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Safer Sex in Fiction

Since I started writing erotica and erotic romance nearly a decade ago, I’ve repeatedly seen debates about safer sex practices in that type of fiction. Some say that the stories are fiction, or fantasies, and including condoms or dental dams or any other type of barrier or birth control takes the reader out of the moment. Others say that as authors, it’s part of our responsibility to educate our readers, and that includes making sure readers know safer sex practices are important, sometimes literally a matter of life and death.

My personal opinion is somewhere in the middle. I disagree that including safer sex practices in fiction pulls the reader out of the story. When I read fiction, especially contemporary erotica or erotic romance, I’m pulled out of the story if the author *doesn’t* include safer sex practices, or at least have the characters mention them. At the same time, as an author, I don’t think it’s my responsibility to “educate”; it’s my responsibility to entertain by portraying realistic situations (inasmuch as things like werewolves and vengeance demons can be realistic…)

In all of my fiction that includes sex, whether explicit or off the page (which is more my young adult stuff than my romances), I at least mention safer sex. Sometimes the characters decide not to use it. In my male/male novel Lost Soul, the main character, Joel, is a sorcerer who uses magic to prevent diseases, so he doesn’t have a need for condoms or other barriers. But the first time Joel has sex with Lanny, they talk about *why* condoms aren’t necessary. It’s a brief conversation (I’ll share the excerpt that includes it on Thursday, so stay tuned), but it’s still there.

Likewise in my heterosexual urban fantasy novel Beta Test, where werewolf Justin tells his human mate Tara that werewolves can’t get pregnant so they don’t need birth control, and werewolves (in that universe, at least) don’t carry any type of human illness or disease. However, Justin has failed to take into account the fact that Tara isn’t a werewolf, so while no STIs occur, Tara does get pregnant.

In most of my contemporary fiction, the characters use condoms. Those are brief exchanges as well; most of them are not much longer than, “Do you have a condom?” “Yes” followed by the guy putting on a condom.

Depending on the story and characters, this discussion can even give readers a glimpse into the personality of the characters. Does one of them hesitate about using a condom, or try to refuse? In a heterosexual interaction, is the woman terrified of pregnancy? Has one of them already experienced an STI, or lost someone to AIDS?

Safer sex practices, or the discussion thereof, don’t have to be long interruptions in the flow of a story, any more than they have to be long interruptions in the flow of a sexual interaction in real life. And an author doesn’t necessarily have to include it every time the characters have sex; I generally include the discussion and use of a condom with the characters’ first sexual interaction, and figure readers will assume (correctly) that the characters use condoms for all future interactions. But I do think it’s important to establish that the characters are playing safe.

Brushing Off the Dust

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything on this blog. I’ve been on indefinite hiatus from writing romance while I dealt with some personal stuff, including both my kids moving out of the house, one to college and the other to be a partner and stepparent.

It’s been a stressful few months, with occasional breaks of fun and entertainment.

Many of my books are now out of print. Those include the entire Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat series and all associated books with MLR Press and Passion in Print Press, as well as all of my other titles with those two imprints. They also include all but three of my Ellora’s Cave titles, though I’ve heard rumblings around the internet that all Ellora’s Cave authors are having their rights returned in December. All of my Pink Petal Books/Jupiter Gardens books are off the market, since the publisher closed.

On the plus side, my Loose Id titles are still available, as are Love Like Vampires from Dreamspinner Press, and Dawn Over Dayfield from DSP Publications. Dawn Over Dayfield is now an award-winning book! In August, it took first place in the Mystery category of the Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Awards! That was hugely exciting. Now I’m waiting with bated breath to see what happens with the Edgar Awards, since Dawn Over Dayfield is also nominated for that.

My self-published novel Vengeance Is Sweet is also still available as an Amazon exclusive, e-book only.

I haven’t written any new romances. I don’t know whether I’m going to. I used to love writing them, but once I started writing for publication, and trying to get more and more books out there in the world, it became stressful and painful. Personal life circumstances didn’t help. I haven’t even been able to think of a romance *plot* in over a year, and I’m not sure whether that’s going to change.

But I still have books out there in the world, and I want to make sure people find them. I want to make sure people know *I* still exist. And someday in the future, I might self-publish some of my previously-published books even if I don’t write anything new. It remains to be seen.

I’m still writing young adult fiction under my Jo Ramsey pen name, though. I’m working on some nonfiction projects about healing, trauma recovery, and magic. (The witchcraft/spiritual version, not the up on stage with a top hat kind.) I’m starting a business related to those topics as well. I’m getting used to being an “empty nester,” and spending time with my partners and friends.

I’ll be blogging here twice a week. Mondays will be posts on a variety of topics; Thursdays will be short excerpts from my books, including some of the off-the-market ones. So I hope you’ll tune in, same Karenna time, same Karenna channel. (Wow… I hope I’m not the only one old enough to know that reference…)

The End

I’ve blogged more than once in the past about changes for my writing career, plans for this pen name, and so on. I’ve tried many things. Arguably too many. Different types of promo. Heterosexual romance. Male/male romance. Contemporary romance. Paranormal romance. Most recently, suspense with romantic elements.

That last one, Dawn Over Dayfield, is my most recent release. As of now, and keeping in mind that things often change with me, it is likely to be my last, at least under the Karenna Colcroft name. (Other than, possibly, a short story I have under consideration; if that’s accepted, it would be a Karenna and *that* would be my last release under the name.) Some unwise choices in publishers, some publishers that no longer exist, and spreading myself too thin in general have taken their toll on my romance author career and the joy I once had in it. I tried to keep it going well past the point where I first realized it had become a problem, but I can’t keep pushing something that isn’t working for me.

I had planned to self-publish and re-release some of the books I’ve had returned to me from publishers. At this point, I’m not planning to go through with that. After trying it with one book, I’ve realized that I don’t have the marketing skills–or, to be honest, the time–to make self-publishing viable right now.

You’ll still see me around on social media promoting the books I have available and chatting and hopefully not making a nuisance of myself. This website will remain up, and the books that are on the Bookshelf are still available for purchase if you’re so inclined. But I will probably not be blogging, at least not regularly, and unless that short story I mentioned is accepted, I am not planning any additional releases or re-releases at this time.

My YA alter ego, Jo Ramsey, will still be writing and publishing, so if you’ve enjoyed the books I’ve written as “Karenna Colcroft,” I hope you’ll check out “Jo.” Even if fiction for teens isn’t really your thing, some of the books are pretty good, if I say so myself. Jo Ramsey’s books and other projects are one of the things taking my time, along with a new business venture and some nonfiction projects I’m embarking on under my real name.

Like I said, things often change in my life, so I always try to keep doors open. And I greatly appreciate the publishers I’ve worked with, because I have learned from all of them. (When I say “unwise choices” above, other than one publisher that has gone under, the difficulties I had were solely mine, not overall problems with the publishers. Mostly just not good fits.) I also appreciate the reviewers who have reviewed my books over the years, and the blogs that have hosted me. More than anything else, I appreciate the readers who’ve read my books.

So that’s Karenna Colcroft, over and out…

Being Overwhelmed

Sometimes it seems like there are just too many things to do and not enough time to do all of them. Or any of them, once in a while.

Lately, I’ve been having a lot of times like that. I had two books release within less than a week, one under each of my two pen names, and that led to trying to scramble to promote both of them. I’ve been trying to help my 17-year-old with college applications and the dreaded financial aid applications, as well as trying to give her moral support about her classwork. I have a couple of writing projects I’m working on, and was just given another by a friend.

And then there’s housework. And appointments. And errands. And… auuughhh!

Fortunately, I have a group of really good friends who’ve had their own “auuughhh!” moments from time to time, and who understand having too much to do. Over the weekend, I reached out to them and asked for whatever help, support, and encouragement they could give. And all of them agreed to help in one way or another, whether it’s helping me break down some large tasks into smaller bits (which is always difficult for me), or being a “brainstorm buddy” for the stories I’m working on, or just reminding me I’m capable of getting these things done and telling me to stop procrastinating.

It isn’t always easy to reach out and ask for help, especially knowing that you aren’t the only one who gets overwhelmed and has a lot to do. But it’s always good to have support, and the people in your life don’t know you need support if you don’t ask.

Looking Forward to 2016

Last week I looked back at what my 2015 was like. It wasn’t the best year for me, especially in terms of my romance writing career.

This year, I don’t have goals that are as structured as what I’ve had in the past, because this is a year of rebuilding, or maybe destroying and building something new. I haven’t entirely decided yet. I don’t do resolutions for a new year. When I try, I end up not sticking to them, and that makes me feel kind of cruddy. Instead I do goals and hopes, and these are a few for me for 2016.

Obviously the big thing is my writing career. Karenna Colcroft has not had a new release in 10 months, give or take. People are not really buying the books I have available, at least according to my royalty statements. Those are things that need to change.

In 2016, I plan to release three books as self-published projects. Two are previously-published, one a paranormal-with-romantic-elements about a vengeance demon (which releases a week from today!) and one male/male romance about a ninja vampire who teaches mixed martial arts in present-day Boston. The third book has never been published, and is another paranormal about a woman who terms herself a “bookstore psychic”, whose powers and abilities bring her to solve a murder from 20 years earlier–and almost get murdered herself.

I have one publisher release scheduled for March 2016, which is Dawn Over Dayfield, a novel I’ve been mentioning a lot since last January or so, which I believe was when I submitted it. Or maybe when I wrote it… I can’t remember. All I know for sure is a whole lot has changed in my personal life since that novel was written. And my publisher, DSP Publications, has already done a stellar job of getting word out about the book, including scoring me an interview for the International Thriller Writers newsletter! (For those who don’t know, Dawn Over Dayfield is a suspense novel with romantic elements.)

I really love Dayfield, both the novel and the town my ex-boyfriend and I created for it, and I’d toyed with the idea of a sequel. I thought it wouldn’t be possible, but this past week I sat down to brainstorm something else and suddenly knew what would happen in the sequel to DOD. So that’s something I’m planning to write in 2016.

And speaking of planning to write…I have not been mentally able to write any type of romance in over a year. It isn’t writer’s block; it has other roots that I won’t get into. But it’s been over a year, and I think that’s time to have healed sufficiently from the incidents that sparked the issue to try again. I have someone close to me who’s willing to be my support system while I try to get back to it, so I’m planning to write at least 1-2 new erotic romances in 2016.

I’m hoping to get Karenna Colcroft back on track this year. More books. More income (because while I write for the love of writing, being able to pay bills is kinda important). More variety. More enjoyment.

2015 In Review

This week, I’m going over some of the things that happened and changed in my life in 2015. Next year, I’ll talk about my hopes and goals for 2016.

In the fall of 2014, something happened in my personal life that led to me being unable to write erotic romance. I won’t go into detail here; it’s something I’d prefer not to talk about right now, and I think I’ve blogged about it before anyway.

In early 2015, I tried to write a male/male romance. I failed. I couldn’t get the characters to fall in love with each other given the circumstances in the story, and given the circumstances going on in my own brain, I couldn’t get them to have sex, either. It became a suspense novel with romantic elements, Dawn Over Dayfield, which will be released in March 2016.

Dawn Over Dayfield’s existence owes a lot to someone who was pretty important to me during the first 7 months or so of 2015. He was a huge part of my overall support system, was very supportive and encouraging about my writing, and with Dayfield in particular, he helped me brainstorm the plot, helped me create the town (which is fictional, but is located in the part of Massachusetts where he grew up), and did the historical and geographical research I needed. Unfortunately, in August that person ceased to be part of my life, which is sad for a number of reasons, not least of which is that some really exciting things have already happened for Dayfield and I can’t share them with him. That person exiting my life also impacted my writing, though this time more on the romance side than the erotic.

In June 2015, I tried to write another male/male romance. This time, I barely managed to get 10 pages in before I ran into some pretty severe mental health issues. I chose at that point to put romance writing in general on indefinite hold.

In 2014 and 2015, a number of my books were taken out of print. Six of my nine Ellora’s Cave titles were pulled at my request due to poor sales. Several of my MLR Press and Passion in Print Press books were pulled, I think in late 2014. (Sorry. Fibromyalgia…I have a brain like a steel sieve and would have to look things up to be sure of dates.) As of now, I no longer have any books available from Pink Petal Books/Jupiter Gardens Press. All told, I think my number of existing titles was cut in half in 2015.

My last erotic romance title, a heterosexual contemporary novel, was released in March. Since then, nothing has been released under Karenna Colcroft’s name. I’ve been working on promoting my books that are still out there, and on making plans for the upcoming year, as well as focusing a lot more time and energy on writing and promoting my young adult fiction under the Jo Ramsey pen name.

It’s hard to predict where my career will go from here, but I do have some thoughts and things I want to try for 2016. I’ll share those with you next week.

Musings About Writing

I started writing stories when I was five. Writing became my escape, and sometimes my salvation. At times during junior high and high school, writing was the only thing that kept me going; if I hadn’t been able to create worlds where I didn’t have to deal with bullying and a difficult family life, I might not be around today. The same was true when I was married to my ex-husband. During all that time, nearly everything I wrote was for kids or teens. I wrote one novel for adults, which I don’t even have anymore and wasn’t all that good, and that was a completely G-rated thing.

When my friend in 2006 challenged me to write something erotic to help me overcome my belief that sex was a pretty crappy thing in general and especially in my life, everything started to change. A guy I dated a year later challenged me to write more, and to post on Literotica. And I kept writing, and kept posting.

And then I got published.

Being published isn’t a bad thing. Don’t get me wrong. But unfortunately, it added stress and pressure to something that up to that point had been relaxing and soothing. I wasn’t able anymore to just create things and abandon them at will, or write something no one would ever want to see without caring whether anyone saw it. I had to please editors, publishers, and readers.

Apparently I didn’t do such a great job at that. A number of my books barely sold, and if I remember right, two or three didn’t sell a single copy. Even though I was backed by publishers who were, in theory, pushing the books right along with me. That added to the stress and pressure. I had to write more and better so I would earn money and not piss off my publishers.

Then September 20, 2014 happened. I won’t go into details about it, though I think I have done elsewhere. Suffice it to say someone I trusted and was in a relationship with did something unforgivable that both triggered and added to my PTSD…and suddenly I was almost back to where I was in 2006 before that friend challenged me to write that first erotic story. And I’ve been there ever since. My two attempts after that at writing a new erotic romance resulted in panic attacks, worsened depression, and a decision that I had to step back whether I wanted to or not, for the sake of my mental health.

One piece of wisdom about writing and publishing is that in order to have consistent sales, you have to have consistent releases. I haven’t. My last release under this pen name was in March of this year, though it was written two years earlier, and that, judging from my royalty statements, has barely sold a double-digit number of copies. Meanwhile, nearly half the books that I’d had published in the past have been taken out of publication over the past year, either by me or by the publisher, all due to lack of sales.

I’m not posting this to whine or look for sympathy. My books are good, or so I’m told. Some of them have interesting plots and characters. They simply aren’t being bought and read for whatever reason. It’s discouraging. Seriously discouraging. I wish I understood what magical ingredients I’m missing that have brought me to this point, but I don’t, and no one I’ve discussed it with seems able to enlighten me.

As I announced recently, over the next two years I’ll be self-publishing some of those reverted titles, and I have a novel releasing from DSP Publications in March 2016. Last week, I finished writing my first erotica story in over a year, so apparently I can still write it… but I’m feeling so down about how things have been going that I’m not sure there’s much point. And most of the publishers that have accepted my books in the past either wouldn’t be willing to work with me now, or I wouldn’t be willing to work with them, or both, so even if I wrote something I wouldn’t have anywhere to send it.

Every career has its ups and downs. I think creative careers hit harder on the downs because we put so much of ourselves into the work. I know that’s been true for me with writing.

Feeling Restless

Writing-wise, I am feeling very restless lately. I started working on an erotica story (no romance, really, although the story features a husband fulfilling a couple of his wife’s fantasies and to me that’s romantic) a couple of weeks ago, but it stalled out because of some of the same factors that caused me to stop writing romance and erotic content in the first place. Now I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to finish it, because even though I think I’ve worked through those factors, I’ve kind of lost interest in the story.

Meanwhile, I keep getting flashes of inspiration for romances, which is cool. I haven’t had that in months. But… the flashes by themselves aren’t enough to create stories, and when I try to brainstorm something based on one of those flashes, I get stuck. Or lose interest.

I used to have a brainstorm buddy, but he isn’t in my life right now, unfortunately. I miss having someone to talk to who understands writing enough to talk with me about it, and cares enough about me and my writing career to *want* to talk about it. His brain was as twisted as mine, and between the two of us, we came up with some pretty cool things, plus he could talk me through the “what the heck am I doing, this story sucks” stages of writing and revising.

But I have to do those things for myself now, and it isn’t always easy. I do hope to bring out some new stories soon, because I miss the romance writing. I just have to get past this restlessness and make my brain cooperate.

Accurate Info About Publishers

Recently, it seems as though a number of e-publishers are struggling. Sometimes the struggles are very public, such as with a certain company that has filed a lawsuit against a certain review site. Other times, the struggles are more subtle and are known only to the authors who are with that publisher, such as problems with advance review copies, or slow payment of royalties.

Because it can be relatively easy to start an e-publishing company, some people are setting off to do exactly that without fully understanding the business aspect and without knowing how to effectively market and promote their books and authors. When they realize they’re in over their heads, it can be a very negative situation for them and their authors. But even companies that are well-established, run by people who fully understand publishing as a business and an industry, with highly visible marketing can start to fail, and companies that are new and started by people who have never worked in publishing before can sometimes become quite successful.

As with the company that filed the lawsuit, oftentimes authors are aware of problems, or notice red flags, before things get really bad. But authors might be afraid to speak up about what they’re seeing. They don’t want to be seen as a troublemaker, or be blacklisted in the industry. Their books bring in money, and they worry about losing that income if they say something negative about their publisher.

Some authors don’t consider it their responsibility to caution others about problems with a publisher. They figure if someone doesn’t do their research about a given company, they get what they get.

But part of researching a publisher is finding out what that publisher’s authors are saying. If authors aren’t saying anything at all even when they know things are getting bad, new authors will sign contracts and get caught in the same mess. Authors who are already with that company and aren’t noticing the problems will stay, and then might be taken off guard when the publisher suddenly folds.

I wouldn’t tell anyone to risk their income and their career, but writing isn’t a competition. In a sense, in my opinion, authors are colleagues, even if they aren’t with the same publishers or even writing in the same genre. If you were working in an office and knew the company was going bankrupt, wouldn’t you want to let your coworkers know? And if someone else knew there was a big problem looming, wouldn’t you want them to tell you? If an author has information about a publisher that might affect other authors, I think they should try to make others aware. Your career and income aren’t the only one at stake.

Just my opinion.

Backlist Books and Self-Publishing

As most people reading this probably know, over the past year or so I’ve regained rights to a number of my published books. So many, in fact, that I think I now only have half the titles available that I did in spring 2014.

Some of those books are definitely better off collecting cyber dust on my hard drive. I’ve learned a lot about writing since I started out, and when I read some of my earliest published stuff, I admit I kind of cringe.

But others are good, or at least good enough that I can revamp and revise them and give them a second shot at life. One of my books, previously published under the Jo Ramsey pen name, is already on my Coming Soon page on here; I’m planning to self-publish that in January. I always believed it should have been a Karenna Colcroft book anyway, and now it will be.

I have several others that I’m considering re-releasing, as well as one or two that I’ve pitched to one of my existing publishers for potential republication. I haven’t totally made up my mind yet, though. I know a number of authors who’ve had great success in self-publishing previously-published titles, but I also know some who haven’t. And I know how much work is involved in self-publishing and am not entirely confident in my abilities.

On the other hand, some of my previously-published books deserve another chance, in my opinion. So I’m carefully considering, making lists, checking twice, etc. (Wait… it’s nowhere near close enough to Christmas for that song to get stuck in my head!)

Are there any books of mine that are out of print that you think should be re-released?