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What it’s like to have your book translated into 8 languages

I’ve been promising to do this for ages, and I’ve finally got round to it. For those of you who are interested in such things, this is what it’s like to have your book translated into other languages. Sadly, it involves no globe-trotting on my part.


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I’m changing. I hope you’ll come with me.

Betty Herbert | I'm ChangingI’m going to be making a few changes to this blog. Here’s why.

When I started blogging The 52 Seductions, I was completely blown away by the sense of community I found. Yes, I loved seeing the reader stats go up and up, but they were nothing compared to the amazing people I met online, who held my hand when I needed it, laughed at me when I was being ridiculous and trusted me with their own, personal stories.

I remember the day I wrote about our failed attempt at ‘stair sex’, someone (who I really hope is reading this) messaged me on Twitter to basically say, ‘You idiot, here’s how it’s done.’ I loved that. It was like stumbling into a room full of the best kind of people.

But then it all got a bit weird. I got picked up by an agent, and started putting a pitch together for a publisher. At the time I only had 100 followers on Twitter; my blog was a couple of months old. Everyone told me that I needed to get more followers, urgently. I hated that, but I knew it was probably true.

My list grew. It’s never been huge; I never go out seeking random new followers, unlike those scary authors who auto-DM you and seem to exhale fumes of desperation. This is partly because, if you write about sex, you can’t predict who will welcome you and who will disapprove. You can’t just follow strangers. They take offence more often than you’d think. (Still now, by the way, I bet you that my follow-back ratio is way lower than your average bear’s).

But I also felt – still do – that I didn’t care about playing a numbers game.  I wanted to build solid relationships instead. Even so, by the time my book came out, I regularly got told off. Someone messaged me to complain that I never retweeted his tweets like everyone else did. I blocked him; it’s one of the few times I’ve ever done that. Someone else told me off for becoming a ‘brand’. Lots of people messaged me to ask why I wasn’t sharing their blog posts. It made me feel tense and tired. I just couldn’t keep up with reading everyone’s everything. It wasn’t humanly possible.

After The 52 Seductions came out, I felt a bit lost. This all-consuming project was over. I’d loved it a lot  and hated it a bit (it was exhausting), and now I missed it. I didn’t know what to write about next. I didn’t want to start pretending to be an ‘expert’, because I think that’s bollocks, frankly. I wanted to carry on being an enthusiatic amateur.

But despite that, I found my writing becoming more and more generic. I was bored. I felt exposed and inhibited; my friends and family were now following my every word. Nobody wants to have sex with their parents watching.

Oh, and I was pregant by then, too. With antenatal depression, high blood pressure, asthma and seemingly eternal nausea, you won’t be surpised to hear that we didn’t spend much time getting jiggy. As my book came out in each successive country and I was interviewed by journalists, I felt utterly ashamed that I was back in a dry spell.

Look anyway, that’s enough of me whining. I have an exciting new project on the go now ( but I still love writing about the stuff I wrote about in The 52 Seductions, and I still love the wonderful people who made it so much fun. I want to spend more time talking about sex and love and everyday life between normal people, with love-handles and bristly legs and glorious incompetence. I also have an ever-expanding loathing of the stupidity of the numbers-above-quality blogging game. I am so, so through with that.

So, I’ve hatched a plan.

From now on, I’m going to blog to subscribers only. Don’t worry, I won’t be charging anything (and I never will, either). But I will be banning family members. Sorry, family. Much as I love you, your attention is making it hard for me to write.

What I’m looking for is a sense of community again. New friends are most welcome, but I’m seeking actual friends rather than people who have stumbled over my site accidentally after searching ‘animal sex’ (I get several of those every day; ditto ‘What is the perfect vagina?’). I just cannot bring myself to care about blog hits generated by those searches.

I want to create a safe space where we can talk about stuff without feeling exposed, where we can confide in each other and have a laugh. I’ll still be using this site as a base for all the things I’m doing (and don’t worry guest-posters, I won’t be taking anything down), but I’d like to try a different model – something more authentic – and I hope you’ll join me.

A little word on funding: I hope you’ll forgive me for adding the occasional click-though affiliate link to my newsletter. Blogging actually costs me a fair amount of money (not to mention the time), and I’d appreciate your forebearance on that issue. I promise to only ever feature thinks I like, and never to hide links as editorial. You are totally at liberty to ignore them. For me, I’d rather use that model than asking for a donation as some bloggers do; that makes me uncomfortable as a reader because I can’t afford to pay, whereas I can comfortably ignore advertising for things I don’t want.

This is a leap of faith for me, but it feels right. Actually, it feels like a relief.

If you’ve found me a bit dull lately: I have too and I’m sorry. I hope you’ll give me another try. I’m calling my newsletter bettymail: to join, click on the orange newsletter tab on the left of your screen. I’ll send out an email once a fortnight; the first one will land on Friday 23rd August. I guess I’d better get on with writing it, eh?

I’m going to leave you with a final thought from the awesome Amanda Palmer, who says it way better than I could:

Thank you. I see you.

I pinched the lovely image accompanying this post from the blog – click here to see the whole set.

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Guest post: Nikki Gemmell on Tenderness in I Take You

Nikki Gemmell I Take You | Betty Herbert

Today’s guest post is from Nikki Gemmell, author of The Bride Stripped Bare trilogy.

(Psst: scroll to the bottom for a chance to win a copy of I Take You)

It’s an uneasy bedfellow for that most leonine of words: masculinity.  It shouldn’t be.  Because the combination of the two qualities can be hugely arresting, especially in an erotic sense.  It’s a word that this modern world seems to have such  short shrift with.  We shouldn’t.  The word is tenderness.

Tenderness was, in fact, the original title of D.H. Lawrence’s depth charge of a novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover.  A celebration of that most gentle and generous of words is at its core.  Lady Chatterley, in a seminal moment, explains to her gamekeeper lover, Oliver Mellors, what’s so striking about him; what lifts him above and beyond any other man she has ever known:

“Shall I tell you what you have that other men don’t have, and that will make the future?”

“Tell me then,” he replied.

“It’s the courage of your own tenderness, that’s what it is.”

Her upper class husband, Clifford, has an utter absence of tenderness.  He sits with his coterie of men, in Nottinghamshire’s grim and cold Wragby Hall, philosophising about sex – and in the process deadening it.  Nothing is instinctive, warm, spontaneous; nothing deeply felt.  It is relentlessly interior existence.

The book is about two people awakening in a natural world uncracking from winter’s harshness, through mutual tenderness, from previous sexual experiences that have chipped away at them, dulled them.  Marriage in both cases has been enormously depleting.  Flattening.  And the word is about so much more than mere sex.  It denotes a way of being: instinctive, loving, unafraid.  A courageous way of being, out of the ordinary.

Why do so many men, even in this day and age, feel they have to mask their tenderness?  To me it’s associated with strength, compassion, confidence; the movingly well-rounded male.  And sex anointed by tenderness, well, that’s the best type of all. The word is spiritual, earthy, deeply biological.  It’s what I’m interested in writing about now; a way of sex beyond the Fifty Shades era.  And I’ve turned back to a novel from 1928 to lead me on the path.  What is the most potent quality when it comes to erotica?  To me it’s honesty.  The frisson of connection.  I’m sure Lawrence didn’t set out to shock when he wrote his revolutionary novel, but merely to be scrupulously honest.  And honesty, of course, is the most shocking thing of all.

Lawrence’s Mellors rages against the world of 1920s England because he thinks it’s been leached of all tenderness.  He begs for warm-heartedness, in words utterly relatable in this day and age.  He tells his Connie, despairingly, that he believes in:

“…being warmhearted. I believe especially in being warm-hearted in love, in fucking with a warm heart. I believe if men could fuck with warm hearts, and the women take it warm-heartedly, everything would come all right. It’s all this cold-hearted fucking that is death and idiocy.”

So true.

My just-published novel, I Take You, like Lady Chatterley’s Lover, has the pursuit of tenderness at its core.  It’s an updated version of Lawrence’s novel involving a banker, his wife and the gardener of a beautiful communal garden in London’s Notting Hill, a world of basement extensions, private jets, Chanel suits and ladies who lunch – and a white van man with a big chip on his shoulder who crashes most subversively into it all.  There’s a social and political dimension to the book too, just like Lawrence’s novel.  Mine ends in the summer of the London riots of 2011, with all the jarring disconnects between people of the area coming to a head.

The challenge as a writer was in finding ways to freshen – invigorate – the writing of sex in this post-Fifty Shades era.  We’re flooded, of course, with a brazen new openness, all around us.  Everyone’s seemingly doing it, or thinking it, or reading it – in increasingly bold ways.  Where does it all go from here?  Could it possibly be that this new decadence, effulgence, represents a tipping point of some sort, an inexorable slide into a waning?  What on earth follows?  A flinch into extreme conservatism perhaps, a vast reining back; or a return to a more natural way, with how our bodies look and what we actually do with them.  It remains to be seen, but it’s the latter I’m exploring in I Take You. The book is about finding ways of connecting with another person on a profound rather than superficial level.  Discovering ways of connecting that are invigorating, reviving, rescuing.

Tenderness – the great softening – is key.  What’s one of the most alluring images of a man?  The sight of him cradling a baby.  It goes to the heart of the biological instinct.  That combination of virility yet tenderness is intensely erotic, potent.  As Maya Angelou said, “the quality of strength lined with tenderness is an unbeatable combination.” And of course, in most porn there’s an utter absence of it.  Porn that our young men and even our boys, wedded to their screens, are finding increasingly easy to consume.

We need to nurture tenderness in our men, starting with those boys around us – and how they relate to the world.  Because in adulthood tenderness is a vastly underrated quality, especially when it comes to sex.  As is gentleness, as is generosity.  Teaching our boys the courage of their fledgling tenderness, when young, means they’ll only benefit as adults – as will the women all around them.  As John Ruskin said:  “…the first universal characteristic of all great art is Tenderness, as the second is Truth. I find this more and more every day: an infinitude of tenderness is the chief gift and inheritance of all the truly great men.”  Lawrence was interested in what makes a truly great man, as am I.  Hence, I Take You.


Nikki Gemmell’s I Take You, the conclusion to her Bride Stripped Bare trilogy, is out now in paperback.

I have two copies to give away – just follow @52Betty on Twitter and tweet the following message to enter:

‘Win a copy of @nikkigemmell’s fabulous new novel, I Take You: #ITakeYou’

Competition closes 7th August 2013 at midnight. Entrants must be over 18 and have a UK postal address. The winner will be drawn at random. No correspondence will be entered into over the result.

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Guest Post: Losing Consciousness –

Here I am at the wonderful Rebecca Lowrie’s blog, writing about how easy it is to stop engaging with your partner (particularly if you’re prone to checking your phone mid-shag).

Guest Post: Losing Consciousness –

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Whisper: The Photograph

Author: Catherine Holt

I have had photo hidden like a dirty secret since I was 13. It’s only since I cleared my mum’s house that I found it again.

It was taken in 1990. I was 14 at the time. The photographer was a young man, who at the time was much older than me, maybe 22 or 23.

I was on holiday in Cornwall. I hardly spoke to him the evening I met him. I didn’t even kiss him. I was very naive at the time and completely innocent. I met him at the disco. He asked me to meet him the following day for a walk, and then he asked me to take my clothes off for this shot…..I didn’t.

Please take care of young women/daughters whilst on holiday this year: they may not be as well equipped as may think.

Whispers: The Photograph | Betty Herbert

(Adapted from a Facebook post).

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Are your sex toys safe?

A body-safe Lelo vibrator | How safe are your sex toys?

A body-safe Lelo vibrator

*spits out Lambrini* What? Is this blog becoming the Daily Mail or something? 

Sorry. I didn’t mean to alarm you there. It’s just that I want to talk about phthalates and I didn’t think it would make the most appealing blog title ever.


Well, no. I always think that, if you’re going to give something a name, you may as well follow at least some of the basic laws of prononciation. 

Quite. But I suspect that one of the reasons we’re not talking about phthalates (I’m going for thay-lates but I’m really not sure) is because it’s such an ungainly word. And they’re pretty nasty things.


Go on then. Tell me what I’ve got to be worried about this time. 

Phthalates are chemicals that are added to plastics for flexibility, durability and colour retention. They contain synthetic xenoestrogens, which behave like natural oestrogen. For this reason, they’re hormone-disruptors in both men and women.

In large quantities, their use is banned in the UK and US; but smaller concentrations are still allowed. Despite this ban, there’s considerable evidence that they’re entering our bodies, and being stored in them. A study by the US Center for Disease Control found phthalates in most people’s urine that they tested.

The effects of phthalates are myriad. They have been shown to increase asthma and allergies, but their most notable effect is in disrupting normal hormonal cycles. This leads to increased incidence of breast cancer, infertility in both men and women, endometriosis, miscarriage, premature birth…the list goes on.

And the really great news is that we’re willingly putting these chemicals inside our vaginas.



Yup. You know all those cute, jelly-plastic sex toys (like the ubiquitous Rabbits)? They get their soft, wobbly finish from phthalates.

What makes this an especially bad idea? Well, electrical contacts may heat them, which makes the phthalates escape more effectively; and your vagina (and rectum, by the way) is a mucous membrane, which means that it’s more absorbent than your external skin. You know the story about Stevie Nicks and how she ingested cocaine, yes?


Sigh. So I have to throw out my very best friend, Mr Rabbit?

(I’m going to gloss over the fact you’ve anthropomorphised your vibrator for now. But don’t think I didn’t notice).

It’s probably a good idea. Even if you’re not concerned about your own health, there’s evidence that phthalates can affect the fertility of your future children, too.

The good news is that there’s an increasing number of safe alternatives. They’re rarely at bargain-basement prices, but, really, you only ever need one vibrator and a decent one will be a friend of years.

Unlike your Mr Rabbit, who’s often all talk.


What brands should I look out for?

Look out for toys that are made from silicone or say ‘phthalate-free’ or ‘body safe’ on the packaging.

I love Lelo, who create really well-made, stylish toys that have a long charge and a good level of buzz. Fun Factory do some great, creative products. I also recently tested Smile Makers, who are the cheeky chappies of the sex toy world.

Jo Divine is a lovely online store that only stocks phthalate-free toys.


Are there any other precautions I should take? 

Definitely, without a doubt, throw out any toy that’s scratched, cracked or broken, because this will encourage the phthalates to leach out (and let’s not get started on the bacteria that scratches can harbour).

Also, pay especial attention to toys and devices that you keep in your body for extended periods of time – such as butt plugs and vaginal weights. Although I’m not sure that vaginal weights are a very good idea anyway, but that’s another story.

While we’re at it, there are plenty of nasties (including phthalates and parabens) in lubricants too. I personally always recommend Yes lubes, because they’re full of natural ingredients (and their oil-based lube is so luscious that I use it on my dry elbows).

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Who needs contraception?

How in god's name do babies KNOW when you're trying to get jiggy? | Betty HerbertThis week marked our (I-can’t-believe-I’m-old-enough-to-have-been-married-for) 14th wedding anniversary.

I looked it up to see if I was due any sort of an exciting gift. Apparently it’s ivory this year (we shamefully ignored last year’s conservation-grade suggestion of fur, too).  I can’t help but feel that these lists were composed in less ethically-conscious times.

In any case, we both knew what we wanted for our gift this year: you know what I’m talking about. Frankly, it doesn’t happen all that often at the moment, not for lack of enthusiasm on our part (well, okay, for a bit of a lack of enthusiasm on our part), but because of the tiny, humanoid contraceptive device that sleeps across the landing.

I swear to god, that boy has got detectors fitted somewhere. The second they register any physical contact between us, he wakes up. This is a child who routinely sleeps through the night; and yet H only has to look at me the wrong way, and he’s suddenly roaring for our attention.

How on earth does he know? We don’t get the chance to reach the bit where it might be noisy. Is this some evolutionary device to prevent any competition from younger siblings (in which case: don’t worry Bert; we’ve got that more than covered)?

However it works, we outfoxed him. I mean, it’s entirely possible that his little alarm bells were going off all the way up the hill at nursery, but we weren’t there to hear them this time.  Which made a rather delicious change.

Happy anniversary, H.

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