Monthly Archives: July 2014
By K D grace
My husband’s making toast. The smell
catapults me back to childhood days when my mother made me tea and toast for
breakfast before sending me off to school, and I can’t keep from salivating.
Toast is one of those scents that makes me want some even when I’m not hungry –
like popcorn and bread baking. Yesterday evening when I went out to water the
garden, I could smell the neighbors’ dinner cooking. I could pick up the scent
of something frying in fresh oil, probably chips. The ocean under-smell of fish,
told me that it was most likely fish and chips from the chippie picked up on
the way home for a quick dinner after a hard day’s work.
I’ve been very aware of scents these past
few weeks. My WIP is the story of a woman with a very gifted sense of smell.
I’ve always been intrigued by scents and the emotions and the memories they
elicit and by the little sneak peeks they offer us into the lives of those
around us. That’s why I decided to see what would happen if the story I chose
to tell was the story of sex and love and passion and all the emotions that are
a part of the package experienced chiefly through the sense of smell. What does curiosity smell like? What does
anger smell like? How about fear?
Of course all of those things would be different
for everyone who smelled them. Fish and chips are easy, but a perfume that
smells gorgeous on someone else might smell like bug spray on me. The smell of
an unwashed human might smell like wet garbage to one person while that same
unwashed human may smell like sex on wheels to someone else. How does the scent
of two aroused individuals change when those two have sex? And does arousal
smell different from foreplay, intercourse, orgasm and the snuggle and snooze
Since I was a child, I’ve never liked to
share a sleeping space with anyone. I still don’t want anyone but my husband in
my sleeping space and I’ve never wanted to invade anyone else’s – even when no
one is sleeping there. I find the smell of sleep both off-putting and arousing,
and most definitely intriguing. The scent of sleep is the scent of people with
their defenses down, the scent of people vulnerable, the scent of people
entering their unconscious, their dream space. That’s way too intimate to share
I’ve never made any bones about being a
voyeur at heart, and I’m happy to sneak a peek whenever I can. But writing from
an olfactory point of view is no less a voyeuristic experience, and in so many
ways much more evocative. Scent is much more intimate than sight. What I can
see with my eyes, I don’t have to actually take into myself. There’s a certain
distance, a certain sterility about a room with a view that just isn’t there
when the sense of smell is engaged.
Olfactory voyeurism is as intimate as the
breath we breathe. It’s literally in our face – inside our face, and beyond
that it even enters our lungs with the in and out of oxygen that keeps us alive.
There’s nothing sterile or sanitary about it. It can be a fresh-baked bread and
honey seduction or it can be a stale piss and garbage assault, but it can never
be something that happens through a telescope or behind glass.
I read once we humans actually have an
excellent sense of smell that we’ve simply forgotten how to
use. We’re mammals.
Mammals experience the world through their sense of smell. Granted we humans
have had lots of the lovely smells that would intrigue other mammals bathed,
sanitized and deodorized away from us. I think we do that because the assault
of scent is just so damned personal and intimate. No one wants to ‘smell.’
Maybe that’s because the way we smell unwashed, just up from the bed, just
after a sweaty fuck, says too much about who we are in a world where secrets
are much harder to keep and masks are much more important.
I’m certainly not advocating a moratorium
on bathing or perfume, but I can’t keep from wondering what else we might experience
if we made the effort to exercise our sense of smell a little more and build up
our olfactory muscles. Could we smell fear, curiosity, arousal, anger, contentment?
How much more information about the world around us could we pick up if we were
a little more attuned to our sense of smell? But then again, how would we cope
with the extra level of intimacy actually ‘smelling’ each other would give us
and with the level of vulnerability that would bring?
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. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.
I’m putting together
a book of erotic fairy tales. I’ve already written several, including erotic
retellings of the usual suspects like Red Riding Hood, The Pied Piper, and
Cinderella. I’m often asked to tackle specific ones, and popular suggestions
are The Three Pigs and Beauty and the Beast.
I grew up with
Disney’s versions of classic fairy tales, but I have also read many of them,
and I’m very much aware of how dark and sinister most fairy tales are. I prefer
the stories in their original forms. Snow White was not only felled by a
poisoned apple. The wicked queen began her assault with a poisoned comb and
then a too-tight corset. The wicked queen also did not die in a fall off a
cliff per the Disney version. Granted, Disney’s version was pretty grim (pardon
the pun), but in the original tale she was tortured by being forced to dance in
red-hot iron shoes until she keeled over dead.
A friend of mine had
taken her daughter to see “The Little Mermaid” and she wanted to buy
the book of fairy tales so her daughter could read her favorite one. I warned
her The Little Mermaid does not get the prince in the end. I also told her about
how when The Little Mermaid walked she felt as if her feet were being cut by
sharp knives. Each step was excruciatingly painful. Neither fact was in the
Fairy tales are
chock full of symbolism that lends itself easily to an erotic retelling. Many of
these tales are about protecting the innocence of girlhood. Others were about
sexual awakening. Cinderella is one of the latter. Cinderella’s glass slippers and feet were small, hinting at her virginity and her intact hymen. Rapunzel is clearly
about a girl reaching womanhood, especially since she becomes pregnant in the
original tale. The tale dances around her pregnancy, though. The witch, unaware
of the prince’s visits, asks why her dress has become so tight. Then later,
Rapunzel is shown with two children. She had sex with the prince! Oh, horrors!
LOL Red Rdiing Hood was originally ravished by the wolf. In French slang, a
girl who loses her virginity is referred to as “elle avoit vû le loup” – she had seen the wolf. The connotation is
While it’s easy to eroticize fairy tales, it’s
also easy to fall into stereotypical traps. Cinderella’s prince has a foot
fetish. Snow White has a ménage with seven men. Red Riding Hood is accosted by
a rake. Rapunzel’s pubic hair grows out. It can be a bit tough to take these
tales in a non-stereotypical direction.
In addition to the
more common fairy tales, one friend suggested I eroticize The Dancing
Princesses, which is one I don’t hear very much about. That got me to thinking
about obscure fairy tales. Why not tackle one or two of those?
My favorite fairy
tale is very obscure. It’s Scandinavian, and it’s entitled “The Enchanted
Wreath”. This one is about preserving girlish purity in my opinion. Have
you ever noticed it’s always the youngest and most innocent of the daughters
who attracts the magic? Here’s the synopsis: (from Wikipedia)
man had a wife, and both of them had a daughter from an earlier marriage. One
day, the man took his daughter to cut wood and found when he returned that he
had left his ax. He told his wife to send her daughter for it, so it would not
grow rusty. The stepmother said that his daughter was already wet and, besides,
was a strong girl who could take a little wet and cold.
girl found three doves perched on the axe, looking miserable. She told them to
fly back home, where it would be warmer, but first gave them crumbs from her
bread. She took the axe and left. Eating the crumbs made the birds feel much
better, and they gave her an unfading wreath of roses, with tiny birds singing
in it. The stepmother pulled it off, and the birds flew off and the roses
next day, the father went alone and left his axe again. The stepmother was
delighted and sent her own daughter. She found the doves and ordered them off
as “dirty creatures.” They cursed her to never be able to say
anything except “dirty creatures.”
stepmother beat her stepdaughter, and was all the angrier when the doves
restored the wreath to its condition and the girl’s head. One day, a king’s son
saw her and took her off to marry her. The news of them made the stepmother and
her daughter quite ill, but they recovered when the stepmother made a plan. She
had a witch make a mask of her stepdaughter’s face. Then she visited her, threw
her into the water, and put her daughter in her place, before setting out to
see if the same witch could give her something to cure the doves’ curse on her
husband was distraught by the change in her, but thought it stemmed an illness.
He thought he saw his bride in the water, but she vanished. After twice more
seeing her, he was able to catch her. She turned into various animals, a hare,
a fish, a bird, and a snake, but he cut off the snake’s head, and the bride
became a human again.
stepmother returned with an ointment that would work only if the true bride had
really been drowned; she put it on her daughter’s tongue and found it did not
work. The prince found them and said they deserved to die, but the stepdaughter
had persuaded him to merely abandon them on a desert island.
fairy tale that made my radar is Hans Christian Anderson’s “The
Shadow”. This one could be turned into a tale of dark and light mistaken
identity. Here’s the synopsis (from Wikipedia):
Once a learned man from the northern regions of
Europe went on a voyage south. One night, he sat on his terrace, while the fire
behind him cast his shadow on the opposite balcony. As he was sitting there,
resting, the man was amused to observe how the shadow followed his every
movement, as if he really did sit upon the opposing balcony. When he finally
grew tired and went to sleep, he imagined the shadow would likewise retire in
the house across the street. The next morning however, the man found to his
surprise that he in fact had lost his shadow overnight. As a new shadow slowly
grew back from the tip of his toes, the man did not give the incident another
thought, returned to northern Europe, and took up writing again. Several years
passed by until one night there was a knock at his door. To his surprise, it
was his shadow, the one he lost years before in Africa, and now stood upon his
doorstep, almost completely human in appearance. Astonished by his sudden
reappearance, the learned man invited him into his house, and soon the two sat
by the fireplace, as the shadow related how he had come to be man.
The learned man was calm and gentle by nature.
His main object of interest lay with the good, the beautiful and the true, a
subject of which he wrote often but was of no interest to anyone else. The
shadow said his master did not understand the world, that he had seen it as
truly was, and how evil some men really were.
The shadow then grew richer and fatter over the
years, while the writer grew poorer and paler. Finally he had become so ill
that his former shadow proposed a trip to a health resort offering to foot the
bill as well, but on condition that he could act as the master now, and the
writer would pretend to be his shadow. As absurd as this suggestion sounded,
the learned man eventually agreed and together they took the trip, the shadow
now as his master. At the resort, the shadow met with a beautiful princess, and
as they danced and talked with each other each night, the princess fell in love
When they were about to be married, the shadow offered
his former master a luxurious position at the palace, on condition that he now
became his own shadow permanently. The writer immediately refused and
threatened to tell the princess everything, but the shadow had him arrested.
Feigning his distraught, the shadow met with the princess and told her:
“I have gone through the most terrible
affair that could possibly happen; only imagine, my shadow has gone mad; I
suppose such a poor, shallow brain, could not bear much; he fancies that he has
become a real man, and that I am his shadow.”
“How very terrible,” cried the princess;
“is he locked up?”
“Oh yes, certainly; for I fear he will
“Poor shadow!” said the princess;
“it is very unfortunate for him; it would really be a good deed to free him
from his frail existence; and, indeed, when I think how often people take the
part of the lower class against the higher, in these days, it would be policy
to put him out of the way quietly.”
When the shadow wed the princess later that
night, the learned man was already executed.
unusual one I’d heard of from years ago. It borders on bestiality. It’s called
“The She-Bear“, and here’s the synopsis:
After his wife dies, a King decides that the only woman in the world
who matches his dead wife’s beauty is his own daughter Preziosa – therefore,
Preziosa must now marry her deranged father. He tells her that if she will not
marry him that very evening then ‘’when I am finished with you there will be
nothing left but your ears’’.
An old woman then gives the terrified girl an enchanted bit of wood
that will turn her into a bear when she puts it in her mouth. Preziosa – now a
bear—flees into the forest and resolves never again to reveal her true form
lest her father learns of her whereabouts. A prince discovers the wonderfully
friendly she-bear in the woods and takes her home to be his pet.
One day when she believes she is alone, Preziosa takes the bit of wood
out of her mouth to brush her hair. The prince looks out his window, spies a
gorgeous maiden in his garden and rushes out to find her, but she hears him
coming and quickly puts the wood back into her mouth. The prince searches
throughout the garden but he cannot find the maiden anywhere—in her place is
only his pet she-bear.
The prince becomes sick with lust for the bear-girl and begins to waste
away. On request from her son, the prince’s mother sends for the she-bear who
is now to reside in the princes bedroom, cook his meals and make his bed for
him. The prince becomes overcome with lust for the bear, and begs his mother to
let him kiss the animal.
While the mother watches and encourages them enthusiastically, man and
bear lock lips. They are kissing so passionately that the bit of wood slips
from Preziosa’s mouth and the prince finds that he now holds a stunningly
beautiful maiden in his arms. Rejoicing, they get married, and presumably
everybody lives happily ever after.
I may tackle these for
my upcoming new fairy tale anthology. There are others, too, many of them
Asian, that interest me. Look for my new book “Wicked Fairy Tales”
coming out in the fall.
and buy links for my two current erotic fairy tales:
CLIMBING HER TOWER
Blurb: This isn’t your
This erotic version of Rapunzel, “Climbing Her Tower” depicts
Rapunzel as a voracious woman who discovers the joys of kinky sex with a sexy
prince with a few unusual kinks of his own. This story includes BDSM, M/F,
M/F/F, virgin fantasy, and erotic shaving. You’ll get so hot you’ll want to let
your hair down as well! Let Rapunzel and her prince take you on the sexual ride
of a lifetime. Absolutely only for 18 years and over.
“”Climbing Her Tower” is an erotic twist to the fairy
tale Rapunzel. I sure love a good fairy tale and this hot and steamy tale
doesn’t disappoint.” — Beverly at Sizzling Hot Book Reviews
“Climbing Her Tower has all that and more. It is the story of
Rapunzel told with a bit of a BDSM twist.” — Hitherandthee from
Night Owl Reviews
WARNING: Rapunzel isn’t sweet and innocent. In this fairy tale erotica, she
tires of being a virgin and craves the touch of Prince Richard’s hands all over
her body. Although she begins naive, she blossoms with sexual excitement under
the watchful eye of her prince, who introduces her to BDSM, erotic shaving, and
deep penetration. He leaves her wanting more, and you will want more too!
Amazon US: http://tinyurl.com/climbing-amazon-us
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01N33HFAM
“Climbing Her Tower” web page: http://elizabethablack.blogspot.com/p/climbing-her-tower-naughty-fairy-tale.html
TROUBLE IN THIGH
HIGH BOOTS (Erotic Puss In Boots)
Amazon US: http://tinyurl.com/trouble-amazon-us
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01MZ9DH2U
Blurb: This isn’t your mother’s
Puss In Boots.
This erotic version of Puss In Boots, “Trouble In Thigh High
Boots” is a story packed with hot, sexy, body humping adult fairy tale
“Trouble in Thigh High Boots is a delightfully creative
retelling of the Puss in Boots tale. It is a tale that has been told myriad
times, but never in such a wonderfully imaginative way. The characters are
enchanting, and the story flows beautifully. The love scenes are
sizzling.” — Hitherandthee of Night Owl Reviews
WARNING: Tita isn’t your run of the mill Puss In Boots. She’s a cat
shapeshifter who turns into a mouth-wateringly sexy human woman with a sex
drive to match. This story includes M/F, F/F, M/F/M/F, light bondage, and
lactation. This erotic fairy tale will get you hot in all the right places.
Definitely for only 18 years and over.
Here’s where to find me on the web:
Elizabeth Black – Facebook
Elizabeth Black – Twitter
Elizabeth Black – Amazon Author Page
Back in the 1980s, when I was first hired to teach a class in creative writing, I was thrilled. I skimmed through my library of books to find one with useful information and some catchy phrases about the art of writing. I chose a paperback, Black Women Writers at Work, edited by Claudia Tate.*
It’s a series of interviews with a dozen or so of the best-known African-American women writers of the time. (Maya Angelou, Toni Cade Bambara, Audre Lorde, Ntozake Shange and Alice Walker are a few.) I loved that book, and still do. I also reread The Complete Works of W.E.B. Dubois (an African-American who earned a Ph.D. from Harvard in the early twentieth century, against the odds) and found it surprisingly undated and inspiring.
Note that I did not go out of my way to find non-fiction by black folk (to use Dubois’ term) or by “marginalized,” “minority,” or “grass-roots” writers so that I could claim to be Politically Correct. (I look white and I sound like an English teacher.) Reading and discussing these books was not like eating spinach for the good of my health. It was more like discovering a perfectly-spiced dish I didn’t know I would love until I tried it.
I brought up these books for a reason. Please bear with me.
Recently, I’ve reread my files of old articles from feminist journals and the mainstream press about some major conflicts of the 1980s, the era of the Feminist Sex Wars. (Several battles could have been called the Feminist Race Wars.) I did this for a reason: the director of the local university press has asked me to write about conflicts over censorship in the 1980s, with a focus on my personal involvement. He wants me to write a book. I’ve written an outline, but it’s too objective. Director wants my personal slant. This is hard to write, partly because I was a witness to several loud, damaging conflicts among people (mostly women) who once claimed to be united against injustice in all forms.
In my experience, it started with opposition to “porn.” When other young women in small feminist groups complained about the way men generally wrote about sex, I agreed with them. I had run across some sex fantasies by male writers who identified themselves as “sex radicals,” who defined “sexual freedom” as the God-given right of all heterosexual men to get laid on their own terms. They were tired of women who said no. They were especially tired of women who tried Lysistrata’s strategy of withholding sex until the men agreed to stop waging war of various kinds. Some “radical” men (such as my boyfriend in high school) used “tits and ass” as a synonym for any female person.
If “porn” was the expression of sexualized woman-hatred (as writer Andrea Dworkin and lawyer Catherine McKinnon proclaimed), then surely it was as harmful as any addictive substance. Since much dope was illegal because of its harmfulness, porn should be illegal for the same reason. This was the argument, and it seemed logical right up to the point at which model anti-porn ordinances were passed in the cities of Minneapolis and Indianapolis. The ordinances were eventually found to be unconstitutional and hard (or impossible) to enforce. What, exactly, is “porn,” and how can the harm it supposedly causes be measured? Where are the addicts who have overdosed on “porn?”
Eventually, I found a strict anti-porn position to be impossible to maintain on a personal level. I sometimes felt horny, and even attracted to particular men. Apparently there was no healthy way for a woman to express authentic lust, because lust was related to “porn,” which was bad. Even lesbian lust was untrustworthy because it involved “objectifying” women as sex objects.
I came to realize that the anti-porn, pro-censorship position was a strictly negative reaction to material that supported what is now called “rape culture.” Being anti-porn, like being celibate, was a negative state. Neither of these conditions, in itself, led to joy or to enlightenment. Being anti-porn wouldn’t resolve anything, and if all the sexual imagery in the world suddenly disappeared, its absence wouldn’t make the world a better place.
Then there was the bitter conflict over “appropriation of culture,” or as some phrased it, “appropriation of voice.” When this issue was first identified within the Women’s Press collective in Toronto, it referred to the practice of white women writers writing first-person fiction from the viewpoint of “people of colour.” As the accusations increased in scope and volume, “appropriation” came to mean any white woman writing about anyone or anything outside her own ethnicity (e.g. references to pizza or spaghetti might be considered insensitive if the author did not have at least one Italian grandmother). Of course, a white woman writer who never mentioned any “people of colour” could be accused of killing off whole communities in her imagination by leaving them out of her fictional universe.
White women righteously confronted other white women. A few “women of colour” publicly demanded that white women writers “move over” to give them space. It was never clear to me what this actually meant. Women writers had gained an amazing amount of “space” (published books) since 1970 by launching their own small presses and publishing books by women. As far as I could see, male writers and publishers had never “moved over” for women. When the men who ran traditional presses noticed that books by women were actually selling, they made a business decision to publish more of them. Women’s bookstores sprang up to sell women’s books, and a few gay/lesbian bookstores sprang up to sell books and other merchandise to an emerging gay/lesbian community. No one silenced themselves to enable this to happen.
I knew about some very impressive writing by “people of colour” (mostly written in standard English, or clearly enough that I, who had never lived in “the ghetto,” could understand it) which sometimes went out of print. If racial discrimination in literature or in the book biz was really the issue, why not start publishing good work by writers “of colour” which had been rejected by the publishing mainstream on grounds that no one wanted to read it? A few small “women of colour” presses seemed like a step in the right direction, but they didn’t seem to be the focus of flaming arguments about how best to be “anti-racist.”
In 1988, the Women’s Press issued extensive guidelines on how white women writers were supposed to write about “people of colour” – and how they should search their souls before doing any such thing. As far as I know, these guidelines didn’t increase the number of books that featured “people of colour” as central characters, and they certainly didn’t make life easier for women “of colour” who would have liked to earn a living as writers, editors, publishers, journalists, or academics.
Telling white women to shut up or face consequences (mostly from other white women) was a non-solution for a real problem. As far as I could see, this tactic produced nothing but hostility. Thus was wasted a golden (or rainbow-hued) opportunity to increase the visibility of many under-exposed writers in a time before the invention of ebooks.
A few weeks ago, I ran across an on-line article by feminist educator Melissa A. Fabello. In “Why Grammar Snobbery Has No Place in the Movement,” she makes the sensible point that on-line acronyms and shortened words (such as “thru” and “LOL”) are not a big problem in emails, as long as the message is clear. She then makes the big leap to a claim that “grammar snobbery” (an insistence on grammatical “correctness”) is a sign of patriarchal white privilege. She points out that every language is evolving, and this is why most English-speaking people no longer understand Old English (also known as Anglo-Saxon, spoken before about 1100 AD). Therefore, presumably, there is no such thing as “correct” grammar.
I’ve often heard variations of this argument, usually from concerned bystanders who don’t think I have the right to fail any student, or pan any book, for any reason, even though evaluating other people’s writing is part of my job as a teacher and a reviewer. My usual response is that if I need to stop being a “grammar snob,” I need a new set of criteria by which to evaluate what I read. If “working-class English” is perfectly valid, how can it be identified, and who wrote the handbook for it? If everyone can easily understand what everyone else has to say in English, why haven’t we already achieved world peace?
Self-proclaimed peasant warriors against “grammar snobbery” are clear about what they oppose. They’re not clear about what they want to install in its place. Of course, the rules of grammar (like most laws) were established by educated white men in a time when they were almost exclusively in charge of everything. This doesn’t necessarily mean that men invented language by themselves. If there were a women’s dialect in English (as there is in some other languages), I wouldn’t blame women for using it. If “people of colour” always wrote in their own dialects of English (as distinct from other languages, as many do), I would probably want to find some useful vocabulary lists, or dictionaries. (I don’t think using the occasional word in another language turns English speech into a “dialect” per se. Nu?)
Actually, when W.E.B. Dubois was earning his Ph.D., “Negro dialect poetry,” mostly written by white writers such as Joel Chandler Harris (author of the “Uncle Remus” stories, set in the time of slavery) was fashionable in the U.S. Reading this stuff and then reading Dubois is startling. The “dialect” preserved in the “poetry” probably isn’t spoken at all any more (remember Abello’s argument about changing language?), but Dubois’ version of standard English has stood the test of time.
Today someone posted this joke on Facebook:
“I take for granite people’s poor grammar. More pacifically, how there always thinking ‘for all intensive purposes’ is supposedly correct.”
This example of grammatical incorrectness illustrates why I am not willing to stop being a “grammar snob” – to become what? To bring this rant full-circle to the issue of sex-writing, I think it’s especially important to describe desire, attraction, and sexual activity as accurately as possible with the words available to us. Hot, creative descriptions of sex between or among complex human beings did more than anything else to convince me that trying to ban “porn” was a bad strategy. I’m no longer willing to jump on an “anti” bandwagon unless I can see a better alternative.
By Kathleen Bradean
Over the past decade, I’ve discussed, argued, and mused over
erotica as a genre. Last night, while reading a piece of erotica, I decided
that my arguments are invalid.
Oh, on an esoteric ‘awake at three in the morning with
another writer who is like my fricking soulmate as we share profound insights
into The Everything of Everythingness’ level, the ideas I fought for and
against do matter. To someone. Probably an academic. And me, but I’m weird that
way. But to everyone else, they don’t, because everyone else properly goes to
bed at a sensible hour, doesn’t drink absinthe at cons, and likes the erotica
genre because that’s what they reach for when they want to turn on their brain.
Rather than fight against the label of erotica, I’ve decided
to embrace it because it’s damn useful to a writer. Think about it. A person who picks up a
romance expects a story about a relationship. No one picks up a romance then
half way through asks with a suspicious glint in their eye, “Wait. Is this a
A writer can only put so much on the page. The reader has to
bring something to the party, and the most important hostess gift– so to speak–
is the expectation of arousal. If you’ve been thinking of sex since lunch at
work, through the commute home, and during dinner, you’re going to be more
primed for sex than someone who only just now thought about it as they’re climbing
into bed. It makes the writers work so much easier if the reader is already willing
to be turned on.
The problem with not having the erotica label on my work is
far worse than having it. I imagine the wrinkled nose of a reader as they look
down at their tingling groin and mutter, “Wait. Is this a fucking book?” And
imagine the chirping crickets awkwardness of someone reading through a sex scene
they weren’t mentally prepared for and being bored by it. They might do something
to retaliate, like quote part of the scene out of context and publicly
ridicule it in a contest designed to shame writers for attempting to write sex
scenes in books that are not officially designated dirty, filthy smut.
Not that I find that sort of thing annoying as all get out
While I’ve been writing erotica for years, I’ve often been
at odds with the label, but now I’ve decided to make my peace with it. I know you’ve been waiting breathlessly for
this moment. 😉
As a self-employed person, I do get annoyed by people that assume I can just take time off whenever I like, and do whatever I like. Of course, this is true – but they seem to forget one very important thing – if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. It’s a simple as that. If I spend hours per day walking the dog, or lounging in the garden, I’m not working, therefore nobody is going to give me any money. As a result, I work damn hard!
On the flip side of this, however, I do think time off is important. I don’t mean time off as in the aforementioned walking the dog and lounging in the garden, though. I mean not working all the hours under the sun, having proper days off. Which is why, although I do work longer hours during the week, especially if my workload is particularly heavy at the time – I take weekends off. Always – with the very occasional exception.
For starters, if I didn’t do this, I would literally never see my other half. We don’t live near each other, so we can only see each other at weekends. Therefore we make the most of the time we have together, and that absolutely does not include me sitting there tapping away on my laptop! Granted, if something akin to an emergency comes up, I’ll do something about it – but generally, there’s nothing, no email, that can’t wait until Monday.
Other half, important though he is, isn’t the only reason I take weekends off. It’s because I work to live, not the other way around. I’m very lucky in that I enjoy my job – well, most of it, anyway – but that doesn’t mean I want to work every single day. It’s bad for your health, and I tend to find if I’m doing too much, pushing too hard, with no time off, then I start to burn out. I slow down, physically and mentally, become much less efficient – and what’s the point in that? I’d rather make sure I’m well-rested, having time off and having fun. That way when I come back to work I’m energised and putting work out to the best of my ability. Otherwise, I may as well not bother.
Lucy Felthouse is a very busy woman! She writes erotica and
erotic romance in a variety of subgenres and pairings, and has over 100
publications to her name, with many more in the pipeline. These include several
editions of Best Bondage Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica 2013 and Best Erotic
Romance 2014. Another string to her bow is editing, and she has edited and
co-edited a number of anthologies, and also edits for a small publishing house.
She owns Erotica For All, is book
editor for Cliterati, and is one eighth
of The Brit Babes. Find out more
Join her on Facebook
and Twitter, and subscribe to her
newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/gMQb9
By Lisabet Sarai
Over the past three weeks I’ve attended two funerals. No need to express your sympathy – both of the deceased were parents of colleagues, individuals I’d never even met. Still, one was was just a year older than I am, the other a mere three years older than my husband. Despite my determination to live in the now, there’s nothing like a coffin to make you contemplate your own mortality. I can’t help considering just what legacy I’ll leave behind, when I finally do pass away.
I don’t have kids, and my family is pretty small – two siblings, neither of whom have children, plus an assortment of cousins. It occurs to me that my circle of friends as Lisabet is actually far larger than the roster of people close to me in the so-called real world. So will my smut be missed? Probably less than my organizational ability. I might not be a best-seller, but I’m a pro when it comes to wrangling bloggers!
What about my books, though? Will they outlive me? I grew up reading authors who’d been dead for decades, even centuries. Edgar Allen Poe. Arthur Conan Doyle. H.P. Lovecraft. William Shakespeare. H. Rider Haggard. Charlotte and Emily Bronte. We writers have always consoled ourselves with the fantasy that even though we might toil in obscurity during our lifetimes, we might be “discovered” after our demise, our books finally recognized as the works of creative genius we knew we were creating while we lived. Given the state of publishing today, though, I wonder whether my books will even be available to be discovered.
The bulk of my published work over the past decade has been released primarily in ebook form, sometimes with a Print-on-Demand option. And despite my attempts to convince myself otherwise, ebooks are fundamentally ephemeral. An ebook is nothing more than a chunk of ones and zeroes, stored on some medium which needs compatible technology to be accessed. Meanwhile, technology changes constantly. Anyone (besides me) remember floppy disks? No, I’m not talking about the 3.5 inch squares of rigid plastic that stored 1.2 megabytes and fit in a shirt pocket, but real floppy disks, those fragile 5.25 inch circles of bendable magnetic material, wrapped square paper sleeves and holding a miniscule 256 kilobytes of data? Gone, of course, before some of you were even born, along with the devices that could read them. Why should CDs, DVDs, flash memory, Kindles and Nooks, be any different?
Furthermore, the ease with which ebooks can be copied, transferred, modified and deleted makes them feel like transient artifacts, to the reader and even to the writer. When I’m done reading a book for a review, I’ll sometimes archive it on long term storage, but more often, I’ll simply erase it. I know I won’t want to read it again, so why take up space on my hard drive or my tablet? On the drive where I store my manuscripts, I sometimes have two or three versions of the same story, as submitted to different publishers. Which one is the authoritative version? Which one will students of literature pore over in the far future, as they contemplate the subtle themes and glorious language in the oeuvre of Lisabet Sarai?
Of course, during the first five years of my writing career, I was only available in print. In our storage room, I have a box full of old author copies of Raw Silk (both Black Lace and Blue Moon editions), Incognito, Fire, Sacred Exchange and Cream that I’ve been trying to get rid of for years. I’ve noticed used copies of the Black Lace book selling for $150 or more on Amazon. Surely that’s some sort of legacy?
Yeah, well, maybe. But those books were printed so cheaply, they’re already starting to crumble to dust. And I don’t want to sell old books that will undercut the sales of republished versions (even though the new versions are ebook/POD only). Meanwhile, I’m nervous about getting rid of those volumes here in this conservative country where I live as a guest. I don’t want to call attention to the fact that I have so many books that they could easily label as porn – all by the same author. Definitely suspicious!
There’s another box in that closet, packed to the gills with author copies of every (print) anthology in which I’ve had a story, every collection I’ve edited, every novel or single-author collection I’ve published. One of my fellow bloggers at Oh Get a Grip wrote recently about her pride in viewing her books arrayed on a shelf in her living room. I’m proud of my work, but I can’t display it, for the reasons cited above. Still, I occasionally dig out that box and look through it, just to remind myself how much I’ve accomplished in this semi-career I fell into accidentally.
I like to imagine that after I’m gone, someone might discover that box, like a trunk of treasures in an attic. I picture a young woman, uncertain and inexperienced sexually, uncovering my secret visions. She’d hide them away and read them late at night, after her family or her roommates were asleep. They’d open her eyes to a new world of sensuality and freedom – and maybe inspire her to take a few steps into that world on her own. Now that’s a legacy that would please me.
Sometimes, though, I’m convinced that the entire concept of books as we know them will disappear. I recently read an article claiming that people born after 1990 cannot really extract information from written material. They require graphics, video, interaction, motion. When faced with a page of static text, their eyes simply flit over the letters, without grasping the meaning. If someone happened upon my books a few decades from now, would they understand them at all? Even if that individual could read, would my prose seem as complex, contorted and antiquated as Jane Austen or Wilkie Collins seem to some of us now? The always-on, lightning-fast digital world in which we live right now puts pressure on language, pressure to shorten and simplify, to encapsulate emotions in acronyms (LOL) or smileys. Did you know that the most recent update to the Unicode standard – the specification that maps all the characters in all world languages to digital codes – includes a page of values for emoticons (now known as emoji, I gather)? If that’s where we are now, what will language be like twenty years from now? (I like to imagine I’ll live at least into my eighties…!)
This train of thought depresses me more than the notion of dying, to be honest. So I’ll drop it. In fact, this entire mental exercise reinforces my belief that contemplating one’s future is a futile activity. Worrying about my legacy simply distracts me from what I want and need to do today. Much better for me to close this post, get it set up on the blog, and then get to the day’s most important activity – adding to my current work in progress.
Published anything sexy lately? Today’s your day to share your erotic visions. Today we want to read 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.
by Donna George Storey
Celebrity culture and the often unexamined assumptions that slither into our brains because of it are not good for writers, whether aspiring, veteran or even genuinely famous. I firmly believe this. And yet, as I sat down to write this month’s continuing meditation on fame and the writer’s imagination, I felt drawn to talk about what’s actually “good” about the role of the famous in our ordinary lives. There is clearly something deeply appealing about glamorous, rich, but most of all “seen,” people we don’t know. Weird Al’s new song, “Lame Claim to Fame” is a hilarious illustration of the strange enchantment of even the most tenuous connection to these magical beings.
It’s easy enough to claim immunity, but none of us are, really. (Even academics have their “stars” with endowed chairs and faculty positions reserved for spouses.) There is something rooted in us, our ancient hierarchical programming perhaps, that compels us to seek an aristocracy of some kind. Yet the celebrity aristocracy occupies a much different place in our lives than the kings and dukes of earlier times. Our stars are exposed to us in endless “intimate” images and details of their private lives, some controlled by their managers, some not. We can easily pretend we “know” them and have a stake in their stories as well as the right to judge them. In that sense, stars unite the national and even global community (at the level, say, of Michael Jackson or Michael Jordan). They make the world a village.
The combination of intimacy and distance is important. We can enjoy the dramas of the British Royal Family as entertainment; if our tax money were at stake, it might not be quite so fun. (Overheard on a train to York back in 1989–an English woman commented drily to a fellow countryman, “The Duchess of York is pregnant again. Of course, we’ll have to pay for it.”) We can smile or roll our eyes at the endless cycles of celebrity life—innocent young star rises, corrupted young star falls victim to drugs and engages in drunken criminal acts, older, repentant star graduates from rehab and makes a come-back—without enduring the actual pain and disruption of addiction or an eclipsed career.
The familiarity of celebrity touches us writers in more mundane ways. I try to resist, but I am still swayed when a book gets a positive blurb from a writer whose name I recognize. At the very least, I admire the author’s luck in getting that plum endorsement. Such a blurb feels like a positive recommendation from a friend, an opinion I can trust, saving me the trouble of deciding for myself where I should direct my time and attention.
Except, of course, it is none of these things.
That’s because celebrity is above all a fiction. Overnight successes, models who “eat lots of fruits and vegetables and work out with a personal trainer” but never diet harmfully, fairytale weddings, bestselling writers who find contentment relaxing on their estates by the pool while they idly type out their latest ticket to immortality. None of this is real, and if ever it is, it doesn’t satisfy for long.
Celebrities are our dukes and duchesses, our heroes, our villains, our inspirations and cautionary tales. They allow us to watch drama at a remove, both in space and relevance to our lives, but they remain images, never full human beings. In the electronic media age, we need an ever-renewing visual “face” for the myths, symbols and fantasies our minds feed on. Celebrities themselves are most keenly aware that their personhood is subsumed in an image others project upon them. Some, in various ways, benefit from this position (money, professional power, invitations to the right parties). Fortunately for the scandal sheets, just as many lose their way in the hall of mirrors. Finally, I get to you, Paris Hilton!
Yet, ultimately, celebrity culture is about us, the ordinary folk, not the bodies in designer clothes parading on the red carpet. Without the mediocre masses, who would need the velvet rope, the security guard and bouncers? In next month’s installment, I’ll explore the deeper needs that are masked by the yearning for fame. Until then, stay cool!
Donna George Storey is the author
of Amorous Woman and a new collection of short
Presents the Best of Donna George Storey. Learn more about her
work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com
The following was originally posted on the Oh Get a Grip blog back when we were posting about every week. This was my post the week after I was roughed up by the ladies at the eXcessica blog after making some snarky remarks about an anthology of theirs. It does have some useful advice regarding crits worth repeating. Anyway, its always enjoyable to see a guy grovel a little too.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
When I was a little kid and the world was full of haints and taints and
supernatural wonders, there was this game called “Bloody Mary”. The way it works,
you have a darkened room and a mirror, then you and your friends are supposed
to look in the mirror and chant “Bloody Mary” three times and a blood soaked
girl ghost with an embittered attitude will appear. Never worked for me. Later
on I tried “Pamela Anderson” and “Sybil Danning” and that didn’t work either.
But that was before the age of “Google Alerts”! Now let’s play the Bloody Mary
game again and see how this goes.
As some of us know, a couple of weeks back I really stepped barefoot into a
big, fragrant, steaming pile when I made some uncalled for snarky remarks about
a book called “Alison’s Wonderland” –
which was edited by Alison Tyler
and has a nice story called “David” by Kristina Lloyd
“David” by Kristina Lloyd
“David” by Kristina Lloyd
“David” by Kristina Lloyd
and a pretty hot story called “Managers and Mermen” by Donna George Storey
“Managers and Mermen” by Donna George Storey
“Managers and Mermen” by Donna George Storey
“Managers and Mermen” by Donna George Storey
and a good retelling of the Billy goats gruff story called “The Three Billys”
by Sommer Marsden
“The Three Billys” by Sommer Marsden
“The Three Billys” by Sommer Marsden
“The Three Billys” by Sommer Marsden
“Sleeping With Beauty” by Allison Wonderland
“Sleeping With Beauty” by Allison Wonderland
“Sleeping With Beauty” by Allison Wonderland
which reminded me a little of the Anne Roquelaire trilogy and a really good
story “Unveiling His Muse” by the great Portia Da Costa,
“Unveiling His Muse” by Portia Da Costa
“Unveiling His Muse” by Portia Da Costa
“Unveiling His Muse” by Portia Da Costa
the first one of her stories I’d ever read though not the last, and some other
authors whose stories I also enjoyed, whose wounded feelings and sharp
reproaches appeared on the eXcessica
books blog which you can read here:
I won’t recap my snarky remarks since I would like to leave this post with my
ass and my face in their original places, and they don’t bear repeating anyway.
I said dumb stuff.
I may be saying dumb stuff at this very effing moment without realizing it or
be about to say dumb stuff without realizing it.
Hey – let’s do this:
I will make a preemptive apology in case it’s needed for anything insensitive I
may say at any time in the immediate future:
I’m really really sorry. (fill in the blank)
And my point is, if any of you eXcessica folks show up here in my mirror please
say hi. Write something on the wall so I know you’re around. I like you. I like
your stuff. I was also much chastened when Lisabet pointed out that many or
most of the writers I miffed are in fact regular contributors at my scene ERWA,
some of them with a much greater contribution there than me. So I really
stepped on my dick every way you look at it.
Having said that, I am unrepentant of my comment that Alison’s Wonderland has a
very cool cover. It just does. Okay? You sure? It has a really nice looking
cover art and I don’t give a shit who knows it. There I’ve said it. Get over
What haunted me about my remarks afterward as I explained to Lisabet when I was
weeping on her maternal cyber-shoulder, was that I was entirely tone deaf to
the way I was coming across. This will seem astounding to any writers reading
this, since the accumulated effect of words is the magic we aspire to perfect,
but it had never occurred to me in a zillion years that what I was saying was
offensive to anybody or that Bloody Google would suddenly show up in the mirror
and punch four more holes in my nose. I was actually trying to express
something like what Sommer Marsden
Said in the eXcessica blog –
– which is what I should have said which was something like “we are all
different but great, look at how many groovy flavors of writing there are”.
Which was what I thought it was coming out like but it wasn’t . . . like that
is what I meant it wasn’t . . . but that it’s not . . . . Do you know what I
It didn’t come out that way. Looking back on it, well, yeah. I get that. But
not at the time.
What can I say.
I’m a guy.
My remarks were not constructive criticism, since there was nothing to construct.
Constructive criticism is what we offer when we are attempting to guide the
inquisitive seeker into better paths, so we hope. Constructive criticism is
what we wish we’d had more of when we were younger if we’d been listening.
Which most of us weren’t. Real world, constructive criticism is what we offer
when someone offers us a manuscript for a critique. Giving critiques to the
work of peers, at least when it is asked for, is how we improve our own work.
It’s how we learn to read as a writer, which is an essential skill. It’s how we
express and repay our gratitude for the generosity of those writers who took on
our early incoherent junk as we were learning our chops and helped us improve.
Constructive criticism is what Lisabet has given me, and still does, on those
many occasions when I’ve sent her something half baked and she’s told me
plainly what works and what doesn’t, and 90% of the time I go with what she
says. She’s honest. I listen. Also I like her. I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere
past my first year without her and each and every year since. She has more
faith than I do.
What she said of me, of digging deeper, this is what she does for me too.
Neither of us go for the nits. That’s why God made spell checkers. She deals
with story. She deals with character. She tells me when that is working or
failing, because she knows by now I’ll tear down a story and rebuild it several
times before I’m happy with it. I’ve torn out whole middle sections of stories
when she said something wasn’t working. That’s what you need to hear. That’s
love. Thank you Lisabet. Ever and ever.
Here’s the real problem. When is criticism useful or even wanted?
I come from a unique background. I have had an unusually extravagant exposure
to bullshit compared to the average person. As a consequence my relationship
with truth is . . . . well . . . antagonistic. If I have to choose between
speaking the truth and making someone happy – truth will get heaved overboard
to lighten the load, pretty much every time. The exception is the person who
really loves truth. The one who really wants to know. In that case to speak is
a great honor and a kind of sacred thing. A spiritual act. And even then you’d
still better be careful you’re being helpful and not being a jerk. This begs
the question “What is humility?”
After a life time of passionate, lunatic spiritual searching I’ve got very
little wisdom to show for it. But I’ve got one or two tattered gems.
“Listen friends,” he whispered, with a wave of his hand. “It’s okay. Come, come
see.” He hunched down and waited. Reluctantly, they leaned in. He silently
scanned the little crowd and saw only skepticism. In a low voice he said –
“I’m going to tell you something spiritual I know for sure is true.”
Here we go.
Humility as it relates to truth has nothing to do with pride. It is unrelated
to true pride. Even the pride of an artist or a writer. Humility in its most
useful and plain form is simply this:
The acquired discipline and skill of seeing yourself as you really are.
Humility is the ability to see yourself very plainly, no better or worse,
without playing any games with yourself. It sounds ridiculous. But this is a
very difficult, almost impossible thing to actually do in real life. You can
spend your whole life trying to master this one point, to see yourself as you
really are with no tricks. The ego plays tricks on you all the way. Writing can
be a tool for exploring this, but what we find, what I find, is that my ego
gets very involved in my writing. Ego is what kills rock stars. Ego is what
kills creativity. But ego has a lot to do with what gets your ass in front of
the keyboard day after day when nobody reads your stuff. It keeps you going.
It’s your devil and your cheer leader.
Anyway, as Sommer Marsden would say, this is turning into “a long ass blog”.
“a long ass blog”
“a long ass blog”
“a long ass blog”
My point is this. Constructive criticism is criticism with kindness and
purpose. Friend to friend. BUT – it should be asked for. Boundaries and
specifics agreed on. And you had better be really sure you want it.
Otherwise, tell me what you want to hear and we’ll just go with that and that
way everybody wins.
I’ve got a confession to make. I’m addicted to House of Cards. I remember being equally addicted to the original 1990’s UK series, but the US Netflix adaptation is, surprisingly, even better than the British original.
Yes, the writing is excellent and the characterizations are superb, but what I most like about House of Cards is that it represents a very realistic but seldom written-about form of relationship.
The relationship between Frank Underwood and his wife, Claire, is a strange one. On the surface it appears to be a marriage of convenience – neither is sexually faithful and there appears to be nothing but a cool sort of companionship of purpose between them – but as the series goes on, we get glimpses into something more complex.
This is a portrait of two people who feed each other’s jouissance. Leaving the moral aspects of their individual actions and aspirations aside, this is love at its most powerful and revolutionary.
In her amazing TED Talk on the secret to desire in long-term relationships, Esther Perel points out that distance is essential to desire. Being able to see your partner from a distance, doing what drives and impassions them, allows you to maintain the stance of an admirer. It allows for the preservation of a certain level of mystery and of uncertainty, which keeps the embers of desire burning hot.
As married characters, Frank and Claire Underwood watch each other pursue their ambitions, execute their nefarious plans, as if they were each secret admirers of the other, aroused by their individual acts of ruthlessness.
When they finally come together, there’s an amazing erotic tension between them. It is never a ‘dutiful’ performance of marital obligation. They come together to give each other a sort of carte blanche absolution for being the reprehensible creatures they are. It’s a bit like watching scorpions mate.
After the never-ending parade of superficially written, poorly characterized and formulaic love-bonds that seem to be the norm in almost all narratives these days, it is refreshing and exciting to see a well-wrought portrait of something that isn’t pabulum.
Another interesting and complex relationship I have stumbled across recently is the novelized version of Macbeth by A.J. Hartley and David Hewson. They’ve done a magnificent job of digging into and expositing the compelling power dynamics between Lord and Lady Macbeth. Again, ambition definitely comes into it, but so does desperation, mania and regret. In this case, although Lady Macbeth is the instigator who gets the transgression ball rolling, there is a clever portrayal of how one hideous act leads inevitably to another, and there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle.
So many modern fictional romantic narratives are offered and consumed as models to aspire to, especially in erotic fiction. In this I see a tragic loss of the potential of fiction to examine the places we should never go in real life. This current need to make all kinky scenes safe, sane and consensual; this obligation to never represent negative, abusive relationships without clearly condemning them within the fiction, places all our fictions within the genre of YA or as thinly disguised self-help paperbacks.
It is as if we have decided that adults have no capacity to distinguish between fiction and reality and must be guided in their fictional adventures by an overbearing, authoritarian hand whose job it is to constantly nudge the reader towards a post-modern sort of ‘right thinking’.
This might be tolerable if most contemporary fictional love relationships were represented with any realism and complexity, but they’re not. Consequently, we are encouraged to judge our own relationships in the light of those that are not only fictional, but ones that aren’t realistic and revel in their own formulaic qualities.
In her book, Hard-Core Romance: Fifty Shades of Grey, Best-Sellers and Society, Eva Illouz breaks down the phenomena of the erotic novel as self-help guide:
“some narratives are not only symbolic rehearsals of social dilemmas and of the solution to these dilemmas: they are also performative structures offering ways of acting and doing.”
To me, this is the anathema of contemporary erotic fiction. It is a closing off of the possibilities of using fiction as a refuge from the rules of social reality. Instead, it has become a place where we are schooled, counseled and given exemplars of how to ‘do it right.’