Monthly Archives: December 2013
To me, Rome has always been synonymous with romance and sex. My husband and I spent our honeymoon there and have gone there for several anniversary trips since, and this year’s trip was another reminder of the erotic romantic nature of the city. A week amid the ruins and the busy Christmas hubbub was another reminder that there’s nothing new under the sun. Our first night in Rome we walked beneath the wonderful rainbow wave of Christmas lights strung from one end of the Via del Corso to the other. All through our trip, we caught plenty of glimpses of couples embracing and caressing and sneaking kisses in wonderfully public places. The atmosphere was perfect for love.
With the overwhelming glut of virgin and billionaire novels out there at the moment, it’s interesting to take virgin power back a couple thousand years. One of the highlights of the Roman Forum was the time we spent in the quiet ruins of the House of the Vestal Virgins. We were there early and even though the sun was bright, the shadowy reflecting ponds had the thinnest skin of ice across their mirrored surfaces. The commitment of a Vestal Virgin was thirty years in return for money, power and position. Afterward she was free to marry or not. It was a pretty damn good proposition for a woman back in Roman times.
With the Christmas season in full swing, there were crèches and images of the Madonna and Child everywhere. It’s hardly possible to overstate the importance of fertility and the birthing of the next generation. The need to see ourselves and our world reborn, the need to feel that sense of continuity is as old as humanity. We were never more reminded of that than when we stood in the gardens at the Villa d’Este in front of the powerful image of the fountain of Ephesian Airtimes with her many breasts and her cloak providing shelter for birds and beasts.
In the Vatican Museums it was interesting to note that all of the male Roman and Greek sculptures either had penises broken off or hastily covered up with plaster of Paris fig leaves. You can imagine how refreshing it was to find ourselves at the Temple of Hercules in the ruins of Ostia Antica gazing upon a very ancient, very manly statue which no longer had head nor hands but had all of his bits still proudly displayed in a lovely sculpted nest of marble pubes. I have to admit I felt a bit naughty taking lots of pics of marble genitalia, and yet I felt the power of the temple ruins was right there in the muscular torso proudly sporting maleness. At the risk of sounding either pervy or flakey, it did something to me. The power of the human body, the power of human sexuality captured in stone several thousand years ago still moves me, maybe even more so because that power is still the same, no matter how many fig leaf coverings are hastily plastered.
Near the Temple of Hercules is the Domus of Amour and Psyche. This truly was Mecca for the erotic romantic in me. Psyche and Eros has long been my very favourite story from Greek Mythology. How could I not be drawn to this testament to the power of love – a mortal woman fighting her way to godhood to be with the man she loves. Yup, I think that’s a powerful metaphor for romantic love – at least it is in my head. But Psyche (soul, mind, spirit) is joined to Eros. Nope! This is NOT platonic love! This is throw-you-down-on-the-bed, ride-‘em-cowboy erotic love. It always excites me to think of what happens when the erotic meets the spiritual, so it’s not surprising that I found this place the goose bump raising highlight of my week in Rome. We were lucky to nab a very kind Australian tourist to take a picture of us paying homage to Psyche and Eros. I took dozens of pictures of Hercules and of Psyche and Eros because the places, in their quiet off the main path site are powerful reminders of what I do as a writer and why.
Now, sitting home in my living room, looking back to that sunny week in Rome, I can’t help thinking that while there’s nothing new under the sun, there’s everything always new under the sun. There’s newness in the inspiration, the penetration, the conception, the birthing, the nurturing, the seeing ourselves reborn again and again, not only in the next generation, but in the places we create inside our heads, the stories we, as writers birth into
the world. There’s comfort in the continuity of thousands of years while there’s excitement in bringing it all around again fresh and new and re-envisioned.
May the old and comforting be infused with the new and exciting in 2014. And may your journey be full of love and joy.
It’s fast approaching 2014, and I haven’t been able to write
for over a month. This blog post doesn’t count. 🙂
I’ve never had writer’s block before. Normally, when I can’t
write it’s mainly because I hadn’t thought through a plot point or
characterization. Once I solve those problems, the desire and ability to write
quickly return. This time it’s much different.
My sales have ground to a halt, and they’ve been stagnant
for a couple of months. Two new stories I wrote haven’t sold well at all. One’s
a stand-alone short story so that may explain why since I understand readers
would rather spend the money on a novella or a novel, but it still hurts
because I worked very hard on it. The other is in a collection that hasn’t sold
as well as I had hoped. A blog tour I set up did not result in many sales, so I
did a lot of work for little return. I also have four stories of various lengths to
finish for a publisher and my lack of confidence in my own talent and my
ability to sell the damned things is killing my desire to write. It’s hard to
write when you don’t think anyone will buy your books or when you don’t like
the lack of marketing from some of your small publishers. What little I have
written lately is so bland I want to delete it and start over again.
I may be burned out.
I must do something about this problem or it will follow me
into 2014. Driving forth and attempting to write despite my lack of desire
hasn’t worked, so since it’s Christmastime I simply stopped dead in my tracks.
Writer’s block was ruining my enjoyment of the holiday season, and I wasn’t
about to let that continue since the season is so short. I did the only thing I
I stopped writing completely. Stopped marketing. All I
wanted to do was bake cookies, watch movies, listen to Christmas music, read, and
spend time with my husband who’s on vacation right now.
It’s working. The stress is way down and I don’t feel so
frantic anymore. I still have no desire to write, though, but that’s okay. It
happens. I know once 2014 kicks in I’ll be able to get back into the swing of
things. Instead of fretting over my inability to write, I’m taking a
much-needed vacation. I’m also setting goals for 2014, some of which are as
1. Finish edits for a mystery/family saga novel and find an
agent for it.
2. Finish those four erotica stories and submit them to the
publisher as quickly as possible.
3. Submit my lesbian erotic short story to the best calls I
can find and hopefully get an acceptance.
4. Aim for a short story acceptance by a pro erotica market.
5. Marketing – no more Yahoo loop chats. They don’t work for me.
Stick with radio shows, blogging, and monthly live chats. Facebook and Twitter
seem to work fine, so I’ll stick with them.
6. Finish two erotic novellas by the end of the new year. They are more than half finished now so the effort won’t be overwhelming.
That’s more than enough for 2014. In the meantime, I will
not worry about writer’s block. I’ll enjoy the holidays. I have a feeling I’ll
be back on track in January. Here’s hoping 2014 is a good year. Happy holidays,
everyone, and see you in 2014.
by Jean Roberta
During the winter holiday season, when occasions for partying abound, I feel a rant coming on. Lest I sound like a perpetual complainer, I will put my discontent in perspective.
I’m sure I’m more privileged than most people in the world, and probably more than most readers of this blog. Looking over the events of 2013, I’m grateful for my blessings, and relieved that my misfortunes were no worse.
In the summer, I moved years worth of books and papers into my new office in the university English Department where I teach first-year classes. My new home-away-from-home has an incredible amount of shelf space for my books, plus a window to the outside world so I can see the weather before I step out in it.
In September, I taught my first credit course in creative writing. This favour was granted by the head of the English Department, even though it is a second-year class usually taught by scholars with Ph.D.s (something I never managed to get, for various reasons). Teaching a small class of eager young writers was an adventure that helped refuel my enthusiasm for my job. My usual first-year classes are mandatory for most students, and therefore I get many recruits who would rather avoid writing essays about literature.
In 2013, I also saw more of my words in print than in any previous year. On the scholarly front, I co-edited OutSpoken, a collection of articles and creative work based on a series of presentations on queer (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender) topics by faculty members. The co-ordinator of the series (also head of the Theatre Department) had been invited by the university press to put a book together, he graciously invited me to co-edit, and I accepted. I also had an article accepted for a book about teaching vampire literature which was edited by Dr. Lisa Nevarez of the English Department of Siena College in New York state. I’ve been told that Teaching the Vampire will be released by McFarland Press at any moment.
My historical erotic novella, The Flight of the Black Swan, appeared early in 2013 from Lethe Press. (The cover art is by Ben Baldwin, who was nominated as best fantasy artist of Britain.) A few months later, my collection of erotic stories, The Princess and the Outlaw: Tales of the Torrid Past, also appeared from Lethe Press. Both books got a few glowing reviews.
However, during two family gatherings in the cozy house I share with my spouse (Christmas Eve for immediate family, Christmas Day for two old and dear friends, their grown children, their spouses, children and their friends), I didn’t mention my publications. It was understood that the non-fiction was too academic to interest anyone I know outside the Ivory Tower, while my fiction is too raunchy to be mentioned in the presence of children. I wonder how many writers, particularly erotic writers, are in this predicament. (In all fairness, I had already shown my new books to those closest to me. They don’t read my books or stories, but they accept my writing hobby as less harmful than most other addictions.)
On both occasions, I was encouraged to show off – guess what? – my new surgical scar. On November 4, the first snowy day in the town where I live, I slipped on the ice and broke my left wrist in several places. Thanks to the Canadian health-care system, I was rushed into surgery within 24 hours, and had my wrist repaired and reinforced with a long metal plate that shows up clearly in X-rays. (I will set off metal detectors in airports for the rest of my life.) During my short stay in the hospital and my longer convalescence, my two stepsons and my spouse were an impressive source of support. Later, when my cast was removed and I was shown X-rays of my damaged and repaired wrist, Spouse took photos of these images her cell-phone, and circulated them among the assembled crowd during our holiday suppers. Everyone commented that my incision has healed well.
On Christmas Day, before the second flock of guests were due to arrive, our furnace stopped working after keeping us toasty-warm during a week of very cold temperatures. Although the outside temperature had risen, we couldn’t welcome our guests into an unheated house, so we had to pay a repairman for his labour and a new furnace motor. He was honest enough to tell us that if we could have waited another two days, the bill would have been $100 less. But such is life. Luckily, we didn’t have to choose between warmth and food.
Medical and home-maintenance issues were not the only topics of conversation, but they seemed to be of general interest. Well, of course. Everyone lives in a body, and most folks (especially in Canada in the winter) have a dwelling-place.
I couldn’t help wondering how many other writers can only discuss their writing with other writers, or with any readers who can be found. And how many erotic writers must go far out of their way to prevent relatives, “friends”, coworkers and bosses from finding out that they write about sex, the stuff of life. (Note my previous comment about the universal human condition of living in a body.) News items about the inconsistent and fluctuating policies of booksellers regarding “obscene” material show that there is not (and never has been) any real consensus about what this is. In the current cultural climate, I’m well aware that I’m probably luckier than most.
My employer is exceptionally tolerant of everything I write, and for that I am truly grateful. My holiday wish is for peace on earth and good will toward all the writers who are brave enough to write about something that really (let’s be honest) interests everyone. The impulse to write anything seems to be a certain kind of craziness, and a desire to write about subjects formerly considered “unspeakable” still requires courage. I’m glad I live in a world where so many have felt the bite of that bug.
May the Deity of our choice bless us, every one.
by Kathleen Bradean
When I realized I had the Christmas Eve slot, I tried to think of a suitably festive entry that would, I don’t know, make writer’s hearts glow like twinkle lights on the tree in Rockefeller Plaza or something like that. I’d love to give every writer that rush of joy that comes when a story reveals itself. Maybe an hour of writing as gleeful as puddle-splashing used to be back when we weren’t stodgy enough to care about wet shoes.
Not going to happen.
I tried. I really did. I’m not cut out for O Henry’s Gift of the Magi style holiday stories. Or Dickens A Christmas Carol. Or Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story (you probably know the movie better than his books. May I suggest Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories, and Other Disasters). Or even David Sedaris’ SantaLand Diaries. Every thought turned from glowing, welcoming candles in windows to the Little Match Girl freezing to death while she hallucinates. Okay, not that big of a downer, but if I wrote a Christmas story, it would probably be as melancholy as Judy Garland singing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.
The problem is that writing that story would demand that I tap into a rather bleak moment in my life. You know how there are method actors? I’m a method writer. I cry my eyes out when I write sad scenes. (You have no idea how hard it is to admit that) A scene that takes a reader half an hour to go through may take my weeks to write, and during that time I stay immersed in the emotions I’m trying to capture so I can experience the physical part as well as the feelings, and it’s exhausting. It’s difficult enough to do for characters who exist only in my imagination, but at least I can walk away from it if I need to. If I’m pulled too deeply into it, I can shake it off. I’m not sure it would be that simple if I delved back into something that was very real.
Plus, oh lord, can you imagine the humiliation from pouring your soul out like that across the page? I’d be running an emotional peep show for voyeurs to examine like a frog opened on a dissection board. Would it be even worse if I exposed my guts like that and it bored readers? Oh my god. People walk past pain every day and ignore it. Would it be like being a little match girl, but striking my matches for the crowd while the indifferent world passes by?
Oh, now I’m just being histrionic. But I think this is where we talk about fear. Writers who are fearless say things frightened writers don’t. They dare to dig deep into those things that make you squirm. They sit in the booth and bare their soul to anyone who plunks in a quarter. Writing erotica is a fearless thing, but it’s not nearly as hard as writing raw, naked truth about yourself. I’m not sure I’m that fearless. It hurts too much. Or maybe this is where we talk about suffering for art.
Maybe one day I’ll work up the courage to talk about how when I was three my parents begged me not to tell my older sisters there was no Santa because it would ruin their Christmas. I never believed in magic. I’m simply not wired that way. But then there was that year when I was in my twenties when we were so very, very poor. My daughter was three, and I wished so hard that Santa might be real, just for one night, so that when we woke Christmas morning, there might be a tree, lights, and a gift for my little girl. And how, for the first time in my life, I actually woke Christmas morning and peeked into the living room to see if Santa had visited, because I needed it that much. And of course I felt like an idiot for being disappointed, because I always knew there was no hope. Strike the match, and watch the flame die.
Great – now I’ve depressed the hell out of you. Merry Christmas indeed. I knew I should have trotted out a glowing tree in soft focus, with a fire crackling merrily across the room, and put a cup of wassail in your hand.
Wow, my last post of 2013. How did that happen?! This year seems to have flown by, but I guess it’s because I’ve been so busy. And I’ll definitely never complain about that – business is good, I’m writing and publishing lots of books, nothing to complain about!
So now I look forward to 2014. I already have releases lined up, which is awesome, and there are other books out for submission which I have my fingers crossed for.
So what are my goals?
- To finish and submit The Persecution of the Wolves to a publisher
- To submit to four specific annual anthologies which I haven’t yet been published in – and no, I’m not going to name them, I don’t want to jinx it!
- To finish two co-author projects
- To write at least one solo novel
Hmm, it looks pretty doable when it’s listed in four bullet points, but I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. Some of that depends on other people as well as myself, so I just have to hope the stars align to get all that done. And, of course, these are just my larger goals – I’ll also be writing for anthologies, editing at least three anthologies, and I already have a couple of novellas I’ve promised to write… looks like it’s going to be a busy 2014 – woohoo!
Happy Christmas, everyone, and best wishes for 2014.
Lucy Felthouse is a very busy woman! She writes erotica and
erotic romance in a variety of subgenres and pairings, and has over eighty
publications to her name, with many more in the pipeline. These include several
editions of Best Bondage Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica 2013 and Best Erotic
Romance 2014. Another string to her bow is editing, and she has edited and
co-edited a number of anthologies, and also edits for a small publishing house.
She owns Erotica For All, and is book
editor for Cliterati. Find out more at http://www.lucyfelthouse.co.uk. Join
her on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to her
newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/gMQb9
By Lisabet Sarai
Earlier this month
Remittance Girl challenged the frequently articulated claim that
exposure to porn encourages violence against women. The UK is about
to ban eroticized fictional depictions of rape because (the argument
goes) such fiction exposes people to the juxtaposition of rape and
arousal, makes rape appear more attractive and socially acceptable,
and hence increases its frequency.
RG’s characteristically subtle
refutation of this view relies at least partially on the assumption
that readers make distinctions between what they like to read about
and what they do. After all (as I’m sure you’ve heard erotic writers
argue), murder mysteries are not banned out of fear that they’ll
encourage readers to go out and poison their neighbors or hack them
to pieces. “Admittedly, we do suspend disbelief when we read or
view fiction,” RG comments, “but we don’t mistake it for
Until recently I would have agreed
wholeheartedly with this position. Then I read about this case:
If you haven’t heard about this, and
don’t feel like following the link (and putting up with all the ads),
I’ll summarize the situation. A man who’d been separated from his
ex-wife for several years bought a new phone, with a number
unfamiliar to her, and began texting her, pretending to be a 20 year
old stranger. Before long their interactions became highly
sexualized. They agreed to have a physical encounter at her home. Not
wishing to reveal who he was, he arrived masked and refused to speak,
giving her instructions through hand signs. Apparently he played the
role of the dominant, tying her to the bed, fucking her, and leaving
her there, still bound. This happened twice, and then (it’s not
entirely clear how), the woman guessed the true identity of her
lover/assailant and charged him with rape.
The relevance of this case to erotic
writing lies in the fact that both the man and the woman had
apparently read Fifty Shades of Grey. The woman kept a copy of
the book, as well as other titles related to BDSM, by the side of her
bed. If the media are to be believed (and I suspect that there’s at
least some truth to this interpretation), the protagonists in this
saga were acting out scenarios they’d encountered in erotic fiction.
Is this bad? I don’t give much credence
to the claim of rape (and apparently the judge didn’t either). The
motivations are murky but clearly the encounters were consensual.
What bothers me is the fact that these two people apparently engaged
in potentially dangerous BDSM practices without much of a clue as to
what they were doing. Any serious dominant will tell you that you
should not leave someone tied up, alone, with no means of escape. The
risks range from circulatory problems to death in the event of a fire
or other disaster.
These individuals had read about BDSM
in a novel and used the behavior in that novel as a model for their
own. Real world practitioners of dominance and submission have panned
FSOG as dangerously inaccurate, with respect to both the physical and
psychological nature of a BDSM relationship,
But how was this couple to know?
Clearly these people didn’t appreciate
the difference between fantasy and reality. One might guess that this
was simply due to ignorance. After all, if FSOG is your first
exposure to dominance and submission – and it now is, for millions
of readers around the world – how are you going to know that BDSM is
not about instant surrender, endless beatings and innumerable
orgasms? Who’s going to tell you to study up on the physical risks
before taking the plunge? While preparing this blog, I tried without
success to find reputable statistics on injuries or emergency visits
attributable to BDSM scenarios gone wrong, but during my search I
encountered plenty of chilling (as well as ridiculous) anecdotes.
It’s easy to criticize FSOG. Sour
grapes make such grumbling all the more tempting – even though ever
mention of the book just pumps up the sales. However, even those of
us who try to portray BDSM more realistically are sometimes guilty of
twisting the truth in the service of arousal. How often do we write
about negotiation? About limp or dry cunts? About the
exhaustion that sets in when you’ve been whipped and spanked for
hours, until, despite your devotion to your dominant, you really just
want to take a shower or a nap?
I’ve written about BDSM activities I’ve
never tried – knife play, fire play, branding, heavy caning.
Because let’s face it, for many of us, extreme or taboo sexual
scenarios are more exciting than more familiar acts. I’ve tried to do my research, but I
don’t focus too much on the risks because I know that too much
emphasis on those aspects can break the erotic spell. I’ve always
believed that readers have responsibility for their own actions, and
that most can distinguish the line between fantasy and reality.
After reading about this couple in New
Zealand, though, I have begun to wonder. Perhaps some sort of formal
license should be required before people are allowed to read porn.
Maybe they should have to take something like a driving test, to make
sure they know the sexual rules of the road. Minus five for slamming
your penis into her vagina immediately after you’ve fucked her butt.
Minus ten for using a plastic bag over your sub’s head to muffle her
screams. Minus fifteen for looping the rope around her neck because
you like the way it looks…
I’m being facetious, of course. I’m not sure how to deal with this evidence that people do, in
fact, conflate sexual fiction and sexual fact. We’re not educators.
Our books are not how-to manuals. We’re writing to challenge, engage,
and arouse our readers, not teach them about sex. Yet clearly our
readers do learn from our books – sometimes not what we intend.
Should this bother us? Or should we just
shrug off the people who take us literally, even when they might come to
physical or emotional harm? Is it really their problem? Or is it
At this point, I honestly don’t know.
by Donna George Storey
(This month’s post is a reprint of my very first column for ERWA in 2007, “Cooking Up a Storey.” As I’m in the midst of my annual solstice cooking baking madness right now, the topic of writing, baking and creativity is very much on my mind. After all these years, I still agree with myself about the healing properties of creating something delicious. May your New Year be full of sweetness and creativity!)
I was born on December 31st, but that’s not why I like December because New Year’s Eve isn’t the best time to have a birthday. (It sucks, actually.) What I like about December is the light. The quick-fading afternoon sunset, dyeing the horizon in fiery orange. The velvety purple and blue shadows of dusk. The silver stars of Orion looming in the night sky. I also look forward to a twenty-six-year-old holiday tradition my husband and I started back in our grad school days: baking and frosting X-rated sugar cookies (the snowman with the big boner is a favorite) late in the evening, followed by other sweet indulgences. Which is all fitting because December is the Lord of Misrule’s domain, a time of magic and possibility, dreams and desires…and plenty of dessert.
But one December several years ago, even the enchantment of the light or a bite of horny snowman cookie couldn’t chase back the gloom of a family crisis. My mother had died an agonizing death from a diabetes drug and my family’s thwarted effort to seek justice left me wary of the fictions in our legal system and in life. My own failed attempts to tell our story to a broader public left me doubting my own supposed “way with words.” I decided to take a break from all writing. It was a necessary step for me to heal perhaps, but at the time I wondered if I would ever write again.
With no deadlines or ideas for new stories swirling through my head I wasn’t quite sure how I would fill the vacant December days. I wanted to do something, though, something frivolous and indulgent. I would make a gingerbread house. Not the simple, six-piece chalets I’d baked for my kids to decorate in past years, but a grand Victorian mansion that would send Martha Stewart on a two-week insomnia jag as she struggled vainly to do me one better. So I cranked up the carols and started tracing out the patterns based on a design from Steven Stellingwerf’s The Gingerbread Book (sadly no longer in print). I estimated the blueprints would take an hour or so and I could start my baking therapy that afternoon. Two days and twenty pattern pieces later, I was getting the sense that my construction project might turn out to be all too similar to a real-life contracting job.
It got worse. The instructions called for me to stir up a double recipe of dough fragrant with molasses, cinnamon, and ginger. Four batches and a few more days later, my entire dining room table was covered with miniature chocolate-brown walls, roofs, chimneys and shutters. My fingers were blistered and my arms sore, but the real work had only begun. Each piece needed to be glued with a mortar of egg white and confectioner’s sugar then patiently held together until the new section hardened enough to stand on its own. Six batches of mortar were followed by six more of decorative icing to add the necessary “gingerbread” flourishes. It was an orgy of beating and whipping to make the most enthusiastic BDSM aficionado wilt with exhaustion.
By then I’d abandoned any plan or expectation and gave myself over to the meditative rhythms of sifting, stirring, and slathering. My body swayed as I piped zigzag designs in snow white frosting on the tiny eaves. I hummed cheerfully as I transformed upended sugar cones into conifers with swirls of green icing. In the end my Victorian mansion had too many off-center shutters and listing candy cane porch posts to threaten Martha’s supremacy as the dominatrix of edible architecture, but the sense of satisfaction I felt as I stood back and admired my “Holiday Inn” resembled rather uncannily a state of post-orgasmic bliss
And that’s when the real thrills began.
I’d like to take a moment to pause and remind you of the kinds of responses you get when you share the draft of a story with your writing group, virtual or fleshly, or worse still a well-meaning friend who asks to see what you’ve been writing. All but the most trustworthy paragons who truly respect your sensibility will try to improve your piece with hatchet-strokes of criticism. They’ll call the plot predictable, the protagonist wimpy, the sex too shocking or vanilla (a common complaint for my stories although you can’t do better for your taste buds than high-quality vanilla extract, especially Mexican for cookies and Tahitian for custards). They’ll tell you your experiment with second-person narrative fell flat, they hate your favorite funny image of the hero’s cock as a cannon poised over a Civil War battlefield, and the story would be much better if you rewrote it exactly the way they’d have done it if it had been their idea. Don’t even get me started on editors’ cryptic critiques and agents’ hackneyed brush-offs.
As you might have guessed by now, I was used to having my artistic children mauled by heartless critics, and so I was hesitant to expose my fledgling gingerbread mansion to the public gaze. Since it took up half the dining room table, however, I didn’t have much choice.
I’m delighted to report that the reviews, dear reader, were as glowing as a house decked with Christmas lights. Everyone loved my little country hotel, man and woman, young and old. Their jaws gaped in wonder, they sighed with enchantment, their hands twitched desirously in anticipation of the eating orgy that would mark my masterpiece’s inevitable January demolition. No one made snide mention of the crooked shutters. Not a soul suggested I should have used the #24 decorating tube instead of #30. There were no indignant protests that gingerbread is too coarse and spicy—vulgar even—and if I were a serious artist I would restrict myself to socially acceptable sugar cookie dough.
As the days passed and the delicious praise continued, a holiday miracle of sorts did occur. Without the cloudy distractions of careless judgment, I saw the real meaning of what I’d accomplished. I’d actually created an entire mansion with nothing but my dedication and imagination, plus a few pounds of flour and sugar and spice. And while I was happy that others were enchanted, what mattered most was that it gave me great pleasure, too.
The following week I sat down to write a story. It was about a widow who overcomes a long mourning by seducing a younger man with a special cookie recipe. When I first I sat down to face the blank screen after my six-month bout of writer’s block, I was a little worried I’d be rusty. To my surprise, the words came fast and easy as if I’d already done my warm-up lap. Only later did it hit me that I was actually writing my second story. My Victorian mansion had been the first, nourishing my soul and then my body with December’s magic transformation of darkness into light.
Donna George Storey is the author
of Amorous Woman (recently released as an ebook) and a new collection of short
Presents the Best of Donna George Storey. Learn more about her
work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com
The Lonely Prince by C. Sanchez-Garcia
Once upon a time there was a wealthy and handsome Prince. As his last dying wish the King asked the Prince to find a beautiful Princess and be married and have children. The Prince traveled to the Kingdom of Whiz and asked the Princess Margarita to marry him. Now Princess Margarita was the most clever and beautiful woman in all the world, without peer. “Fuck you!” she said I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last asshole Prince on earth. I’d rather marry a magic frog!”
The King died and the Prince became the new king, but still the lonely Prince had no wife. So the poor, unmarried Prince spent all his time and his money any way he wanted and went hunting and fishing with his friends as often as he pleased and took yoga and gourmet cooking classes, and studied American literature and poetry and made wild love with hundreds of exciting and interesting women from all over the world and lived happily ever after.
* * * * *
The Lonely Prince by Daddys Bad Grrrl w/ C. Sanchez-Garcia
1ce tme ts lonly Prnz. Like OMFG KG – “new BFF”
Hello? ((!!!)) :-O PrnzS Mrgrta PILTF shld mrry.
W2HU? sd Prnz. LOL!
STFU sd PrnzS. FO! >:-P
WTF?? U2 sd Prnz. FTS! 🙁
Prnz hptt evr afr. No Prbm.
* * * * *
The Lonely Prince by Ernest Hemingway and C. Sanchez-Garcia
The prince stood outside the King’s chamber. He knocked on the door. There was no answer. He knocked again. He could feel the King on the other side of the door. He’s in there all right, thought the Prince. The King opened the door and the Prince went in.
“You must get married.” said the King.
“I want to be a bull fighter.” said the Prince.
“There aren’t any bull fighters’ anymore.” said the King.
“Who must I marry?”
“There is a Princess in the Kingdom of whiz. She’s all right.”
“I’ll see what I can do.” said the Prince.
The Prince left and the King shut the door after him.
In the Kingdom of whiz the Prince was introduced to Margarita. It had been a hot day. He had walked. It had been a good walk and he was not ashamed. The Princess was in her room with her chambermaid. “What do you want, bright boy?” said the Princess.
“He stinks.” Said the Chambermaid.
“She says you stink, bright boy.” Said the Princess.
“My father says I should be married.” Said the Prince. “You have a sweet can.”
“Bright boy is just full of bright ideas, ain’t he Molly?” Said the Princess.
“He’s not. He’s dumb.” said the chambermaid.
“She says you’re dumb, bright boy.” said the Princess.
The Prince shrugged. He lit a cigarette, but did not offer one. He waited for her.
“I am having an affair with a bull fighter.” said the Princess.
“He’s a good kid.” said the prince.
“He stinks too. All men stink.” said the Chambermaid
“So tell me, bright boy. Why the hell would I marry you?” said the Princess.
“You might be good with a husband.” said the Prince.
“I wouldn’t.” said the Princess.
“If that’s the way you want it.” said the Prince. “It’s all right.”
“You think its all right?” Said the Princess. “He thinks its all right.”
“He stinks.” said the Chambermaid.
“You’re a funny guy, bright boy. Still think I have a nice can?” said the Princess.
“Sure,” said the Prince. “Why not?”
“Take off, bright boy. That’s the way I want it.” said the Princess.
“Okay.” said the Lonely Prince.
After the king died, the Prince took up fishing. He had no luck in him for the fishing. He was a Prince who fished off the Gulf in a yacht and had gone eighty days now without taking a fish. He went lion hunting in Africa and shot a 500 pound male on the third day. “Damn fine lion.” said the Prince over a whiskey and soda.
* * * * *
The Lonely Prince by Ray Bradbury and C. Sanchez-Garcia
“Marriage!” cried the King. “Babies! Grandchildren clambering, clinging, dropping like ripe fruit!”
“But Dad. . . ” whined the Prince.
“Run! Feel! Dash! Live! Feel your life slipping through your fingers – feel it damn you.”
“But Dad – ”
“When I was your age, why I had conquered half the world!” The old King slapped his knotted oak knee with a mahogany hand. His ancient eyes glowed in his skull like a Jack A lantern. “The Princess of Whiz is waiting. No – pining! Go to her before her heart beats another beat!”
“I don’t see the rush.” said the Prince, with a sigh of October leaves blowing down midnight streets. “And I’m shy.”
The old king was no longer listening. Skinny skeleton fingers were snaking like spiders through a wooden steam trunk. “Ah! Ah ha!”
A magicians flourish.
A pair of ratty black sneakers dangled from his fingertips. “There you mayst behold child, the enchanted sneakers of Merlin. See! Wings for your feet. These are the shoes that bestow – invisibility!”
“But to do so you must be naked! It will not make your clothes invisible, only you yourself.”
But could this be? To be invisible as midnight smoke, to pinch pretty girls bottoms, steal apple pies from farmer’s windows, steal the sleep from eyes of maids, sneak through windows like a succubus.
The Prince dropped his clothes, naked as the sun and naked as the moon. He tied on the sneakers and held up his hands waiting. “How do I look?”
The King spun like a top. “Where are you, child? Where have you gone? You’ve vanished! Oh, it reminds me of the old days!”
“I’m off, Father.” Said the naked and lonely Prince. The magic sneakers of Merlin carried him over hill and dale with the sound of green grass and the rush of summer running.
The Kingdom of Whiz – and there! The Princess’ open window. He climbed in.
She was there.
The Princess was alabaster and soft vanilla ice cream.
“It is I!” cried the Prince. “Come to sweep you off your feet and be my bride!
“You’re as naked as a rock!” She cried.
“You’re much deceived.” said the Prince. “I’m invisible. You can’t see me.”
“I see the white of your eye, the bats in your belfry, the lust in your heart. And – oh my.” The Princess gazed at his mighty organ. “You’re a loony. But you’re hung like a horse.”
“I’m invisible!” said the Prince, stamping his bare foot. “All you hear is my voice.”
“All right,” said the Princess doubtfully, but taking the measure of him with growing excitement. “What would make you visible?”
“Uh . . . a kiss!” His Father hadn’t said so yet the Prince felt it to be true. The Princess’s gaze stirred his manhood so fiercely the Universe seemed to crouch like a black cat.
“Is one kiss enough?”
“Try.” Said the Prince. He stepped to her and held out his arms. She touched her lips to his.
“I see your head.” she said. “But that’s all.”
The Prince became afraid. “Only my head?”
“I think I have to kiss you for each part to be visible.”
“Kiss my hand.” he said.
She kissed his hand.
“I see your arm!” She kissed his other hand, noting his mighty manhood had become extremely visible and had begun to radiate heat like a desert wind. “I see your other arm.” She kissed his chest. “I see your chest.” She dropped to her knees and clasped him around the waist. She kissed his leg with hummingbird lips. “There’s your leg.” With the rasp of a tigress tongue she kissed the other leg. “And there’s its fellow.”
“Don’t leave me this way.” he pleaded.
“It’s better to be invisible than only half visible.” She kissed his feet.
“Am I visible yet?” The Prince staggered, silver stars and crimson flowers bursting in his fevered brain. “I’m going to explode! Burst like lightning, all hell fire and fourth of July thunder!”
“Only the middle is left to be kissed.” she said. “Lay down over there and we’ll take care of it now.” He lay on the bed and the Princess dropped her clothes on the floor. She completed the process of restoring his visibility on the bed though she lingered much longer over the middle than the rest of his body. Complaining how the Prince kept undoing her work and becoming invisible she repeated the process over and over and lived happily ever after.
|If we wore these everyday, no one would think they were sexy.|
The term ‘normalization’ (and the verb ‘to normalize) has become very popular of late. It has a number of meanings, but its most current use in the media refers to a process by which exposure to something renders it ‘normal’ in the minds of those who are exposed. For instance, it has been proposed that the preponderance of photos of women’s legs, showing them with a gap between their thighs has ‘normalized’ a body type that is not normal (Jones, 2013), and video games ‘normalize’ violence against animals (Hochschartner, 2013).
Of course, we’ve spent years hearing about the way pornography – any kind of pornography – normalizes the view of women as sexual objects and encourages violence against them (Horeck, Days, & Don, 2013). Attempts to verify this through research have resulted either in highly ambiguous results, or actually contradicted these claims. A literature review of a large number of studies has concluded that porn is not even a co-relational factor in violence against women (Ferguson, 2013). In fact, there is good data to suggest the opposite; that the more widespread the access to pornography, the lower the violence to women (Amato & Law, n.d.).
As of January, 2014, it will be illegal in the UK to possess material that contains eroticized depictions of rape. Not possession of photographs or videos of actual rape – that was always illegal, but material containing fictional depictions of rape (Zara, 2013). According to many sources, including the Prime Minister, David Cameron, exposure to this kind of pornography ‘normalizes’ sexual violence against women (Morris, 2103).
My problem with the word ‘normalize’ is that it has been widely interpreted to mean that exposure to whatever it is that is currently offensive to us will cause us to think that it’s okay. They’ll stop having negative feelings about it, and embrace it as part of their everyday lives. I’m not disputing that constant exposure to something will change the way we think about it – that would be cognitively impossible for that not to occur. What I’m disputing is our assumptions about two things.
The first is a widespread assumption that fictionalized versions of horrific realities are interpreted by the brain in the same way as witnessing or experiencing those realities. I can accept, for instance, that small children might have difficulties telling the difference between a fictionalized, mediated version of war and war itself. But adults reading “War and Peace” or watching “Saving Private Ryan” don’t believe they are actually experiencing war. Admittedly, we do suspend disbelief when we read or view fiction, but we don’t mistake it for reality.
The second assumption is that repeated exposure to mediated forms of real horrors will cause us to feel neutral or even positively about them. This has no basis in fact either. Indeed, in the last century, we have been exposed to more mediated versions of reality than in the whole of human history. More war, more death, more rape, more everything. And as much as the media would like you to believe you live in a terribly dangerous time, the truth is that we are safer, healthier and longer-lived than we have ever been.
As a woman, a writer of erotic fiction and a questioner of received wisdom, I do believe that the widespread availability of explicit sexual imagery must, indeed, be having some effect on us. I just don’t accept that it is either wholly positive or wholly negative. For instance, I’m pretty sure that far fewer people today feel that there is anything fundamentally evil about sex; I think porn has played a part in this. I think the quantity of mediated sex out there has allowed many more people to admit to watching and enjoying it.
I also believe – although I have no hard evidence of this – porn has served to ‘model’ what sex should look like. After all, for many people, it’s the only sex they see (other than their own). And porn sex is, by its nature, exaggerated and dramatized. I think there are people who may (because they aren’t having the sort of sex that looks like the sex in porn) feel a greater sense of dissatisfaction with the sex they do have.
In the Middle Ages, children learned what normal sex looked like by witnessing it – either seeing it, or hearing it in a darkened room because private space was at a premium. Today we’d call that child abuse. These days, other than porn, the only way to see real sex between real people is by being a voyeur, which is loaded with its own taboos. It’s hardly a wonder that amateur porn became so popular. There is some sense that this is real sex. Sadly, because of the fact that it needs to stand up against produced porn, more and more commercial porn memes creep into amateur porn. Conversely, commercial porn producers have sought to make their product look more ‘amateur’ in order to appeal to amateur porn viewers. They tend to fail miserably.
What I’d really like to dig my inquisitional fingers into is the idea of ‘normalization’ as it applies to the erotic. I want to make a distinction between the sexual and the erotic, because I am increasingly coming to believe that there is the biological urge to scratch the itch, which requires nothing other than a relatively functional body and no imagery or semiotics at all, and something else. This something else is the intersection between that biological imperative and language. Not language in the sense of words, but language in the sense that, as our brains mature, we process reality through the veil of language. There is nothing fundamentally sexy about a black, patent leather, high-heeled shoe. It is language in the larger sense, in the way we make relational linkages and chunk feeling and meaning together, that has made the ‘fuck-me-pump’ the iconically sexy item it has become.
I’m going to call this ‘the erotic’ as distinct from ‘the sexual.’ The erotic is heavily dependent on limits: on what is allowed and what is forbidden (Bataille, 1962; Foucault, 1980; Paz, 1995). There is a reason for why the adjectives we use about the erotic ideas that turn us on are negative: naughty, filthy, dirty, forbidden, nasty, sinful, obscene, perverse, wanton, illicit, etc. We want, most passionately, the things we shouldn’t want. It doesn’t mean that we act to get them, or need to transgress socially accepted behaviour in order to be sexually satisfied, but our mind goes there. Of course, positive things can also be erotic: beauty, love, devotion, affection, perfection, purity, faith, truth… but even as I type these words, and even as you read them, it starts to become obvious that erotic desire feeds more voraciously off the forbidden than the allowed.
Here’s the paradox: things that become ‘normalized’ can no longer be the stuff of erotic fantasy. So, I’m not arguing that normalization doesn’t occur. I’m suggesting that it is a self-limiting phenomenon. I’m suggesting that we are twisted little creatures who don’t get off on the ‘normalized’. And so our fears as to its consequences may be somewhat hyperbolic.
My greatest antipathy towards the ‘normalization’ of the erotically forbidden is that it will lose its power to be erotic. I believe that our inner, transgressive, politically incorrect and ugly erotic desires are part of who we are as human beings. Our ability to understand that these things we want, things that when acted out in the real world would be atrocities, are part of the mechanism that preserves our inner and outer worlds as separate. Like fantasy, fictionality affords us a playground for our deeply unsocial selves. It doesn’t school us in what is acceptable in the real world. It underscores and helps to contrast between the two.
- Bataille, G. (1962). Death and sensuality: A study of Eroticism and the Taboo. New York: Walker and Company.
- D’Amato, A. (2006). Porn Up, Rape Down. Northwestern University School of Law: Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper Series, 1–6. Retrieved from http://anthonydamato.law.northwestern.edu/adobefiles/porn.pdf
- Ferguson, C. J. (2013). Pornography. In Adolescents, Crime, and the Media: A Critical Analysis, Advancing Responsible Adolescent Development (pp. 141–158). New York, NY: Springer New York. doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-6741-0
- Foucault, M. (1980). A Preface to Transgression. In Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews (pp. 29–52). Cornell University Press.
- Hochschartner, J. (2013, November 29). Video Games Normalize Animal Cruelty. Retrieved December 8, 2013, from Counterpunch.org: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/11/29/video-games-normalize-animal-cruelty/
- Horeck, T., Days, S., & Don, B. (2013). Public rape: representing violation in fiction and film. Routledge.
- Jones, A. (2013, November 22). Sexualization Thing Gap Retrieved December 8, 2013, from TheWire.com: http://www.thewire.com/culture/2013/11/sexualization-thigh-gap/355434/
- Morris, C. (2103, November 17). ‘Rape porn’ possession to be punished by three years in jail, David Cameron to announce. Retrieved December 8, 2013, from Metro.co.uk: http://metro.co.uk/2013/11/17/rape-porn-possession-to-be-punished-by-three-years-in-jail-david-cameron-to-announce-4189512/
- Paz, O. (1995). The double flame: love and eroticism (p. 84). New York: Harcourt Brace. Retrieved from http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AeKEAAAAIAA
- Zara, C. (2013, November 18). Rape Porn Ban Comes To UK: Possession Of Images Depicting Simulated Rape To Be Punishable By Jail. Retrieved December 8, 2013, from International Business Times: http://www.ibtimes.com/rape-porn-ban-comes-uk-possession-images-depicting-simulated-rape-be-punishable-jail-1474952
Before I begin, a bit of disclosure: While the following has
been written in an attempt to be professionally and personally non-biased I am
an Associate Publisher for Renaissance E Books.
Now, with that out of the way…
So, should you stay with the traditional model of working
with a publisher or go the self-publishing route?
I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been thinking – a lot — about
this. The arguments for stepping
out on your own are certainly alluring, to put it mildly: being able to keep
every dime you make – instead of being paid a royalty – and having total and
complete control of your work being the big two.
But after putting on my thinking cap – ponder, ponder, ponder — I’ve come to a few conclusions that are
going to keep me and my work with publishers for quite some time.
As always, take what I’m going to say there with a hefty
dose of sodium chloride: what works for
me … well, works for me and maybe not you.
Being on both sides
of the publishing fence – as a writer, editor, and now publisher (even as a
Associate Publisher) — has given me a pretty unique view of the world of not
just writing books, working to get them out into the world, but also a pretty good
glimpse at the clockwork mechanisms than run the whole shebang.
For example, there’s been a long tradition of writers if not
actively hating then loudly grumbling about their publishers. You name it and writers will bitch
about it: the covers, the publicity (or lack of), royalties … ad
infinitum. Okay, I have to admit
more than a few grouches have been mine but with (and I really hate to say
this) age has come a change in my perspective. No, I don’t think publishers should be
given carte blanch to do with as they
please and, absolutely, I think that writers should always have the freedom to
speak up if things are not to their liking, but that also doesn’t mean that
publisher’s are hand-wringing villains cackling at taking advantage of poor,
It took finding a good publisher to change my mind … that
and seeing the business from the other side. While there are a lot of things that separate a good
publisher from a poor one the most important one is that a good – and maybe
even great – publisher understands the business.
Case in point: authors love to bitch about their covers –
but a publisher that takes the time to look at what is selling, what isn’t
selling, what distributors will and won’t accept, and creates a cover
accordingly is actually doing the author a service. Yes, the cover may not be an accurate scene from the book,
but it – if it works — should tease and tantalize enough to get people to buy
it. By the way, since this is
supposed to be about publisher versus self-publishing keep in mind that you
would not know what sells and what doesn’t – by the way, the amazon best
sellers list is not a good indication – and so will be operating pretty much in
Authors often work from ego – and there is nothing wrong
with that – but far too often what they want, and what will actually sell, are
polar opposites. They want to see
their work like books they admire … but they also may be completely ignorant
of the fact that while those books look nice they simply don’t leap off the
Being in the trenches of publishing, looking at the numbers
myself, is very sobering. Just
take social networking. For people
in self-publishing it’s the end-all, be-all — you can’t succeed, they say,
without it. But while exposure is
important, many of your FaceBook friends will not buy your book. The people who will buy your book are
looking for erotica they will enjoy – and if your cover, your marketing, your whatever,
doesn’t speak their language then they simply won’t cough up the bucks. It’s a sobering though that many
bestselling erotica books are written by authors who don’t play the social
networking game … at all.
Yes, when you self publish you have complete and total
control – but that also means you have no access to a publisher’s experience:
you will have to do everything from scratch, from learning how to get your book
on amazon, iTunes, etc. to dealing with cover art specs and ebook
formatting. Sure, when you
self-publish you keep every dime – but you could very well spend it and more in
time doing what a publisher does.
And marketing … I totally agree that publishers should do
more of it, but publishers have never been good at that, even before the ebook
revolution. But even a little
publicity from a publisher can work wonders: many authors are discovered not
via advertising or marketing but because their book was put out by a publisher whose
catalog had a best seller in it.
If you self-publish then you are a single voice yelling as
loud as you can – and these days there are a lot of single voices yelling as
loud as they can – and against this din a lot of readers, and reviewers, are
turning a bit deaf. It may be hard
to hear but being with a publisher still carries a lot of weight when it comes
to getting noticed.
Sure, if you’re a huge author then going the
self-publishing route may make a lot of sense, but think of it this way: huge
or not, with a publisher your mailing list, fans, and miscellaneous contacts will
not be the only way people will hear about you and your book – and the cost of
getting more would probably be the same as the bucks a publisher would take.
In the end, though, the decision is yours. If I could leave you with anything,
though, is that while there are many publishers out there worthy of scorn there
actually are many that not only know what they are doing – though experience
and observation – and who can do a lot for you. Often their advice may be hard to take, but if you trust
them they can be a great help – and perhaps the difference between writing a
book that doesn’t sell … and one that does.