Monthly Archives: May 2015
Riverale Avennue Books
How to Submit Your Work to Us
First of all, we love writers, of both fiction and nonfiction, published and unpublished. Please think of us when you have an idea for a book, have gotten your rights back, or have finished a manuscript.
Whether you are an unpublished or published author, the first thing we would like to see from you is a simple one-page query letter telling us about your work and your writing background. Please make sure you include a return email address and a phone number. We are an electronic publisher and DO NOT take physical queries or manuscript submissions.
If you are an unpublished writer, keep in mind that we will need you to submit a finished manuscript, so please do not submit a query to us before you have finished the first draft.
If you are a previously published author, after you have sent a query letter and we have expressed interest, we will expect you to submit either the first three chapters of your novel and a complete outline, or your nonfiction book proposal. Even if you have finished the manuscript, please wait for us to ask to see the entire book.
Guideline & submission details at:
By K D Grace
I’m just back from two weeks in Oregon with my sister. I always come back a bit more clearheaded and focused and with more than a few ideas for new story possibilities. Oh it’s not so much that I’m with my sister. In a lot of ways, we’d drive each other crazy under different circumstances. She’s an extrovert who can’t get enough people and activity in her life. I, on the other hand, like my doses of people small and far between and am very keen on solitary activities. But for two weeks, we balance each other out, and we totally revel in each other’s company. We take long walks, we talk and laugh into the wee hours, we have our annual Pride and Prejudice marathon while veging out on her TV room floor with popcorn and chocolate and any other decadent food or drink we can manage during that indulgent six hours. We bounce ideas off each other and just generally pick up where we left off.
I think I come back to England more clearheaded, more inspired because I’ve had a break from the routine, because for a little while I’m living completely outside my own context. Personally, I think it’s easy for writers to get so tunnel-visioned, so focused on our writing and promoting routines that we forget that walking outside our little world is the best foreplay for the writing orgasm. To be disconnected completely from the things we cling most tightly to, not only forces us to view things differently, but also opens us to inspiration in the viewing. With that in mind, here are a few things that inspired me during those two weeks, things that may very well end up in stories and novels yet to come, some of which have already have ended up on my blog.
Walks in a dry canyon
My sister lives in the high desert of Oregon, and there’s a dry canyon cut by ancient volcanoes that literally
divides the town she lives in right down the middle. A long time ago it was used as the town dump. Now it’s been cleaned up and serves as a walking path, which includes a couple of playgrounds for the kids, along with a doggie playground, and a series of nature trails that spread out over the wider stretches of the canyon floor. The place is well used and well cared for by the town’s population of 26,000 who live along either side of the 3 ½ mile rim. For convenience, the canyon was recently spanned by a bridge that was built to blend in beautifully with the colour and the geology of the canyon, the design so well thought out that even the noise of the traffic is negligible from the canyon floor.
Nature alive and dead
I’ve seen deer in the canyon, along with rock chucks, ground squirrels, birds of all kinds. This year I saw nesting scrub jays, even a nest of crows in the cliffs exercising their wings as they prepared to fledge. My sister says that on occasion there have been mountain lion sightings in the canyon and there’ll be warning signs posted when that happens. Though I didn’t get lucky enough to see one, there were the odd occasions when I felt as though I was being followed, when my skin prickled, and I turned slowly to find nothing there, but a quiver of the sagebrush behind me … no doubt caused by the breeze. That being the case, it’s not surprising that I should return to my sister’s house with visions of mountain lion shape shifters showing themselves in the desert moonlight beneath the bridge. Nor is it surprising that the idea should find its way into my blog.
And then there are the dead things one encounters in the canyon. I’m not sure why they matter to me, but they
do. On one of our walks, my sister, knowing the strange twists and turns of my mind, pointed out the well-desiccated carcass of a dead skunk off to one side of the trail. Her mind has it’s own strange twists and turns. It stunk to high heaven last fall, she told me.
It didn’t smell so bad by the time I stood over the dusty heap of flattened skin and bones taking pictures. I would have missed it completely if she hadn’t pointed it out.
She watched as I photographed the delicate skull and teeth, visible above the sun bleached remains of the pelt. You don’t get to look at wild things up close and personal when they’re alive, so dead things deserved to be honoured and observed, at least I think they do. In truth there’s something beautiful, something magical in the way nature takes back her own. The teeth and the delicate bones of the skull caught the desert sun, and the shape and structure held its own fascination, though I was relieved it no longer smelled. I don’t know why it mattered. I don’t know why a dead skunk can somehow inspire, and yet it does. Even now, after I’m home and back into my routine, it still matters for some strange reason. And anyway, inspiration sometimes is a delayed reaction, isn’t it?
Detritus of Past Lives
The canyon used to be the city dump back when the hearty settlers moved in from the more ‘hospitable’ parts of the west to practice dry land farming and cattle ranching. It was a hard life, though you wouldn’t know that now as
you drive through the modern town of Redmond, with it’s slight touristy, slightly Western feel, or walk along the canyon and see the runners and mothers pushing prams and people walking dogs. But there are still a few places along the cliffs where mangled, rusted remains of cars and farming equipment and tangles of baling wire are scattered in decaying heaps, now blending in so well with the shades of kaki and burnt umber of the canyon that they’re hardly noticeable except to someone who only ever gets there once a year, someone who wonders what stories are hidden in the twisted metal heaps aging in the glare of the desert sunshine.
Detritus of Present Lives
The cliff tops above the canyon are lined with prosperous housing developments, trailer parks and building sites. My sister and I walked a path behind a trailer park and then out through a new, well-landscaped housing development to get down into the canyon. The stretch behind the trailer park will, no doubt, someday be built upon as well, but for now it fascinated me in that it contains what was left behind of the houses, or perhaps trailers that were there before. I know that children from the trailer park play in the mounds of dirt along the irrigation ditch that runs through the wasteland behind. I noticed one high mound with a shovel standing upright in the earth, and I wondered, in the way storytellers do, who was buried beneath that mound of dirt and what tale were buried there with them?
Where my sister and I crossed back into the trailer park to head on to her house, there was a deserted pickup truck filled with what looked like the contents of an apartment quickly evacuated. My sister told me the truck has been sitting there abandoned for months. The police ticketed it, but the ticket blew away, and still the truck sits there. She told me this while I rapidly snapped photos of said truck and my mind raced back to the mound of dirt and the shovel. We both noticed the badly battered rodeo dummy buried beneath a weathered cane rocking chair and a broken computer desk. She says there were actually lacy women’s panties hastily dropped behind the vehicle early on, and we speculated as to whether that was a part of the story of the truck or possibly just teenagers trying to find a bit
of privacy for a feel-up behind. Either way, it got tucked away into my mental file cabinet for further perusing as necessary.
After that dusty walk, we decided to reward ourselves with an ice cream cone from Dairy Queen, and while we partook, I shared with her the story I could see forming in my imagination – sexy shape shifters, writer turned investigators, foul play, sexy encounters in a dry canyon. She listened and nodded and occasionally threw in an idea of her own between licks to her ice cream cone.
Now, back home in my own space, walking the places that are familiar to me, the places inspire me, preparing a post that I hope will inspire others, I find myself thinking of what I’ve brought back from those two weeks and how those experiences allow me to slip back into my own life and my own routine with a view slightly altered, with a sense of purpose a bit more focused and hopefully with my senses and my imagination a little sharper from the experience.
Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica,
erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her
husband, son, and three cats. Visit her web
site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon
I’m currently searching for an agent for my erotic romance
novel Alex Craig Has A Threesome, and
I have battled with the dreaded query letter. I thought I had done my research,
but after attending the Boston writer’s conference The Muse And The
Marketplace, I discovered I had not written the damned thing correctly. I had
written my introduction, named the book, gave the blurb, the word count, genre,
and then my publishing history and a little information about my prior movie
and TV work.
Turns out I left out an important item – why I am the best
person to write this book. The Muse taught me the proper way to write a query
letter, and thanks to the conference I did get my first request for a partial.
Sadly, that resulted in another rejection, but at least she requested a
I’m not giving up.
According to book
developer and principle of The Scribe’s Window Cherise Fisher, who gave the
talk “The Perfect Pitch” at The Muse And The Marketplace, a pitch is
“the transfer of enthusiasm from one person to the next. It’s like a
virus. You infect with your pitch.” Books are meant to entertain, educate,
and inspire/provoke. A pitch is the foundation for your proposal. It’s your
contact with an agent or editor. It’s also about being as clear and concise as
possible to the person you’re pitching to.
Multi-published, Rita Award winning author Shelley
Adina wrote in her article Writing A
Pitch Perfect Query Letter that there are four parts to a successful
The story (i.e., the back-cover blurb
Call to action
My mistake was leaving out my backstory – why a have a passion
for this particular story. I left out my call to action. I needed to
personalize my pitch. The perfect book is the book only you can write. This
includes your life experiences and your perspective, Reveal what is behind you
for writing this book. Why are you so driven to do it? What’s the story, and
why is it yours to tell?
This article will discuss those four parts of a successful
query letter so that when you write yours, it will be more likely to attract
the attention of an agent if you are searching for one. Your goal, of course,
is representation. Not everyone is on the look-out for an agent, but this
article about writing queries should be helpful to anyone.
The Intro – This
is where you introduce yourself to the agent and any ties you may have. If
you’ve met the agent at a conference, listened to a lecture, or attended a
workshop, this is the time to mention it.
Familiarize yourself with the agent. If the agent has a blog, read it.
Read any articles or interviews the agent is involved in. If you’re a fan of
the books and authors the agent represents, tell them.
Make sure you write your query in your natural voice since
you want to be approachable. Adina was right when she said, “Your voice is
your brand, so your business letter should reflect it.”
Also make sure you’ve spelled the agent’s name and the
agency’s name correctly. You don’t want to get off to a bad start with a
misspelling. Your intro should show
you’ve done your homework, you’re familiar with the agent, and your letter
The Story –
Condense your novel into a concise and attention-getting paragraph or two. No
more than that. This takes some work. Focus on the characters, what drives
them, any archetypes you’re using, the conflict, and what gets the ball rolling
for the characters in the first place. Do not skimp on your condensed story.
This is the meat of your query letter. Your story has to grab the agent’s
attention immediately. Don’t waste words and use words wisely.
– This is where you talk about why you are the best person to write your story.
You also list any previously published works or awards you’ve received. If
you’ve written a book that showcases the beauty of New England and the Atlantic
Ocean and you’ve lived on the Massachusetts coast for twenty years, mention
that. Is your heroine an art lover and you majored in Fine Arts? Is your hero a
stage lighting technician and you’ve worked as a union gaffer for several
years? All three of these examples are true for me regarding two of my
unpublished novels, my thriller Secrets
and Lies (which may have found a publisher) and my erotic romance work in
progress Full Moon Fever.
Now, what if you’re a mom teaching part-time at an
elementary school, but your book is about a sleazy but sexy successful con
artist in love with his mark? Let’s assume you’ve done your homework for this
book and you are a romance fan. Mention that you consume romance novels the way
normal people eat meals, for instance. It’s definitely worth a mention if you’ve
done research on famous con artists and their techniques. Has your manuscript
won any contests? That’s a must-mention. Are you a member of RWA or Broad
Universe? Definitely mention both.
A Call To Action
– Your closing should be inviting and it should offer a call to action. Why do
you think your novel is a good fit for this agent and publisher? What is the
goal of your book? To entertain? To teach? What is the goal of your main
characters? Close your query with ease.
If you want to see examples of successful query letters,
check out Writer’s
Digest’s Successful Queries page. Not only does the page include scads of
very good queries, there are explanations from agents following each query as
to why it was a good one. I’ve learned a great deal from reading those
examples. Hopefully, this learning experience will someday (maybe soon) result
Please note the call for Unspeakably Erotic:Taboo Lesbian Kink has been cancelled by the publisher.
by Kathleen Bradean
There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.
– Terry Pratchett
I always say, if you can’t think of anything to write, go meta and talk about not being able to write. Okay, I never say that. But I am having a difficult time writing at the moment, and I’m in California, so here I am evoking writer’s block as a topic.
According to legend, the lyricist for the 70s band Chicago was up all night trying to write a song. He looked across the room at the clock and saw that it was about 25 or 26 until 4 in the morning. I’ve heard that song maybe a hundred times but didn’t realize it was about writer’s block until recently. I still don’t like the song much, but at least now it makes sense.
I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged.
– Erica Jong
I’ve been trying to write the next novel in my series. The first scene has defeated me. Maybe I expect too much from it for a first draft even though I know better. I asked other writers how they get past this sort of opening scene paralysis. Some said they skip writing the first scene or chapter until the rest of the novel is finished. This makes sense, because by then a writer should understand the bigger theme of their work, the tone, etc and how best to bring the reader to that. Others say they just write anything, knowing that they’ll throw it out later.
My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying.
– Anton Chekhov
Another writer confided that many of her writer friends can not get past their first chapters. Ever. The pursuit of perfection kills their creativity. I’m not trying to be perfect. All I want is to know I’ve got it mostly right.
The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with.
– William Faulkner
I’m a terribly inefficient writer. I’ve mentioned this before. I write to find the story and toss out the thousands of words it took to get there. I’m like Thelma from Scooby Doo, touching everything in search of my glasses. The difference is that she knows when she can see. I have sight, but have no confidence that I can create my vision. The first scene poses a question. The rest of the story answers that question. How can you even begin to ask when you’ve lost your voice?
From Kathy’s Song by Simon and Garfunkel
….and a song I was writing is left undone/ I don’t know why I spend my time/ writing songs I can’t believe/ with words that tear and strain to rhyme
How do you get past writer’s block? Do you believe it’s real?
A while back, I posed the question on my Facebook page about whether, if I put one of my self-published titles into print via Createspace, people would want to buy it. I got various responses, most of which were favourable, so I did indeed go through the process of putting the title into print on demand.
But a comment one person made really made me think. I can’t remember the exact wording they used, but it was something along the lines of, if an eBook is also available in print, it makes it appear more professional, less like a self-published title. Even if it is self-published. Apparently, it just gives the impression of more professionalism, probably something to do with that if the author has gone to the trouble of putting the book into paperback format, that they’ll also have gone to the trouble of getting the book properly edited, formatted, etc. I can understand the thinking – we all know how many crappy quality books are out there, and not just self-published ones, either. We have to battle against opinions that eBooks are somehow inferior to print books, and also, that indie published stuff hasn’t been professionally produced. It’s infuriating, but there it is. All we can do is hope our books get into people’s hands, and that those people will then leave positive reviews on Amazon. Or even negative ones, if they didn’t like the story – you can win ’em all, after all – but at least if they make no comment on terrible formatting, spelling, grammar and so on, then at least other readers can rest assured that the book’s been done right.
But simply selling a book in both eBook and print format – does that give it extra credence? Make you more confident you’re buying a quality product? There’s no right or wrong answer here, guys, I really want to know what you think. As I said, the original commenter really gave me pause for thought, as it wasn’t something I’d considered before, so your opinion would be much appreciated. And please, share the post and encourage your friends to weigh in, too. It’s a very interesting topic, so the more opinions, the better.
Lucy Felthouse is a very busy woman! She writes erotica and erotic romance in a variety of subgenres and pairings, and has over 100 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, is book editor for Cliterati, and is one eighth of The Brit Babes. 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
It’s early in May. I have just submitted the final manuscript for my latest Excessica book, entitled Fourth World. I’ve been planning this book, a collection of paranormal erotica, for quite a while, so I sent it off with no small sense of satisfaction.
Over the past two days I’ve been immersed in editing the seven tales that comprise this volume. As I read and re-read them, I was startled to realize that not one of them has an unambiguously happy ending. That’s very rare, for me. I generally consider myself an optimist, and I’d definitely label myself as sex-positive. So why am I suddenly publishing a whole book of stories where no character gets exactly what he or she wants? A book in which at least one character actually dies by the story’s conclusion, while others are irrevocably damaged—where the surviving protagonists live with grief, confusion, frustration or profound ennui?
You might surmise that I wrote these tales during a difficult time in my own life, that they mirror some negativity in my own soul. That’s not the case, though. The stories in Fourth World cover more than a decade of my career, a decade, as it happens, of great success and personal satisfaction.
Another theory might be that these stories represent a reaction to the relentless emphasis on happy endings in romance. There’s some truth to that notion. When I wrote “Renfield’s Lament”, about two years ago, I was feeling fed up with HEAs. I deliberately crafted the darkest tale I could imagine, just to see how far I could push the envelope while still arousing my readers (and myself). Some of the earlier stories in the book, though, come from the period before I began writing erotic romance at all, when I was blissfully innocent about the demands of market and genre.
Perhaps the ambiguity in these tales reflects my convictions about magic. Since I was a kid, I’ve loved fairy tales and fantasy, but even back then I understood that power always exacts its price. Miracles occur, but they require sacrifices. Wotan forfeits an eye in his quest for wisdom; Frodo Baggins loses a finger in fulfilling his quest. No one walks through the fires of the supernatural and emerges unscathed. Plus, one has to admit there is something seductive about the shadows, something hypnotic about evil, especially when it clothes itself in exquisite, responsive flesh.
Ultimately the why doesn’t matter. These stories are what they are. Of course, once I’d noticed the dark trend in the book, I started to worry. Should I throw in a couple of lighter tales, to balance the cruelty and violence (physical and emotional) in the ones I’d originally chosen? Would anyone actually buy this book without at least a few happy-for-nows?
I decided against that compromise. The seven stories in Fourth World make an organic whole. They represent some of the most intense erotica I’ve ever written—scalding, twisted, nasty, no-holds-barred lust, triggered and augmented by magic. I personally find the endings satisfying, at least from a literary perspective. They have an inevitability that feels right.
There’s something freeing for me about publishing this book. Readers who want happy endings can pick up some of my erotic romance or romantic erotica, which is mostly what I write. Fourth World is aimed at those of you who are braver, or more curious—people who recognize that when you have blood-sucking demons, someone’s going to get hurt.
To them, I say: come explore the shadows with me. Welcome, darkness.
It’s the 19th of May. That means it’s Sexy Snippets Day! Time to share the hottest mini-excerpts you can find from your published work.
The ERWA blog is not primarily
intended for author promotion. However, we’ve decided we should
give our author/members an occasional opportunity to expose
themselves (so to speak) to the reading public. Hence, we have
declared the 19th of every month at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association blog Sexy Snippet Day.
On Sexy Snippet day, any author can post a tiny excerpt (200 words or less) in a comment on the day’s post. Include the title from with the snippet was extracted, your name or pseudonym, and one buy link, if you’d like.
post excerpts only from published work (or work that is free for
download), not works in progress. The goal, after all, is to titillate
your readers and seduce them into buying your books!
Feel free to share this with erotic author friends. It’s an open invitation!
Of course I expect you to follow the rules. If your excerpt is more than 200 words or
includes more than one link, I’ll remove your comment and prohibit
you from participating in further Sexy Snippet days. I’ll say no more!
you’ve posted your snippet, feel free to share the post as a whole
to Facebook, Twitter, or wherever else you think your readers hang
by Donna George Storey
“Carnegie Mellon Researchers Find More Sex Doesn’t Lead to Increased Happiness.” Variations of this headline made the news a few days ago. It even got discussion time on Larry Wilmore’s Nightly Show. I had a hunch the headline was misleading—these things always are, especially when it comes to sex–but I wasn’t surprised the story was all over the Internet, because this “scientific discovery” played right into the sticky hands of our society’s erotophobia.
The Carnegie Mellon University website provides a more detailed—and perhaps unwittingly humorous—description of the study. With grant money from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Carnegie Mellon researchers recruited 64 married couples who were not having any particular difficulties in their sexual or emotional relationships. They “experimentally assigned” 32 of the couples to have sex twice as often as they usually did for a three-month period, while the control group of 32 continued to have sex whenever they desired it. The couples filled out surveys about their sex habits and happiness at the beginning and end of the study as well as shorter surveys each day.
At the end of the study, the couples who were asked to double their sexual activity were slightly less happy with their sex lives “in part because the increased frequency led to a decline in wanting for and enjoyment of sex.” This study was published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization.
Yes, let’s pause for a moment to roll our eyes and say, “Um, can the Pennsylvania Department of Health ask for its money back?”
Now, back when I was an undergraduate, I used to enjoy volunteering for studies run by the psychology department. They usually paid me a nominal fee, enough to buy a blend-in at the nearby ice cream parlor, but my real motivation was trying to figure out what the researchers were really testing. Even then, I suspected that what they told me was not the whole story, a suspicion confirmed by studies described in social psychology books, which, for better or worse, I read for fun. Unfortunately the Carnegie Mellon researchersmight have been so distracted by the word “sex,” they themselves didn’t realize what they were really studying, which is what happens when you coerce people to engage in pleasurable activities rather than do so of their own volition. Is it any surprise that fun becomes a chore rather than a pleasure?
The study’s lead investigator, George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology (Economics? Well, as I always say, sex does sell but not for as much as you think), stated that the findings were a surprise and a disappointment because, “We were expecting that the people who had more sex would enjoy it a lot and would be happier, and it would be good for the relationship.”
Right, I know. I’m happier when I’m having “more” rather than “less” sex myself. While I am heartened to know that the original intention was sex-positive, I am still concerned that funds for a study of sexuality, which are very difficult to find in our country, were squandered with such obvious blindness, not to say simple-mindedness. Yet this study received funding and was published. On a positive note, the professor did develop a bit more insight into the flaws of his endeavor.
“Perhaps couples changed the story they told themselves about why they were having sex, from an activity voluntarily engaged in to one that was part of a research study. If we ran the study again, and could afford to do it, we would try to encourage subjects into initiating more sex in ways that put them in a sexy frame of mind, perhaps with babysitting, hotel rooms or Egyptian sheets, rather than directing them to do so.”
Egyptian sheets? I haven’t tried those yet, but I am intrigued! And does the babysitter just watch the kids or get involved? But do remember, Professor, to think through the Egyptian sheet factor and put in a control group who does it on ordinary sheets. Otherwise you could embarrass yourself again.
Because, of course, the more significant part of this discussion is that its “findings” about sexuality have been reported all over the Internet, as, for example, the results of another article in same issue of the journal, “Dry Promotions and Community Participation: Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment in Brazilian Fishing Villages” was not.
Even the Carnegie Mellon website, quoted at the beginning of this post, is misleading, but in the popular press, the anti-sex message is dialed up.
Um, no, it finds that when you coerce people to have twice as much sex as they’d naturally choose to, they don’t describe themselves as “happier” in a survey.”
Please define “lots” for the audience, which is twice as much as you’d normally choose for three months, which should be more accurately described as “coerced sex.”
Actually, they’re linked in exactly the way I thought. Quality is a more important factor for satisfaction than quantity, but my experience also convinced me that having more satisfying sex does not make me less happy.
The study does not confirm that all sex makes you less happy, which is implied in this headline. Some kinds of sex in certain circumstances may indeed make you less happy, such as when you’re ordered to have more sex by a CMU researcher who clearly is not a very inspiring Dom, which the study does address in a limited way.
Quantity is definitely at issue as if our journalistic guardians want to assure us that “more” sex will be dangerous to our emotional well-being. If you think about it, “more” means desire for sex, as in “Gee, I wish I were having more sex than I am.” But the headlines assure us if we got what we desired, we’d be less happy, so the implied “scientific” warning is to stop wishing for sex and, uh, do more work or buy more stuff or go to church instead? The history of sexuality confirms that those in power have always been concerned with keeping sexual activity under control whether through law, religion or rhetoric–and, by the way, they always fail to accomplish this to their satisfaction. But, as we see, this noble and time-honored mission continues as of May 2015.
To be fair, if you actually read the articles, the study is described and the reader can draw her own conclusions about whether the feelings of couples who are forced to have sex impacts her personal sexual decisions and desires. Even the weirdest article, “Study Confirms Sex Does Not Make You Happier,” turns from anti-sex to a more supportive tone by the end. The articles themselves aren’t as negative, but how many people read beyond the catchy warning—“Don’t have sex, it makes you sad.”
On the contrary, the general conclusion in the texts is “the quality of sex is more important than the quantity.” Why didn’t that message make the headline?
The public is clearly hungry for more information about sex including thoughtful scientific studies, honest anecdotes, and advice that respects the importance of sexuality in our lives. Sadly, because of this desire for more knowledge about a taboo subject, such misleading and sensational headlines will continue to get the attention they do not deserve.
So, again fellow erotica writers, please keep on writing about the erotic experience with intelligence and insight. Your voices will indeed bring more happiness to the world!
Donna George Storey is the author
of Amorous Woman and a collection of short
Presents the Best of Donna George Storey. Learn more about her
work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com
NUTS AND BOLTS: Writing in the First Person Present, how and whyThere is an early problem with choosing to write a story in first person present – nobody wants to hear it.
Most erotica readers are women, they just are, and hearing the word “I” over and over reminds a woman too much of a really bad date. It can raise the specter of a self absorbed person boasting and bragging to impress you. Unless of
course that is the tone you want which is a rare thing but not impossible. “Slowly I raised my right hand and I placed the cigarette between my pouting but not unmanly lips as I was thinking of Ashley’s outrageous nipples and I shifted nervously from my left foot to my right foot and I arched my chiseled, masculine brows as I felt the squeeze of my legendary spam spear swell in my virile and aching loins. I groaned.”
So help me Jesus.
Nevertheless, writing in the first person present is the most commonly chosen form for popular erotic short fiction and there are good reasons for it. The first person present potentially at least, conveys authority and authenticity. It conveys immediate character and personality and can, potentially at least, convey the most intimate experience of that most intimate of human acts. Like the ghost of Christmas Present it invites the reader to get to know you better.
First person present, done well has the quality of afterglow pillow talk. Of late night confessions over a kitchen table. The pot of tea gone cold, the radio whispering as your mother reaches her fingers across the toast and jelly to touch your hand. “There’s something you’re old enough now to know. Your father, well he’s not your father. Not your real father. Well. There.”
So your challenge will always be how to win your reader over to what your character is offering. So much of writing is about seducing your reader and a person knows when they’re being seduced. How will you seduce?
One of the early creative decisions you’ll have to make is if the first person narrator is also the Deciding Character or telling the story of the deciding character from memory, something called “Apostolic Fiction”. (RE: Jesus never told his autobiography, it was told by his followers about him after the event.) Examples of apostolic fiction could be “Shane” or “The Great Gatsby” in which Nick narrates the past story of his friend Jay Gatsby. The Deciding Character is Jay Gatsby, but the story is told by someone else. In apostolic fiction an unreliable narrator can twist and bend the story to protect himself or to glorify his hero or to lie outright. It can also be a way of telling a story from another viewpoint, say a white settler telling the story of an Indian he knew personally.
One of the greatest war novels in modern literature is “The Boat” (“Das Boot”) authored by Lothar Gunther-Buckheim, a German journalist who was assigned by Josef Goebbels to go on two U Boat patrols to provide material for propaganda articles. After the fall of Nazi Germany Buckheim wrote the novel Das Boot in first person present, which seems to be a common standard in German fiction. Although the Deciding Character is “The Old Man”, the U Boat’s Captain, the story is told by the journalist assigned to the crew to write about the U Boat experience. Apostalic fiction. As a device it gives a sense of intimacy and immediacy while at the same time allowing a view from all over the boat without being limited only to where the Captain is at any moment. The narrator can move freely with a journalist’s sharp eye for detail and still paint realistic scenes of great tension, such as the sounds of a British merchant ship sinking followed by a depth charge attack by a destroyer:
“Damned slow running time. I’d already given up.” The Commander’s voice is back to its usual dark growl. The breaking and cracking, roaring and tearing show no sign of coming to an end.
“Now there’s a couple of boats you can write off for good.”
Then a shattering blow knocks me off my feet. In the nick of time I catch hold of a pipe to break my fall. There’s a crash of breaking glass.
I pull myself upright, automatically stagger forward a couple of steps, jostle against someone, collide with a hard corner and collapse into the hatch frame.
This is it! The reckoning! Mustn’t let yourself go!
The hatch frame almost bucks me out. An enormous detonation tries to shatter my eardrums. Then blow after blow, as if the sea were a mass of huge powder kegs being set off in quick succession.
The narrator’s authority comes from the war experience Buckheim’s had of actually being in a U Boat during a depth charge attack. That authenticity is how he overcomes the problem of listening to that “I” over and over and earning the attention of the reader with his knowledge of the experience he’s writing about. The word “I” is used only twice, only when it can’t be avoided or replaced. Everything else is about the scene and the emotional experience around him.
In the opening paragraphs of your story you can choose to establish your narrator’s authority with the reader either by appealing to the insider’s knowledge your character has of the experience he’s describing, or appeal to the heart by presenting a character with a certain self deprecating honesty. Again, think of it as a date. You might warm up to a date who is capable of laughing at himself and seems to speak openly and honestly regarding his hopes and faults. This is especially important if you are presenting a narrator who is dislikeable. The reader doesn’t have to like your narrator. But they should be curious about them. They should want to care about what is about to happen to them.
Think carefully of that last sentence. It’s the soul of short fiction. The secret of horror fiction, erotic or romantic fiction, any fiction that attempts to create a visceral experience is that we must care about the Deciding Character. We don’t have to like them. Truly. But we have to care about them.
From my own poor stuff, I can offer two stories told in first person present by dislikeable narrators. Here is the voice of Nixie, a vampire girl originally from Bavaria, who as the story opens is on her way to retrieve her mortal lover who has abandoned and fled from her. She is tracking him by scent in this opening paragraph from “The Lady and the Unicorn”
Blood has a range of taste, as scent has a range of aromas. Blood has a high level taste and an under taste. It is a blending of elements like music. This is also the way of scent. The under aroma tells you there is a trail and betrays to you the direction. If the scent becomes fresher you are following the creature that produced it, so you must use the under scent to know which direction is older and which is newer. It is as though the air were filled with singing voices and you are picking out from the choir the sound of a single voice. The high scent will tell you the individual, the condition of the individual, if it is injured or sick, horny or filled with fear. It will tell you how to catch him, where he is likely to run to. To acquire the high scent the animal, or myself, must pause to commune with the air and pay attention. Close the eyes. Hold the nose still and just so. Let the night air speak. It is the same with the deep taste of blood, except that scent is on the move, and if you are tasting the blood—well. It is no longer on the move.
This is attempting authority with the reader through the character’s knowledge. Nixie sounds like she knows what she’s talking about. She doesn’t brag. She hardly refers to herself at all. She never tries to convince you how dangerous she is, but by the end of the paragraph she doesn’t have to.
Here is another very dislikeable narrator, Mack Daddy, a professional sex gladiator in “The Peanut Butter Shot” published in “Mammoth Book of Erotica VOL 11”:
They used to wrap tape around your hands to keep you from busting your knuckles up against the bones of somebody’s face. Me, it’s the opposite. I have to wear special gloves when I’m not in the ring. These gloves, they go for about $12,300, something like that, dermatologically custom made. The insurance pays for them, so like I give a shit, but that’s what they go for. I’ve got real warm soft hands. Women tell me they’re softer than a baby’s hands. My champion hands are insured by management for about $567,000. My tongue’s insured too, definitely, so I can’t drink anything hot or cold or eat spicy, which sucks but it’s the job. My tongue and hands are my weapons.
The old prize fighters would bust your nose or your ribs. A punch to the kidney that would make you piss blood for a couple days. We sex fighters, we bust your will to live. We take away your will to be free. People look naked to us. We see inside your mind. You just think you know what you want, bitch. I know what you really want, because that’s how I get you. That’s how I take you down. I look at you bitch – I know what you want way better than you do. I know it even before you know it. That’s because I see you. I see you like God sees you.
His voice is the opposite of Nixie. Aggressive, violent, expressing himself in short punchy sentences like jabs to the face; bragging like a young athlete full of himself.
As a general thing establishing your character by knowledge is easier than by heart. But heart is better if you can manage it.
The other thing that is quickly brought out in their voices is their Governing Characteristic. Listening to Nixie or Mack Daddy you get a sense of what drives them and of what makes them peculiar. Writing in first person, give your narrator a distinctive voice, not by speech dialects (“Aw shuckin’ lil’ lady yawl sure do got some kinda helluva bodacious tits on ya’, yessiree.”) but by attitude. If you want them to sound like they come from somewhere, or as in Nixie’s case if they speak English as a foreign language, don’t do it so much in goofy spelling but in syntax and sound, establishing personality by the words you choose and how you arrange them. Listen to the well-spelled parlor room formality and 19th century syntax in the narrator’s voice in Charles Portis’ “True Grit”:
““People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day. I was just fourteen years of age when a coward going by the name Tom Chaney shot my father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and robbed him of his life and his horse and $150 in cash money plus two California gold pieces that he carried in his trouser band.”
That’s an amazing opening paragraph. You have the Deciding Character. You have the inciting event. You have the time and the place, the desire and the problem. There is great personality in that voice. If you read only that paragraph, you’d have a sense of a brave, righteous girl with a problem to solve and the ferocious tenacity to do it and you’d be about right. This is also a perfect example of establishing authority by heart, listening to the quirky and engaging sound of the woman’s voice as she recalls the events of her childhood invites you to care about her story.
What about a character who is insane? You can introduce the character’s Governing Characteristic by an obsession he repeatedly returns to, a kind of chorus that sounds several times. In Brett Easton Ellis’ novel “American Psycho”, Patrick Bateman is a yuppie Wall Street investment broker during the Reagan era, and incidentally a vicious homicidal maniac who is obsessed with his social status at all times. He shows his Governing Characteristic to us by the way he obsessively lists what every person he meets is wearing or carrying and often even how much money it costs:
It’s cold for April and Price walks briskly down the street towards Evelyn’s brownstone whistling “If I Were a Rich Man” and swinging his Tumi leather attaché case. A figure with slicked back hair and horn rimmed Peeples glasses approaches in the distance, wearing a beige double-breasted wool-gabardine Cerruti 1881 suit and carrying the same Tumi leather attaché case from D. F., Sanders that Price has, and Timothy wonders aloud, “Is it Victor Powell? It can’t be.”
Bateman does this over and over with each person he meets until it almost drives you crazy and then you begin to understand – he’s crazy.
So that exhausts my thoughts for what they’re worth on first person present. Until next time, do well.