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The Value of Voyeurism: Perusing Erotic Letters from the Past

by | 5:30 am | General | 3 comments

By Donna George Storey

It’s a deliciously “dirty” job, but a writer of historical erotic fiction has to do it. As part of my ongoing research for my novel, I’ve been reading the romantic and erotic correspondence of couples whose private letters have been published due to their literary and/or historic value. Sometimes both sides of the correspondence have been preserved, but this is rare. Intimate letters tended to be destroyed by at least one of the partners; more often it is the man’s that survive. If the woman’s do, frequently the racier portions are missing, no doubt for modesty’s sake. Still, many fascinating examples of both lovers’ seductive words remain for our curious modern eyes to enjoy.

Napoleon and Josephine, Thomas Jefferson and Maria Cosgrove, Mabel Loomis Todd and Austin Dickinson, Michael Collins and Kitty Kiernan, Elizabeth Bowen and Charles Ritchie, Maud Hart and Delos Lovelace, my voyeur’s list may grow further still as I continue my research. But I doubt new examples will challenge my main conclusion: Romantic love and sexual passion are timeless human experiences. Of course there are references to split drawers and dressing gowns in these letters, but the words and emotions truly transcend any particular time and place.

Most of all these letters prove that people in olden times–even prominent, “respectable” people–did enjoy sex, as much as the guardians of moral order would like to erase such evidence.

On that note, I must mention one unwitting member of this immortal erotic letter-writing tribe, a man named Godfrey Lowell Cabot, who was mentioned in a number of works I’ve consulted on sexuality in nineteenth-century America including The Humble Little Condom: A History and Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America. Mr. Cabot was from a very distinguished Boston family and a member of that city’s Watch and Ward, a group of gentlemen who reviewed pornographic images and writings in order to censor them for the good of the community. While protecting the lower orders from lustful thoughts and deeds in his public role, Mr. Cabot himself was the author of a number of intense sexual fantasies written in letters to his wife, Minnie. These letters are certainly the most transgressive (not to say “sickest”) of my sample—“dreams” wherein Mr. Cabot urinated in his wife’s mouth or was swallowed whole by her, his entire body pleasurably lodged inside hers. Of course, he wrote these fantasies in German, so perhaps that made them less obscene by Mr. Cabot’s measure. One does wonder if Minnie, reportedly a social climbing snob who complained of her husband’s incessant sexual demands, bothered to get out the German dictionary or was fluent enough to understand the “dreams” without such an effort.

In any case, there are some who question whether modern readers should intrude on a private, intimate correspondence by an otherwise respected historical figure. Perhaps they worry that the dignity of the personage and of the very value system that elevates great men over the rest of us will be compromised. Mr. Cabot is an excellent argument for openness because it benefits us all to know how hypocritical the guardians of public morals can be.

But most of the time, reading sexy love letters from the past is just plain fun.

My favorite example of historical love and lust comes in the letters James Joyce wrote to his common-law wife Nora while he was away on a long business trip in Dublin. The letters date from December 1909 and only appeared in print in Richard Ellmann’s Selected Letters of James Joyce (1975). Thanks to the Internet, we can read some of the letters in one form or another. I think they’re well worth reading for the boyish, uninhibited pleasure the letters convey. Joyce is not editing himself for public consumption, he is revealing his fantasies and desires to the woman he loves. Many call them “dirty,” but I would characterize them as “sincere.” Occasionally Joyce worries his “fuckbird” will find his fantasies perverted, a nice touch of reality, but although her replies have not survived, it is obvious she was a passionate partner in the exchange and not just doing it to keep him away from Dublin’s brothels.

However, rather like the controversial tampon scene in Fifty Shades of Grey, James Joyce’s “dirty” letters draw disgust for one natural physiological aspect in particular–his obvious joy in his partner’s farts during intercourse.

“You had an arse full of farts that night, darling, and I fucked them out of you, big fat fellows, long windy ones, quick little merry cracks and a lot of tiny little naughty farties ending in a long gush from your hole. It is wonderful to fuck a farting woman when every fuck drives one out of her.” (Excerpted from December 8, 1909)

A goodly number of online commentators are really grossed out by this (they are less vocal about Joyce’s delight in the image of Nora masturbating while she defecates, but perhaps that one was too much to tackle in a public forum). Surely anyone who’s read Ulysses–and haven’t we all?–could have guessed that Joyce is a butt guy:

“He kissed the plump mellow yellow smellow melons of her rump, on each plump melonous hemisphere, in their mellow yellow furrow, with obscure prolonged provocative melonsmellonous osculation.” (“Ithaca” chapter, Ulysses)

And dare I suggest that anyone who has experienced heterosexual intercourse knows that the insertion of a rigid penis into the woman’s pelvic region results in the passing of gas on occasion? Joyce’s celebration of his lover’s farts during intimacy could be seen as endearing, an unconditional acceptance of her body and all of its qualities in the throes of passion.

In American Taboo: The Forbidden Words, Unspoken Rules, and Secret Morality of Popular Culture, Lauren Rosewarne contends that farts and fart jokes are allowable in low humor genres and as a way to portray male characters as unrefined and undisciplined. However farts invariably decrease the sexual attractiveness of women. Desirable women simply never fart, although they are supposed to endure with patience the farts of their male partners. Above all, one is never supposed to couple a towering god of twentieth-century literature such as James Joyce with something as crude as farting.

Now, if you find farts during sex disgusting and unspeakable, that’s fine. One should be no more judged for that reaction than the opposite preference. But I’d also suggest that this glimpse into other couples’ intimate lives does give us a chance to acknowledge how sex and the taboo are closely linked. Rather than recoiling in disgust, why not wonder at the variety of humanity’s sweet perversity? And be grateful to these lovers whose words show us we are all connected through time in our erotic desires?

Write on!

Donna George Storey is the author
of Amorous Woman and a collection of short
stories, Mammoth
Presents the Best of Donna George Storey
. Learn more about her
work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com
or http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor

How Sex Scenes Are Like Show Tunes

by | 2:55 am | General | 6 comments

I love musicals, have for most of my life. There’s this
thing that people sometimes say when you talk about musicals, usually rather
derisively: “I don’t understand why people just burst into song!” The folks who
say this often don’t care for musicals much, and don’t know them very well.
They assume the songs are inserted, are distractions, are pointless. They
assume that the songs don’t do anything in the story, aren’t part of the
movement of plot, make it less serious or important artistically, could easily
just be taken out and everything would be much better. The songs make them
uncomfortable. Embarrassed, even. They feel like they are too full of feelings, too
unabashed, too much.

People say similar things about sex scenes. They assume that
they are inserted, that they distract from the story, that they aren’t part of
the movement of the plot, make the story less serious ahrt, could easily be
taken out (and should be). They imagine story to be inherently better without
explicit descriptions of sex, much like people assume theater to be inherently
better without song and dance numbers. They are uncomfortable with fiction that
integrates the reality of sexuality into the stories it tells about people’s
lives and relationships; it feels too unabashed, too much, too intense.

So, as erotica and erotic romance writers, we have at least
one thing in common with the folks who write show tunes: we experience a
similar kind of derision. But I think we have more common ground than that. I
think folks like us who write sex scenes could learn (or be reminded of) some
important things about our craft from examining what makes a really good show tune.

One of the first things about show tunes is that you have to commit. In musical theater, the song won’t work unless
the writer commits to it, unless the actor brings all their intensity and
concentration to the performance of it. You must go all out. The writer and the
actors can’t be tentative, can’t sit in the muck of insecurity or
embarrassment, can’t just put a toe in. The writing will fall flat, will feel
awkward. The audience will notice the actor’s unsureness and the breaks in
performance, instead of being caught up and carried along.

Let’s watch an example of what I mean. The writer of “Quiet”
from the musical Matilda really
commits to the internal experience of the character, to showing that to you in
the lyric and the music and pacing. There’s a bunch of risk taking in this
song, of not holding back. The actress also deeply commits to her performance.
They both go all out, and you get a song that is intense and powerful and full
of rich characterization and movement.

It’s the same with writing an amazing sex scene. You have to
commit. You can’t get caught up in nerves about language, or trepidation about
being that kind of writer. You have to get over the lump in your throat and
make your characters do and say the kinds of things that are needed for this
sex scene. You have to be brave. You have to get dirty with your characters, be
in the moment with them in their vulnerability and desire and fear and love and
rage and whatever else they might be feeling as they fuck.

Another part of what makes for a really good show tune is when the
writers let it get as big as it needs to
be
. When it really takes up space in the moment, is deeply embodied, is
treated as important by the characters. When the music builds and grows and fills
you as you listen to it. When the dancing is given real size and space and
evocative movement and deep expression. Basically, when folks break into song
in a musical it’s a Go Big or Go Home moment.

For example, check out Jennifer Hudson’s performance of “I Am
Changing” in Dreamgirls. This song
takes up space. It’s an important turning point in the story, and it is a
showstopper, a gorgeous blend of musical styles, a pivotal moment in the
character arc where you really feel for Effie big time. It also really builds,
emotionally, musically, and her performance takes that up several notches. The
way she’s so deeply embodied and in the song, the way she owns its size and
intensity and moves with it, makes me hold my breath when I watch.

I would argue that our sex scenes can only be improved by
letting them get as big as they need to be. What do I mean by that? Letting
them be intense. Letting them take up space in the story, both in word count
and in actual importance to the characters and the narrative. Letting the sex
scenes have big feelings and be deeply embodied in big sensations. Letting them
build and build and take over the way really amazing sex takes up all your
senses.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the deep misunderstandings of
both musicals and erotica is the idea that show tunes and sex scenes are
extraneous. In my favorite musicals, the
songs are critically important
, necessary to the movement of plot, the
illumination of character, the setting of tone and scene, the creation of
conflict.

In the musical In The
Heights
, the song “Breathe” is where we first really meet Nina, a central
character. This song shows who she is, her concerns and fears and conflict. It
illustrates the central tensions in her life and her character arc in the play.
It’s an incredibly rich and layered song, both musically and emotionally. That helps us get to know her as a character, to see the ways she is struggling,
and also sets a tone for the play as a whole, the layers of voices and musical
styles and concerns that are central to this specific story, the raw truth that
is right out there in this musical. This song makes the story move, gets us
invested in her and what she’s dealing with, helps us connect and care about
how she’s going to grow throughout the play.

I would argue that the best erotica and erotic romance does
this as well. That our sex scenes need to be this necessary. That our stories
are better when the sex moves the plot, makes us care about the characters,
shows the reader some of the tensions and conflicts inherent in the story.
Ideally, our sex scenes are not extraneous, cannot be excised without
destroying the story. We do our best work when we make each moment count, make it show the reader something
critically important about the characters or setting or plot or conflict, make
the sex mean something, do something in our story.

One of the things
that show tunes do really well is use
repetition
. They repeat musical themes, words, choruses, dance moves, and
they do this with purpose. They build story through this repetition, moving the
plot at each point so that the thing that repeats catches us in its net and
drags us along. They build intensity through repetition, layering it on top of
itself, each time gathering more tension, holding more emotion. They draw
attention to important themes or metaphor through repetition, so you are
prepared for the crisis, can hold the twists and turns of story because it
makes more sense, feels right.

Take a look at the Deaf West production of Spring Awakening, and their performance
of “Touch Me”, a crescendo moment in the play itself, where the sexual tension
that has been building throughout the play releases in ensemble. There are so
many layers of repetition in this performance, from the words “touch me” and the
morphing of “where the figs lie” to “where the sins lie” to “where the winds
sigh”, to the musical themes that build and repeat, to the way the dancing
shifts and keeps evoking earlier moments in the song. The repetition helps to
build and build through an orgasmic experience, and it is beautiful and intense
and evocative and complete.

Erotica that uses repetition can create a similar kind of nuanced
and evocative reading experience. There is a certain kind of satisfaction that
comes with repetition, when used judiciously, that’s why it’s a favored tool
for musicians and orators and poets. I’m personally quite fond of it, and I
think it has made a real difference in my own erotica. I would argue that
repetition can be used to help create hot and beautiful and emotional and
intense sex scenes. That we can repeat and morph repeated phrasing to good
effect. That we can illuminate important things about character and story by
drawing attention to them through repetition. That we can build, and build, and
build to orgasm, through repetition.

In musical theater,
songs often hold tension, nuance and
complexity
. They have multiple layers, different elements working against
each other to show the complexities and nuanced specificities of a particular
situation. In particular, melody and tone can work in counterpoint to lyric and
emotional valance, in ways that make a song gorgeous in its complexity.

I want to share two examples side by side, because I think
they play with similar contrasts. “Ladies Who Lunch” from Company is classic Sondheim at his writing best, where the cheerful
refined melody is deeply contrasted with a bitter rage that is numbed by
alcohol and expressed through biting, self-deprecating humor. This performance
of the song by Carol Burnett is deeply nuanced, illuminating the complex
contrasts of emotion and tone. It’s a song that holds the emotional center of the
musical itself, with all of its tensions and fears about marriage and
respectability.

“Paradise” from the new musical Allegiance, has a similar counterpoint, between the upbeat cheerful
tune and bitter rage at the oppression of Japanese American internment. The song holds
so much complexity and irony in it. It shines with all of the tensions
contained in the play and the ways that the characters survive the oppression
they are experiencing. The bitter comedy, the way the dancing enhances the
supposed cheer with an underlying rage at injustice…this song is deeply nuanced.
These elements work in the song because they are interwoven; it makes it
possible to hold all of it because of the ways these things play off each
other.

Like a showtune, sex is better when it’s complicated, even
if it appears simple on the surface. When our sex scenes can play with contrast
and tension, hold many different emotional realities at the same time, or sink
into the nuances of how our characters connect, they are better for it. We get
to know the characters more, we have a richer palate to play with as we explore
desire, and we have ample opportunities for humor, all of which can heighten
sexual tension and create deeper more satisfying story.

You may have noticed that many of the examples I have given
above are deeply rooted in setting and context. I firmly believe that this is
one of the deepest strengths of musicals, the way they can be so culturally
specific, so deeply contextualized, so grounded
in a very specific time, place, and cultural context
. Instead of aiming for
generalities, these songs choose to illuminate deep specificity, rooting it
very concretely in a particular context.

“Ring of Keys” from the musical Fun Home is another song that does just that: we connect with it as
an audience because it is focused and specific and sets its roots deep in the
actual childhood experience of Alison Bechdel, telling a detailed story about
an intensely beautiful moment of connection. This is a deeply queer story about
her seeing a butch for the first time in her life, the ways she recognized
herself in this stranger, felt connected and held. It is gorgeous, and it works
so well precisely because it is planted so very firmly in the cultural context
of her particular upbringing. It is the details and the nuances that make the
song.

When we write sex scenes that are rooted in a particular
time, and place, and cultural context, they are richer, more complex, more
beautiful because of it. The very specificity of them creates so much possibility
of recognition and connection for our readers, makes things more clear and
concrete, brings senses alive. Putting the sex we write in deep context can be
incredibly powerful.

As a writer, I soak up influence and knowledge from so many
sources, and other art forms feel like they contain so much to learn from. I
talked show tunes here because I love them, but it is my firm belief that we as
writers can learn so much from visual art, from all forms of music, from
theater and dance, from other genres of writing, and that our work will be more
layered and beautiful because of those influences. In summary, I recommend
applying the following lessons from show tunes to writing sex scenes:

  1. Commit
  2. Go Big or Go Home
  3. Make it Count
  4. Repeat Yourself
  5. Hold the Complexity
  6. Put it In Context

*To access the songs I used as examples all in one place, you
can check out my
playlist
.

They’re Making My Book into a Porn Movie: Green Light on Babysitting the Baumgartners!

by | 1:09 am | General | 2 comments

They’re making my book, Babysitting the Baumgartners, into an adult film.

shocked-will-smith

Yep, you heard me right! 😀

babysittingthebaumgartnersNEWare

We got the official GREEN LIGHT from Adam and Eve this week. The amazingly talented Kay Brandt will be directing, and as for the cast… holy hell, scroll down, you won’t even believe the hotness!

Am I the first indie author to have their book made into an adult film? Oh wait, no – Kay filmed her book, Safe Landings, as an adult film last year, and she was nominated for an AVN award to boot for best director. Adam and Eve is venturing into new, exciting territory, folks. I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship – perhaps even a marriage made in heaven!

We all know Fifty Shades of Grey was made into a mainstream, much-anticipated film, but many fans were left a little… disappointed. Why? Well, let’s be honest – because all the “juicy parts” of the book had to be left on the cutting room floor. And the juiciest parts never even got filmed!

I’ve been approached before about making my books into adult films, but I’ve never felt right about it until now. Why now? Because it’s in the hands of Kay Brandt, who has won awards for directing adult films, and Adam and Eve, a long-standing brand I know and trust.

Like fans, I have been rather protective of Doc and Carrie, Ronnie and Gretchen–these characters are part of my psyche, and kind of part of my family. (Granted, a really naughty family that frolicks disease-and-chafe free in the fantasies that roll through my dirty mind… :D) I didn’t want to do a disservice to them – or to the fans who loved them as much (maybe more!) that I do.

So when Kay pitched the idea of her vision for Babysitting the Baumgartners, I have to admit – I hesitated. But the more she talked, the more I realized she really understood the Baumgartners. She “got” the book. (A lot of people don’t – they think it’s “pure filth” – and hey, everyone’s got a right to their opinion, eh?) This book is about sexual awakening. It’s a coming-of-age story about a vivacious but naive college girl and an adventurous, caring couple who allow her to blossom under their tutelage.

That’s not to say there’s not a lot of damned hot sex in it. 😀 Because, trust me, there is! This book could never be made into a mainstream film – like all good erotica, if you take the sex out, the whole story falls apart. The sex in Babysitting the Baumgartners is integral – in all its wet, messy, juicy, yummy glory! But that isn’t all Babysitting the Baumgartners is about. And that’s the part that Kay Brandt understands, which is why I was willing to trust her with this family and these characters that so many fans have fallen in love with since I first published it back in 2008.

That’s why I’m so excited to make this announcement, you guys! I will be posting here often, updating you on how things are going, letting you know about filming schedules and release dates, but the very first thing I’m going to reveal (aside from our very bright and awesome GREEN LIGHT on this project!) is that the roles of Doc, Carrie and Gretchen have been cast and are listed below. And I couldn’t be more thrilled with them! There will be a casting call for the all-important role of Ronnie – and you guys will get to vote on which one you like best!

Carrie Baumgartner (“Mrs. B”)

Anikka Albrite

 

Hello Mrs. B!

annika3 

Mrs. B in a bikini, of course!

annika2 

Oh. My. Word.

Steven “Doc” Baumgartner

Ryan Driller

 

Hey, what’s up, Doc?

 

Doc on the beach…

 

Can’t you see him playing Doc?

Gretchen

A.J. Applegate

 

A.J. Applegate – the perfect Gretchen!

 

Pretty without makeup!

 

All made up!

 

Dat lip bite tho!

*fanning self* Whew! Is it HOT in here?

Shooting starts in March – but I’ll post lots of awesome stuff about the casting call for our girl, Ronnie, before then.

This is going to be an amazing, exciting, and totally FUN journey! I can’t wait to take all of you on it with me!

Here’s to the Baumgartners – our favorite family! 😀

CASTING CALL

silhouette

Want to be a Star?

Director Kay Brandt is holding a casting call on Wednesday February 17, 2016 for the lead role of “Ronnie,” our favorite babysitter from the Baumgartner series.

If you’re a California girl and have always wanted to be in an adult movie – you can even audition! It’s an open casting call, no RSVP needed. They’ll be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Free Speech Coalition offices, located at 8399 Topanga Canyon Blvd. Suite 302, Canoga Park, CA 91304.

Ronnie is our star–the pivotal role that the entire book (and, I imagine, the movie) hinges on. The perfect Ronnie (as perfect as we can get, I suppose, outside of our imaginations!) is essential. She has to be young (Ronnie was just nineteen when Doc and Carrie took her with them to Key West) and have an air of freshness and innocence about her.

“The ideal candidate would be brunette and petite,” Kay says. “I can’t have someone with a lot of piercings, a lot of tattoos or breast implants.”

*Selena nods in agreement.* Amen to that.

As an author, I’ve got it easy. I can paint images with words. My favorite way to do this is in broad strokes, to allow you, the reader, to fill in the picture with your own imagination, which is a powerful thing. I’m not the type of reader (or writer) who goes in for paragraphs of detailed character description. That means most of my readers have strong ideas of what my characters look like, because they’ve used their own imaginations to fill in the blanks.

But a movie isn’t a book. And directors don’t have the luxury of painting with broad strokes, at least when it comes to actors. Directors have to cast real people. And matching a real person up to everyone’s idea of Ronnie is simply an impossible task. No one will be “perfect,” because my image of Ronnie likely differs from yours, and your neighbor’s and your book club friend’s.

I remember when I read Harry Potter – I had an image in my mind of what he looked like. After Daniel Radcliffe played the role, and I saw the movie, I’ve never been able to unsee him as Harry, or regain my image of what I’d imagined before he was cast. The same goes for Katniss from Hunger Games. Jennifer Lawrence will now always be that character for me, even when I re-read the books.

That makes casting a very important part of movie-making. Maybe the most important part. The good news is that Kay is a seasoned director, she knows this business and the talent, and she knows my book. She’s also graciously given me a great deal of input in the casting, and so far I think we’ve made some pretty great choices. I have no doubt we’ll find the best possible Ronnie we can.

That said, I’ve already heard a few fans say, “I don’t know if I want to see it – what if it ruins my image of X character?” Hey, I get that. Believe me, I do. I’ve turned down other offers to make movies out of my books in the past because I felt it wasn’t right, that they didn’t really understand the storyline or the characters. And I understand when something you’ve read becomes an experience for you, one that you can’t help but be a little protective of.

Look, let’s face facts–we all know that very few movies ever live up to their book counterparts. They’re simply a different experience, and comparing them is like apples and oranges. And while I had a completely different idea of who Katniss, Peeta and Gale were in the Hunger Games, I could put that aside and still enjoy the movie.

I think the same will apply to Babysitting the Baumgartners. I had to let go of my own vision of the characters and the story, to some degree, because until we can 3D-print actors (please God, don’t ever let us go that far…) no author will ever be able to completely bring their characters fully onto a screen as they’ve described or pictured in their mind’s eye.

Ryan Driller is as handsome a Doc as I could have imagined, and that smirky smile of his is just perfection. Anikka Albrite as Mrs. B has that bright, gracious quality about her I always associate with Carrie. (And dat booty tho!) A.J. Applegate as Gretchen is, in a word, simply stunning. So I’m really looking forward to who and what Kay discovers and uncovers next Wednesday at the casting call for Ronnie!

I just know that the Ronnie who’s finally cast will fit our collective vision as closely as we can get–and here’s the best news of all. Once Kay has narrowed the choices, YOU are going to get to vote for your favorite!

So stay tuned… I’ll post more as soon as I can!

XOXO

selenasigsmalltrans

Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker: Location, Location By M.Christian

by | 10:42 pm | Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker | 0 comments

Even before writing about the sex in a sexy story you have to set the stage, decide where this hot and heavy action is going to take place. What a lot of merry pornographers don’t realize is that the where can be just as important as the what in a smutty tale. In other words, to quote a real estate maxim: Location, location … etc.

Way too many times writers will makes their story locales more exotic than the activities of their bump-and-grinding participants: steam rooms, elevators, beaches, hot tubs, hiking trails, space stations, sports cars, airplane bathrooms, phone booths, back alleys, fitting rooms, cabs, sail boats, intensive care wards, locker rooms, under bleachers, peep show booths, movie theaters, offices, libraries, barracks, under a restaurant table, packing lots, rest stops, basements, showrooms — get my drift?

I know I’ve said in the past that sexual experience doesn’t really make a better smut writer, but when it comes to choosing where your characters get to their business, it pays to know quite a bit about the setting you’re getting them into.

Just like making an anatomical or sexual boo-boo in a story, putting your characters into a place that anyone with a tad of experience knows isn’t going to be a fantastic time but rather something that will generate more pain than pleasure is a sure sign of an erotica amateur.

Take for instance the wonderful sexual pleasure than can come from screwing around in a car. Haven’t done it? Well you should because after you do you’ll never write about it — unless you’re going for giggles.

Same goes for the beach. Ever get sand between your toes? Now think about that same itchy, scratchy — very unsexy — feeling in your pants. Not fun. Very not fun.

Beyond the mistake of making a tryst in a back alley sound exciting (it isn’t, unless you’re really into rotting garbage), setting the stage in a story serves many other positive purposes. For instance, the environment of a story can tell a lot about a character — messy meaning a scattered mind, neatness meaning controlling, etc. — or about what you’re trying to say in the story: redemption, humor, fright, hope, and so forth. Not that you should lay it on so thick that it’s painfully obvious, but the stage can and should be another character, an added dimension to your story.

Simply saying where something is happening is only part of the importance of setting. You have to put the reader there. Details, folks. Details! Research, not sexual this time, is very important. Pay attention to the world, note how a room or a place FEELS — the little things that make it unique. Shadows on the floor or walls, the smells and what they mean to your characters; all kinds of sounds, the way things feel, important minutiae, or even just interesting features.

After you’ve stored up some of those unique features of a place, use special and evocative descriptions to really draw people in. Though quantity is good, quality is better. A few well-chosen lines can instantly set the stage: an applause of suddenly flying pigeons, the aimless babble of a crowd, rainbow reflections in slicks of oil, twirling leaves on a tree, clouds boiling into a storm … okay, that was a bit overdone, but you hopefully get my gist.

Once again: location is not something that’s only important to real estate. If you put your characters into an interesting, well-thought-out, vividly written setting, it can not only set the stage for their erotic mischief but it can also amplify the theme or add depth to the story. After all, if you don’t give your writing a viable place, then a reader won’t truly understand where they are — or care about what’s going on.

Writing Exercise – the Rictameter

by | 5:00 am | Writing Exercise | 2 comments

 by Ashley Lister

 One of the pleasures of the rictameter is that there is no
need for rhyme: it relies on a strict adherence to syllable count. (Well, as
strict as syllable counts can be given our different regional pronunciations).

I know we looked at this form back in August last year, but it’s never too soon to revisit a quality form of poetry.

The
Rictameter starts off with a two syllable line, moves up to a four syllable,
and then a six and an eight and a ten syllable line, before going on to an
eight syllable line, followed by a six, a four and a two syllable closure. The
final line is a repeat of the first line, so it helps if it’s something punchy
and memorable.

oral

mouth, lips and tongue

ready to devour

yet bestowing so much pleasure

sucking, slurping, spitting or swallowing 

an overwhelm of sensation

that ends in liquid rush

and wanting more

oral

As always, I look forward to seeing your poetry in the
comments box below.

Ash

New Years Resolutions Through the Back Door

by | 12:30 pm | General | 2 comments

K D Grace

I’m still seeing a fair few of the NYR runners intrepidly pounding the pavement, and the gym is still surprisingly full of NYR th, the universal urge to be ‘better’ in the New Year is already losing its sparkle. All those best made plans always sound better that week before New Year when we’re all still feasting, still drinking, still overindulging, still watching crap TV. The question is, how do we fool ourselves into making a new years resolution a habit, how do we make it a positive change for life?

“get-fitters.” I give the die-hards until the first of March. I’m talking New Years resolutioners, of course. Me? Nope! No New Years Resolutions here. It’s way too early. I can’t stand the drama! I can’t take the pressure! Ask me in a month, and I’ll tell you how it’s going, once 2016 is well and truly under way and I’ve got a feel for it. Every January first people stop drinking, stop smoking, begin learning Spanish or French; people promise to take better care of themselves, to eat better, to keep their houses cleaner; people vow to be better organized, spend more time with good friends, waste less time in front of the telly, and the list goes on. But by January 7

It happens every year; that urge to reflect on what’s been and plan ways to make the New Year better. Hope and excitement at new beginnings is so much a part of our human nature that the end of a year and the beginning of another can’t help but be the time when we anticipate, plan change, and dare to dream of what wonderful things we can bring about in the next year. In fact there’s a heady sense of power in the New Year. I think it’s the time when we’re most confident that we can make changes, that we really do have power over our own lives. It’s the time when we’re most proactive toward those changes, those visions of the people we want to be. It’s the time when everything is possible … in theory. 

Before I began to sell my writing, back when I dreamed of that first publication, back when there seemed to be a lot more time for navel gazing, I was a consummate journaler. I filled pages and pages, notebooks and notebooks with my reflections and ruminations. Nothing took more time and energy, however, than the END of the YEAR ENTRY, in which I reflected on and scored myself on last year’s resolutions before busily planning the ones for the next. This was a process that often began in early December with me reading back through journals, taking notes, tracing down some of what I’d read during that year and reflecting on it. Yeah, I know. I needed to get a life! 

By the time New Years Day rolled around, I had an extensive list of resolutions, each with a detailed outline of action as to how I was going to achieve it. Some of those resolutions fell by the wayside almost before the year began — those things that, if I’m honest with myself, I knew I was never gonna do, no matter how much I wish I would. Others I achieved in varying degrees-ish. But sadly, for the most part, a month or maybe two into the year, that hard core maniacal urge to be a better me no matter what always cooled to tepid indifference as every-day life took the shine off the New Year and I was reminded again that change is hard. 

It was only when there stopped being time for such ginormous navel-gazes and micro-planning that I discovered I actually had achieved a lot of those goals that were my resolutions simply by just getting on with it. As I thought about how different my approach to all things new in the New Year had become the busier I became, I realised that I had, through no planning on my part, perfected the sneak-in-through-the-back-door method of dealing with the New Year. The big, bright New Year changes I used to spend days plotting and planning no longer got written down, no longer got planned out. Instead, they sort of implemented themselves in a totally unorganised way somewhere between the middle of January and the end of February – sometimes even later. They were easy on me, sort of whispering and waving unobtrusively from the corners of my life. They came upon me, not in sneak attacks so much as in passing brushes and furtive glances. 

I’m my own harsh taskmaster. I’m driven, I’m tunnel-visioned, I’m a pit bull when I grab on to what I want to achieve with my writing. No one is harder on me than I am – no one is even close. And yet from somewhere inside me there’s a gentler voice that sneaks in through the back door of the New Year and through the back door of my life reminding me to be kinder to myself, to be easier on myself, to find ways to rest and recreate and feed my creativity. I’ll never stop being driven. The time I’ve been given, the time we’ve all been given, is finite. And that gentler part of ourselves must somehow be a constant reminder of comfort and peace, of self-betterment that comes, not from brow-beating and berating ourselves, not from forced regimentation, but from easing into it, trying it out, making ourselves comfortable with it. We, all of us, live in a time when life is snatched away from us one sound-bite, one reality TV show, one advert at a time. Often

our precious time is bargained away from us by harsher forces, by ideals and scripts that aren’t our own, and the less time we have to dwell on the still small voice, the deeper the loss.

So my resolution, my only resolution every year is to listen more carefully to that gentler, quieter part of me, to forgive myself for not being able to be the super-human I think I should be, to settle into the arms of and be comfortable with the quieter me, the wiser me who knows how far I’ve really come, who knows that the shaping of a human being goes so much deeper than what’s achieved in the outer world, and every heart that beats needs to find its own refuge in the value of just being who we are, of living in the present and coming quietly and gently and hopefully into the New Year, even if it take us a little more time to get there.

Next On The Women Show (Radio) – Internet Crazies

by | 5:00 am | General | 6 comments

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 Author Page.

They are coming out
of the woodwork. Plenty of people, especially women, have had to deal with Internet
crazies. These crazies often show up in your Facebook private messages.
Sometimes they aren’t even your friends. I’ve had a slew of them recently,
mostly men. Claiming to have military service is popular. Just today, I saw
another one who claimed to be military stationed in Iraq. He had only one
friend in common with me and I have no idea who that woman is. There was no
other information about him available on Facebook. He doesn’t update his
timeline with anything about himself. Nope, all these guys do the same thing.
He posted a picture of himself in civies and another picture of himself in his
uniform. That’s it.

Why do so many of
these guys think that making a fake military listing will attract women? I’ve
heard from numerous high-ranking (yeah, like I’m going to believe that) military
personnel, especially doctors, who say they are stationed in the Middle East.
They’re rank, all right. Then there are the non-American men who immediately
ask me if I’m married with children. Unfriend. Block. Or the men who tell me my
profile picture is beautiful and they want to be my friend. When I told one I
was married and not interested in hooking up with anyone, he said he’d love to
pretend I was his sister. Yeah, sure. Unfriend. Block. Or the men who claim to
have incurable illnesses (brain cancer is popular) and want to leave their
money to me if only I leave them my bank information. Unfriend. Block. I toyed
with one of these guys a few years ago only because he wrote in French and I
wanted to brush up on my French. He asked me where I lived, if I was married,
if I had children, and then launched into his sad story of having brain cancer
and he needed me to donate money to him for experimental surgery that just
happened to cost thousands of dollars. I noticed all his friends were female,
mostly romance writers I knew. I warned a few about him, and they unfriended
and blocked him. He did not update his timeline at all. The only updates were
from unsuspecting women thanking him for his friend invite. I imagine he
contacted them with the same tall tales hoping to get some cold hard cash out
of them. I told him I couldn’t give him any money, but I was suffering from an
illness myself – terminal acne – and I desperately needed him to send me money for experimental surgery. I
can’t take credit for that one. I first saw that one on the comic strip Bloom County. Bill the Cat died from
terminal acne. So I stole from the best. He ignored me and kept trying to get
money out of me. He didn’t react to anything I wrote no matter how outrageous
it was. All he wanted was to part me from my money. I finally got bored and I
stopped writing to him. He never wrote back and I see now his account is gone.

Women pull these
stunts, too. I heard from one from Japan whom I friended and I should have known
better. She immediately signed me up for two groups on Facebook with explicit
porn. Unfriend. Block. Or the other woman on Facebook who talked to me for a
few days before sending me a private message to say she was in dire need of
several thousand dollars and could I lend it to her? Nope. Those “I’m
stranded in Europe and I need money” scams from people faking your
friend’s accounts are common. So are money scams on the web. Unfriend. Block.
These Facebook porn groups piss me off. Facebook won’t take them down, but you
post a book cover with so much as a hint of a nipple and not only is your cover
taken down but you’re put in Facebook jail for a week or more.

About ten years ago,
I stumbled upon The Spam Letters, a
website by Jonathan Land, a wiseguy who answered spam he received in the most
outrageous and ridiculous manner. Some of the spammers actually wrote back and
still tried to sell him stuff he didn’t need or tried to part him from his
money. He included lots of his responses to classic Nigerian e-mail scam
letters. He has since taken down all of the several hundred spam letters except
for about two dozen since he has compiled them all in a book, and the book is
available for sale on Amazon. I did manage to find my favorite Spam Letter. He
responded to an unsolicited email trying to sell him erectile dysfunction
herbal supplements. Here’s his hilarious reply.

Boy,
do I have a bone to pick with you.

You
should really pay more attention to who you send your advertising to.

I
am a 17-year-old college student, who, as any average 17-year-old male could
tell you, is sexually excited more often then not. If a butterfly flaps its
wings in China, I guarantee you there isn’t an atomic clock that can accurately
measure the speed with which I will pitch a tent.

I
know you were hoping to get some 45-year-old dentist who has spent the past 20
years of his life with a woman who makes any given NPR personality look like a
sex kitten, and yes, that includes the guys from “Car Talk”.

My
point is this: because of your primitive “marketing strategy, you have
screwed me over BIG TIME!

I’ve been seeing this girl for about three months now, and I’ve finally figured
out the right combination of sensitivity and alcohol to coerce her into
relieving me of that mighty, mighty albatross: virginity. So, we’re back at my
room in the frat house. We start making out a little and I need to go to the
bathroom because I’m wicked blitzed, and I haven’t taken a leak all night. So
she asks, “while you’re gone, do you mind if I download some mood music
off of Napster”? Since I only have Limp Bizkit CDs, I have no
“sensitive, love-making music,” so I say, “Sure, get some
Smashing Pumpkins or shit like that Baby.” Am I good or what?

So
I’m in the bathroom thinking: Okay, if I take her clothes off at the rate of
one article every 10 minutes (an efficient, yet sensitive pace – I’m a math
major), I will be losing my virginity within the hour, but then I realize: Hey,
we’re in Buffalo, NY. In winter. Who knows how many layers of clothing she’s
wearing! I might stay a virgin for two more hours! I can’t take it! (That’s
when I remembered that I had thermal underwear on, and that just ain’t manly by
any yardstick, so I got rid of them.)

I
come out of the bathroom, and she’s just sitting there wit this completely
different expression on her face. She says: “Sweetie, I saw that e-mail
about the natural Viagra stuff that your friend sent you. It’s okay, we don’t
need to rush this.” I was completely torn. I can’t say something like,
“Yo, that ain’t true, I’ll make sweet, sweet love to you senseless right
here, right now, over and over and over” without giving up the sensitive
front. So I say, “Baby, I’m sorry you had to find out about my erectile
dysfunction this way, but I’d like to try this. I’d like to try and make you
happy.” She was on board. Kid Genius had saved the day!

So
we were fooling around for a few hours, and all I’m thinking from the get-go
is: “Okay, why am I not hard yet?” This girl is a cheerleader for
Christ’s sake, and my penis is acting like I’m in bed with Nathan Lane. After a
while she gets real frustrated, calls me a fag, goes home, and the next day
she’s doing one of my fraternity brothers. My one prospect of virginity-loss
has slipped through my hands like a grain of sand in an hourglass, a moment of
time that cannot be regained, just like that grain of sand that will never pass
through the glass chamber in the same way, no matter how many times you flip
the thing over. And believe me. I tried flipping her over, and that didn’t work
either. (I’ve got a minor in philosophy – can you tell??)

Did
you know that some ancient tribes from South America, such as the Yanomamo,
punish murderers not only for the people they’ve killed, but for the deaths of
the potential descendants of those people as well? Well I should fucking sue
you to the tune of all the girls I could have done by now if I lost my
virginity as scheduled. All because of you, I’m still a virgin. Maybe since
last week I could have banged 30 chicks a night, but I’ll never know now. I’m
just sitting around waiting for the mayor of Poonville to award me the medal of
pity and give me the key to the city.

Thanks
loads, dude,

Jon

If you’d like to buy
the book to read more of these delightful letters, just to go Amazon and look
for The Spam Letters in either Print
or Kindle.  What’s really amusing is that Land convinced a
spammer to write his forward. Go check out the book.

Now back to more
Internet crazies. Before I was a fiction writer and sex/relationships writer, I
wrote political and feminist articles for several magazines and web sites. I
was quite well known, and with the fame came the misogynistic baggage all
feminists have to deal with. These were my first Internet crazies. I regularly
heard from men’s rights activists who liked to tell me I was wrong about
everything while calling me a cunt and worse. In case you don’t know what they
are, men’s rights activists are men – mostly middle aged white men but some are
younger and of color – who feel that their sense of entitlement is being
threatened by gains made by women, people of color, and GLBT folk. There are
also women in the men’s rights movement. They are the men’s auxiliary, and they
support the guys in every way, even down to doing their grunt work for them.
These women were most often wives, girlfriends, sisters, and mothers of the men
in the movement, and they had a vested interest in seeing the status quo
maintained. I estimated that women comprised about 40% of the movement. Some of
these guys want to repeal women’s right to vote. They claim the vast majority
of rape allegations are false. These guys will whine to anyone who will listen
to them, and that often consists of an echo chamber of their own kind. Now,
they meet on the Internet. Before the Internet, they met in member’s homes,
church halls, or other public places. They’re very politically active and they
try to roll back gains made by women, people of color, and GLBT folk over the
past 30 odd years. And I heard from plenty of them, the emails ranging from
mild insults to death threats.

Due to the influx of
nutcases harassing me on Facebook over the past week, I’ve decided to host a
radio show on The Women Show about Internet crazies. Do you have your own tales
of strange men harassing you on Facebook? Do you get email from Nigerian
princes who want to send you millions of dollars (people still fall for that
one?)? Do writers friend you only to immediately spam your timeline and private
messages with junk about their books without so much as saying hello? If you’ve
experienced any of this or know someone who has, this is the show for you. Here
are details:

The Women Show –
Internet Crazies

Date: Thursday February
18, 2016  6:30 – 7 PM EST

Host – Elizabeth
Black

Guests – Phoenix
Johnson, Christine Morgan, and Jen Winters.

Keep an eye on my
Facebook page for more details, including a link to the show with more information.

Elizabeth
Black – Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/elizabethablack

Nooks and Crannies

by | 9:06 pm | General | 0 comments

by Jean Roberta

On Saturday, January 23, I attended an annual event in the university where I teach: the Creative Writing Open House. In theory, everyone on earth is welcome to show up, free of charge (and sample the free tea, coffee and muffins), to hear half-hour talks on aspects of writing by faculty members who teach this subject at various levels. Questions are not only allowed, they are encouraged. In reality, this event is attended by a sprinkling of undergraduates who are thinking of taking a class in creative writing and want to know what they could expect. So far, no one has discussed grading standards, but I suspect this would be of great interest to most of the audience.

I gave my usual talk about “niche publishing.” As usual, I found this topic so inspiring that, at some point, I ignored my notes and spun off into the various niches that an aspiring writer can find, and I raised the question of whether literary erotica has been completely swallowed by erotic romance because of a constantly-changing, profit-driven publishing biz that tries to ride the crest of every wave, even though trends are hard to predict and dangerous to follow because they start to recede even while they’re peaking.

I had just been introduced by the current head of the Creative Writing Committee as probably the most-published person in the room. OMG! I’m far from being an expert on what works, and in fact, several of my colleagues have won more awards than I have (or probably ever will) for writing relatively “mainstream” fiction and poetry. (Dramatists seem scarce in these parts, although one of them was formerly head of the English Department here.)

One of the niches I discussed was non-fiction, loosely speaking: blog posts and reviews. It’s something we’re all encouraged to write for the purpose of promoting our “real” writing (erotica, romance, spec-fic, whatever), but when/if we write more words of on-line non-fiction than anything else, we’re either letting the cart pull the horse, or we’ve discovered a delightful new niche in which to express ourselves. (I prefer the latter theory.)

Re literary erotica, I said I would not rehash a tired debate about how this differs from “porn,” but I would attempt a definition: literary erotica is simply literature (fiction, poetry, even drama) that includes explicit sex scenes. One of my male colleagues seemed so impressed by this concept that he said he didn’t see why any reader would object to this type of writing, or why any writer would avoid writing it. I explained the project of British publisher Totally Bound to publish new versions of classic novels (Pride and Prejudice, The Picture of Dorian Grey, Wuthering Heights) with sex explicitly included. I also mentioned James Lear’s novels, which come close to being parodies of well-known novels of the past (Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped) as m/m erotic mysteries. My colleague seemed so delighted to hear that sex can appear on the page outside the context of “porn,” strictly speaking (films and magazines marketed as masturbation fantasies) that I could imagine him hard at work on an erotic poem or story.

This colleague is primarily a poet. For the sake of politeness, I avoided suggesting that Canadian poetry is a niche in itself, far from the kind of writing that appears on bestseller lists. (The poet showed the audience his latest royalty cheque, for $4 Canadian.)

The focus of the whole event definitely seemed to be on writing as self-expression and as communication with other writers rather than as a way of making money. Nonetheless, I pointed out that both literary erotica and writers who write about gay men or lesbians (Sarah Waters, Jeannette Winterson) seem to get more mainstream acceptance in Britain than in North America. The reasons for this are subject to speculation. Could the Puritan roots of North American culture still be keeping sex in general, and especially non-heterosexual, non-monogamous sex, in the margins?

A traditional relationship between the literary margins and the mainstream seems to me to be represented by the odd but moving friendship of John Preston and Anne Rice in San Francisco in the 1970s, before she became famous for bringing new life to vampire fiction. Preston was never even close to being mainstream: he proudly identified himself as a writer of gay-male BDSM “porn” before explicit sex, kink of any kind, or male-on-male lust could be mentioned outside of certain ghettoes, and he was a social/political organizer because he needed to help create the kind of community he wanted to live in. Like many pioneers, he died before he could see his efforts bearing much fruit.

Anne Rice has always admitted how much inspiration she got from John Preston’s writing as well as from his more personal conversations with her. However, I’m often reminded that most of the readers who love the gothic lushness of her novels about vaguely homoerotic vampires (who all have a kinky blood fetish by definition) have never heard of John Preston and probably wouldn’t think of him as her Muse even if they knew who he was. The margins nourish the mainstream, but this process usually seems invisible to everyone who hasn’t deliberately researched it.

If I continue to talk about “niche publishing” next year, and the year after that, I suspect my examples of what is “niche” will have to change with the times. I would love to see Canadian poetry outgrow the half-shelf it occupies (at most) in the brick-and-mortar bookstores that still exist. I would also love to see literary erotica marketed simply as “literature.” I’m not holding my breath until a miracle occurs. The one thing I know about “mainstream” culture in general is that the stream is always moving.
——————

[The cover of an upcoming anthology of steampunk erotica (a niche within a niche?) in which I have a story]

What Do Readers Want?

by | 4:28 pm | General | 4 comments

by Kathleen Bradean

The first few years I wrote erotica, I didn’t think much about the reader, but a conversation with another erotica writer changed that. I casually referred to my writing as Wank Fiction. She giggled and said, “No one would masturbate to your stories. They’re interesting, but not porny enough.”

I’m still not sure if that was an insult, or if it was a spot on description possibly meant as an insult. Or maybe she thought it was praise. I don’t think she meant it maliciously.

Since then, I’ve wondered what readers want from erotica. It seems obvious, but I’m not sure that it is. So much visual porn is available now that reading a whole story seems like the long way around to self-pleasure, although I’ve always suspected that women (especially those with kids) have long used romance novels, and now erotic romance, as a way to carve out some much needed personal time in a day crammed full of doing for others. Those long soaks in the bathtub weren’t because they needed to scrub away layers of dirt, but rather to get a little dirty.

But I also wonder if here in the US, if people don’t use erotica as sexual education. Our society simply can’t bring itself to give anyone good information. We don’t want to hear it, and we certainly don’t want our kids to know. Ignorance, we’ve decided, is the best defense.

That leaves us in a terrible quandary when we’re adults in sexual relationships though. What is normal? What’s healthy? What’s the difference between enthusiastic consent for a D/s relationship versus lifestyle abuse? When I used to go to writer’s conventions, I always got shunned for writing erotica. People would actually get up and go to another table when I told them. But later on, people would corner me and whisper about the most intimate parts of their lives, then look at me with a mixture of hope and worry as they almost always concluded with the question, “Is that okay?”

I never set out to be a sex therapist. I’m no expert in human sexuality. What’s more, just because I write about sex does not mean that I consented to hear about their sexual practices. However, if someone can’t bear to ask their doctor, or a real expert in human sexuality, or a therapist, if I’m the only person they will ever dare talk to, what does it hurt to comfort them by saying, “So many people ask me that same question, so you’re not the only one. As long as everyone involved is an adult, everyone happily consents, and you’re all treating each other with respect and practicing good safer sex, then you’re probably just a normal person and you’re good to go.”

Maybe that’s what readers want to hear from us. Not as direct of a comment as that, but through our stories.    

Letting My Characters Lead

by | 8:00 am | General | 4 comments

By Lisabet Sarai


My ninth novel comes out next week. I am, of course, excited. Publishing a new book is a bit like giving birth, without as much pain. I’m eager to find out what the world thinks about my new baby. My beta readers and my editor have been unabashedly enthusiastic. I can only hope the general reading public—okay, the few hundred of them that I manage to reach via my hit-or-miss marketing!—feel the same.

I’m particularly curious to discover whether this book (The Gazillionaire and the Virgin) is more successful than my previous work because this is the first novel I’ve written using the Character-driven Random Walk Method. When I began writing, all I had was a title and the two main characters (reflected in the title), Rachel and Theo. I really had no idea what they’d do, other than having sex and falling in love.

I did know this was going to be an erotic romance. In fact, although the book deliberately shreds romance stereotypes, it preserves the essential core of romance, namely, the characters’ journey toward a loving relationship. So I understood there had to be obstacles or conflicts that would stand in the way of the happy ending. At the start, though, I couldn’t have told you the nature of those obstacles. I didn’t plan. I didn’t outline. That’s not like me at all! I simply sat down at my computer, invoked Rachel and Theo, and let them interact. I can’t say I heard voices in my head, the way some other authors claim, but at each point in the plot, the focus character in some sense decided what would happen next.

I’d expected the book would be 20K at most. As I let Rachel and Theo lead me deeper into their story, I discovered I was wrong. They did not want to be rushed. It took four chapters for them to get to their first erotic encounter. The revelation that they shared kinky interests took another four. By the time I reached the book’s climax, the events that tear them apart, I had more or less figured out how they’d reconcile, but I couldn’t make them follow my script. Theo turned out to be far more stubborn than I would have guessed. Fortunately, Rachel’s imagination came to the rescue. Still, every time I sat down to write what I thought would be the final chapter (as I discussed last month), I’d come to realize there was yet another one needed.

When I finally wrote “The End”, I was seriously relieved. I wasn’t sure Rachel and Theo would ever let me finish their story!

So what were the results of this exercise? (Because I really do want this blog to discuss craft issues.) How does this book compare to those I’ve written using my usual technique, the TV Serial Method?

1. There’s not much plot

Don’t get me wrong. Gazillionaire is not boring (at least I don’t think it is). Things do happen in the external world. However, compared to my other novels, this book is far less “plot heavy”. My eighth novel, for instance, includes mistaken identity, kidnapping by an international crime syndicate, disguises and deception, infiltration into the bad guy’s headquarters, and a rescue involving a bloody shoot-out—as well as the usual intercourse, fellatio, cunnilingus, spanking and so on. My seventh novel includes abduction, secret agents, self-powered bondage devices, mysterious energy sources, exotic Asian ceremonies, a curse and the ritual to reverse it, along with plenty of kinky sex. Even my first novel had a plot trail involving industrial espionage.

In this novel, by contrast, the most significant events are those that change the protagonists’ feelings for one another. Indeed, there are very few secondary characters, compared to my other books. There’s enough movement to keep things interesting (I hope), but far less world building than I usually do.

2. Dialogue propels the book forward

The story is narrated in the first person present, alternating between the two main characters. Thus, we do get some insight into each of the characters’ thoughts. However, a significant part of the “action” is actually dialogue. Conversations between the two protagonists not only reveal their natures, but also cause real world changes.

I recently re-edited my first novel, written sixteen years ago, for a re-release. I improved the dialogue, but I couldn’t help noticing how stilted and wooden it remained, at least in comparison to the interactions I write now. I said earlier I didn’t hear voices when writing this book, but when it comes to conversations, that’s not strictly true. As these characters talked to one another, I wrote down what they said. The results feel much more real than any dialogue I’ve written previously.

3. The characters change

In any novel-length work, the characters have to develop and grow. If they have the same attitudes, beliefs and behaviors at the end of the book as they do at the start, the book will be neither engaging nor plausible.

However, Theo and Rachel change far more than any characters I’ve written previously, as a direct result of their interactions. Naive and socially awkward at the start, Theo matures into a genuine hero. Stubborn, bossy Rachel softens and becomes more flexible as she lets down her guard and opens herself to love. Their relationship involves more than just incredible sexual chemistry and complementary kinks. Each gradually brings out the best in the other.

Would I use this method again?

I didn’t consciously choose to use the Character-driven Random Walk method for this book. It just sort of happened. I do think that the method requires a very clear initial notion of just who your characters are. When I start a book, that’s not always the case. Many of the novel-writing methods I’ve outlined involve character discovery in the process of writing (but not, I think, the Dissertation Method or the Snowflake Method). My understanding of Rachel and Theo deepened while I was writing, but I had a strong sense of their essential characteristics before I began.

I found it was more difficult to make progress using this method. As I’ve mentioned, my plans didn’t always match those dictated by the characters. I’d often come away from a writing session frustrated that I hadn’t moved further along in my quest toward an ending.

At the same time, I’m very pleased with the result. Despite the lack of an outline, the book feels very “tight” to me. I managed to link a lot of the early details into the ending in a rather elegant fashion, I think. (These were suggestions from the characters.) And I feel that I accomplished my objective, writing a book that was both classic romance and anti-romance (in the sense that it breaks a lot of rules).

I do believe that we authors can grow through experimenting with new techniques, as well as new genres. The last thing I want is for all my books to feel and sound the same. People who’ve read my other novels will find The Gazillionaire and the Virgin a significant change. I hope they view that as positive.

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