What would you like to tell readers about yourself?
* #1 Amazon Bestseller in Erotic Western and Historical Erotica
* Who doesn't love the romance of the old West? Vanessa Vale takes the sensual appeal of rugged cowboys a step further with her bestselling books set in the Montana Territory. They are much more than just sexy historical westerns. By introducing sexual taboos into this otherwise traditional romantic setting, Vanessa has won the loyalty of a fan base that never knows quite what to expect with each new series.
* "Montana Maidens" was the first to push the envelope with strong BDSM themes. "Montana Men" followed suit with softer themes but lots of deliciously graphic sex. "The Bridgewater Series" showcases ménage relationships because sometimes one hot cowboy isn't enough. No-holds-barred, graphic descriptions, strong storytelling, engaging characters and breathtaking landscapes all combine to make very naughty reads.
* And as a resident of Wild Wild West, Vanessa Vale finds plenty of inspiration for her work, for who doesn't love a handsome cowboy?
Today Vanessa Vale will be talking about "My take on critique groups: They aren't just your friends."
* I have a critique group and we've been together since 2002. That's a long time!
* For me, my writing 'career' and my critique group all started the day of my first meeting with the Colorado Romance Writers. I'm horrendously shy about meeting new people and one of the leaders of the group told me if I wanted to start writing, I should be in a critique group. So she found five other women in the room and pulled us together and said, “There, now you are a group.”
* I'd never laid eyes on any of these women before. Two were my age, three were older. Tall, short, round, thin, dark, light. We were sooooo different! I was having a mental nervous breakdown because not only did I have to get to know five (!) strangers, I had to bare my writing soul with them.
* We met every other Tuesday night at one of our houses. This was before Amazon, before self-publishing and we were all writing to match what Harlequin accepted (Blaze was the hottest of the hot back then) and the stupid query letter.
* Critique partners are better than friends. Why?
1. They tell you the truth. Your 'friend' friends might sugar coat an answer about your writing. “It's not my kind of book, because I don't read those books, but it's good.” You know what I'm talking about. People say romance books are those books. Those books aren't the same caliber as other books and that means writers of those books aren't good either.
* My crit group also loves and writes those books, so it's so SIMPLE to be with them. Except…. They tell me the truth! They would tell me, very bluntly: “No head hopping!” “He was wearing a blue shirt on the other page.” “I thought she was a redhead.” “Don't put sex in a book just because.” We tell each other the unvarnished, often hilarious, truth. Again and again. Sometimes on paper in funny pen colors.
2. They are nothing like you. I was pregnant with my first child and worked full time when the group was formed. Another had little kids. Another got migraines frequently. Another smoked. Another had…. You get the idea. We were from all walks of life, different times in our lives and from different upbringings. Thank God. I didn't need another me. I needed them. My critique group showed me I was a neurotic mess (I still am) and they loved me for being that way. I am completely and totally black and white. They embrace shades of gray that I don't even see. We complement each other.
* Besides that, we all write different kinds of romance. Back in 2002, I wrote historical westerns (yes, even back then!). One wrote romantic suspense that was gritty and creepy. One wrote paranormal. Another historical. None of us wrote the same or with the same kind of voice. Not at all. Again, thank God. That difference allowed us to see the each other's stories differently and give unusual and often crucial feedback (see #1)
3. They are supportive of your weirdness. As I said before, admitting you love to read romance is often akin to saying, “I have no brain cells.” Writing it was (and still can be) even worse. At my high school reunion, some ladies said I was their hero and others said, “You write like 50 Shades of Gray?” Of course I rolled my eyes. With my critique group, it's okay to be weird, because while I write erotic, I do NOT write like 50 Shades.
* Back in 2002, being a sex-writing virgin, they helped me pop my cherry by reading my writing, which happened to be the WORST sex written sex scenes ever. Why? Because I was nervous of what they'd think, so the writing was nervous and stilted and...bad. Then, I got over it, admitted and embraced that I was (and still am) a perv. They knew I could write perv and they were fine with it WAY, WAY before I was.
4. They have your back. Once all of our books went up for sale (we all self-pub now), we read the reviews for each other. Those first one star reviews were cried over and death threats were considered. Chocolate was eaten. A Fuck-It Bucket was made. When some vindictive crazy lady tries to take you down, we come out swinging. Subtly, keenly and very dangerously, but as a group.
5. They are like the mafia. Once you're in, you can't get out. They know you. They know your writing style. They know your weaknesses and see them easily. They tout and applaud your successes. There's really no escape, but then, why would you want to?
6. They know the darkest secrets you don't tell anyone else, but publish to the world. Writing is like exposing part of yourself that could be kept hidden, but isn't. I had no idea I was good at writing erotica. It's my best genre (so they've told me). So that means I'm good at writing sex. They know all my weird, kinky, dirty thoughts I'd NEVER tell my friends because it's all there on paper, black and white. They read it, they don't raise an eyebrow, only a bright red editing pen, and then tell you they love it. They don't judge that I think about how to write being taken by two cowboys at once. They don't care that I've thought of a whole new use for a sock darner. They pull out the chocolate when the sex books sell and move up the charts. The soccer mom down the street? Yeah, she might not be so understanding because she doesn't read those kind of books.
* The ladies in my critique group are NOT just my friends. They are better. They are my dearest of friends, by BFFs and I couldn't be Vanessa Vale or any of my other pen names without them.
* Rose Lenox has grown up to be more comfortable on the back of a horse than wearing ribbons and bows like her seven adopted sisters. For years working the land was enough, but lately Rose finds herself wishing for something different. She wants her own ranch and freedom from her overwhelming and unorthodox family. Rose is determined to strike out on her own and forge her own path. Lenox neighbor, Chance Goodman, has watched Rose grow from a spitfire of a girl to a beautiful and fiery woman. For years he's waited patiently and watched her struggle to find her place in the world. When she leaves the Lenox ranch alone, determined to abandon her former life and to say good-bye to him, he knows the time has come to claim her. Letting her walk away isn't an option. Chance knows exactly what she needs...and he's going to give it to her. Follow the eight Lenox sisters through this historical erotic series that's as big and bold as the Montana Sky. The Wildflowers of Montana begins with Rose and her hot, Alpha cowboy.
* When handsome Jackson Reed comes home from the army, he catches the immediate attention of the seven Lenox daughters. But he only has eyes for one — beautiful Hyacinth Lenox. It's apparent that she notices him as well, so why is she doing everything she can to avoid him?
* Hyacinth can't stop thinking about the sandy-haired newcomer, but while she longs for happiness with Jackson, she feels unworthy to marry him or anyone else. Guilt from a tragic childhood incident dogs her even into adulthood, leaving her to feel undeserving of Jackson's love.
* But Jackson isn't a man so easily dissuaded. He's determined to rid Hyacinth of her pain and make her his wife. Can he heal her past hurt and awaken her to the carnal pleasures he wants just with her? He senses a great capacity for love and passion in this fair Lenox flower. Unlocking it will mean a battle of wills, but love is worth the fight.
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