It’s a long trip to Memphis.”

His forehead creased and he tilted his head to the side, as if trying to figure her out. He looked down at her and smiled a crooked grin and nodded, “Yes, it is.”

She held up the novel she’d been reading, a pirate on the front with a woman in a chemise draped artistically over his arm, both of them with windswept hair, the title in a lusty shade of red shouted out from the cover, Pirate Plunders Pink Pearls.

“I…I brought this book to read.” She took a deep breath and held is gaze. Her chest rising and falling and the sound of the train beginning to sound muffled the world became a single focal point – his mouth.

His face flushed. His breathing stopped for a moment. She saw his body give an almost imperceptible shiver. He let out a long breath. “Is there something I can help you with?”

She opened his compartment door, which was strewn with books and papers, turned to him and backed into it. “I can’t…you know…I can’t do everything. But I’m…well, you know. I’m getting married in a few days and I just…I want to, well…have, well, I’m kind of restless, on account of reading this book. Do you think you can help me?”

He stepped into the compartment and shut the door behind him. For a moment Lindy felt a trapped, and like she could be murdered and it would serve her right for doing something so sinful. But she was drunk with hormones and want and in a few short days she could never have sex with anybody else again. It was making all her proper pearly buttons pop.

It wasn’t long, though, before her mouth was on his and her hands were inside of his shirt, feeling all of his firm, smooth flesh. They kept their mouths pressed together as he pulled off his shirt. She pulled away to watch him remove his pants and as he took down his shorts his cock sprung forward. She gasped out loud a felt a little faint. It was longer than she thought it would be and bouncing and swaying as it stuck straight out from his body.

“Sit down,” she said. He swiped away papers and books and did as she commanded. He settled onto the cushioned portion of the first class seat.

As he watched, Lindy kicked off her shoes. She put a leg up next to him and unhooked her garter, then the other side. She pulled off the stockings and tossed them behind her, floating down like feathers, resting onto the bench seat behind her. She grinned and locked eyes with him as she reached under her dress and pulled down her panties and stepped out of them. She stepped towards him, pushing him to lean back a little and she straddled him, resting her slit along his erect cock, sandwiching it between them. The length of him was nestled in her cleft. She unbuttoned the top portion of her dress as he pushed it down around her shoulders. He nestled his face into her ample cleavage as he reached around back to remove the significant undergarment. The elastic relaxed after the popping of the fasteners and she tossed the brazier aside, holding her arms up, she let them swing free.

He looked at her, as if in awe at her rosy nipples and the beautiful milky orbs that they decorated. He hefted the glorious weight of them in his hands, cupping and lifting and repeating, as if he could never do it enough times. This made her swell so greatly between her legs she thought she might burst like an overripe berry. Skin splitting. Juices running all over. She was slick with want and began to rub back and forth against the length of his hardness. He cupped and suckled and rubbed and moaned as she pressed her hands hard against the wall behind him. The motion of the train added to the rocking motion of their rhythm.

She could feel the lust rise in her like never before and couldn’t have stopped rubbing if the train derailed. She felt as if a force of nature, as if an animal acting on instinct, her hips compelled to slide her wetness, her soft downy cleft along him. She was attached to him. Tingles ran up her spine, to her nipples, to her mound, train sounds, his hands, his mouth, all a jumble, dizzying as she rocked and rocked until she heard herself yelling and felt her thighs clasp and her spine make an arch over him as she spasmed and she felt silent, even though her mouth was wide to continue her cries.

At this moment she felt his legs tense and his body lean into hers as he thrust his hips upwards. He pushed up her skirt again, and they both watched as his seed erupted over his belly, some making it almost as far as his neck.

They were both panting as she dismounted and sat next to him. He wiped away his semen with a handkerchief and put his arm around her as she nestled into his chest where she fell asleep. He soon was sleeping, too.

Sensual Sunday – Spring Forward

Sensual Sunday is a weekly sensual micro-story, poem or word association. It’s mostly sexy writing practice. I encourage others to do Sensual Sunday – share your links with me!

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Spring Forward

Springing, showing, sliding, slipping, slowly

Budding, blooming, bouncing, bobbing,

Out, obediently, outrageously, obsessed

Popping, pink, purple, passion, persist

Firming, fragile, fractured, forward, facing

Poking, pouncing, pounding, poking, perspire

Dangling, dancing, dappled, delicious, dizzying

Tempting, touching, tearing, turgid, tenacious, temple

Worship, watching, wishing, wincing, warping

Rocking, rolling, rising, reeling

Swelling, spurting, shooting, streaming

Careening, calling, calming, collapsing

Serenely, softly, sleeping, spent, sated

Daddy Issues

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The following is regarding consensual interaction only.  It’s also just my opinion learned from life’s little lessons.  Also, I think “erotica”  and “porn” really falls outside the realm of this discussion.  Erotica is geared towards fetishes and fantasy.  If you’re trying to learn psychological lessons from erotica, you might be barking up the wrong tree.

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I’ve been thinking about the way people’s sexual preferences are portrayed in a variety of media.  How some things are typically frowned upon, regardless of context.  Things like older men even noticing younger women are “dirty old men” and how young women who prefer older men have “daddy issues.”  Mind you, when those words come up they are usually with a negative bent.

I think that what is missing from this equation is the acknowledgement that all of us have sexual preferences for reasons.  Having “daddy issues” or “mommy issues” demeans the people who choose these relationships.  A younger person falls in love with somebody older, it implies they cannot make a sound decision based on the older person as a whole.  It also demeans the older person as well, as though they are taking advantage of the younger person.

I’ve seen arguments that older people and younger people cannot have an equal relationship.  Implying that only people who are totally equal can ever be in a consensual relationship together.  But how can we possibly quantify, beyond known power imbalance, that this is somehow detrimental to a relationship?

Therapists should not date their patients.  Teachers should not date their students.  Bosses should not date their subordinates.  These things make sense.  There is definite power imbalance in these situations.  But beyond these types of relationships, things get murky.

People have all kinds of psychological reasons for why they are attracted to other people.  They love big breasts or tiny feet.  They fall in love with singers or writers or military men (and women).  There are many reasons we feel attractions and they are all valid.  Some of them can be self destructive.  For example, people who only fall in love with married people.  Or people who fetishize something to the point they cannot have a bonding sexual experience, or possibly any sexual experience, without that fetish present. Or people have a fetish that hurts others, non-consensually.

So what exactly is an equal relationship?  Only professors with equal education levels?  Only people who speak the same language?  Only people who are making similar income levels?  Celebrities can only date celebrities?

We have long rolled our eyes at the professor who sleeps with the co-ed.  But these relationships happen time and time again for a reason.  Each person is attracted and having some need met.  The co-ed swoons over the smart handsome professor.  Or the young male student is interested in a sexy older woman.  This could also be female/female or male/male.  The possibilities are endless. The professors feel adored.  Who doesn’t like to feel smart and adored?  The student feels special.  Both parties are smart enough to know the cliche – so why does it keep happening (and often ending badly) over and over again?  Because these people are chemically and psychologically drawn to each other.  If it turns out that they learn something along the way – that’s called a lesson.  If these people have destructive, hurtful relationships that hurt other people each time, then maybe they learn to stop the harmful behavior.  But at least sometimes, it works out.  And that’s not a mistake.  It’s because some people are actually meeting each others needs.

Learning from sexual mistakes are like every other mistake we make as we grow.

I’ve mostly been thinking of this because of Monica Lewinsky’s TED Talk about bullying.  And the imbalance in the blame that went on in the fallout.  I was much younger then and I remember being angry at her as much a Bill Clinton.  Part of that was media driven madness.  So unfair.  But now that I’m a bit older I realize that their behavior isn’t so out of place in a world where all of us have needs and sometimes they aren’t being met and the next thing you know, the thing that can scratch your itch is right there.  It’s human.  There was definitely a power imbalance in that relationship, so in my feeling if there is blame to go around it should be laid squarely at Bill Clinton’s feet.  In retrospect, the only thing that really bothers me about all of that stuff now, is the lies he told – to his wife.  But that’s none of my business.

I think we get mad, not because we think Monica did something that is so wrong or out of the realm of fairly normal behavior for a young woman intoxicated by a powerful man.  I think we get mad because we don’t want our spouse cheating on us and embarrassing us in front of everybody.  Wounding our egos.  Feeling like somebody is going to take away the thing that made us feel safe when we were first together.  We were mad at Monica because we identified more with the wronged spouse.  If you identified more with Monica, then you were probably not the spouse in the scenario.  It’s all relative.

Being with somebody who I totally trust has made all of the difference in the way I project my feelings onto these situations.  Growing up some, has given me perspective.  When you have a healthy self esteem and you totally trust that your spouse is truthful and always has your best interest at heart, you don’t worry about these things.  Therefore you don’t project your insecurities onto the people in these scenarios.  That doesn’t mean that your relationship will never suffer any serious blows.  Or that a lie can’t and won’t happen.  It just means that you’re more likely to get what you need from that relationship 98% of the time and you’re not going to go around being mad at things that have nothing to do with you.

I said all of that to say this:  we should stop portraying some sexual desires as gross or stupid.  Sure, we can have characters in stories that think some things are gross or stupid.  But it would be nice to see it stop being validated within the story.  An older woman and a younger man is always a “cougar.”  Sure, that’s fun and wink-wink, nod-nod.  And sometimes that is fine and appropriate.  But it’s become a trope and it sort of removes the humanity from the people involved.

Old men noticing young women isn’t always “dirty old man” situation.  Remember, every young man who came of age and was into young women isn’t going to just stop finding young women attractive because his body ages.  He may make the choice to only date older women or more mature women, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to stop his attraction younger women.

We seem to be at war with our humanness.  Rather than accept those parts that are normal and ingrained and then building on them to make better decisions.  Controlling our behavior for healthier happier outcomes.  Rather than build up from the foundation we’ve laid, we tear other things down so we feel better.  We have a culture of this sort of thing.  From the magazines at the check-out aisle where we can see which successful person who is richer than we are has cellulite so we feel better about our cellulite, to viewing senior citizens as funny little non-sexual entities. Some day we will be staring at a seventy year old lover, if we are lucky enough to be having sex well into our old age.

We all are attracted to what we are attracted to because it meets some need inside of us.  I don’t mean our sexual orientation.  That’s just part of what you are born with.  I mean the aspects and features of others that we are attracted to.   And even if you think somebody else has weird needs and attractions, so long as things are consensual and not hurting their lives or the life of somebody else, it’s ok.  They’re ok.  You’re ok.  And it’s none of your business. Just don’t stop growing.  The more honest we can be about these things, the more we can grow.

So buy that new whip for your dungeon room and put on that tu-tu and dance around.  Spank or get spanked.  Put on that superhero spandex.  Role-play.  Kiss.  Fuck.  Lick chocolate off of each other.  Have fun.  Healthy sex is fun, satisfying sex.

Shenanigans in Publishing

I keep up with what’s going on in the self-publishing market, for obvious reasons (oy, with the research, can’t a girl just write something?) and I wanted to share THIS ARTICLE just because it’s the strangest article I’ve ever read.  At first I thought it was a satire article – in part because photo looks so staged and in part because…just…so.many.things.

Even as I’m about to post this, I double-checked to make sure it wasn’t the plot of a weekly evening soap opera.  An interesting read even if you aren’t in the book world.  But especially if you’re in the romance and erotica book world.  And also, anybody who follows Amazon and their shenanigans.

Can’t we all just play nice?

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Song List for Writing Werewolves

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Today I am writing on the second book of the Red August series and behind me, my lover is editing the first book. It’s nice when he’s here I can work at my desk writing, and he can sit behind me at the table, writing.

We have officially reached workaholic status, though.  All day yesterday I was making artwork for my store website (which is set to launch May1).  Last week I split my time between writing, making items for my online store and making a Cafepress shop.  Which is still very much NOT DONE.  But off to a good little start.

Anyway, at first I was playing a music list with no lyrics.  Then I ended up putting on my Fairytale Writing Mix – Red August which is on Spotify.  You can follow it, if you like and you use Spotify – I am under “Heather Brooks.”

I take several approaches to listening to music while writing.  If I’m in an easily distracted mood I will put on instrumentals.  I have a list that is almost all instrumental called Myth, Magic, Faeries & Mermaids.  I may even just listen to coffee shop sounds on Coffitivity.  Other times I like having some music with lyrics happening – and usually it’s because I want something that gives me the atmosphere of what I’m writing.  In the case of Red August I made a list that has a lot of sexy, ethereal stuff on it.  Also, since the book is set in the early 1980s, I listened to some of the stuff around then.  Retrojam is good for that.

So, here are probably my top five favorites (in no particular order) from my Fairytale Writing Mix – Red August:

HowlFlorence + The Machine
Exiles (The Wolves of Midwinter) – Mary FahlBorn to DieLana Del Rey
Ride – Lana Del Rey
My ImmortalEvanescence

If you have suggestions for good songs that fit the haunted, werewolf, wolf, hunter, huntress, archery theme, please leave me a comment!

 

 

 

 

Red August

Coming this Summer

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What if you found out that you were descended from a long line of clandestine fighters, and that your family was still at war? Or that the love of your life was something other than human? August Archer thinks she’s a normal teenage girl—even though she has been having disturbing and erotic dreams about wolves lately. Still grieving over the loss of her bookish, charming father, and wondering over his final gift of a red hooded cloak, August is uprooted from her New York City apartment to a tiny town in Maryland, and the rambling Victorian house where he grew up. There she meets a wise woman with a gift for herbal medicine, the gentle old man who keeps the house in repair and the grounds thriving, and her new neighbor: an enigmatic, irresistibly fascinating man who refuses to talk to her, yet who seems to know her better than she knows herself, and fuels her most intense romantic fantasies. But it’s when August begins to coax her feisty Scottish grandmother out of her self-imposed catatonia that a strange tale of werewolves and hunters emerges—one in which the man of her dreams may be her family’s oldest enemy—in this modern-day telling of the Red Riding Hood story.