The writing habit: Pants or Plan?

This is a debate I keep having with Lillian Heart (my porn-buddy, and the reason I’ve been self-publishing. Go check out her work, it’s great.) What is the best way to write? Do you plan every little detail, making piles of notes? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants, and write it all without any forethought?

Undoubtedly it’s a question of balance, but finding that exact balance seems to take a long time for each writer – because no two writers will approach it the same way. So how do we find that balance?

I’ve been experimenting with writing different ways recently. I have two notebooks. One is a notebook of story ideas to ‘Pants’. This notebook just has very rough thoughts. For example, the notes for Breaking the Stallion (warning: spoilers) were:

D tries to find T. Catches other horse instead. Brother? 

Everything else – the other 6000 words – were written as I went along, and with that in mind, I’m rather happy with the outcome. Since it takes so little time to write down ideas like this, I’ve got several potential series listed this way, across multiple genres, kinks, and lengths. This notebook also fits into a pocket, letting me carry it around and note down ideas wherever I am.

My other notebook is much larger unfortunately, but it needs to be. It is a full A4 pad, filled with loose sheets up to A2 in size, all covered in scribbles. Plots, character bios, flow diagrams, and even maps, fill the pages.

Needless to say, this takes a lot longer, and I’ve never had the persistence to write a whole novel down to the very smallest detail. Still, there is something nice about running with a well-thought-out idea. It makes the actual writing easier, as you’re never stumped. You know exactly what you’re going to say next.

Despite these first experiments, I’m not certain where I fall on the spectrum of Pants-ing and Planning. I’ll keep you all updated with my findings, and hopefully come up with some ideas to help you try the two extremes yourself.


The Personal Assistant Book 1- New Hire

Live (and, for once, fresh and actually on-time with the announcement) now – The Personal Assistant Book 1 – New Hire.

Andrew Phillips is a normal young man, down on his luck. Fresh out of university, he finds himself jobless, loveless, and hopeless. A chance meeting with Rob Truman, the black sheep third son of a very rich technology family, changes all that.


This is my longest book to date, at a whopping 58 pages / 22k words. See the innocent meeting of our lovely young men, all the way to their steamy encounters and moral dilemmas.

Buy it here:


The dangers of self-publishing: Being found out

I daresay this is a danger which mostly relates to writing erotic romance or other ‘dubious’ books, but one of the dangers I have been struggling with is that of being found out.

At which point, of course, I have to admit that Isabella Cooke is a pen name. I’m sure no-one is surprised, but my apologies to anyone who is. The pen name alone took a lot of effort, actually. I toyed around with several names in my head, and then did research on a few – checking if they were used, checking if there was the right number of people with the same name, etc, etc.

So not only do I want to keep my pen name because of all the work it took, but I want to not be found out for writing smut. And I’m sure we all have at least one friend or family member who would look at us askew if they knew about us and smut.

What can you do though? All my accounts go through several dummy emails thanks to email-forwarding by Gmail. If there has to be a link to the ‘real’ me, I’d rather it wasn’t too obvious after all. Some of the rejected pen-names have their own email addresses just for this purpose.

My bio is a mix of facts about me, facts about friends, and a little sprinkling of imagination.

I’m still struggling with how to take an author photo. Maybe there will be a mask and wig involved. I don’t know yet. I need to get my masks and wigs down from the attic 😉

Of course, even being careful, I run my mouth off – because hey, I’m writing, and I’m scraping in money (well, a pittance, but still) and it’s still kinda cool. So I may have told a few people about it. I wouldn’t advise doing it how I did. It’s cool if your family can support and encourage your choice to write porn (and hey, they should ideally), but nothing makes Christmas dinner as mildly awkward as discussing how one member of the family writes porn. Porn involving horses. Yep. Awkward.

Author bias: Themes

Another author bias that has been bugging me – themes, feelings, moods, set pieces – whatever you want to call it, I’m sure there are all things which we stay away from or veer towards.

Now, I like romance, and storybook endings . . . but  the world has thrown too much at me for that to get a look-in any more. I’m cynical and grouchy instead.

I’d love it if my themes could be unending love, happily-ever-afters, etc. Instead, my themes seem to be trouble, hardship and anguish. Oh, I’m not quite going to plumb the full depths of that just yet, sure, but I don’t have people riding off into the sunset. In fact, I’ve had a few characters watching their loved ones riding away from them (and for any psychologists out there, that doesn’t quite line up to my past as you’d think, trust me).

It makes me sad in a way that my bias is towards sadness. If you’ve got a happy bias, maybe throw some pointers about how to write happy stuff?

If you want to write more miserable stuff, I can only really give you this: It’s the moment before the kiss which has most tension, and – as with music – that needs to be resolved. If it isn’t, you’re just twisting the knife.

Author bias: Characters

Chances are, if you’ve ever written or read anything before, you’ve noticed author bias. Authors, as with all people, have likes and dislikes, and no matter how hard we try to hide it, it shows in some way or other. That’s what this series of blog posts will cover.

Right now I am struggling with bias towards my characters. Don’t some characters just jump off the page and into your heart? Don’t others just stay a bit boring, a bit . . . nothing? I can deal with that when reading, but how do you get over writing a character that isn’t living and breathing and luring you in?

Right now, my published stories have three main protagonists between them:

There’s Sam, my young, innocent man set upon by bandits in the Stolen Love series. Oh, Sam is fun, sure. He’s going through full-on life changes, which I’m sure we can all relate to. Also, Sam has been with me for years (even though I’ve only just started writing him), so I’ve got a soft sport for Sam. He’s also maturing in ways I didn’t expect, so sure, Sam in fun.

Then we have Danny, main character of my best selling books, the Horse Rider series. Despite them being my best sellers, I personally don’t get along well with Danny. He’s surly and a bit difficult. He’s rough around the edges. Unfortunately, he’s just not my kind of character. Danny and I haven’t really clicked.

Sy though . . . oh, Sy. Sy, from my Cat Thief books, is my kind of character – especially my kind for an erotic romance. Sy is playful. He’s arrogant. He’s that little jumble of cocky and suave and fun. So much fun.

Thus we have polar opposites. I could write Sy’s adventures every day. Danny challenges me though.

So how do I deal with it?

Sy is easy. The trick is holding back. I have all the stories written down safely, and limit myself to how much I can write him. Usually it’s one Sy story between each other story.

Danny is more difficult. With Danny, I seem to be throwing him angst and anguish. Nothing inspires writing like some good old-fashioned angst. It doesn’t have to be much – a word here, an unexpected kiss there – but enough to light a fire under Danny’s ass (and thus mine as well).

So far it’s working – but how much angst can I throw at one poor character? Let’s find out 😉

The Dangers of self-publishing 2: ScamSpam

Ah, spam emails. Don’t you just love them. ‘Isabella, hot blondes in your area!’, or ‘Isabella, need a bigger penis?’ (Well, I mean. . . maybe? They don’t write back when I ask for details though*)

Today though, I got my first writing-related spam. I’d love to know if any of you have had it as well.

It is from the a person representing The Books Machine. A person who foolishly included a Do-Not-Reply email address AND a regular one (Oh, what fun I could have…):

“Dear Isabella Cooke, (At least they spelt my name right)

I have recently come across your book Breaking the Stallion on Amazon  (You mean my horse porn… right)  and due to both its quality  (Ah yes. Horse porn of the highest quality.) and plot  (Man meets horse. Man *spoilers* fucks horse. Yep, really deep plot), it qualifies to be promoted in our community of readers.

Our press team’s offer includes help promoting books to thousands of readers in our community, whether at reduced or regular prices (Ah, the first hint of how authors are expected to pay/lose money for this). This is done through a deals promotion page on our website, a Facebook post with exclusive deals reaching over 25,000 readers  (Well, 25k ‘likes’, but a reach of about 3 readers in reality) as well as a “Newsletter of the Day” that uses a unique and innovative marketing tool featuring an excerpt from your book within a unique customized layout. (Customised porn though. Wahey! Oh wait, that’s me. I write porn, and it doesn’t get much better than that)

The days currently available to feature your work in our newsletter are tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday.” (Interesting, since they sent this on a Friday. How come Sunday is left out? Poor Sunday.)


It didn’t take much (/any) sense to see this as a scam, but in case anyone has had the same: Basically this company wants authors to pay a monthly subscription fee, give people their books for free, and generally get walked over in exchange for the possibility of some reviews. In short: SCAMSPAM 😀

I guess nowadays safe sex includes sterilising one’s inbox after use 😉


*That’s a joke. Remember, don’t reply to spam. It just makes them notice you more.

The dangers of self-publishing: Illegal copies

I’m impressed. I mean, really impressed. It takes a certain amount of dedication to pirate erotic romance novellas. Especially ones which cost only a quid or two, and are on Kindle Unlimited. It all seems a little pointless…

Yet somehow three of my short stories (The Sy books, and Ridden by the Stallion) are already on pirating sites. They were, in fact, uploaded within a week or so of me publishing them.

I mean, I guess I can’t grumble too much. I’m sure we’ve all watched a pirated movie at least once in our lives, but I still feel like there’s something different about screwing over a small-time writer.

I can’t think of a good way around it, but if you’ve had similar, or know how to avoid it, please do say. If you’re finding your own books getting nicked in a similar way, you have my sympathy.


I will just put a little request here that everyone, if possible, uses my ‘official’ lines, such as going to my Kindle author page:


But, if you’re really desperate to read erotica and can’t afford it, get in touch, tell me your kink, and I’ll write you a personalised piece.


No, seriously.