Monthly Archives: May 2013
By K D Grace
I’m a bit like a kid at Christmas when May rolls around. Why’s
that, you ask. It’s National Masturbation month, that’s why! I can’t tell you
how happy it makes me to see something as healthy, life-affirming, and
down-right fun as masturbation get a little much-needed positive press. So I
decided that, as National Masturbation month draws to a close (not that the fun
is ending, just the month) that I’d write a few words in praise of the much-maligned
Doesn’t it seem strange and more than a little sad that some of the world’s
best, most celebrated writers find themselves on the not-so-coveted short-list
for the Bad Sex Awards? Is there some misguided, unwritten rule that states a
story is only ‘worthy’ if it doesn’t
make the reader squirm deliciously in her seat, if it doesn’t makes her need to engage one hand in areas far south of the
novel in her grip? And where the hell did we get the idea that just that one
act, in fact the most crucial act of the human condition, sex, should not be
treated with the same weight, or the same tongue-in cheek irreverence or the
same heart pounding delight or wonder or horror as any other part of the human
If a writer gets the sex right, I mean gets it really right, then what other
response should there be but for our bodies to tingle and our hands to stray?
Which leads me to another reason why a one-handed read should be praised and
sought after by readers and writers alike. A well-written one-handed read
engages the reader on a physical level that no other type of read can. A
one-handed read takes the reader a level deeper than the voyeuristic experience
that reading tends to be. A one-handed read allows and demands reader
participation in solidarity with the characters, and, indeed, with the writer.
The story suddenly becomes interactive in a literal sense. And even more than
that, the story suddenly becomes a sexy ménage between the reader, the
characters and the writer.
I’ve always felt that just because a writer strives to give the reader a
well-rounded literary experience with a story that’s gripping (no pun intended),
pacey, thought-provoking and satisfying on some level; just because a writer
tries to offer the reader a well-written, stonking good story doesn’t mean that
stonking good story can’t involve a little one-handed pleasure mixed in. Why
the hell shouldn’t it?
Okay, maybe it’s that feeling of exposure; maybe it’s that
fear of being caught in the act, so to speak, that frightens writers away from
making the sex hot and squirmy. But it’s a lesson straight from the pages of
creative writing 101 that the place we most fear, the place we feel the most
vulnerable is the place where the most powerful writing happens. Embrace the
Those of us who love to read love a story we can be pulled
into. I love a good adrenalin rush, a good heart stopper, a good brain teaser,
a good tear jerker, a good happy ending, so why wouldn’t I like a good wank all
in the spirit of a sexy story? Why do we think that good writing is negated if
our stories make people want to go rub one out?
I’ve been involved in the world of erotica for enough years now to have seen
the quality of writing go through the roof, enough years to have been gripped
by heart-stopping, tear jerking, brain-teasing stories that STILL have
fabulous, seamlessly-written, deliciously sensual one-handed scenes. Why can’t
a good book be both a page turner and a one-handed read? We now connect with
story on so many more levels than ever before. We read eBooks, we listen to
audio books, we curl up with a good old fashion trade paper-back and a glass of
wine. But really, was there ever a time when reading a good book wasn’t
intended to be a sensual experience, wasn’t meant to make us FEEL things in our
body that we wouldn’t otherwise feel, wasn’t meant to scratch an itch that
nothing else could quite scratch? So why, oh why, should we exclude that best
of, most intimate of — that even better than a nice glass of wine sensual
experience of the one-handed read?
Oh no doubt there’ll always be a need for sexy snippets just
long enough and hot enough to get the rocks off, and I like those just fine
too. But why should one-handed reads be reserved for just such works? Why
shouldn’t the sex scenes in any type of novel or story be well-written enough,
steamy enough, raunchy enough to send one hand straying? It seems to me that if
a sex scene is well written, then we should at least feel something down in the
genital direction. I’m not saying that everything written about sex should be a
turn-on, but I am saying it should affect us in some way because sex affects
us. It affects us powerfully, uncomfortably, sometimes disturbingly, and it
often affects us the most because we don’t want it to and we don’t understand
why it does, nor do we understand its power over us. But it most definitely
DOES have power over us. It’s supposed to have, so to try to write sex that
excludes and banishes the one-handed read seems absurd.
Without getting all mystical and goose-pimply and bringing
on the sex magic; doing my best to keep it real and genuine, I have to ask;
when is there a time that a writer doesn’t want a reader to feel her work, to experience her story as so much more than words on a page? Why
should our sexual responses not be fully included in the experience of story?
So I’ll say it again: let’s hear it for the one-handed read!
Happy Masturbation Month! I wish you all gripping, touching,
deliciously squirmy reading. And writing!
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 four cats.
I hope you spent May reading as many short stories as
possible, since National Short Story Month is coming to a close. According to
“Good Fit For Today’s Little Screens: Short Stories“,
the short story is experiencing a resurgence in popularity primarily due to
ebook releases of anthologies in all genres.
While I enjoy reading and writing novels, there is a special
place in my heart for short stories. I have loved short stories since I was a
child since they were like potato chips – I could devour them quickly, and I
couldn’t stop at just one. I liked Edgar Allan Poe and O. Henry. I cut my teeth on ghost legends when I was a
pre-teen. I could never get enough of Hans Holzer and Elliott O’Donnell’s tales
of hauntings. To this day, I’m a sucker for a good ghost story. I’m a huge dark
fiction fan. Toss a Gothic romance on top of a thrilling, spooky tale and I’m
in literary Heaven.
I’m on several “open call” groups on Facebook that
announce submission calls for short stories in science fiction, fantasy, and
horror. I also keep tabs on the ERWA web site, various Facebook pages, and
Duotrope for erotic anthology submission calls. Amazon created its Kindle
Singles program in 2011 to take advantage of this craze. While the Science
Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America defines a short story as being no more
than 7,500 words, most short story lengths I’ve seen in submission calls are
approximately 5,000 words.
I believe a short story is harder to write than a novella or
novel because every little word counts. Short story writing is a skill that
requires practice. While it may be tempting to wax eloquent with exposition,
such meandering takes up valuable space in a short story that may be put to
better use. You can get away with lengthy, vivid descriptions and running off on
tangents in novels that you can’t pull off in a short story. Therefore, the
short story makes for an excellent writing exercise. You must focus on the main
point you wish to convey, and stick with it to write a solid and interesting
Here are some short
story writing tips:
1. Work your way backwards. Know your ending before you begin.
That way you won’t find yourself writing a lengthy introduction that leaves
little room for the meat of your story.
2. Write whatever comes to mind. You can prune later. This
tip applies to all writing, but it is especially pertinent to short story
writing. Pruning may become essential. You may find that as you write, your
story really doesn’t get moving until several pages in. You’ll know you need to
prune quite of bit of what falls before that point.
3. Keep track of anthology calls, and have several short
stories going at once. Keep them in circulation until they find a publisher.
Publish as many short stories as you can each year to keep your name out there.
4. Take risks. Write a character study. Write the same story
several times, but from the point of view of different characters. Try
different writing styles and different genres. Move outside your comfort zone,
and see if you can pull it off. Think outside the box!
5. Read lots of short stories. There are many wonderful
collections out there waiting for your hot little hands to hold them. Try the
Mammoth Books of Best Erotica, Asimov’s, Xcite Books short story collections,
Clarkesworld, Cleis Press short story collections. Read modern erotica and
classics. Enjoy all sort of different styles of short stories, and learn from
them at the same time.
Why are short stories
so appealing? Here are some reasons:
* They’re a quick nibble for busy people who don’t want to
take the time to read a lengthy novel. Most short stories can be read within
* Instant gratification.
* Anthologies give you many short stories to choose from.
* You may discover a new author with a short story.
* Authors may test-run unfamiliar publishers by publishing a
short story with them.
* Individual short story prices in ebook form are less
expensive than the price of a novel.
* They are easy to read on small screens.
* New writers may build their reputations on short stories,
which take much less time to write than novels.
* Releasing a short story several times per year helps
readers keep up to date with writers they enjoy without having to wait several
years in between novels. In other words, publishing short stories keep writers
relevant and in the spotlight.
* Writing short stories help writers become concise and
clear. Every word counts, so the writer must eliminate mistakes writers may
make such as too much exposition and not sticking to the main point of the
story without getting lost in unrelated tangents.
Some Erotic Short
Women’s Best Erotica series (This is the link to 2010)
Mammoth Book Of Best New Erotica series (This is the link to
#11, 2013 edition)
Best Lesbian Erotica series (This is the link to 2013)
Numerous short stories in “The Decameron” by
Boccaccio (Sexy Short Stories Of Love, Lust, Adventure, and Misfortune)
ABOUT ELIZABETH BLACK
writes erotica, erotic romance, speculative fiction, fantasy, and dark fiction.
She also enjoys writing erotic retellings of classic fairy tales. Born and bred
in Baltimore, she grew up under the influence of Edgar Allan Poe. Her erotic
fiction has been published by Xcite Books (U. K.), Circlet Press, Ravenous
Romance, Scarlet Magazine (U. K.), and other publishers. Her dark fiction has
appeared in “Kizuna: Fiction For Japan”, “Stupefying
Stories”, “Midnight Movie Creature Feature 2”, “Zippered
Flesh 2: More Tales Of Body Enhancements Gone Bad”, and “Mirages:
Tales From Authors Of The Macabre”. An accomplished essayist, she was the
sex columnist for the pop culture e-zine nuts4chic (also U. K.) until it folded
in 2008. Her articles about sex, erotica, and relationships have appeared in Seduced Sex Toys, Good Vibrations Magazine, Alternet, CarnalNation, the Ms. Magazine Blog, Sexis
Magazine, On The Issues, Sexy Mama Magazine, and Circlet blog. She also writes
sex toys reviews for several sex toys companies.
In addition to
writing, she has also worked as a gaffer (lighting), scenic artist, and make-up
artist (including prosthetics) for movies, television, stage, and concerts. She
worked as a gaffer for “Die Hard With A Vengeance” and “12
Monkeys”. She did make-up, including prosthetics, for “Homicide: Life
On The Street”. She is especially proud of the gunshot wound to the head
she had created with makeup for that particular episode. She also worked as a
prosthetic makeup artist specializing in cyanotic blue, bruises, and buckets of
blood for a test of Maryland’s fire departments at the Baltimore/Washington
International Airport plane crash simulation test. Yes, her jobs are fun.
She lives in
Lovecraft country on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four
cats. The ocean calls her every day, and she always listens. She has yet to run
Visit her web
site at http://elizabethablack.blogspot.com/
page is https://www.facebook.com/elizabethablack
Follow her at
by Jean Roberta
“You’re a writer. You’ll write about this some day. The more experience you get, the more you have to write about.”
This is the consoling remark I get from someone close to me every time I fall into a hole in the road. One of the worst aspects of disappointment, of course, is that it is always at least partly one’s own fault. I won’t accept the diagnosis that I was completely responsible for the trainwreck of my first marriage (there were two people in that relationship), but in hindsight, I could see numerous warning signs that I ignored at the time because I didn’t want to see them.
At the time this post appears on the Erotic Readers and Writers blog, I am supposed to be in New Orleans, attending the annual Saints and Sinners literary conference for gay/lesbian/bi/trans/queer/questioning/not-entirely-straight writers. The last time I went to S&S was in 2007, shortly after Hurricane Katrina. In 2013, I intended to bring my female spouse along to show her the sights, and to stay in the same picturesque inn in the French Quarter where I stayed last time, which has been renovated since then. (I was afraid of that. In 2007, I assumed the hole in the bathroom wall was part of what kept the price low. I didn’t mind, since the plumbing, the TV, and the air conditioning all worked.)
For several weeks, I planned our trip. I made up a budget and printed out the conference program with my name on it to bring to the office of the Dean of Arts in the university where I teach, so I could get pre-approval for reimbursement of my expenses after my return. (I would have to submit receipts.) Spouse got us a good deal on air fare through a site named The Flight Hub.
Then I thought about checking my Canadian passport. It was expired. (At one time, I also had a U.S. passport which I allowed to lapse for reasons I won’t go into here.) I phoned several Canadian and U.S. government agencies, including Homeland Security in the U.S. As though this body had been expecting my call, I was forwarded to a recorded message that said that Canadian citizens with expired passports are not allowed on U.S. soil. Crossing the “undefended border” was never like this before.
I was relieved to find out that I could (theoretically) get an “emergency passport” in less than a day. On the day we were to board a plane, I told Spouse I had to go to the passport office. She tried to explain that we didn’t have time for that since we had a plane to catch. I pointed out that I would have to miss that plane, but she could travel without me. (Her Canadian passport is up to date.) She said no.
At the passport office, I was aghast at how much ID I had to provide besides my expired passport. Since I had a Canadian passport in my hands, I argued, why couldn’t I just get it renewed like a library card? Apparently this is not how bureaucracy works. When the official who was “helping” me learned that I was a naturalized Canadian citizen (born in the U.S.A. – oh the irony), I was told to provide the certificate (a small laminated card) that was given to me when I got my Canadian citizenship in 1974. “Surely you jest,” I said. “I’m not even sure where that is.”
“You have to show it to us,” said the official. Spouse and I rushed home in a car with our suitcases in the back seat. By a miracle, I found that card in the same bureau drawer where I kept my expired passport. We rushed back to the passport office.
Then I was told that I had to provide documentation to support my request for an emergency passport. I would have to reschedule our flights, since the flight I had just missed no longer counted. I rushed home and phoned The Flight Hub. Someone there told me that Spouse and I were “no shows” for our original flight, therefore we would have to start over, and pay for new flights. I explained my situation. I was told to phone the airline (United), which I did. A helpful woman there actually found new flights for us, but then she said unfortunately, I would have to call The Flight Hub to get the original price. There I spoke to the evening supervisor, Natasha as I’ll call her (with an accent from somewhere in eastern Europe). Natasha seemed able to work miracles. She said she would arrange for our new flights at no extra charge.
Natasha put me on hold while she contacted United, where she was put on hold. At some point, Natasha was so concerned about me that she asked me if I was hearing music on my end of the phone line. I said yes, I’m hearing old Broadway show tunes from the 1940s. She seemed glad, and asked me to be patient and not hang up. I hung on.
Natasha sounded delighted when she told me that everything was arranged: Spouse and I had new flights. She sent the information to Spouse’s email. Spouse was out with her son, shopping for a car. With Natasha on the line, I called Spouse on her cell phone to ask for the new password for her email addy. She gave it to me.
I found the email with our flight information, thanked Natasha, printed out the itinerary, then called a taxi to rush me to the passport office. While I waited, I called the taxi office again and was told I would just have to wait. I wondered if I could get to the office faster on foot, but realized that I would then miss the taxi. At length, I got to the passport office just in time to find the door locked. “No!” I said to a woman who was waiting on a chair in the hallway.
“There are people inside,” she said. “Knock on the door and they might let you in.”
I knocked, then knocked again. The door was opened by a grey-haired woman in a uniform who looked like a retired military officer. (These are often employed as civil servants in Canada.) “The office is closed,” she said.
While Officer No-Go kept trying to close the door, I held it open so I could explain my situation. “You’ll have to come back in the morning,” she said. My new flight was to leave at 6:50 a.m., before regular business hours.
Spouse and her son picked me up. Son was exhilarated because he had just signed a lease for his first car. I was distracted.
At home, I phoned every Canadian government phone number that might possibly have a live person on the other end. No luck.
Spouse and I missed our rescheduled flight. Bob (as I’ll call him), the day supervisor from Flight Hub, phoned to ask why we were “no shows” for the second time. (Note that this was the same guy who originally told me I would have to start over and pay for new flights.) I explained. This time, Bob sounded sympathetic. I told him I was giving up. I didn’t want to repeat the process of the day before.
In that case, said Bob, Spouse and I could get reimbursement from our travel insurance. I told him I had spoken to them already, and we were not covered for this type of emergency (expired passport). Bob assured me that I only had to tell the folks at the Royal Bank of Canada (providers of travel insurance) that I had to cancel our flights for “personal reasons” not involving my “passport story.” I would have to provide documentation. I didn’t see any point in arguing with Bob.
While I was speaking to him, someone from the passport office phoned me to say that I could have my emergency passport in an hour to ninety minutes, but only if I had proof of an upcoming flight.
I said I no longer had an emergency. I had missed the conference, and I would wait the usual two weeks for a passport.
I sent email messages to everyone who needed to know that I would not be attending Saints and Sinners this year.
So now you know why I am not posting this from New Orleans. Today I co-signed for Stepson’s new car while he reminded me several times that I should have renewed my passport weeks ago. (“Smug” could be defined as the attitude of a grown child who has a reason to lecture a parent about responsibility.)
Stepson also reminded me that I could write about all this. All life experience can be considered a blessing for a writer. Be that as it may, next time I need to rush to a government office or an airport, I expect Stepson to give me a ride.
By Kathleen Bradean
I’ve been in the tiny universe of
erotica long enough that I understand the niches publishers inhabit, but you
might not. Perhaps you wrote your story with a publisher in mind. If you
didn’t, you’re going to have to do some research. Go to the publisher’s website
and check out their newest offerings. Read their submission guidelines. If
possible, read a couple of their books. Don’t waste their time and don’t waste yours
sending the wrong book to the wrong publisher.
Just as you wouldn’t submit a book
on puppy training to a publisher of cookbooks, you shouldn’t submit your erotic
romance novel to a publisher of (literary) erotica. If you don’t know the
difference between erotic romance and literary erotica, don’t feel bad. It’s
not a simple distinction and the line between the two is blurry at best. As a
generalization, erotic romance is written in the genre style of romance. It absolutely
requires a happy-ever-after or happily-for-now ending, and focuses on the relationship
between two (sometimes three) people. So yes, there’s graphic sex but it’s
about bonding the characters emotionally.
Literary erotica is written in the
genre style of literary fiction, but it can have a happily-ever-after ending
and it may focus on a relationship. Rather than emotional bonding though, sex
scenes are (normally) used to define or change a character.
Still don’t know
where your book falls in the spectrum? Erotic romance sells better than
literary erotica, so if you have a novel that dances on the foggy boundary (with requisite
happy ending), and sales matter to you, you might want to call it erotic romance and seek out those publishers.
Before you sign with any publisher,
send emails to several writers with books at that publisher. Ask them if their
publishing experience was good. Ask them if they get paid royalties regularly
and on time. Find someone who used to publish through them who doesn’t anymore
and ask why. Check Predators and Editors. If you’ve hung around writer’s lists
long enough, you’ve seen the horror stories of unpaid royalties, rights being
tied up in court, unprofessional and unscrupulous business practices, and a
host of other problems. Experienced writers place their books with several
different publishers to mitigate exposure to their publisher’s business
problems, but even a good shop can go to hell overnight, especially if it’s
small press and the owner is essentially the entire company. All it takes is a
car accident or sudden illness. I’m not saying be paranoid, but be aware of who
you’re entering into a contract with. It’s called due diligence. Do your
homework. Protect yourself.
Also check the terms of the
contract thoroughly and know what each paragraph means. There are websites that
will warn you about bad contract terms. Things I’ve turned down contracts for:
a clause that said I could never speak ill of the publisher or its employees.
First look rights (this sounds good but it isn’t for YOU). A contract that
meant they had my rights forever. A contract that demanded I prove my gender. Lousy
ebook royalties. The right to use 100%
of my story for “advertising” with no additional compensation in any
publication or website the conglomerate owned.
And yes, I tried to negotiate those terms because everyone says you can
negotiate. “Everyone” is either a writer with a lot of pull or a liar because for
the most part you’ll be told to sign it or go away. Only you can decide what’s
right for you and how desperate you are to be published.
Five or six years
ago, a large erotic romance e-publisher bought a novel from me. (Yes, I wrote a book that could pass as erotic romance. It happens.) Three months after the contract was signed,
they sent an email that they tried to back date telling me that my novel was
rejected. Yeah, you can type a date from months ago in the body of an email,
but the time stamp of when it was received is all that counts, people. For some
reason telling me they changed their mind was out of the question, and so was
being polite or apologetic about it. I still have that SIGNED contract in my
files. Did I try to enforce it? No. I didn’t see the point. I didn’t want to do
business with a company that proved they had no morals. So just be aware that
even a signed contract means nothing unless you have
the means and desire to fight it in court if it is breached.
I had a publisher in mind when I
wrote Night Creatures (still playing with the title, I may make it Night
Kreatures.) so I didn’t have to research
them. I did, however, have to ask what they like to see in a submission and how
they wanted it formatted, because part of being a professional writer is taking
the business side seriously. If your writing doesn’t make your story stand out,
don’t for a second believe that comic sans font will. Giving the publisher what
they want, in the format they want it, and only what they want tells the
publisher that you’re a reasonable person who won’t give them trouble over
stupid things. (So if your manuscript is accepted, prove it by not being an ass
over stupid things. Seriously, writer folk, don’t be THAT writer.)
After I knew what the publisher
wanted, I put together my submission package, which in this case was an email.
They didn’t ask for a synopsis (joy, rapture! I loathe writing a synopsis) so I
sent a simple cover letter (body of the email), formatted like a business email
(my full contact info, date, etc.), with all the usual cover letter info: title
of the work, genre, word count (complete) in the first paragraph. A brief
synopsis of the story (second paragraph). Wind up: thank you for your
consideration… in the third paragraph, and a signature block. The full
manuscript was an attachment.
Sent it off and waited. And waited…
After a couple months I sent a polite inquiry about where I was in the
submission process. Polite. Don’t even type with an attitude. It’s a discreet
cough, not a temper tantrum. And I got a very nice reply back that basically
said “We need a few more weeks.” Not a problem, so I waited.
And here’s where you may expect
that I say “And it’s coming out in October!” Well, no. The publisher wants me
to rewrite the first two chapters and resubmit. Did I collapse onto my fainting
couch? Did I send it off to a different publisher? No. Rejection isn’t
personal. It’s an opportunity to learn something.
Being honest with
myself, I know that the first two chapters were the weakest part of my novel.
So I’m working on those chapters. I told the publisher that I would resubmit it
when I fixed my work, and I will. Now, if it’s turned down after that, I could
turn to another publisher, but because I understand the niche markets
publishers inhabit, I already know that there are few who would touch this edgy
piece. It’s dark and it’s bloody. I could self-publish. I think about those
options but it’s far too early in the process to give up on this publisher just
|One of the infamous canals – there really are lots!|
… and not necessarily the ones you think I mean. I just got back from Amsterdam where I spent a few days exploring and hoping for lots of inspiration for one of my erotic series. One such surprise is that I wasn’t as inspired as I thought I would be. It’s a city known mainly for its Red Light District – despite the fact there’s lots more to it – and I figured I would get lots of ideas from that alone. I admit I’m slightly disappointed (only by the lack of inspiration – the trip itself was wonderful!).
|The Condomerie – surrounded by giggling
idiots. Yes, I was one of them.
I didn’t see all of the Red Light District, it goes on for quite a way, and thousands of football fans made us beat a hasty retreat before it all got rather nasty. We went back the following day but it was early and not much was happening. Despite that, there were women in the windows, there were an abundance of sex toys in the other windows, and it really wasn’t very erotic. I can only comment on what I saw with my own eyes, of course, and this is just my opinion, but I just didn’t think it was sexy or seductive. I thought it was pretty damn trashy. I haven’t got anything against the idea of prostitution, especially in that kind of environment where it’s much safer and heavily policed, but I tried to see it through a man’s eyes and what might be hot about it – and failed miserably. If I was a single man desperate to be with someone, I still wouldn’t go in there. I may as well go next door and buy a Fleshlight.
|Wonkiness is apparent here, and I hadn’t
even walked past a “coffeeshop” yet
Otherwise, it’s a very beautiful city with lots of wonky buildings (and no, I didn’t touch any drugs, though I’m sure I got a fair whack of passive highs as I walked past the many “coffeeshops”) and a pretty laid back atmosphere – none of the rushing around you see in London, or the massively over-crowded shopping streets. There are bikes literally everywhere and crossing the road is an incredibly dangerous thing to do. It’s much smaller, I believe, than London, Paris or Rome, but I still found it quite difficult to navigate – and I’m pretty nifty with a map. Having said that, though, we didn’t get lost, so it’s all good 🙂
We visited lots of museums, churches and of course, went on a canal cruise, and we didn’t manage to do everything on our itinerary, so it just shows there’s tons more there than drugs and prostitution, and although I haven’t got a bazillion ideas running through my head, I’ve definitely got enough to be going on with for my erotic series, and I’m sure other things will probably come to me at a later date, as they so often do.
I hope so, anyway. I do love penning different locations.
Lucy Felthouse is a very busy woman! She writes erotica and
erotic romance in a variety of subgenres and pairings, and has over seventy
publications to her name, with many more in the pipeline. These include Best
Bondage Erotica 2012 and 2013, and Best Women’s Erotica 2013. Another string to
her bow is editing, and she has edited and co-edited a number of anthologies.
She owns Erotica For All, and is book
editor for Cliterati. Find out more at http://www.lucyfelthouse.co.uk. Join
her on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to her
newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/gMQb9
By Lisabet Sarai
Okay, so I was supposed to post today, not a week ago as I did, stomping on poor Garce’s post. These things happen. I was trying to get the post pre-scheduled, you know, getting on top of my To-Do List … Anyway, if you haven’t read that post, entitled Stories We Tell Ourselves, I invite you to do so.
Meanwhile, today’s my official posting day and of course I can’t keep quiet…!
I just want to remind all readers that if you enjoy the discussions on this blog, you might want to join the ERWA email discussion lists. On the Writers list, we share our thoughts and information about all sorts of writing-related topics. Recent threads have included: self-editing – when to stop; reality versus fantasy in the portrayal of BDSM; how to write convincing dialogue; first versus third person POV; how to motivate yourself to finish what you start.
The Storytime list is our on-line critique group. Members post works in progress as well as comments and suggestions on other authors’ submissions. It’s very civil and strongly moderated – even the tenderest ego will not be shattered, yet at the same time you can get some fabulous insights into how to improve your writing. As an added benefit, our esteemed editors select the best stories, flashers and poems each month and invite the authors to publish them in the ERWA Gallery.
The Parlor list is just for fun – chit-chat with other ERWA members about anything under the sun. (However, posts do tend to stray toward sexual topics pretty frequently!)
To join any or all of these lists, follow the instructions here.
Let me finish up by posting one of my own favorite flashers – from the old days when flashers were strictly 100 words. I especially like it because it’s about writing.
By Lisabet Sarai
“I like your poems,” she said, leaning closer across the cafe table, so that he could see the shadowed hollow between her breasts where the candlelight did not reach. “I like your images. I can taste them, roll them around on my tongue. They catch in my throat like unshed tears.”
He sipped his chianti, adjusted his glasses, pretended to ignore her stealthy hand on his thigh. Her fingers crept over his chinos, aiming for the swelling at his root. He thought of rejection slips, the dirty laundry scattered round his flat, the bills waiting to be paid. Useless. None of these mundane devices could prevail against her blonde adoration.
He stood like iron. Her triumphant hand claimed him. “I like the way you can write ‘fuck’,” she said, “and make it into a poem.”
Recently a novice writer asked me to recommend some of my favorite erotic authors and books. I realized that I could answer this question quickly with a list of editors and publishers I love because they appreciate me, but part of me pushed back against a “commercial” answer, because, well, part of me is sick of anything that smacks of self-promotion. Another part (I am, apparently, a woman of many parts) was reluctant to claim authority on the subject because tastes in erotica are especially personal. Of course, the evaluation of any writing involves personal taste, but let’s be honest—the “best” erotica stimulates our unique turn-ons.
Then I got to musing how very intimate it would be to share my favorite hot-button stories with a lover, putting together a personal anthology of tales that sink deep into my flesh and my imagination. In other words, the stories that I could read again and again (and you all know what that means). I’d be even more interested in reading my lover’s special anthology. Communicating through stories would, I think, convey a flavor and sensibility that direct description—I like being bossed around by billionaire CEO’s, I’d love to be tickled all over with feathers, etc.—can never fully capture.
This project felt a bit too personal to share with my erotica-writing friend, but then it also hit me that as an erotica writer, I share my sensibility with my readers with every word I write. So much for privacy.
However, I suspect the question also invited me to suggest works of erotica that would inspire good writing as much as erotic response. I’m not in a position to endorse the erotica canon blindly. Henry Miller and The Story of O didn’t really do it for me. Fanny Hill was interesting historically, but the style is of a different age. Anais Nin is the mother of modern erotica, and a lovely, poetic writer, but she needs no recommendation–we all find her on our own.
Yet, in thinking back, there was a list of books I read when I first started writing that made me say, “Yes, I want to try this, too!” Many were published in the mid-to-late 1990’s, which is when I began writing myself. Thus again, there is an inescapably personal element to my list. How can it be otherwise? Indeed, it could well be that one’s formative erotic stories rely more on timing than quality. I was ready to be awakened to erotica, and certain stories found their way to me that might be far less memorable now.
All that said, I eventually did have myself a good time remembering the stories that turned me on as a writer sixteen long years ago. I still stand by these recommendations as a writer and a reader. They made me what I am today.
Memoirs of a Beatnik by Diane DiPrima
A renowned Beat poet, DiPrima originally wrote this erotic novel in the late 1960’s for the money. In spite of the title, it was “based” on her own experiences rather than a true memoir. She proudly admits in the afterword that she made most of it up. Fortunately, she, like Anais Nin, was so talented, she couldn’t write badly, even for such a practical purpose. My very favorite part is chapters one and two, “February” and “February–continued” which describe her first intimate encounter in the West Village with a sexy revolutionary named Ivan. Is there anything sexier than a gorgeous Bohemian who’s great in bed? This scene made me realize that erotica can be smart, beautifully written, romantic, edgy and hot all at the same time. Many of the later chapters do indeed read as if they were written for money, but that first chapter is seared into my imagination. I didn’t only want to write it, I wanted to live it.
The Mammoth Book of International Erotica, edited by Maxim Jakubowski
This volume was reissued in 2006 with some changes in the table of contents, but the book I fell in love with was the 1996 version. Many famous names are included in the table of contents, but the two stories that inspired me to write were “Fourth Date, First Fuck” by Dion Farquhar and “Watching” by J.P. Kansas. Both are realistic and involved emotionally intimate relationships, which was a new thing for me to see in “dirty” fiction. “Fourth Date” describes a delicious mutual seduction between two people who’ve been hot for each other for a while—again a scene I wouldn’t mind living out in real life. In “Watching,” a husband comes home early from work to find his wife masturbating to one of his porn videos. What really delighted and intrigued me is that we get both sides of the story, first his, then hers. The humor and the heat are irresistible.
Actually, I would recommend any of Maxim’s Mammoth erotica anthologies to a new writer, because they provide a varied menu of possibilities in sexual and literary expression. Some will touch you more than others, but they’re all well-written. Maxim also appreciates longer stories, which is not so common in our Internet age.
This single volume remains my favorite in the long and impressive “Best Erotica” series, possibly because it was published at the right time, but maybe just because the stories are great. I know, I’m on the record as disliking reviews that merely mention favorite stories, but I warned you up front this was very personal! Mark Stuertz’ “Lunch” totally blew my mind because the author juxtaposed a “Twin Peaks”-esque secret lunch club performance–complete with a dwarf and a languid beauty infusing a spinach salad with her womanly essence–with an exploration of the sexual sensibility of “Drew,” the man who recommended this unusual meal to the less-worldly narrator. For me it was the first time a character was portrayed so powerfully through his sexual history and tastes. It was a little creepy and very sexy at the same time. Would I want to be with this “Drew”? (Sure, what the hell!)
By contrast, “She Gets Her Ass Fucked Good” by Rose White and Eric Albert is, in spite of the raw title, a sweet love story told in dialogue. I love dialogue in erotic fiction. I love the way a focus on dialogue allows the reader to add in all the good parts. I’m tempted to go write a story right now that is only dialogue. Maybe I will. Thanks to White and Albert for teaching me its power.
Erotica: An Illustrated Anthology of Sexual Art and Literature, volumes 1, 2 and 3 edited by Charlotte Hill and William Wallace (Carroll and Graf, 1992, 1993, 1996).
I discovered these beautifully illustrated anthologies of erotic excerpts at Good Vibrations way back when there was just one store on Valencia Street in San Francisco—another well-timed discovery for a budding erotica writer. I started with the second volume and quickly had to stock up on the others. The editors chose selections from a wide variety of classic erotic tales, presenting a nice overview of the scribblings of the erotic pen. The wide historical range of the illustrations also confirms that humanity has been fascinated and inspired by sexuality since, like, forever. They say women aren’t as fond of visual erotica, but these books prove this is not the case for yours truly when the images are artistically conceived, but no less explicit. Hill and Wallace put out a new volume in 2011, The Collected Erotica: An Illustrated Celebration of Human Sexuality Through the Ages. I’m figuring it can’t be all that different from the content in the three volumes I have, but it might be a good introduction and easier to order new at a reasonable price.
Now please let me to ask you–which books first inspired your erotica writing adventure?
Donna George Storey is the author
of Amorous Woman (recently released as an ebook) and a new collection of short
Presents the Best of Donna George Storey. Learn more about her
work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com
By Lisabet Sarai
Fantasy versus reality. This is a
recurring theme in our author discussions and blogs. As authors of
erotica, do we have a responsibility to paint a somewhat realistic
picture of the complexities of human desire? Or is our role to create
engaging fictional worlds and people them with characters who have
more and better sex than most of us actually experience? Should our
BDSM stories portray the actual practices of the kink community,
complete with negotiation and limits? Or should we allow ourselves to
descend into dark fantasies of acts that might be risky, even
physically impossible, because that’s what pushes our buttons?
I don’t intend to reopen this debate
right now. Even if you’re firmly in the “realism” camp, however,
I’m sure you’ll admit to consciously constructing your stories to
enhance their emotional impact. You introduce elements of suspense.
You gradually intensify conflict. Ultimately, you provide enough of
a resolution to give readers a sense of closure. This is, after all,
the job of the storyteller – to build a coherent whole out of an
assortment of people, actions and events, a tale that will linger in
the readers’ (or listeners’) minds and perhaps, change them.
We do this, often quite deliberately,
when we write fiction. But what about autobiography or memoir?
I’m currently reading, for a review, an
anthology of “true sex stories”. Each author has written about
some crucial erotic experience in her life, some encounter or
relationship that had particular significance. I’m perhaps halfway
through the book right now, and enjoying it quite a bit. The authors’
accounts are well-crafted, diverse, and frequently hot. However,
they’re more or less indistinguishable from the fictional erotic
tales that appear in so many collections from this same publisher.
There’s nothing about them that labels them as “true” or “real”.
They have been subjected to the storyteller’s craft, smoothed,
tailored, refined – turned into works of art.
Please understand, this is merely an
observation, not a criticism. As I contemplate the so-called true
stories in this book, though, I wonder whether the phrase is an
oxymoron, whether “story” and “truth” (in the sense of actual
experience) can ever coexist. “Story” by its very nature implies
an intervention to turn raw phenomena into narration.
Of course, many erotic authors –
myself included – mine their own histories as material for their
fiction. Much of my work is to a greater or lesser extent
autobiographical. A few tales (I won’t say which ones) are nearly
literal accounts. In every case, though, I’ve applied my
storyteller’s lens to the details of my real world erotic encounters
– bringing some aspects into sharper focus while blurring others.
Some alterations are intentional misdirections to protect the
so-called innocent, but most have to do with whipping the tales into
a more literary shape, transforming them from anecdotes to stories.
As I contemplated the phenomenon of
the“true” collection described above, however, I realized that I
do the same thing with supposedly accurate descriptions of my “real”
life. Between ERWA, Oh Get a Grip, my personal blog Beyond Romance,my publishers’ blogs, and my frequent guest posts, I produce quite a
lot of material about myself and my past. I know I’m writing for an
audience, and, without really meaning to, I adapt my life story to
fit my perceptions about what they’ll find intriguing. At this
point, it’s practically second nature to tweak a detail here, neaten
up an ending there, to heighten the effect.
I’m a bit disturbed to note that in
some cases, the stories I’ve told you are now the stories I remember.
I am not sure I recall what actually happened, only what I’ve told
you happened. In fact, some of my fictional tales, even the ones not
intended to be “true”, feel just as real.
As psychologist Daniel Kahneman points
out, direct experience is fleeting. Memory is an act of creation –
or re-creation – an effort to enforce some order on the fragmentary
impressions left by our senses. There’s no guarantee that our
recollections are accurate. Research has shown that memories can
be systematically manipulated by changing our foci of attention.
There are two ways to react to these
findings. We can panic, as the supposedly solid ground of remembered
experience turns to perilous quicksand. If we can’t be sure about our
own life histories, is there any certainty at all?
On the other hand, we can embrace our
storytelling genius, our genetic predisposition to rearrange and
restructure the world into some shape that makes sense, as a gift. We
all tell ourselves stories and create realities – whether we call
them fiction or not. That may be unsettling. But it’s also a kind of
In this entry I propose:
To define a Deciding Character holistically
To define what makes a unique character arc
Describe the “Iceberg Theory”
Describing the desire arc
As in previous entries I want to caution that what I’m
writing about is within a certain context.
Seat of the pantsers shouldn’t think about these things initially, but
write their passion and then go back and consult these ideas during the
rewriting phase, all the more necessary with spontaneously delivered first
drafts. These are also ideas that can
help you make sense of the characters in movies, stories and novels that have
actually moved you and projected a strong sense of personality.
When you think of erotic love, when you think of your current
lover, ask yourself why you love that person.
You could name traits. You like
men who are tall and handsome. You like a
woman with big boobs and an assertive
sexual response. You like a dominant
male. You like a man who’s funny and
knows how to listen. You like this and
you like that.
Nevertheless the world is full of women with big tits. Full of men with big bank rolls and dominant
personalities. They have not won your
heart in the way your lover has, who very likely doesn’t have many or any of
the traits you’d ascribe to a character. What you have is empathy. You know him
or her. You know the way a room feels different when they’re in it. Sometimes when a man is away, a woman likes
to sleep in his T shirt because it smells like him.
In the real world, what causes us to fall in love has little
to do with traits initially and more often to do with an undefinable chemistry we’re barely aware of. Or very often love begins from a personal
history, a man or a woman who has shown their loyalty by standing by you during
hard times. There is an intangible moral
core at the heart of every great love or even a great friendship. There is also this sense between a reader and
a well crafted character, an indefinable sense.
You don’t have to like the character.
But you need a sense of recognizing them, not of liking them but of finding
your humanity in them.
In the most ancient stories and myths, characters were all
about action. We didn’t know them so
well as people. They were barely people
at all. Shakespeare changed all that
with characters that were powerful and complex and had a way of sticking in the
imagination. Shakespeare did this by
several innovations that we would take for granted today. He introduced moral argument and connected it
to the soul of the character. He would
leave out a key trait on purpose and leave in it’s place a contradiction that
made the character mysterious. A
character wasn’t just about action in Shakespeare’s best plays. The main character struggled with moral evolution. The character felt the seeds of moral change
at the beginning of the story, the audience had a sense that “something is
about to happen here” and the character made moral decisions until by the end of the story this person
was profoundly changed. King Lear starts
out as an old man full of illusions, arrogant, vain, insensitive to the personalities
of the people around him except as they reflect himself. By the end of the play, he is destroyed in
every way, he is broken and impoverished and finally insane, but he has
acquired soulfulness. He has acquired
through his suffering a genuine empathy for others he would not have had at the
beginning, and the beauty is that it all seems so natural. His progression
makes perfect sense. Macbeth, Thane of
Cawdor starts out as a noble and ambitious warrior, brave and loyal to his king. But he makes these moral choices that change
him, until by the end of the story he is a monster, friendless and hated. And unforgettable. The best characters are not about traits,
which are exterior elements of character, like clothes or wealth. Like ourselves in our own moral journeys in
this world, the best characters are about change.
This implies that once you are ready to rewrite or overhaul
your story, or if you write by careful planning, the real birth of your
character comes when you have found the moral argument, hidden in the core of
your story’s Designing Principle. You
don’t need to find this in the first draft, but to write a solid story, a story
with soul, you need to find it by the final draft. And you may have to overhaul it many times,
trying different approaches to the same premise before you discover what it
really is you’re trying to say. I think
any story has the potential to be a great story, I think the problem is that we
stop exploring it too early.
We know ourselves in this world, define ourselves by our
moral values, are often baffled by our own actions. Our moral values are shaped by contingency colliding with our
humanity and the decisions we make. This
is how nature creates the infinite variety of human personality in this
world. In our fiction craft this is the
line where the geometry of the narrative arc connects with the geometry of the
character arc. Moral decisions. Self-revelation leading to a final moral
There are many ways of approaching erotic fiction and
romantic fiction. The school I’m coming
from doesn’t care how two people
fuck. Here we care why.
The interior geometry of the story, the character arc is
1. The moral argument
at the core of the story
2. The desire line of
the character – I want, therefore I am.
3. Put Together –
this is who I am now.
In his book on craft “Anatomy of Story”, John
Truby defines what he calls the seven key steps of story structure as:
1. Weakness and Need
3. Opponent (not
necessarily a person)
7. New Equilibrium
Truby advises starting the character arc by first defining to yourself the moral
change at the end of the character
arc, which would be about right after the big “come to death” moment where
things have gone very badly and the protagonist makes a life changing
Self-Revelation. Knowing who he will become you can always go back to the beginning and trace
out the set up that leads to this big change.
This seems difficult to me, but if you don’t mind planning ahead its
plausible. In my experience I often
don’t know what the moral self-revelation is until the second or third
overhaul, but once you’ve arrived at it you can always go back and rebuild a
clean path to it. At the end it should
have an organic feel to it; not strained. It should feel as though things could not have
turned out any other way.
The setup should introduce the protagonist as a thinking
person with the depth to experience self change. The protagonist is hiding something inside
that is hurting him or herself.
When the Self revelation appears, it should strike quickly with dramatic
force, a burst of emotion for the protagonist and the reader. It should introduce the protagonist to a new
insight and a new understanding of who he is. For instance with Spider Man, it would be that moment when the face of the man who killed his Uncle Ben is revealed as the man he could have stopped a few hours before but didn’t. His reason for being Spider Man radically changes from that instant. This is typical of modern heroes and villains who very often are born and defined from a specific trauma.
This doesn’t have to be confined to the hero, the opponent,
who could also be the hero/heroines lover can also experience self-revelation.
The Iceberg Theory of Writing
Hemingway had this literary theory he said guided his
creative process, which is that the most important things were under the surface. He called it his “iceberg” method.
As a general thing, one of the major prose differences
between popular fiction, and 90% of erotica and romance is popular fiction, and
so called literary fiction is this theory of omission. Popular fiction tends to be explicit in describing emotions, physical sensations and key events up front, everything you need to know is
laid right out for you. Literacy short fiction, like poetry, attempts to push a lot of key
elements of the narrative and the character arc off stage and out of sight so
that the reader has a sense of something not being said. The omission shines through and forces the
intuitive understanding of what is not being said. When you have to figure it out yourself, when
you have to intuit the physical sensation or emotion, then your imagination owns it
personally. It’s something you’ve discovered for yourself. Hemingway’s theory was that the omitted parts, carefully chosen, could strengthen the
story and help the reader to feel more than they understood. Like poetry it pushes you to feel the story
as a whole, including the intuitive parts taking place off stage.
This kind of writing, as well as poetry craft, boils
down to a creative decision of how you want to present the interior world of your
character. Do you want to lay it all
out, or reveal through what is not being said?
Turning to my own poor stuff for an example, this week at the Oh Get a Grip blog my offering from today
is a short vignette which happens to be written in this iceberg style, if you’d
like to see an example of Hemingway’s idea in application. The week’s theme is “Sex and Punishment” and
my story is called
“The Well: A Story of
Sex and Punishment”
(If you think you already know what this story is going to be about –
But you can read it here:
The other most universal element of character in a well
structured short story is the desire line.
A protagonist in short fiction should have one specific desire line.
More than one and things can get muddled and lose their dramatic power, because
the narrative drive is powered by the clarity of the Deciding Character’s
specific desire and need. As obstacles
to fulfilling the desire appear, as personal weaknesses are revealed, the pressure on the protagonist is increased
as his intensity of desire increases.
Consequently the desire has to be specific enough that the reader will
know if the desire has been satisfied or not.
Suppose you say the heroines desire to is find true love. What
is true love? How would she know it if
she found it? Why is she even looking for it? You should be able to
define the desire clearly in a sentence.
The desire should at some point become personified in something
substantial and pursuable, Hitchcock’s “Mcguffin”, which may be an object or a
person. It should coalesce as quickly as
possible from an abstraction into a thing that can be acted upon. And when the self revelation has appeared
and the desire is reached or relinquished in defeat the story should be quickly wrapped
up. Part of good theater is knowing when
to take your bow and get your butt off the stage.
Speaking of which – see you next month.
Next Entry: The Art of the Crit
|“I’m beautiful, I’m literary, please don’t hurt me.”|
It was William Faulkner who said it. The venerable Samuel Johnson said something very similar. It really refers to lines or phrases, but can sometimes involve whole scenes. Received wisdom is that, if you come across a line or a phrase that makes you puff up your chest at your own literary or poetic brilliance, many accomplished writers and editors believe it probably needs to die.
First, I want to own up to the fact that I have not always followed this piece of writerly advice and I still don’t. But I think I’ve come to understand the rationale behind it a little better, and I have killed my fair share of darlings more recently, and shifted others.
I’m concerned with the ‘literariness’ of my writing. I care a great deal about the poetics of my work. I spend time frantically trying to avoid the many cliches to which it is so easy to resort when writing erotica. When I write sex scenes, I obsess about approaching them from at least a slightly fresher angle than most of the erotica I’ve read. I don’t believe my reader needs to be given a blow-by-blow description of intercourse, and I have a deep faith that language itself can evoke eroticism, and that you can brew metaphors that become new sites of eroticism for your reader.
But pride comes before the fall. I’m going to sound utterly arrogant when I say that I have forged erotic imagery that felt like it shone on the page, that made me think, ‘wow, you’re a fucking good writer’. The problem is that a lot of readers thought so too.
How can that be bad?
Well, it can. Because the moment you’ve forced a reader to look away from the story and think, ‘fuck, what a brilliant writer I’m reading, how poetic, how eloquent!’ is the moment you just kicked them out of the story. You’ve just interfered with your reader’s engagement with the fictional world in order to show off. It’s literary narcissism and it means you’re more concerned with literary bukkake than telling a good story.
Let me give you a brilliant example of a darling that sorely required execution. It’s from Rowan Sommerville’s “The Shape of Her.”
“He grasped the side of her hips, pushed her away and pulled her to him with a slap. Again and again with more force and velocity. Tine pressed her face deeper into the cushion grunting into the foam at each thrust.
The wet friction of her, tight around him, the sight of her open, stretched around him, the cleft of her body, it tore a climax out of him with a final lunge. Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her.”
After being awarded the Bad Sex Award for this passage, Sommerville defended himself by saying it was a literary allusion, an homage to Vladimir Nabokov, who had been an avid amateur butterfly collector.
At this point, I hope you’re saying ‘who gives a fuck about your literary allusions?’ because you have every right to. Readers deserve better than literary in-jokes and canonical masturbation. The last line is both literary and fucking awful. If you were anywhere near being aroused by the passage, that line killed your mind erection stone dead, unless you happen to be one of the very few entomology fetishists out there.
Admittedly, I’ve never written anything quite so eloquent or out of place as that. But I once described an orgasm thusly:
“I can feel my orgasm long before it arrives, a plane in the distance and my body the control tower. The landing lights in my belly light up to guide it in. Gary’s cock has grown huge inside me and there’s a pleasant dull pain each time he thrusts upwards.”
Oh, good god, what possessed me? Landing lights? Control tower? What was I thinking? And yet, at the time, I thought it was a wonderful metaphor. It just felt so ‘right’.
Another problematic darling is the encapsulating and eminently quotable line. Rather than kill it, consider shifting it to either the beginning of the story, chapter or scene, or the end of one of those. It probably is a great line but if you impress your reader so deeply with your pithy, perfectly worded brilliance, same deal. You impress the reader with your linguistic abilities, but you interrupt their relationship with the story.
And this is not about you or how brilliant you are; it’s about the story. So, when it comes to your edits, read through your piece and find those lines, phrases or passages which make you want to give yourself a manly, Hemmingway-style pat on the back. Ask yourself who is truly served by that line or phrase. Is it serving the story or your own writerly ego?