Monthly Archives: March 2014
By K D Grace
For those of you
who don’t know, I’ve been writing a new paranormal erotic series on my blog
Interrupted. It’s one of the many stories I wanted to explore when I
finished writing the Lakeland Heatwave
Trilogy. I decided to try my hand with a serial and put the story out as a
freebie serial coming out every three weeks. Of course being back in the
magical Lake District, back with the Elemental Coven, got me thinking about sex
magic. Again. Still!
struggling to get my head around why sex is magic, why human sexuality defies
the nature programme /Animal Planet biological tagging that seems to work for
other species that populate the planet. I don’t think I could write sex without
magic, and even if I could I wouldn’t want to. I’m not talking about airy-fairy
or woo-woo so much as the mystery that is sex. On a biological level we get it.
We’ve gotten it for a long time. We know all about baby-making and the sharing
of the genes and the next generation. It’s text book.
But it’s the ravenousness of the human animal
that shocks us, surprises us, turns us on in ways that we didn’t see coming.
It’s the nearly out of body experience we have when we are the deepest into our
body we can possibly be. It’s the skin on skin intimacy with another human
being in a world where more personal space is always in demand.
When we come together with another human
being, for a brief moment, our worlds entwine in ways that defy description. We
do it for the intimacy of it, the pleasure of it, the naughtiness of it, the
dark animal possessiveness of it. Sex is the barely acceptable disturbance in
the regimented scrubbed-up proper world of a species that has evolved to have
sex for reasons other than procreation. Is that magical? It certainly seems
impractical. And yet we can’t get enough.
We touch each other because it feels good.
We slip inside each other because it’s an intimate act that scratches an itch
nothing else in the whole universe can scratch. During sex, we are ensconced in
the mindless present, by the driving force of our individual needs, needs that
we could easily satisfy alone, but it wouldn’t be the same. Add love to the
mix, add a little bit of romance, add a little bit of chemistry and the magic
soup thickens and heats up and gets complicated. I don’t think it’s any
surprise at all that sex is a prime ingredient in story. But at the same time,
I don’t think it’s any surprise that it is also an ingredient much avoided in
Sex is a power centre of the human
experience. It’s not stable. It’s not safe. It’s volatile. It exposes people,
makes them vulnerable, reduces them to their lowest common denominator even as
it raises them to the level of the divine. Is it any wonder the gods covet
flesh? The powerful fragility of human flesh is the ability to interact with
the world around us, the ability to interact with each other, the ability to
penetrate and be penetrated.
So as I mull through it, trying for the
zillionth time to get my head around it, I conclude – at least for the moment –
that the true magic of sex is that it takes place in the flesh, and it elevates
the flesh to something even the gods lust after. It’s a total in-the-body,
in-the-moment experience, a celebration of the carnal, the ultimate penetrative
act of intimacy of the human animal. I don’t know if that gives you goose bumps,
but it certainly does me.
I came across
“comfort reading” while surfing the web. I have done this on numerous
occasions, but I didn’t know there was a term for it. According to Sarah
Wendell at Kirkus Reviews, comfort
reads are “a specific type of re-reading.
Comfort reads are those books that are the reading equivalent of your favorite
pajamas, the most fuzzy blanket, the familiar recipe, warm beverages, and
everything that makes your body feel cared for and, well, comforted. Books that
inspire that same feeling of being cared for are what I call comfort reads, and
each reader’s comfort read list is a little different.”
only comfort read, I comfort watch movies such as “Under The Tuscan
Sun”, “Sirens”, and “Half Light”. I used to comfort
game but I’m not into gaming anymore. When I did, I most often played the
original “The Sims”, games in the Myst universe, and Tomb Raider 2.
The key was the repetition. I found solace in the familiar.
comfort read when I’ve had an especially trying time with life. Within the last
two weeks, my computer broke down and the shower wall caved in. I kid you not.
It has not been a fun time around here. The shower wall is temporarily fixed but it needs to be permanently replaced. I had to completely wipe my hard drive
clean and start over again from scratch. The computer is fine now but I went without
quite a bit for a little over a week. So, the time I normally spent online I
spent reading and watching movies. There are several books I comfort read over
and over again when I just want to sit back and force myself to relax. I
usually read dark fiction but there are a few erotic books and romances that I
enjoy. They include the following books:
Heights” by Phyllis Whitney
by Heather Graham
Thorn Birds” by Colleen
Phantom Of The Opera” by Gaston Leroux (mostly the various stage versions)
comfort read, I usually read short stories because I have the attention span of
a gnat when I’m tense. I enjoy reading collections of erotic short stories by Cleis Press and
Xcite Books. I’ll read the same books over and over again.
addition to erotic works and romance, I read darker fiction. In fact, I
probably read more dark fiction than anything else. As mentioned earlier, I
prefer short stories when I comfort read. My favorite books to comfort read are
ghost legends like those found in “The
Screaming Skulls And Other Ghosts” by Elliott O’Donnell and “Ghosts”
by Hans Holzer. Yes, many of these stories are frightening, but I feel a
cathartic release of tension when I read those kinds of stories. Many are
revenge stories such as “Pearlin
Jean of Allanbank“, which is about a man being haunted by a woman who
loved him who died when she was run over by the carriage he occupied. He drove
on, ignoring her. She haunted him, making him miserable until the day he died. Such stories are
soothing to me because in a sense they follow the Happily Ever After ending in
romances. Revenge stories are satisfying because the wronged party is most
often vindicated in the end. I’ve been burned my fair share of times, so I find
these stories very gratifying. I love revenge stories.
are plenty of romances in ghost stories. “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” is
one. “Blithe Spirit” is another. When it comes to movies, of course,
there is “Ghost”. That pottery scene is a classic.
husband sometimes comfort reads “John Carter Of Mars” by Edgar Rice
Burroughs. A close friend of mine rereads “The Door Into Summer” and
“Glory Road” by Robert Heinlein. They’ve been favorites of his since
his youth. My husband has enjoyed Burroughs since his youth. That may also be a
key to the popularity of comfort reading. Quite often readers have enjoyed
these stories since they were children. I first read the O’Donnell and Holzer
books when I was 12 years old. I discovered “Thunder Heights” at
about the same time. “The Thorn Birds”, “Phantom”, and
“Blithe Spirit” came later.
comfort reading so popular? I think it’s because you are guaranteed the ending
you wish since you’re already familiar with the story. You get satisfaction
that things will turn out the way you want them to. In romances, the Happily
Ever After ending is of paramount importance. Even in books that are new to
you, you are all but guaranteed the heroine and hero will overcome all
obstacles and end up together. The road leading to their togetherness may be
fraught with pain and hurdles, but there is satisfaction in knowing that they
will overcome. Real life isn’t like that. You don’t always catch the brass
ring. You don’t always end up with your true love. You don’t always get your vengeance
against someone who wronged you. But when it comes to romance, those fantasies
are guaranteed. Hence the satisfaction in reading new romances as well as
rediscovering old, familiar ones.
named a few of my favorite books to read over and over again. What are your
By Jean Roberta
(Note: My apologies for arriving late. I had trouble posting this piece earlier.)
The word “but” seems wildly unpopular these days. According to television counsellor Dr. Phil, whatever follows a “but” negates whatever came before it. In the context of personal relationships, there seems to be some truth in this claim. When a guest on the Dr. Phil show tells a Significant Other: “I’m sorry I cheated on you, but …” the rest of the sentence is always an attempt to justify the behaviour that the speaker supposedly regrets. When the defense lawyer in a sexual assault case says, “I’m not really saying the victim deserved what she got, but. . .” the rest of the sentence usually implies that she, not the perpetrator, was responsible for an unfortunate misunderstanding. When someone in an on-line thread says, “I’m not racist, but. . “ well, you see the pattern.
My spouse, as a professional counsellor, agrees with Dr. Phil. She tells me that when I say, “I like X, but . . .” the sentence contradicts itself in a confusing postmodern style.
Allow me to present the case for “but.”
I was delighted to teach a credit class in creative writing for the first time in Fall 2013, at the university where I have taught first-year literature-and-composition classes for (as of spring 2014) a quarter-century. I had offered informal crits of other people’s writing in the Storytime list here at Erotic Readers and Writers, but I was nervous about doing this in an official capacity. How could I judge other people’s short stories, poems, scripts or opinion pieces and assign grades to them without being unreasonably biased in favour of what I happen to like? On a deep level, this question nagged at me: Why on earth should other writers (even those almost young enough to be my grandchildren) respect my opinions? Am I brilliant or famous?
As it turned out, it seemed surprisingly easy to evaluate student assignments by the same standards I use to evaluate academic essays on literature. This is my general checklist:
– What is the purpose of this piece? (In the case of an essay, I look for a thesis, a controversial statement which will be defended with fairly objective evidence, much like an appeal to the jury by a prosecutor/district attorney or a defense attorney in criminal court. Neither lawyer can be neutral, or defend both sides.)
– How does this piece approach its purpose? If this seems to be a mood piece, does it use descriptive language? Does the writer “show” a situation or “tell” about it? What are the advantages of the strategies used, if any?
– Is this piece written grammatically, in standard English? (In the case of an essay, ungrammatical writing automatically lowers the grade.) If a creative piece is written informally, in slang or dialect, is this an attempt to produce the effect of spoken language? If so, does it work? Is the piece a linguistic experiment? If so, is it understandable?
– Is this piece coherent, or does it switch viewpoints for no apparent reason? Is the pacing uneven? Does something important seem to be left out?
When grading the assignments of eager young writers (of stories, novels-in-progress, structured poems, short plays and essays), I found much to admire, but I always had a “but.” Usually I liked the plot premise, but sometimes I found the characters two-dimensional or the dialogue full of cliches. I was taken aback by the number of apparently unintended grammatical problems in student writing. In the case of structured poems, the technical problems were easy to spot. (This is one reason why I gave the assignment). How many sonnets, I asked aloud rhetorically, have lines that vary from eight syllables to thirteen?
So my evaluations usually started with praise for the general conception of the piece, followed by a “but.” Example: Interesting contemporary drama about a dysfunctional family (and aren’t they all, if you look closely?), but do Canadians in the 21st century say, “Mark my words?” (As far as I know, this phrase might still be a part of local speech in some quaint backwater, but I suspect the student was too influenced by the literature of the past.) Or: Exciting, ambitious fantasy story, but how can an immortal character drop dead of natural causes, and why does the invisibility cloak only work on some occasions?
This brings me to a recent discussion in the Writers list, here at ERWA. Someone said that as writers, we can never know why an editor rejected one of our submissions. This statement seems akin to saying that we can never really, really know what another person means. I can agree with this, but I’m not convinced that editors are especially cagy about expressing their true opinions.
I’ve received numerous rejection letters. Trust me. They no longer sting as much as they used to because I’ve also had approximately 100 stories (mostly erotic) accepted for print anthologies, as well as a novella and three single-author story collections. Some of the editors who reject Story A from me (despite my hope and faith that this particular editor will love this particular story) then accept Story B, which I sent in on a whim, not expecting much. As they say, there is no explaining taste. When an editor tells me “I really like this story, but it’s not what I’m looking for,” I usually have no reason to think this message isn’t sincere. I know that editors could usually say more about their choices than they usually do say (especially in rejection messages), but a brief explanation isn’t necessarily code for: “Your writing sucks, and I never want to see any more of it.”
I value the “but.” It’s a useful and meaningful word. Sometimes when I reread my own writing, I use the “but” on myself. (Still love the idea, but OMG, this passage is unnecessarily long and draggy. Or conversely, no wonder this piece was rejected. It has lots of potential, but it’s a fantasy novel in embryo that I tried to squeeze into just under 5K. In its present form, it probably wouldn’t make sense to anyone but me.)
I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I use “but” (a co-ordinating conjunction that balances two grammatical units of equal weight), I hope the reader will understand that I’m really trying not to be obscure, snarky or completely negative. No one’s art – and no one’s life –could honestly be summed up as all good or all bad.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
By J.T. Benjamin (Guest Blogger)
I’ll never forget my first real exposure to pornography. The June, 1979 issue of Playboy Magazine featured Monique St. Pierre as Playmate of the Year, and Louann Fernald as Playmate of the Month. The former was European, Nordic, sleek, sultry, and exotic. She wore a glamorous, shimmering evening gown on the cover of the magazine. The latter was homegrown, olive-skinned, buxom and as wholesome as the sundress-wearing college student-girl next door she was.
And I was hypnotized by both. The magazine had been “borrowed” by a friend of mine from his older brother, the same way I “borrowed” it from my friend. (My shameful introduction into a life of crime and debauchery).
To this point, my Catholic upbringing had induced me to fear sexuality; any sexual image, any sexual concept, any sexual thought meant the hellfire of eternal damnation. And yet, when I gazed upon those gorgeous, nude, sensual images, a little voice in the back of my head told me that when considering the opportunity to see more full frontal female nudity versus the risk of eternal damnation,, I decided to take my chances. The flames of Hell? Nothing compared to Playmate of the Month.
So began my descent into Hell. I masturbated. I fantasized. I procured more porn. More Playboys. Penthouse. Hustler. Then came the movies. The first few were in the company of others, at which I laughed and pretended to be more amused than aroused, but after a while, I stopped pretending and I simply watched the movies alone. Then I started reading porn. Oh, sure. Some people called it “erotica,”, but I knew that if I read it or watched it and I got a hard-on, it was porn. And I embraced it. And watching it or reading it made me a better person.
How? I’m so glad you asked.
First, as the saying goes, “Once you’ve seen one woman naked, you want to see them all naked.” My exposure to the sultry Monique St. Pierre and the charmingly homespun Louann Fernald only made me want to pursue examination of the female form in every way possible. I examined naked women in every way, shape and form Pale skin, dark skin, olive skin, blonde, brunette, redhead, large breasts, little boy breasts, firm ass, long legs, short legs, buxom figure, petite figure, every possible configuration, and every possible way to look beautiful. I gained an appreciation for the female form that can only come from considering all the possibilities. Through pornography, I saw beauty and sensuality in everyone.
Then, came the exploration of alternative sexualities. At first, like most ignorant adolescents, I initially saw homosexuality or bisexuality as some sort of aberration or deviation. Once I started exploring pornography, I saw these alternative sexualities as something as normal as my fascination with girls with glasses, 140 IQs and fishnet stockings. Lesbian sex? Okay. Bondage? Sure, why not. Leather? You bet. Homosexuality? Okay with me. Not my bag, but still.
Ultimately, I figured out that what (or who) turned other people on wasn’t my problem or even my business, because, as the saying goes, “Different strokes for different folks.”
Thirdly, I have turn-ons, kinks, and depravities. Thanks to my exposure to porn, I realized everyone else does, too. It’s no more appropriate for me to cast judgment on the kinks of others as it would be for those others to cast judgment on my kinks. So, when the issue of same-sex marriage came up, it was easy for me to decide which side to choose. Everyone’s entitled to their own pursuit of happiness. I wouldn’t have come to this realization without exposure (through porn) to this notion.
Finally, ultimately, in my opinion, the goal of porn is arousal. Either the arousal of one’s partner, one’s own arousal, or even the arousal of total strangers. For myself, porn isn’t fun if someone else isn’t having fun. I take pride in the fact that when I’ve been intimate with others, I’ve exerted the utmost effort in giving as much pleasure as possible to my partner or partners. For the most part, as far as I’ve been led to believe, I’ve been successful in that effort more often than not. I wouldn’t be so diligent in those efforts if not for the exposure to porn I’ve had over the years.
In short, thanks to my exploration of pornography I’ve learned how to be curious about sex, adventurous about sex, tolerant about concepts of arousal divergent from my own, and I’ve acquired a general notion that someone else’s idea of pleasure is simply none of my business.
So, why do I write about porn? Well, I just want to give something back.
About the Author
J.T. Benjamin, latter-day hippie, writer, philosopher, and porn pundit, has been a member of ERWA since 1998. These days he’s working on the Great American Sex Novel when he’s not a cubicle slave for The Man and being devoted to his Lovely Wife, children, five dogs, three cats, and his mortgage.
by Kathleen Bradean
I was thinking about characters. In particular, secondary characters.
Someone, and I wish I could remember who, said that good secondary characters
have something else going on. Meaning that they don’t sacrifice their entire
lives to serve the plot. Maybe Samwise Gamgee did that for Bilbo Baggins in
Lord of the Rings, but your secondary characters are going to seem more
realistic if they know other people beside the main character, and have their
own goals and ambitions. If they have a name, they have a fate, and it shouldn’t
necessarily be tied to the main character’s fate.
Tom Stoppard wrote an entire play around the problem of secondary
characters. In Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern Are Dead*, Stoppard follows two secondary characters from William
Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The title comes from a throw-away line about their fates
near the end, the last they are heard about. From the beginning of Stoppard’s
play, the two are aware that they’re in an unnatural world. The one we think is Rosencrantz flips a
coin over and over and it always comes up heads. They vaguely remember being
summoned, but nothing before that. They know they are on their way somewhere
but aren’t sure why. They aren’t even sure which of them is Rosencrantz and who
is Guildenstern. This reflects the scene in Hamlet where the king and queen use
different names for them. It isn’t until much later, when Hamlet names them, that
they know for sure.
Because they have no agency outside serving the plot, they
are trapped by it. At the end, the one we think is Guildenstern comments that
there must have been a point where they might have said no, but they missed it.
He thinks it must have been near the beginning. Truthfully, it was before the
play began and they were brought into existence to fill a specific purpose.
Along their way, they fulfill one of their purposes in the
play Hamlet, and that is to meet the troupe of players who will help Hamlet
confront his uncle with the murder of this father. They run into this troupe
many times in RAGAD. They even watch them perform a mummer’s play version of
Hamlet, including their own deaths. The leader of the troupe offers many
cryptic warnings, but the two have no ability to flee Elsinore. They will play
out their parts.
This is the truly clever thing about this play (other than
the dialog, and the conceit, and everything, actually. When Hamlet says, “Words.
Words. Words,” he could have been praising Stoppard). When R&G are onstage
(in Hamlet), the scenes in RAGAD are the scenes from Hamlet. But when they leave
the stage in Hamlet, we follow them rather than the other characters. We get an
accounting of their time. The problem is, they have no idea what to do with
that time or even why they have been summoned to Elsinore by the king and queen
because they are, even in this play, mere secondary characters whose only
reason to exist is to serve the plot of Hamlet. Even their deaths have no
significance. Their deaths happen off stage and are merely noted by a line—in Hamlet.
For poor R&G, they must see it through to the end, because they are
offstage in Hamlet but always onstage for RAGAD, a play in which their deaths
are a scene.
I watched both a full production of Hamlet and Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern Are Dead for this article. (I suggest a full version of Hamlet
because, to misquote a line from Amadeus, ‘There are just as many words,
Majesty, as required. Neither more nor less.’ A truncated version of Hamlet is
a crime against art. This version with David Tennant is very good. If you only
know him as The Doctor from Doctor Who, you’re in for a treat.) If you have
time, I strongly suggest watching both within a short time frame to better appreciate how they
interlock. You can learn a lot about secondary characters, if only to realize
that when they walk offstage in your story, they should have a background,
memories, an identity—everything that makes them a whole person in their own
story. Imagine how dull it is for your secondaries to wait in suspension for
your MC to walk through the door. Or even to give them a name.
*If you have not seen it, please watch Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
Are Dead. Tom Stoppard is amazing. (You can view it in parts on YouTube as a last resort).
This post has been reblogged from Writer Marketing Services.
I’m writing this post due to popular demand. I’ve had several clients ask me about Triberr, what it is, why they should be using it and how much time it will take up. I’ll do my best to answer these questions, and probably more, without writing a blog post that will be the same length as my latest novel 😉
1. What is Triberr?
Triberr is a type of social sharing site where a user will join “tribes” that are relevant to the content they create on their blogs. So, for example, I’m in several writing, erotica, erotic romance and romance-type tribes. Once a user’s account is set up correctly, their blog’s RSS feed will automatically add each new post into the streams of people who are in the same tribes as them. The idea of this is that because people in tribes share similar interests, the posts they will see in their streams are things they will want to share with their own followers. Which brings me neatly onto point #2.
2. Why should you be using it?
Because it increases your reach. Massively. At the time of writing this post, I have 5,653 Twitter followers. So when I go into Triberr and approve other people’s relevant posts (this is key for me. I don’t want to alienate my followers by Tweeting stuff about children’s books or young adult), they will automatically be Tweeted onto my account. Not all at once, but at intervals set by me, which are half an hour.
Imagine this reversed. Because each of my blog posts are fed into Triberr, they’ll appear on my tribemates’ feeds and they’ll share them. So without Triberr, my Tweets would be seen by 5,653 people and probably then by others because my followers have Retweeted me. But with Triberr, my blog posts are automatically fed to the Twitter feed of every tribemate that approved my post – and because I’m in tribes that are relevant to my work, this is most of them. So, depending on how many Twitter followers each of my tribemates has, you can see how much my reach increases. The biggest reach of the tribes that I’m in is 452,533 people! That’s HUGE!
3. How much time will it take up?
Not much is the short answer. If you simply join us as a member and don’t have a tribe of your own (there are currently enough tribes out there that you don’t need to worry about setting up your own), it’s a quick and easy thing. Now I have everything set up correctly, I probably spend ten minutes per day approving relevant posts. I know we’re all busy people, but this is a tiny portion of time compared to the potential benefits. Because if you’re seen to be active, to be approving other people’s posts, then they’ll approve yours, too. So where your blog posts might have only reached 6,000 followers beforehand, with Triberr this is multiplied many fold with a small amount of time on your part.
I realise this is a really, really short piece which doesn’t go into the nitty-gritty of setting up Triberr, finding tribes and so on, but as I said I didn’t want to write a novel in a blog post 😉 . Ultimately, even if you’re not technically-minded, once Triberr is set up, it’s just a matter of going in once a day, going to your stream and hovering over that share button for each post you want to share. Technology does the rest for you. If you don’t want to share a post, then click the hide link. You’ll soon get into a rhythm. Once your stream is empty, give yourself a pat on the back and move onto the next item on your to-do list. But don’t forget to watch traffic to your site increase, especially if you’ve taken the time to write engaging blog post titles – something I personally am working on improving, and am already seeing results.
So, there’s Triberr in brief. If I end up with lots more questions and feedback on this post, then I may well write another article in a couple of weeks about the more nitty-gritty side of things.
P.S. If you’re an erotica or erotic romance author and want to get started – come check out my tribe.
By Lisabet Sarai
I’m currently reading a book that should never have been published. Unfortunately, I’m committed to reviewing this three hundred fifty page novel, so I can’t just erase it from my e-reader and breathe a sigh of relief. I have to endure the run-on sentences, misspellings and incorrect vocabulary; the point of view that does a random walk from one character’s head to another’s; the verb tenses that shift from present to past and back again in the same paragraph.
I have to wonder about an author who sends a book in this sorry state out to the world. Did she really not know any better? Like many first erotica novels (including my own), the story (a moderately intense tale of extreme submission) feels like personal fantasy. I appreciate, from my own experience, the thrill that comes from baring your sexual soul, the rush one feels being brave enough to bring those filthy imagined scenarios into the light. It’s easy to get carried away. Still, even when writing for one’s own satisfaction, doesn’t an author have at least some responsibility to her readers? Shouldn’t there be some minimum criterion an author must satisfy, in terms of language skills, before he or she is entitled to ask other people to actually pay for privilege of reading?
Unfortunately, this book is far from unique. At least twenty percent of the ebooks I read appear to have never been examined by a (competent) editor. Some have dreadful formatting problems as well – text that switches from one font to another in the middle of sentences, negative leading between lines so that one overlaps another, and so on. Furthermore, these issues don’t appear just in self-published books.
Now, I’m a bit of a geek. You may or may not be aware of the fact that text processing software capabilities have become extremely sophisticated. Programs can analyze text in order to determine whether it was likely to have been written by a male or female; whether it was plagiarized; what emotions were experienced by the author; even whether it has linguistic characteristics shared by best-sellers. Software exists to grade essay questions in college entrance exams and make suggestions for how the author can get a better score. It recently occurred to me that someone (not me – text processing isn’t my specialty) could write a program to screen out books with egregious grammatical and lexical problems.
I have no doubt that Amazon has the resources to commission this sort of computerized gatekeeper. Think about it. Before an individual, or a publisher, could finalize submission of a book for sale, they would have to run it through the Automated Editor. The program would flag potential problems for attention. If the number of dangling participles or sentence fragments or run-on constructions exceeded a threshold, the book would be rejected. In other words, it would become impossible to publish a book like the one I’m wading through at the moment. The base level quality of available books would improve dramatically.
(Of course, Amazon would never do this voluntarily, only under pressure from readers. The company has zero incentive to reduce the number of books it offers for sale.)
But then, an artificially intelligent text analyst could do a great deal more than simply check for basic grammar. It could flag repeated words, phrases or figures of speech. (How many references to an “inner goddess” should be allowed before a book was rejected?) I believe that existing linguistic analysis software could also be trained to detect clichés, simply by providing an extensive database of example phrases. Purple prose would also be sufficiently distinctive, I think, to be identified with some level of accuracy.
I’m starting to imagine a multi-level application that could analyze a wide range of textual and stylistic characteristics in order to assign a “publishability” score to each manuscript. Why stop with the superficial problems, though? Automated language understanding systems have made great progress in the past decade, due to faster hardware and new algorithms. So why not look not just for clichéd language, but clichéd plot elements as well? That may be beyond the capabilities of today’s software, but not tomorrow’s. Using tired, overused story lines as models, the program could decide that the world did not in fact need yet another vampire-turning-his-lover-to-save-her-from-death or billionaire-seduces-virgin tale.
We could also use our gatekeeper software to determine how well a book purporting to belong to a certain genre in fact fit the conventions of that genre. If the program found evidence of lesbian interaction in a heterosexual erotic romance, for instance, it could reject the book as inappropriate for the targeted readers.
In the brave new world I am imagining, almost any aspect of a book’s content or presentation could be quantified and used to make publishing decisions. Sentences too short or too long. Overuse or underuse of adjectives. Too many characters of particular ethnicities. Focus on uncomfortable, politically incorrect or otherwise controversial topics. Mention of specific individuals, events, places, companies, products… the possibilities are limitless.
Think of how much more pleasant reading would become when you didn’t have to worry about ever encountering run-on sentences – or depictions of rape. You’d be shielded from both bad grammar and bad ideas.
Sure, this might homogenize the reading experience a bit, but that’s happening anyway, isn’t it? You’re right, Hemingway and Pynchon and Palahniuk and Joyce might not make the grade with our gatekeeper, unless they were grandfathered in as previously published. I’ll admit that some promising new authors would be prevented from making their work available to the world, but that happens with human editors too. At least our computerized literary gatekeepers would be objective and impartial.
Hmm… Maybe this needs some more thought
Meanwhile, I’ve got to go read a few more painful chapters and then figure out how to write this review without totally demoralizing this poor, benighted author.
February was a short month! Here we are on the 19th of March, and once again we’re encouraging you to post your Sexy Snippets!
The ERWA blog is not primarily intended for author promotion.
However, we’ve decided we should give our author/members an occasional
opportunity to expose themselves (so to speak) to the reading public.
Hence, we have declared the 19th of every month at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association blog Sexy Snippet Day.
On Sexy Snippet day, any author can post a tiny excerpt (200 words or less) in a comment
on the day’s post. Include the title from with the snippet was
extracted, your name or pseudonym, and one buy link, if you’d like.
follow the rules. If you post more than 200 words or more than one
link, I’ll remove your comment and ban you from participating in further
Sexy Snippet days. So play nice!
you’ve posted your snippet, feel free to share the post as a whole to
Facebook, Twitter, or wherever else you think your readers hang out.
We’re more than halfway through National Write Whatever the Hell You Want Month, and I hope that my readers who’ve decided to take the challenge are having a great time writing whatever the hell you want!
As I mentioned in my first post on this topic, I realized that the first thing I needed to do was quiet down all the internal voices telling me to produce and “achieve” and meet some external standard and just listen to my imagination. This has proved to be a key to getting back in touch with what I want to write.
Now many writers who’ve commented on the NWWTHYWM project have mentioned that they always write what they want. This got me thinking a bit about my own process. I can honestly say I have never written a story that I feel is false to my creative values. There is always something in each story that sparks me, a mystery to explore, no matter how limited the word count or how carefully tailored to a theme. What I’ve decided to do moving forward is to pay attention to the source of that excitement and nurture it. In allowing my imagination to speak, I’ve come up with a list of story ideas that have that initial spark of mystery. Just looking at the list is inspiring, so I already consider NWWTHYWM a personal success.
Another “indulgence” I’m allowing myself in this project is to explore stories and prompts beyond erotica. Oddly enough, one of the first things that popped into my mind when I told myself, “Hey, go ahead and write about whatever the hell you want,” were these little holiday-themed candles that my family used to buy at Woolworth’s for ten to fifteen cents back in the 1960’s. Thanks to the internet, I discovered they were made my a company called Gurley, which is out of business, but sold its molds to The Vermont Country Store, which is reissuing some of the candles. I guess I’m not alone in my nostalgia, although the prices have gone up significantly over the decades!
It’s not exactly that I see myself writing a series of stories about holiday figure candles, but serendipitously, I happened to be reading a book my son’s improv teacher recommended, Impro: Improvisition and the Theatre by Keith Johnstone. I’m finding the book to be very relevant to fiction writing as well, and Johnstone’s chapter on “Spontaneity” gave me a hint as to why the holiday candles might have a deeper message for me. Johnstone is not a fan of traditional education, having experienced the worst of it in 1950’s Britain, although the emphasis on conformity is still the same in twenty-first century America. He points out that teachers consider children as immature adults, but that we might have better and more respectful teaching if we considered adults as atrophied children. To create something vital tends to mean working against our official education (and all those books I read on writing stories that sell.) Perhaps those candles are a message to me to get back in touch with my childish wonder about life’s magic?
In mulling over what I really want to write about, I was also able to acknowledge that a lot of the stories I want to write involve going back in time and recreating a lost age. I guess you’d call that historical fiction, but with my own personal twist. For some reason, my efforts to go back in time in my stories have not been particularly successful in terms of a sale. Perhaps it’s because my historical fiction does not fit into a conventional slot—dukes and carriages and arranged marriages and so on, although I like a costume drama as much as the next Masterpiece Theatre fan. On some subconscious level, I think I’ve been telling myself to stay away from such themes because editors don’t like them.
I’m going to stop telling myself such things and see what happens, not just for this month but for the whole damned year.
Last but not least, I’ve decided that every March I will take a few days or a few weeks or the whole month—whatever I need—to check in with my “childish” imagination and see if it’s happy, nourished, pointed on the right path. I am tempted to say I should do this all the time, which is a noble plan, but if the Gurley candles are any indication, there is something enchanting about annual traditions.
If you’ve made any discoveries this month, please do share them here or at the NWWTHYWM page. Let’s inspire each other!
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
Nixie had decided definitely on the young goth boy standing in the shadows at
the end of the bar, partly because of the irritation she felt for his showy and
pretentious imitation of her kind of which he clearly knew nothing.
Nixie had decided grimly upon the young goth boy standing at the end of the
bar, in shadow, partly out of insulted rage at his ignorant imitation of her
kind of which he clearly knew nothing.
The young goth boy at the end of the bar, all in black caught Nixie’s eye ,
partly out of a predatory rage at the imitation of her kind.
Maybe. I dunno.
Nixie had decided on the young goth boy at the end of the bar, drawn by his
pretentious imitation of her kind.
I’m pastiching this sentence by F Scott Fitzgerald (“This Side of Paradise”)
that goes “Amory had decided definitely on Princeton, even though he would be
the only boy entering from St Regis.” I got this from a book I’m studying called
“Copy and Compose”, which is an old out-of-print manual of rhetoric focusing on
the variations of sentence structure and their aesthetic effects. For a narrative writer, this is the equivalent of sitting in your room practicing your
scales. I’ve been studying this book to train my ear for sound and
language. In case you’re wondering the Fitzgerald sentence is an example of
“The Complex Sentence/Afterthought With Subordinator and Punctuation”. Yes sir,
that’s just what it is too. No doubt about it. The sound of words is important to me. It should be to you. Action for instance:
Grimacing menacingly Nixie took the Bible in her right hand, reached back and threw it through the window which broke with a crash.
How about this instead:
She seized the heavy Bible on the dressing stand and shook it at
the sun defiantly – “Ich sehe Dich
in leuchtender Sonne – “
A thick hot odor. Smoke.
und komme zu Dir!”
The Bible smashed through the window. Glass and wood exploded in
the cold gust of clear morning air. The
bare blaze of the sun caught her.
Much better I think, Strong verbs without many adverbs. Short punchy sentences. One syllable words that go bam-bam-bam. I don’t tell anything about her throwing the Bible at the window glass. The window explodes and your imagination fills in the blanks. That gives it more emotional power because it belongs to you when you fill in the blanks.
I love words and sentences and paragraphs. This is my medicine for melancholy.
Of all the young men in black, standing in and out of shadows, Nixie chose the
young goth boy at the end of the bar, exactly because he was trying so
idealistically in his way to imitate her kind, of which he was clearly
Now it’s getting so far off the rails.
Nixie’s discerning eye went straight to the young man in the shadows at the end
of the bar, pretending to be a vampire. Of all the people she might choose, his
disappointment in the last instant of his life in discovering the drab reality
of his fantasy, finding in the end only a plain looking girl in simple clothes
bending over him; his disillusionment, if not revelation, would be delicious.
I dunno. You can get pretty tangled up with this stuff.
Am I wrong – or is this a distinctly male way of writing? Women writing romance tend to be more flowery and descriptive and men tend to be more sparse. Am I wrong on this?
I just want to write well. There will always be the
challenge and beauty of language, and the struggle to master language like a
musician mastering his instrument. There’s so much out there I want to learn. If God or genetics gave you something you can do well, why
wouldn’t you do it?
When I’ve got something to write, I write. The rest of the time I’m learning to
write. Being a blogger here and on Oh Get a Grip (since 2009!) is an interesting opportunity for me because it forces me to write on demand.
I have to come up with something two Wednesdays a month.
Each Wednesday is on a predetermined theme.
Think about that. If you have a writer’s group you should try this. A schedule. A theme. On OGG whenever possible I try to write a short story as my blog piece. Most of the time I cough up some kind of hairball, but some of them have, with a little polishing, been published. A few of them are not bad at all. Writing to a schedule makes you show up at the keyboard. Writing to a theme is how my old literary heroes, the pulp fiction writers (I consider myself a modern pulp fiction writer) earned a living more or less writing for pulps like “Weird Tales”, “Argosy” and “Black Mask”.
Robert Frost once described writing free verse as “playing tennis without the net”. Most people like playing tennis without a net and they write free verse and dislike verse forms. But writing within boundaries of form or theme, playing with the net up, is like doing a cross word puzzle, it forces you to think a certain way and there is a great satisfaction when you pull it off.
So how do you come with a story idea on demand? I use a method I learned from my interest in Kaballah and tarot cards
I’m not convinced that tarot cards represent anything synchronistic or magical, I think they represent a combining of random elements. But, we have evolved in such a way that we instinctively make order out of randomness. Our unconscious mind looks for patterns, Tarot cards by design have strong but undefined imagery that when presented the unconscious makes order of. You draw cards, you look at them, feel the movement of intuition and the cards begin to tell you a story. This is that inner part of the mind working for you.
Here’s how I wrote a story called “Miss Mercy” for the Oh Get a Grip blog on the week
when the theme was “food and sex”. This story was later published by Bryant Literary Review and Mammoth’s Quick And Dirty (not bad for a blog post).
where the story came from. Real world, I have no experiences with food and sex.
Food and my pathetic sex life have simply never crossed paths. So using only
what is available, I just don’t have anything to say on that subject, but
Wednesday is coming. (Schedule! Theme!)
What to do?
I had been reading an anthology called “Alien
Sex” and there was a short story called “Oral” by Richard Christian Matheson,
son of Richard Matheson, (one of my literary heroes and influences). “Oral”
basically gives a first person, present point of view describing a person
drinking a glass of water in tremendous detail. That’s it. But it gave me an idea for an interesting
experiment, a creative challenge, to tell a story of physical sensations
completely in dialogue without narration. I had never read a story like this,
and it seemed like a fun challenge. So I tried my best. The title came from
an article about groupies written by Frank Zappa a long time ago. One of the
groupies he knew back in the day was a girl the guys called “Miss Mercy”, god knows why. I stumbled into these little
tarot cards in my environment, picked them up and arranged them into something.
So let’s go back to pastiche and see how the random elements could maybe work with that.
When I’m in practicing mode, I consult a book on writing practice called “A
Writers Book of Days” by Judith Reeves. It gives you these little themes or
phrases, one for each day of the year and you just jump off of the phrase and
go with it. This is also good discipline, because it forces you to learn
flexibility. Like compositional Yoga poses. You can liken it to being a musician in a
band that jams a lot, and the lead guy creates this riff and then tosses it to
you and you play your solo off it.
Flipping through to today’s date, I find today’s topic for practice is the
phrase “avenues of escape”. So that’s tarot card number two, the first tarot
card being the pastiche riff on F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Let’s mess with it.
So, Fitzgerald’s line is “Amory had decided definitely on Princeton, even
though he would be the only boy entering from St Regis.” That plus
“avenues of escape”.
Nixie had decided on the young Goth man standing at the bar, because
he was self consciously dressed in imitation of a vampire. She had almost never met a vampire other than herself, and was sure any practical killer would never advertise his condition any more than a wolf would advertise itself among a flock of sleeping sheep.
Someone had left a half finished bottle of Becks on a table. She picked it up
and padded up silently behind the Goth boy. She set the bottle down with a
sharp rap on the wood of the bar top. He turned at the sound and she caught his eye. “I’ve been watching you,” she said. “So I’m
thinking, you know, why do you dress so dark and sad like this? Are you
Hamlet? Are you sad?”
“Where‘re you from?” said the Goth boy.
She noticed, with a small wave of disgust, he had rouged his lips bright
scarlet and darkened his eyes with kohl. “Bavaria.”
“That’s where Hitler’s from, right?”
Her eyes flashed. “No. It is not right.” She smiled, showing teeth. “So then,
why do you dress like that? Do you think you look very interesting that way?”
“You must think I look interesting.”
“Jah, you know, I think you’re the only interesting man here. So why do you
hide your beauty?”
“Because I love death.”
“Oh. So. That’s it, then. You love death. Does death love you?”
“Why do you love death? Please tell me.”
“Because this world is ugly. I want to escape from it. I think death is where
peace and beauty lie. The real world lies beyond. We’ll escape from this world
into pure freedom of spirit.”
“So with death, we can escape and fly away,” she gestured, waggling her
fingertips, “from this wicked, wicked world.”
She pretended to take a swig of beer and set the bottle down. She leaned in
close, covering the distance between them and reached under the crotch of his
black silk dress pants. She caressed him there, felt him swell, saw his eyes
become hard. She nodded her head towards the back door. “Come escape with me. I’ll show you something beautiful. Something you have never seen.
Come.” She stepped away, and waited. The man took a step towards her. “Let’s
get out of this place.. Come with me, because I’m the goddess of fate.” She held open the back door
and the young man stepped through into the dark, deserted parking lot.
And so it goes. Found stuff.
Of all the stupid fucks sitting at laptops in the Starbucks, Nixie choose the
oldish man with the beard because he smelled funny and walked funny and looked
lonesome and needy and could be lured outside to an easy kill, and she didn’t
feel like working that hard tonight anyway. She padded quietly up behind him
She padded quietly up
She padded up
She padded up quietly
She padded up quietly behind him and slapped him soundly upside the head. “So what it is you’re writing now, shiesekopf, why are you still doing this? No one will read it.”
“Because ‘I love death’?”
“Oh shut up.”