DO IT YOURSELF
by Nikky Kaye

Erotic romcom: starting over

CHARACTERS WELCOME
by Taisha Demay

Charity erotica anthology

SENSUAL SABOTAGE
by Willa Edwards

Contemporary, Menage, BDSM

SINGLE-SYLLABLE STEVE
by Sam Thorne

Light-hearted erotic romance

THE GUESCHTUNKINA RAY GUN
by Spencer Dryden

Humorous erotic romance

Monthly Archives: February 2012

Mark your calendars and be there March 1st for the Erotic Romance Live Chats with the Pros.

Erotic Romance Live Chats with the Pros
Who: Kristina Wright
When: March 1st at 8 pm
 Where: ERWA chats are held on the ShadowWorld chat server, channel, #erachat.
http://www.shadowworld.net:8080/?nick=WebChat…&channels=ERAChat&prompt=1
(on screen you’ll see ‘Connect o ShadowWorld IRC’. In the Nickname box, key in your name. Leave the channels box at #ERAChat, and click ‘Connect’. A chat text box will appear at the bottom of your screen)

Kristina Wright will host a live chat Thursday, March 1st, at 8:00pm EST, (5:00pm PST; 1:00am GMT). Kristina Wright is an award winning author, editor and college instructor. She is the editor of the upcoming Best Erotic Romance 2013 (Cleis Press).

If you want to know what erotic romance editors want (and don’t want) and how to make your submissions stand out, Kristina will be happy to answer your questions. (And she will be giving away copies of her backlist, too!). Read about Kristina at:
erotica-readers.com/author/kristina-wright/

Adrienne
Erotica Readers & Writers Association
www.erotica-readers.com

by Kristina Wright

I have only been editing erotica and erotic romance anthologies since 2009, but I just signed the contract with Cleis Press to edit my eighth (eighth!) collection. With each new anthology, I try to streamline my guidelines and process to make it easier for the authors and, yes, for myself. This time around, I have an “auto reply” for submissions. Much as I want to respond to each submission, I will save those personal notes for the acceptances (and rejections). (Honestly, I think every editor should use an auto reply for acknowledging the receipt of submissions if the alternative is no acknowledgement at all.)

My story selection process may seem a bit convoluted. Or maybe it’s not. I really don’t know what the selection process is like for other editors, I just know what works for me. I read everything once and push it into one of three categories: Yes, Maybe, or No. The Yes and No piles are the smallest, at least initially. If I absolutely love, love, love something on the first read, of course I’m going to want to buy it immediately.

The No pile contains only the stories that have completely missed the mark. For a story to get a resounding No on a first reading means the author ignored the guidelines entirely or neglected to include all the necessary components. A paranormal erotic romance anthology must have stories that are 1) paranormal, 2) erotic and 3) romantic. Having two of the three will not cut it, unless it’s clear the author can flesh out the third element. No stories are often recycled stories that were intended for other anthologies and were never “freshened” up to fit a new set of guidelines. No stories are also the ones that are incorrectly formatted, lacking in correct grammar and punctuation or are generally the kind of mess that you’ve heard editors joke about. I’m happy to say that I haven’t come across too many of those stories– but yes, they do exist.

Finally, the Maybe pile is every other story– the good, well-written stories that I like and might very well buy, but I have to read everything first to see which ones I will choose. The Maybe pile also includes stories that might need a little tweaking– an additional scene for character development; a few hundred words cut from a story that has gone over the maximum word count; a plot twist added to give the story that extra umph to take it from good to great. Most stories are Maybe stories.

Once I’ve made the initial read of all the stories, I tackle the Maybe pile again, keeping in mind the stories I’ve already selected and the balance of the anthology. The second read is ruthless. I’m looking for stories that require a minimum of editing and complement the stories I’ve already chosen. I will shed a few tears when I cut some of the Maybe stories from the second reading. Okay, not really. But I will feel some regret to have to reject some very good stories. When I’m done with the second read, the Yes pile will be a little bigger, the No pile will be a lot bigger and there will still be stories in the Maybe pile. These will be the stories that, for whatever reason, make me hesitate before I reject them. They might have flaws, they might not be my cup of tea, they might be a little too “out there” or they might even be too similar to something else I’ve already filed in the Yes pile. But yet I won’t be able to say no to them. Not yet.

The third read is to answer one question: what’s missing? Here is where I’m willing to forgive the flaws, overlook the typos, see past the awkward dialogue to the diamond in the rough that is a good fit for the anthology. These are the stories I will buy because the authors have written something so unique I can’t forget about them.

You’d think I would be done after three readings, right? But no, then there’s a fourth, fifth and even a sixth reading. I read all of the Yes stories in the fourth reading, making sure I have enough stories to fill the book and that I’m in love with each and every story– and making sure I haven’t gone over my allotted page count, because that would mean having to cut a Yes story, which I don’t want to do. The fifth reading is to edit and put the stories in their proper order (which I will be attempting to do as I move through the third and fourth readings) and the sixth reading is the one where I put the book away for a few days, then read it with fresh eyes from beginning to end in one sitting to see if I’ve missed anything. That could be anything from having too many characters named Sarah or too many stories set in Maine or three stories in a row that are about shapeshifters or… whatever. It’s the tweaking reading, making sure everything is perfect before I send it off to my publisher.

Then, of course, there are the copyediting and proofreading reads after the book is returned to me. But those are easy by comparison because the book is finished and now it’s just a matter of fine tuning perfection. (I’m biased, what can I say?)

And that’s how I go about putting together an erotica anthology. And other than having to reject some great stories, I love every minute of it because I have met and gotten to work with the best authors in the genre.

When: March 1, Kristina Wright;  March 17, Lynne Connolly
Where: ERWA chats are held on the ShadowWorld chat server, channel, #erachat.
(Follow the link above. On screen you’ll see ‘Connect o ShadowWorld IRC’. In the Nickname box, key in your name. Leave the channels box at #ERAChat, and click ‘Connect’. A chat text box will appear at the bottom of your screen)

Erotic romance is hotter than ever and ERWA is celebrating the heat this March with Erotic Romance Live Chats with the Pros. Kristina Wright and Lynne Connolly will be on hand to  answer questions, offer advice, and exchange ideas with authors. Whether you’re penning your first erotic romance, or are a spicy-seasoned pro, don’t miss this opportunity.

1) Kristina Wright will host a live chat Thursday, March 1st, at 8:00pm EST, (5:00pm PST; 1:00am GMT). Kristina Wright is an award winning author, editor and college instructor. She is the editor of the upcoming Best Erotic Romance 2013 (Cleis Press). If you want to know what erotic romance editors want (and don’t want) and how to make your submissions stand out, Kristina will be happy to answer your questions. (And she will be giving away copies of her backlist, too!)
Read about Kristina at: Kristina Wright Bio.

2) Lynne Connolly will host a live chat Saturday, March 17th, at 3:00pm EST (12 noon PST; 8:00pm GMT). Lynne Connolly’s list of publishers is a virtual who’s who of the digital world: Ellora’s Cave, Carina Press (Harlequin imprint), Samhain Publishing and Loose-Id. If you want to know how to do it, Lynne is the lady to talk to. This this is your chance to chat live with her.
Read about Lynne at: homepage.ntlworld.com/lynneconnolly

Send questions to:
Adrienne: erwa.website@gmail.com

By Lisabet Sarai

I’m starting to wonder whether craft is the enemy of heat.

My first novel poured from my imagination onto the page in a breathless rush of passion. Looking back, I remember the process as almost effortless. Nothing seemed to block the flood of fantasy. My heroine Kate was my personal proxy, indulging in ever more transgressive erotic scenarios as she explored her sexual identity. As she surrendered to her master Gregory, I was reliving and perfecting my own odyssey of submission and then moving beyond recollection to conjure the imagined scenes I never had the opportunity to try. I wrote the whole book in a peculiar state of arousal – not exactly on the edge of orgasm, but with an exaggerated appreciation of every sexual stimulus, both internal and external.

Readers of Raw Silk tend to get turned on. The book has been called “scorching”, “outrageous”, “intensely erotic”, and “explosive”. And when I reread my favorite bits now, they still make me wet.

At the same time, I cringe when I notice the many flaws in the book. My sentences seem too long and complex, overly influenced by my academic training. The dialog strikes me as unrealistic and wooden. (This was before I learned to allow my characters to use contractions when they speak!) Repeated words, phrases and sentence structures jump out at me. And I realize, with a sinking heart, that some of the interactions that have the most visceral effect on me are overworked BDSM clichés.

In the dozen years since that first publication, I’ve matured as a writer. My prose is far more polished, less flowery and more direct. My characters can converse without sounding as though they’ve been filtered through Google Translate. I have conscious control over issues I used to manage by instinct – foreshadowing, flashbacks, suspense, sexual tension, narrative flow. Originality in premise and execution have become critical concerns. When I address a theme or a subgenre, I deliberately try to find a treatment or a twist to distinguish my work from the thousands of other authors writing erotica and erotic romance.

I was an amateur back then. Now I’m a professional. All my self-conscious craft, though, seems to have smothered the spark that used to kindle my readers (and me) into vicarious flames.

It’s much more difficult now to write a truly sexy scene. There’s too much going on in my head. Instead of simply reveling in my personal perversions, I worry. Is this too stereotyped? Is this too raw for romance? Is this too tame for erotica? Haven’t I written this same thing a million times before? Sure, it pushes my buttons, but didn’t I just read more or less the same thing in someone else’s story? And what about that sentence? I used “cock” twice already – should I change it to “prick”? Have I already used a storm metaphor for orgasm in this tale?

As a result, all too often these days I seem to find myself in a state of literary paralysis. The horny flow of erotic ideas has dwindled to a trickle. Sure, occasionally inspiration will seize me and a whole story will pour out of me in a few hours. I treasure those experiences – especially since they’ve become so rare.

I know that part of the problem is hormones – or lack thereof – as I age. And how could I not have become a bit jaded? I’ve probably read a thousand erotic short stories since I turned “pro”. I admit I’m almost as critical about other authors’ work as I’ve become of my own. It’s inevitable, I suppose, that one’s first story about anal sex is going to be a good deal more exciting than the fiftieth. You’re only a virgin once.

Still, I sometimes wonder whether I should stop being concerned about craft and just write “Sucking Daddy’s Big One” or “Slave to the Cruel Professor” or “The Pirate’s Whore” – the type of books that Amazon tells me people decide to purchase after viewing my recent BDSM story collection. It’s true – the stories in that collection are more subtle, surprising and literary than Raw Silk, but they’re not as hot. I don’t know if I COULD silence the analytical voice in my head, or ignore my concerns for originality and freshness, but if it were possible, would I be able to recapture the glorious searing intensity of my early work?

I’m a snob – I know it. A while ago I read a BDSM novel for purposes of a review and was appalled by the poor quality of the writing. Glaring grammar mistakes, incorrect punctuation, inappropriate word choice, confusing and inconsistent point of view – the book broke practically every rule of craft. Meanwhile, the story trotted out all sorts of stock BDSM elements: the stern but voluptuous employer in her tailored suits and spike heels, the innocent “natural” submissive with an inexhaustible appetite for abuse, the male “assistant” called into service to train the new slave. It had bondage, spanking, flogging, suspension, butt-fucking, medical play, pseudo-Victorian costumes… I wrote a pretty scathing review, but at the same time I have to admit (as I did in the review) that some parts of the book turned me on. The awful writing ultimately did not prevent me from being aroused.

So maybe, just maybe, the craft doesn’t matter. Could that be true? I know it’s possible to produce a supremely well-written erotic story that also has the power to arouse me – some of my favorite erotic authors do it all the time. And yes, elitist that I am, I find wonderful writing exciting in its own right. Perhaps, though, that aesthetic thrill could be teased apart from my baser (and more basic) sexual reactions.

Then again, perhaps not. The aspects of BDSM that arouse me most have to do with the emotional and psychological currents flowing between the dominant and the submissive. It takes a certain skill to bring those dynamics to life. Whips, handcuffs and gags by themselves won’t do the trick, at least not for me.

Does too much craft interfere with heat? Are the two independent, addressing totally different levels in the reader’s psyche? Should I switch to writing pure porn? Could I?

I really want to know what you think.

by Donna George Storey

Last month I proposed the perfect excuse to taste fine chocolate while you’re writing erotica.  This month I thought I’d focus on a different reason why what we do can feel good. Indeed while writing erotica allows us to celebrate the sensual, it offers another equally satisfying, even spiritual, pleasure—knowing that the stories we write make an important difference in our culture.

Now, my dear Fellow Erotica Readers and Writers, perhaps you’re wondering how can I make such a grandiose statement.  No doubt, you’ve heard the same comments I’ve gotten from well-meaning critics, which can be summarized in this question:  “You’re such a good writer, why are you wasting your time writing dirty trash instead of Real Literature?” 

The next time someone says this to me, I have an answer.  I truly believe stories that explore the power of sexuality in our lives—for the good as well as the bad as is more common in polite literary fiction—carry on the great literary tradition of speaking out about the passions and conflicts that we all live with every day but that the authorities would prefer we keep hidden for the sake of social order.

With women’s access to birth control still considered a matter of public debate, we must admit we live in a society where it is still a revolutionary act to acknowledge that ordinary, “decent” people have sex for pleasure.  Just as both sexes benefit from the availability of birth control, both men and women gain from the chance to express their personal truths about their sexual desires.  Even if men have traditionally been allowed more sexual agency than women, they’ve still been subject to significant restrictions that merit full examination and exposure.

By writing erotic stories that express the unique styles and tastes of real people, we are proclaiming that sex doesn’t have to be silenced.  Nor must it be relegated to the realm of the XXX pornography industry where the rules are so very different from the world we live in:  strangers have sex within minutes of meeting in positions that are strictly camera friendly; all women have multiple orgasms with minimal stimulation; and all men have huge penises and prefer to ejaculate outside of their lover’s body.

Now, I don’t mean to revive the old debate of what constitutes porn (usually seen as visual, male-oriented, and subversive) versus erotica (usually characterized as written, female-oriented, and thus less threatening to the social fabric as long as feeling is involved).  Whatever you want to call erotic expression that celebrates the fullness of the human sexual experience, the powers of the mind and imagination as well as the body, is fine by me.

The important thing is that we keep up our courage when so many still try to marginalize our work and value each new story as a chance to tell the truth about what it means to be human.  If you define a good story as one that stays with you, I’ve read more memorably good erotic stories than any other kind. 

So keep writing and keep changing the world—one erotic story at a time!

Donna George Storey is the author of the erotic novel, Amorous Woman.  Her short stories have recently appeared in Best Women’s Erotica 2012, Best Erotic Romance, and The Best of Best Mammoth Erotica.  Learn more  at http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor.

There are those who don’t like change. A consistent life, in the office at 8, out at 5. Lunch at Mr V’s on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Friday night, leave the office half an hour early. Anticipation, he drives home a bit above the speed limit. He manages not to get a ticket.

Again.

A favorite meal, smiles across the candle-lit dinner table. A familiar face. Has she changed? Yes, of course. Thirty-seven years will do that. But changes so slow that only the Kodachrome photos on one side of the room from the many vacations to the Oregon Coast – every year during the first week in June, because it is off season and the room costs less – only those photos admit the aging process.

That steak was perfect, so was the baked potato, and he takes her hand in that familiar way, and leads her into the gently lit bedroom. Her modesty is as unchanging as her smile and her turquoise eyes, but she allows the bit of light he needs to unbutton her blouse, peel it over one shoulder, then the other. He kisses her soft and long, and unsnaps her bra. She acts surprised as it pops open, and they laugh.

They enter the bed, from the same side, and he disappears under the blanket. Her hips jerk when he opens them and presses his tongue deep into her. He knows every trigger, plays every note to perfection like a musician with his favorite song; it’s the one piece he plays every time he practices. Two orgasms shudder from her, and he’s so hard the tip of his rod pokes his abdomen. She feels so warm and soft as he slowly enters her, and posts up on his strong arms, and luxuriates in her body. She rolls like waves on the beach, bends his rod just the way he likes, circles his tight sac with her middle finger and he nearly comes too fast; she lets him off the hook. He wags his finger in front of her face, and she bites it.

They collapse together, encircle each other’s bodies tightly with intertwined arms. They move in a perfect rhythm and the old box spring sings in perfect time. They can’t last long like this. Not with the feel and smell of sweat eroding carefully applied perfume and cologne. No.

A great yell, a chorus, rings out from them. They kiss deeply through the orgasm.

Just once a week. Pretty much the same every time.

Exhausted, they begin to doze in the nude, the only night of the week that they do so. And tomorrow he will wake to eggs, bacon and toast, to greet the weekend.

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”

*****

Sometimes, erotica is all about the pivot points, and rightly so. Sexuality is a great changer. But one of the most memorable depictions of sexuality I recall from a young age was when a friend and I were sleeping outside one summer night, talking about sex, as we often did. For some reason, we talked about the very religious couple next door, and he described how he figured it happened between them. It was mundane, and plain, just as he intended it. Somehow, this always struck me as sexy.

My little vignette above is a bit of an homage to my old childhood friend’s supposition about the sex life of the middle aged couple next door. Maybe some of the best stories are about change, about pivot points, but that doesn’t mean consistency can’t be sexy.

Maybe it is the whirlwind that has been my life in the past two months that has driven me to write about a couple who finds passion amidst their very consistent lives together.

Whatever the reason, I’m glad you came along.

Most people, and many writers, conceive of writing as a craft. Concrete metaphors of woodworking, pottery, gardening all come up when people talk about the process of writing. They are all helpful models for understanding the approaches people take to writing.

It should follow then that, if we learn and practice our techniques, if we become discerning experts at judging the quality of the raw materials (the language), if we make a full investigation of the market (our target readers), then there is no reason why writing should not be easy. And yet it is never easy.

This is not to say that good grammar, clever plotting, insightful characterization and a deft hand with dialogue don’t contribute to producing a good story. But you can and probably have executed all those things in a story and still end up with something that doesn’t quite shine.

Why is that?

Well, mostly because you can teach students ‘technique’ until the cows come home and only a handful of them will become really good writers. You can conceptualize language as a raw material, but it’s not stable like wood or clay or soil. And readers are not static, passive receivers of the text. These two aspects of writing are very problematic: language and the reader. What makes them both so challenging is that neither of the buggers will sit still.

When we work with language, we need to acknowledge that it is much more like a living organism than like the materials a craftsman might use. Language is growing and changing all the time, language squirms. A word might have a set meaning for you, here, now, at this very moment, but it may have completely different nuances for the reader. In fact, it always does and, what’s worse, those nuances are different for every reader who encounters your work.

Now, don’t spend too long thinking about that because it’s sure to do your head in and make you consider never writing another word. It’s not meant to make the task of writing sound impossible. It’s meant to remind you to cut yourself some slack when you struggle to write something that just doesn’t want to come out right. It’s meant to remind you to shake your head and smile when, after working so hard and putting your heart into something, the piece isn’t received with the enthusiasm you felt it deserved.

I’m going to make a statement that is very untrendy, very unpopular these days. Writers are artists. We are cartographers of human experience. And that, by its very nature, makes us abstract artists.

And when it comes to writing erotica, writing becomes an even more daunting challenge, because our culture has such a problematic relationship with sex. Even in the midst of all this marketized tits and ass, assailing us from every direction, we live in a culture that very rarely speaks openly and honestly about the erotic. And that very reluctance to speak about it has twisted the thing itself.

Borges in ‘On Rigor in Science’ has likened literature to a map laid atop the landscape of reality. It can’t simply be a reproduction of the landscape or it would have to be as big as the world itself and be of no use as a map. It must, by necessity, be an abstraction, a synecdoche of reality.

When it comes to erotic literature, we’re making maps of a very murky landscape. So many of its features are obscured in the fog of gender war, of shame, of religion, of a positivistic modernism that rejects emotion as unquantifiable and, therefore, irrelevant. Whatever maps we make are going to, by necessity, to be imperfect ones. And the features you decide to highlight in your map may or may not find resonance with the reader.

So yes, technique matters. And yes, experience is useful. But ultimately, you can never control how your reader ‘reads’ your story. You can only hope that your particular map gets into the hands of people who are intrepid explorers. You can only invite the reader to take as much delight as you do, in certain features. Beyond technique and structure, what all good writers have in common is a sincere and genuine obsession for the terrain they are charting.

It’s worth remembering that, although maps can be useful guides, they tell us as much about the mapmaker and the culture she or he lived in as they do about the territory they are surveying. And, even when those maps are no longer of any use as guides, they are beautiful works in themselves. They are artifacts and the people who make them are interpretive artists.

Back in the ‘good old days’ of smut – when pornographers had to haul their steaming piles of sexually explicit materials up four and five flights of stairs – a certain writer with a gleam of sexy potential in his mesmerizing green eyes … okay, I mean me … wrote a column for the fantastic Adrienne here at Erotica Readers & Writers called “Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker.”

Now one of the things I did was part of being a Streetwalker that really took off was a little series I did called “The Four Deadly Sins:” a playful examination of the things that smut writers could do but that could – to put it mildly – make their work a tough sell.

Fast forward a … decade?!  Sigh.  Anyway, I had to put aside my Streetwalker days for other things but that little verboten list has always been by my side, especially since I’m now an Associate Publisher for the wonderful Renaissance Books (which includes Sizzler Editions, our erotica line).  By the way [COMMERCIAL WARNING] my old columns are now in a dead-tree and ebook collection called How To Write And Sell Erotica [COMMERCIAL ENDS].

The reason why those “sins” stay with me is because one of my Associate Publisher things is to consider books for publication – and still, today, erotica writers don’t seem to understand that while, sure, you can pretty much write whatever you want there are still some things that will more-than-likely keep your work from seeing the light of day.  Just for the record, the four are underage (self-explanatory), beastiality (same), incest (ditto) and excessive violence (torture porn or nonconsensual sex).  But I’m here to talk about a new one that’s popped up … or ‘pooped out’ to blow the joke.

But before I (ewwww) get into the details, lemmie explain how things work – both back in the ‘good old days’ as well as the digitally enlightened world of 2012.  Just as back then, publishers may be the people you will be dealing with to get your erotic masterpiece out in the world but they are ruled by distributors.  Now a lot of that has changed from then to now – most of the classic ‘distributors’ have vanished (thank god) – but the spirit stays the same: while a lot of publishers may be able to sell their books on their own sites the big money comes from having their titles on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and so forth. 

So, most of the time, when a publisher says they can’t take your work because of the content what they mean is that they could but if they do they risk the (ahem) ‘displeasure’ of these new-distributors.  Now one or two getting kicked out is annoying but a lot of publishers are scared – and rightfully so – that if they have too many titles killed because of content their entire company could conceivably be blackballed … and that’s really bad news.

So, even though we authors and publishers may not like it, the sins are there for a fairly good reason.  But, like any rule, there are usually ways around some of them.  One that immediately comes to mind is the “consensual nonconsensual” trick where the submissive might resist at first but then realizes their true nature.  Other sins, though, are tougher to skirt.  Incest and underage are good examples, though with age-play and roleplay you can kinda, sorta, use them without a problem.  Beastiality is a queer duck (to use a bad joke) but the rule is usually that if it’s a fantasy animal or creature you can use it but if it’s a regular-critter you can’t.

Which gets me to the new sin.  As you probably could tell, this has to do with … now we might get a bit technical here … poo-poo or pee-pee.  The only reason I bring this up is that I’ve been more than a few manuscripts and short story submissions to anthologies that have a touch of a incontinence problem.  Not one to disparage anyone’s sexuality, but there are very few publishers out there that will risk taking anything that sexualizes such stuff.  I’ve personally had to request writers take it out of their submissions.  Again, not because I – or ‘we’ when I’m working as a Publisher – have a problem with it but just because the places where the book will be sold do. 

By the way, if you think that entering the world of self-publishing is a way to skirt all these sins think again: a lot of places look a lot more carefully at books that are not submitted by publishers – as many authors have sadly discovered.

As I’ve said before, an author can do whatever they want – that, after all, is the beauty of being a writer: the sky is not even close to the limit of the human imagination.  But, that being said, you also have to realize that even today, with the ebook revolution, if you want to get your work beyond your own website, you have to understand how things work. 

It’s not pretty but — like poo-poo — it’s a part of every writer’s life.

-M.Christian

By Ashley Lister Constant Reader, My name is Ashley Lister and, aside from being a regular columnist and reviewer at ERWA, I’m also a freelance writer and a creative writing lecturer. I’m reminding you of this because so many interesting contributors have appeared in this space since I last blogged here I can understand if you’ve forgotten me. As I mentioned last month, I’m using this space to share some of my favourite writing exercises. This month’s exercise deals with characters. Have you ever met a person that you thought you would like – only to discover they were completely unlikable? Conversely, have you ever met a person you expected to despise – only to discover they were surprisingly charming? This happens all the time in the real world. However, it’s only in fiction – and really, only in badly written fiction – where we encounter characters that are written in shades of unmistakable black or white and absolute flavours of good or bad. As writers creating characters, if we want them to be believable representations of real people, we have to keep in mind that real people are multifaceted individuals who are never wholly good or wholly evil. We also have to remember, whilst some characters and their characteristics will remain consistent, their traits will appear to change depending on who is looking at them. To illustrate this point, I recently read out rude a poem to a large audience. The audience members that laughed and applauded clearly thought I was risqué and funny and deserved to be on the stage in front of them. The audience members that walked out and complained clearly thought I was vulgar and humourless. I was the same person at the microphone. But I was a vastly different person to each of those responding in such diverse ways. Here’s the exercise: Write about yourself from the perspective of someone who likes you. Write for about half a page on this first part of the exercise. Now fill out the other half of the page writing about yourself from the perspective of someone who doesn’t like you. Hopefully there should be a contrast in perceptions here. Ambition and greed are often different sides of the same coin. It’s admired to be relaxed but few people approve of someone being lazy – yet the two adjectives can be used interchangeably depending on whether we like or loathe a person. A beloved bargain-hunter can easily be regarded as a despised tightwad. This exercise is not only useful for self-examination. You can use it to better understand how your characters are perceived by other characters in the fictional world you’re creating. Your fashion-conscious protagonist could be seen as a vacuous clothes-horse by her detractors. A sexually adventurous hero could be seen as an immoral man-slut. Take a shot at this exercise and feel free to share your favourite contrasts via the comments box below. It would be interesting to see how readers of this blog believe themselves and their characters to be perceived. Ash

From the Erotica Readers & Writers Association
By Lisabet Sarai
_______

Dear Raunchy Romantics,

February has arrived, the month of love: roses and ropework, chocolates and chains, candlelight and caning… But perhaps your definition of romance differs from mine. However you prefer to celebrate it, Valentine’s Day offers a fine excuse to indulge in the sensual delights we offer here at the Erotica Readers & Writers Association. Not that you need an excuse, of course, but still, if someone catches you browsing in the Sex Toy Playground or Erotic Books sections, you can always say you’re shopping for your sweetie.

Since I’ve brought the topic up, let’s begin in the Sex Toy Playground, where Kyra Saunders shares her experience trying out the Obsession Bullet Vibe, a toy that actually remembers your power settings from your last session. Now that’s intelligence! Alicia Gunn from Babeland offers practical and fun suggestions for getting your sex life out of a rut (many of which don’t involve any toys at all). Our Sex Toy Scuttlebutt gives you the down and dirty (so to speak) on the latest amorous artifacts available from our reputable affiliates. (Personally, I want the Rumblin’ Rose Ring Vibrator. So very discreet!) And of course we’ve arranged discounts for our honored visitors, so if you just can’t live without that dildo or penis pump, it won’t cost you a month’s salary.

Come frolic in the Playground. Your lover will thank you.
erotica-readers.com/sex-toy-playground

After you wine and dine your honey on Valentine’s, why not curl up with a hot movie to get you even more into the mood? Michael Ninn, one of my favorite adult directors, brings you “The Four”, a heroic treatment of female power and sensuality set against the backdrop of Sparta’s defeat by the Persians at Thermopylae. Really! Max Candy’s creation “Inglorious Bitches” is more than a parody of the popular Quentin Tarantino feature. Gorgeous Tarra White musters an army of desperate whores to assassinate Nazi scum. If this sounds like too much plot for your tastes, you might sample “Pretty Tied Up”, a set of bondage (and sex) vignettes aimed at couples, or splurge on Elegant Angel’s two disk collector’s edition of “Performers of the Year 2012”.

There’s lots more to ogle in the Adult Movies section, including a page featuring the 2012 AVN Award winners. And our “Better than Popcorn” sale lets you satisfy your desires at smart prices.

Get visual with our premium porn:
erotica-readers.com/adult-movies

It may sound like I’m trying to sell you things. To be honest, ERWA relies on purchases made through its links to meet its expenses – so we can continue to offer you the best free adult content on the web. You don’t have to buy anything to enjoy ERWA, but if you do decide you absolutely have to have one of the products we feature, please click through from our site to the vendor’s.

In the February Erotica Gallery, ERWA’s special guest is EPPIE award winner Angela Caperton. She’s provided three stunningly erotic tales that will definitely get the juices flowing. We’ve got more sexy stories from the members of our Storytime list, including a raft of flashers, some humorous and some intense. We’ve got poetry, too. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to pen some amorous verse for your Valentine.

The best in original erotic fiction is just a click away:
erotica-readers.com/story-gallery

Once the Gallery puts you into a reading mood, sashay over to our Books for Sensual Readers pages. February’s literary feast offers new anthologies from acclaimed editors: ONE NIGHT ONLY: EROTIC ENCOUNTERS, edited by Violet Blue; WOMEN IN LUST, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel; RED VELVET AND ABSINTHE, from Mitzi Szereto; LUSCIOUS: STORIES OF ANAL EROTICISM, from the ever-outrageous Alison Tyler. If you’re looking for gay erotica, consider RIDING THE RAILS: LOCOMOTIVE LUST AND CARNAL CABOOSES by Jerry L. Wheeler (an alliterator after my own heart). And I’ve bookmarked STEAM POWERED, edited by JoSelle Vanderhooft, a collection of lesbian steampunk tales. Erotic romance is exploding, and we’ve got some great recommendations including THE DUKE IS MINE, by Eloisa James and AN UNSETTLED RANGE, gay erotic romance from Andrew Grey. In the graphic novels section, I’m lusting after TRANSCEPTOR: IRON GUAGE, the latest collaboration between Michael Manning and tattoo artist Patrick Conlon. And you may not realize that ERWA bookshelves feature more than just fiction. I really want to read THE LAST OF THE LIVE NUDE GIRLS, a memoir by Sheila McClear, who chronicles her experiences working in a Times Square peep show.

I don’t have to tell you what to do if you want any of these books, do I?

Wander through our sensual stacks:
erotica-readers.com/books

Over in the Authors Resources section, the big news is – ME! This month I begin a year-long series of columns entitled “Naughty Bits: The Erotogeek’s Guide for Technologically Challenged Authors”. Each month I’ll be explaining some aspect of computer technology that authors need to know. My maiden article (of course, I use the term “maiden” figuratively) is “What the Heck are Bits, Anyway?” (There’ll be a quiz in March! And I do have my ruler, for any slackers…!) Meanwhile, Donna George Storey is back with more wise insight into the writer’s life, along with luscious recipes (for cookies, this month) and Ashley Lister shares his thoughts about the whys and hows of blogging.

The Calls for Submissions listings keep growing. This month’s additions include a new romance e-publisher Adams Media; calls for Halloween, winter and M/M medical-themed anthologies from Total-E-Bound; print anthology calls from Liz Coldwell at Xcite Books; a gay “weird science” anthology from Torquere Press; and several “Best of” calls including Best Erotic Romance 2013 (from Kristina Wright) and Best Bondage Erotica 2013 (from Rachel Kramer Bussel). This list doesn’t begin to exhaust the opportunities available for you to sell your erotic gems. Whether you write romance or raunch, short stories or novels, fiction or social commentary, ERWA can help you find the right publisher.

Kick your writing career into gear:
erotica-readers.com/erotica-authors-resources

Inside the Erotic Mind, our fearless erotic adventurers debate whether lingerie is sexy or superfluous. I was amazed at the diversity of opinions, from both male and female members of the conversation. You’re very welcome to join the discussion. Just click on “Participate”.

Anything can happen inside the erotic mind:
erotica-readers.com/inside-the-erotic-mind

This month’s web gem is publisher Ellora’s Cave
Ellora’s Cave was established in 2000 and remains at the vanguard of both the erotic romance and digital publishing revolutions. The company works hard to retain its leading edge by continually discovering fresh talent, blazing new genre trails, and paying some of the highest royalty rates in the industry. With books in six languages and authors and editors around the world, we are truly an international publisher.

We accept both agented and unagented manuscripts, and as an author-owned company are very author-friendly. For submission guidelines and calls for submissions, visit
www.jasminejade.com/t-writerscircle.aspx

Authors, editors, fans, aspiring authors, Caveman cover models and other industry professionals from around the world gather at our annual convention RomantiCon for fun, inspiration, education and networking:
ecromanticon.com

Before I sign off, I want to remind you that February 29th is Sadie Hawkin’s Day – the day when women can turn the tables and tell men what they want. Don’t miss your opportunity, ladies! If you want any femdom pointers – or to borrow my cuffs and riding crop – just shoot me an email!

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day, however you decide to celebrate, and remember – you can’t have too much love.

Amorously yours,
Lisabet

Visit Lisabet Sarai’s Fantasy Factory
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Write, learn, and play on ERWA email list. Details at:
erotica-readers.com/erwa-email-discussion-list

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