Monthly Archives: October 2014
Tuesday morning. 8:00. I just finished a vicious kettle bell workout – first day back after a bad cold. I won’t even tell you what I look like as I walk into the shower room, suffice to say it’s not a pretty sight. I don’t see much in my state of exhaustion. I fumble through my locker for my shower things and fresh clothes then stumble to the stall, where I strip off my thoroughly sweaty workout togs adjust the water and lean against the wall, wondering how I’m going to lift my arms to wash my hair.
I linger there because I can, because I work at home and home’s not going anywhere. All around me the changing room is a beehive of activity and my sense of smell is overwhelmed by myriad scents of deodorant, shower gel and various other olfactory efforts to disguise the scent of humans. Most of my fellow gym-goers have stopped in for an early workout before they head into the office.
Once I’m sure I’m not going to pass out or need a stretcher, and I’m clean and lotioned with my own human-cover-up scent, I join the ranks of the frantic in the changing room. I never show my body. I’m fit and stronger than most, but my body shows the wear and tear of being my vessel, of serving me well through the abuse of the youth I thought would be endless as well as letting me experience some truly marvelous adventures and some amazing loving. At some point I’ve come to accept that I’ll never look like I’m twenty again, and even if I did, the way I looked when I was twenty was never the svelt, toned, gym bunny look that I fantasized about, that I suppose if I’m honest, I still fantasize about.
Mind you, the gym I go to is unpretentious and has a great mix of all ages and of people who are fit and people who are brave enough to thrust themselves into an environment where they can become fit. Most, like me, will know the joy of what becoming fit does to all other avenues of life. I’ve not come to that knowledge late in life, I’ve always needed, wanted to be strong and healthy, BUT fitness and health rarely translate to the washboard abed, bulging biceped males we see posed on the covers of erotic novels nor the high, firm breasted, rounded bottomed women who frolic on the pages in between those covers.
Even now, as I watch woman unselfconsciously flitting around the changing room with pert tits and exquisite arses naked or in sexy underwear as they blow-dry their lush long manes and make themselves up to perfection, my stubborn brain is green with envy. This morning there seems to be a larger than normal bevy of pert breasts and tight bottoms and flowing locks as I slink to my locker and dress as quickly as I can so no one will notice that my tits are not that perky and my arse, well, do to a genetic trait in my family, I don’t actually HAVE an arse. I’ve spent my entire life tugging up my trousers and sitting on bone and gristle. But I digress. As I shove into my clothes and run a quick comb through wet hair, not lingering for a good coiffing nor to put on the make-up I seldom wear, I can’t help feel that I should apologise for being neither coiffed nor pert. The nasty voice in the back of my head, says ‘at your age, who cares?’ And I protest that I look pretty damned good for my age … well not bad at least. In truth, no one in the changing room notices anyone else, and no one judges in the frantic effort to get to work on time. My only judge is me, and sadly, I’m a bit harsh at times.
God! I battle those internal voices all the time. You’d think I’d get past them at some point. But I don’t . You’d think that writing characters who are less pert and less wash-boardy would be my way of shaking my fist at heaven, of cursing the fact that at my age, the age I still don’t openly admit publicly, I don’t look twenty-five anymore. But nooooo! I constantly toy in my imagination with characters who may not exactly look like they live in a gym, but on the other hand, seeing them naked would be close enough to chocolate for the eyes to make my mouth water. All good characters need a life beyond looking hot, otherwise they’re boring, and the only thing worse than a character with flabby abs and a flat arse is a character whose biceps or tits are the most interesting thing about them. I confess, I write what I wish were so. I write what I’m convinced readers wish was so. I write who we wish we could be, and who we wish would be so attracted to us that they’d lose sleep obsessing about shagging us senseless. I write characters who look like youth has decided to linger awhile longer with them than it does with most of us. Of course I’m happy to throw in some good genetics for nicely rounded bottoms and a proper amount of pertness. I write nice bodies, AND do my best to make them interesting too. I WANT IT ALL!
I live vicariously through the characters I write. Through them my tits are perfect and my arse is magnificent.
Through them, I am the obsession of the wounded hero who is both intelligent and a fine specimen of manliness. Are all these a sign of my neurotic shallowness? Or are they, perhaps a sign that I’m old enough to recognise what I’ve lost, what I’ve left behind. I’m old enough to understand the price everyone pays for living in a body long enough to experience enough life with all of its joys and sorrows and bashings about to look a little worse for the wear. I’m old enough to know that what I don’t reveal in the changing room at the gym says enough about the wounded character that I am, says enough about my numerous and openly admitted neuroses to remind me again that the sweetest things aren’t pert nor washboarded, nor nicely rounded. The sweetest things are all the experiences in between the best my body was when I was twenty and the best my body is now. Am I making excuses? Perhaps. Would I still like to be pert and properly rounded? Hell yes! Is my reality and the fantasies I create as a writer any less textured and rich because of the lack? The truth it, that it’s probably richer for my flat butt and semi-pert tits. But perhaps I only say that as a way of compensating for my envy of youth and beauty.
On the other hand the place inside me that lives to fantasise, to create, the place inside me that lives for story isn’t subject to the passing of years. And what comes out of that part of me is, more often than not, a way of dealing with my darkness, my self-doubts, my occasional tango with self-loathing, a way of reconstructing them into something that feels better against the raw places, the places that are afraid and uncertain; a way of being less cowardly in the knowing that I, like everyone, must deal with my own mortality as best I can. And sometimes the best way is writing stories with heroes who have nice abs and even nicer pecs and heroines who are round and tight in all the right places. Strange that I never actually see those characters, those fine specimens of physicality, in my mind’s eye, though I know that some writers do, but I feel them from the inside out, that way I know that they’re, in some ways, a testament to my irrational need to be forever young and yet at the same time to cling to the experience that seldom happens in youth, but is always required to make us more than a collection of body parts that are pert today and sagging tomorrow.
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.
In two more days, it
will be my favorite holiday – Halloween. I’ve always enjoyed urban legends and
old wives tales, and there are plenty associated with Halloween. My favorite
one is a creepy, romantic exercise you do on Halloween at the stroke of midnight
to determine who your husband will be if you are a single, straight woman. If
you choose to try it out, this is the midnight going into Halloween, not the
midnight ending Halloween going into All Soul’s Day (Nov. 1). People have made
that mistake in the past. I’ve known about this old wives tale since I was a
child. When I was a 19 year old college student, I decided to put that tale to
Here are the
details. You may want to try it out for kicks if you’re a single, straight
woman. I suppose divorced, straight women may try it out as well. Maybe there’s
an updated version for GLBT, too. All I know is that this applies to unmarried
Get an apple, a hair
brush, and a candle. You’ll need to have privacy in a room in front of a
mirror. Go into the room of your choice and stand in front of the mirror. Light
the candle. By candlelight while looking in the mirror at the stroke of
midnight on Halloween, brush your hair and eat the apple at the same time.
You should see the
face of your future spouse materialize in the mirror.
It was the day
before Halloween in 1979. I was living on campus at college. I remembered that
old wives tale mid-day, and told my roommate about it. Neither of us were married
or dating anyone at the time – well, I wasn’t dating anyone even remotely appropriate
– so we decided to give it a try. We went to the grocery store and picked up
two apples, a candle, and some matches. I waited for midnight with great anticipation.
About five minutes before the witching hour, I went into the bathroom with my gear
and turned off the light. I lit the candle. Shadows cast across the walls and
ceiling, and it was very quiet.
The prickly things
ran up and down my spine in excitement and fear. I was ready.
I looked in the
mirror as I ate the apple and brushed my hair, waiting to see a face. At
midnight, the only thing I could see in the mirror was my distorted reflection
from staring for too long and from ambient candlelight. I gave up, figuring
I’ll probably never get married, and left the bathroom. My roommate tried it
but it was past midnight and she saw nothing. We brushed it off as silliness
and went to bed.
Later that morning, on Halloween, I woke up past the time to get up for my first class of the day. I
looked at my clock and had a severe shock. It had stopped at midnight! I swear
I’m not making this up. I had no idea what that meant, but it couldn’t possibly
be good. I woke her up and showed her the clock. We were quite spooked by the
whole thing and told all our friends about it. It provided a few days of
amusing chatter but then we quickly forgot about it.
As it turns out, my
first marriage was a total disaster. I divorced him and I’ve since gotten over
that mess. I choose to think of my Halloween adventure and that clock stopping
at midnight as a warning I did not heed. I’m currently married to my soulmate,
and things are going very well for us.
This old wives tale
inspired my short erotic story “The Face In The Mirror”. The
anthology in which it appeared is sadly out of print, but I will dust it off,
rewrite it, and republish it next year.
Have you been inspired by legends and old wives tales in your writing?
Another version of
this old wives tale is to take that apple and peel it in a single strip. Toss
the strip over your left shoulder. These peels will spell out the initials of
your future husband.
So… if you are
single, do you dare try this little game at the stroke of midnight on
Halloween? Or are you chicken? Bwahahahaha!
by Jean Roberta
In 2010, three brave sex workers went public to challenge Canada’s antique laws on sex work. These laws, which were essentially unchanged since Canada became a nation in 1867, made it illegal to:
– “solicit” customers (interpretation of what this actually meant was up to local police and courts)
– “keep a common bawdy house” (a place designated for the exchange of sex for money), or
– “live off the avails” of prostitution (to operate as a pimp or manager of a sex worker).
The legal basis of the challenge was Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, passed into law in 1982.
A sensible Supreme Court judge, Beverley McLachlan, agreed with the three challengers that the 1982 laws made the older laws on sex work unconstitutional. What to do?
Judge McLachlan gave the Canadian government a mandate to come up with a new plan for dealing with sex work. Apparently leaving it alone was not an option. In 2013, the illegality of the previous laws was finally confirmed (if you follow this). In June 2014, a new slate of laws was proposed, and it has been furiously debated since then. The new bill has to be passed into law or rejected within one year: by June 2015.
So what is this new bill? It was borrowed from Sweden, where it was devised by the feminist wing of a left-of-centre political party. Apparently this new approach has spread to other Scandinavian countries. Its aim is to “protect” women and children from sexual exploitation.
The new bill makes it illegal to buy sexual services (or to communicate for the purpose of buying them), but not to sell sexual services. It also makes it illegal to “practice” the sex trade in the vicinity of anyone under the age of majority, which is eighteen in Canada. In some parts of Canada, men who are arrested for buying sexual services are already sentenced to attend “john school,” where they are taught that what they did was exploitative and immoral.
I’ve been asked what I have against this approach, if I call myself a feminist. Sigh.
Firstly, the prohibition against selling sex within sight of children just seems ridiculous to me. In the early 1980s, I brought my two-year-old daughter with me to visit a friend in Vancouver, on the Canadian west coast. My friend lived in the West End of the city, which was known as a centre for street prostitution. When my friend, my child and I walked down the street on our way to the park or the shops, we saw what I first mistook for fashionably-dressed women waiting for buses or taxis. They didn’t bother the three of us; we weren’t their target audience. Only after my friend pointed this out to me did I notice the brisk trade between the women and the men who picked them up.
I really doubt whether my two-year-old was damaged by being exposed to this aspect of city life.
Later, as a single mother who needed money, I went to work for a local escort agency in Saskatchewan, where I live. The first escort agency in my city was apparently started in the late 1970s by two women from Winnipeg (a bigger city to the east of me), where this method of practicing the sex trade was wildly popular. The agencies are based on the legal fiction that they simply provide companionship for a limited time for a paying customer. If sex is not explicitly mentioned by a customer who calls the agency, or by the receptionist who takes the call, this fiction can be maintained. When the “escort” meets the customer at his (usually his) home or in a hotel, they can negotiate an exchange of money for sexual services. The owners of the agency can claim to be blissfully ignorant of what actually happens between their employees and their customers.
The sex trade is parallel to the magical world in the Harry Potter novels. Harry, as a person who was born to be a wizard, finds his community when he is sent to Hogwarts School for the magical arts. Harry, and the reader, learn that magical folk have their own culture, their own businesses, and even their own currency, of which the “muggles” are usually unaware.
Wherever you live, the sex trade is probably being practiced in some form near you. If you are not a buyer or a seller (like me as a tourist in Vancouver), you probably don’t notice it. The higher-paid forms of sex work (“escorting”) take place indoors where it is unlikely to be seen by anyone not directly involved.
There are already laws against the exploitation of underage children in any form of paid employment in most industrialized nations since the nineteenth century. If ten-year-olds are earning money on the street, they are being exploited by adults like the children in factories during the Industrial Revolution. The debate over this took place generations ago, and we don’t need to go there again. We have child protection laws, foster homes, and mandatory public schooling. Even if none of these things work perfectly, there is no need to create new laws to deal with the exploitation of children as workers.
There are also laws in place to deal with human trafficking: the transporting of people, without their consent, from one place to another, for various purposes, not only sex work. Domestic workers from other countries are notoriously subject to abuse. The solution to this problem, IMO, is to apply existing legal labour standards to all forms of employment.
Is the sex trade creating a commotion on a city street? Then laws against excessive noise can be applied. Are adult women being pimped against their wills? There are laws in Canada against kidnapping and forcible confinement. If police are being bribed to ignore flagrant violations of the law (and I’m not saying they are – this is a “what-if” speculation), then police corruption is the problem, not sex work per se.
What does all this have to do with the writing of erotica? More than you might think. None of us can ignore the culture in which we live, and attitudes toward sexual services as work are ultimately based on attitudes toward sex in general, paid or unpaid. As long as sex is considered shameful, and women (in particular) who engage in it are both blamed and pitied, sex work in its dazzling variety will be seen as a social problem.
Trying to legislate sex work out of existence is like trying to hold back the sea. As long as this is being done by muggles–even those with humanitarian goals–it’s safe to predict that the laws will be challenged again and again.
by Kathleen Bradean
Being a creative type, as you probably know, means having a particularly active brain. Which is all find and dandy when you find yourself stuck in traffic or in a doctor’s waiting room and you have to self-amuse (in a publicly acceptable manner) for a while. That’s the time to unleash the imagination and set it free. When it isn’t such a great thing is when its two in the morning and you still can’t fall asleep because your brain decides to run endless iterations of a bad scene you’re dreading rather than shut off.
By three a.m, you realize why Morpheus was a god.
Family drama may be keeping me awake, but in those wee hours of the morning I do my usual ‘thinking too much about things.’ And what I mused too much about recently– other than family drama– is a question.
What’s the point of erotica?
Saying “Well, to arouse readers, of course,” seems too simplistic and possibly wrong. Possibly. Horror seems like a genre intended to scare people, but it often, especially in movies, is used to reflect upon and comment on our culture. What’s the purpose of the mystery genre? Probably to reassure readers that there is order in life and there’s such a thing as closure. That’s a huge lie, of course, but– to quote The Sun Also Rises– “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” Maybe the point of a mystery is to entertain the type of reader who likes a puzzle.
So maybe the point of erotica is to arouse, but I think it’s more complex than that in the hands of some writers and some readers. Could it be that the genre uses sex and sexuality to explore the human condition, and that titillation is just a byproduct? Is it erotica if it only shows sex but it isn’t arousing? (or is that simply literary fiction?) And does the author’s intent matter? what if it was supposed to turn you on but didn’t? Or what if it wasn’t ever supposed to arouse but one reader got a tingle and some fevered dreams out of a scene?
You can see why such thoughts turn into little hamsters on unbalanced exercise wheels in need of lubrication. The squeaking alone is enough to stop a brain from turning off. Eventually it does, but not before a subtler thief sneaks at the edges of my thoughts. And here’s the point where it turns slightly awkward, because the quote that came to me was from a children’s movie. In Willie Wonka (the Johnny Depp version, not the Gene Wilder one), Charlie Bucket sagely comments that “Candy doesn’t have to have a point.” Maybe erotica doesn’t need to have one either. But let me know what you think.
This post was originally featured on the Writer Marketing Services blog.
I’m sure some of you have seen messages and notes about Thunderclap floating around the web and wondered what it is. I know I’ve had several clients ask me about it, which is why I’m writing this post.
Basically, it is a free promotional tool (though there are paid options you can explore) to help you get the word out about something. For the purposes of this post, I’ll use books as an example, as it’s what I deal with.
You sign up for a free account at Thunderclap.it, and follow the simple instructions to set up your campaign. Use graphics from your book if you can, as that way you’re increasing visibility of your book to those that click through to support your campaign. Spend some time crafting your message, adding some relevant hashtags if you’ve got room – bear in mind that this message will go out once and hopefully to an awful lot of people, so you want it to have punch, something to really make people want to click on the link you’ve provided. I’d also recommend only opting for 100 supporters the first time around – it sounds like a small number, especially if you have lots of social media savvy friends, but it’s tougher than you think to get people to click that link.
Once you’re happy with what you’ve done, submit your campaign and wait for Thunderclap to approve it (you can speed this process up by paying, but I’ve never done this). Then, when approval arrives, the really hard work begins. You have to get supporters.
Supporters are the whole point of Thunderclap – they’re the ones that are signing up to send out your message on the date and time you’ve selected. I think, since Thunderclap is fairly new, that people may be shying away from supporting Thunderclaps as they don’t fully understand what it means. So, in a nutshell, here goes: supporters are pledging to help you, by donating a Tweet, a Facebook status or a Tumblr post (or indeed, any combination of those three). That’s all. They’ll see the message they’re pledging to send out, hit those support buttons, and, providing you get enough supporters to “tip” the campaign, their social media account/s will automatically send out the message on the date and time you’ve selected.
The point of all this? Well, since we’re talking books – it’s to drive sales. If you have an upcoming book, you can set something up in advance to go out on your release date – then you’ve got a while to promote the Thunderclap, get your supporters and then you’ll get a big boost on social media on the day, which will hopefully get people clicking those buy buttons and pushing you up the respective retailer charts. Cool, huh?
There is more to it than just getting the supporters, though. Sorry to complicate matters 🙂 Ideally you need supporters that Tweet/share/Tumble about books in your genre – so in turn their followers/friends/etc are more likely to be interested in your book. Also, it goes without saying that the more followers/friends/readers your supporters have, the more people are likely to see your message once it goes out. So if you can attract people with a large reach on social media, all the better.
But to keep things simple, maybe start out small, and once you’ve dipped your toe in the Thunderclap water and seen how it all works – you can be more adventurous next time.
Bottom line: make sure you’ve crafted a powerful message to go out, that will catch people’s eyes and make them want to click. Then sit back and (hopefully) watch your sales increase.
Want to see how it works from a supporter’s angle? Here are three Thunderclaps you can sign up for (and I’d be grateful of your help):
I hope this has helped you. Feel free to share far and wide on the web, to help people gain an understanding of how it works. If I get lots of questions and queries, I may do another article at a later date with more specifics.
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
Revealed wisdom – or perhaps unsupported mythology – states that it takes time to become an accomplished author. I wish I had a dollar for every blog I’ve read where the writer claims his or her first efforts were pure unadulterated crap. Not having been privileged to read these early tales, I can’t judge whether this is the truth or merely misplaced humility. However, I’ve been noticing recently that in erotica, at least, an author’s first novel often possesses a special quality that’s hard to recreate in subsequent work.
From a craft perspective, that first book might be flawed. Somehow that doesn’t matter. First erotic novels have a life, an intensity, that’s unique. They offer a riotous explosion of lascivious fantasy, unchecked and uncensored. The scope of imagination compensates for less than perfect execution. Passion carries these books, overwhelming other considerations.
I realized this anew when I read K.D. Grace’s post last month here at the ERWA blog. She was celebrating the four year anniversary of her first novel, The Initiation of Ms Holly. I’m a huge admirer of K.D.’s writing – check out her steamy contribution to the current ERWA Gallery to see why – but I found Ms. Holly particularly arousing. It’s full of offbeat characters involved in creative and kinky carnal activities. A delicious sense of sexual license pervades the novel. Reading it, I knew the author had not held back, that she’d poured all her personal desires and fantasies into her lovely fable.
In some ways, it’s hard to believe this was K.D.’s first novel. Certainly, I didn’t realize this when I read it. At the same time, the heady mix of prurience and innocence in the book is typical of first timers.
The book that inspired me to publish erotica has some of the same characteristics. Portia da Costa’s Gemini Heat aroused and delighted me with its diversity and sexual creativity. I became an instant fan, and I’ve read many of her other books, all good, some brilliant. Still, none of them, except perhaps Entertaining Mr. Stone, can compare with Gemini Heat, in terms of its effect on me.
Despite having a happy ending for everyone involved, the book totally shatters romance conventions. (Of course, it wasn’t written as romance, though it’s marketed that way now.) Everyone has sex with everyone else. Both gender identification and power exchange are fluid. The hero is half-Asian, slightly androgynous, a total sybarite who’s nevertheless ferociously intelligent – almost the opposite of a typical alpha male.
Just recently, Portia mentioned to me that Gemini Heat was her first attempt at erotica. If I’d known that when I first read the book, back in 1999, I would have been astonished. Now I think I recognize the hallmarks of one’s first time, the erotic charge released when an author bares her sexual soul and dares to write what pushes her own buttons.
My own debut novel has some of the same characteristics. Like many new erotic authors, I didn’t really have a clue about the publishing business, about writing for a market, about genre conventions. I’d read some erotica, mostly classics, but nothing (other than Portia’s book) that could really serve as a model. Mostly, I was burning up with self-generated arousal. I wanted to share my fantasies, to vicariously explore what would happen if I extrapolated on my (not insignificant) real life sexual experiments. In the previous decade, I’d had life-changing experiences with dominance and submission. I wrote the book to capture that intensity, and amplify it with what-ifs.
The creative process was intuitive and close to effortless (especially compared to writing now). I’d sit down at the computer and the words would flow unobstructed from my dirty mind onto the page. I penned 72,000 words in my spare time, over the course of about six months. I wrote an additional 10,000 words in a single weekend, after the publisher complained that I hadn’t honored my contract, which called for a minimum of 80K. (Newbie that I was, I thought that clause was just advisory!)
The result, Raw Silk, has been released by three different publishers and is still in print. I can’t say it’s a best seller, but it’s the only one of my books that ever earned out its advance. And apparently, people are still reading it. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting erotic romance legend Desiree Holt. The first thing she told me was that she had loved Raw Silk. (Needless to say, that was one of the high points of my so-called career as an author!)
Depending on how you count, I’ve written seven or eight novels since Raw Silk. From a craft perspective, all greatly improve on my first effort, which suffers from wooden dialogue, an overabundance of adverbs, excessively long sentences and word repetition that makes me cringe. Still, I have the uncomfortable feeling none of my later novels can compete, in terms of genuine passion.
The more I write, it seems, the harder it becomes to tap that well-spring of pure sexual excitement that fueled my first attempt. At this point, I’ve read and written so much erotica that I’ve become jaded, I know. I’m sure the ebb in hormones as I’ve grown older has an impact, too.
As I continue to write, I hope that other factors compensate: original premises, surprising plots, engaging characters, polished and evocative language. Still, I look back wistfully on that first novel – so fully of naive sexual energy.
I wonder how many other erotica authors feel the same.
It’s that time of the month once again… Time for you to share 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.
Feel free to share this with erotic author friends. It’s an open invitation!
Please follow the rules. Last month we had one author who posted a much longer excerpt. She is now banned from posting – but I don’t like being the one who dishes out the punishment…
Still, if your excerpt is more than 200 words or includes more than one link, I’ll remove your comment and prohibit you from participating in further Sexy Snippet days. So play nice!
After 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
This month my study of stardom comes to its long-awaited conclusion. I’ve argued that celebrity culture is the media age’s expression of a deep-seated human need to create mythical figures in our mundane lives, modern-day gods and goddesses who are in the end visions of our idealized selves. Indeed fame is more about the needs of the fan than any inherent superiority of the famous—if we all can become famous for fifteen minutes, then it’s fame itself that matters more than anything else, even truth.
Accordingly, although I’ve enjoyed throwing around names like Justin Bieber and Paris Hilton (and tipping my hat to Nancy Reagan) for comic effect, I do believe the most significant aspect of celebrity culture is its function as a mirror of our society’s yearnings, fears, and values. The dramas of the famous are our hidden hang-ups and fantasies projected on the screen for all to see. And while few readers of the ERWA blog probably invest much interest in the latest doings of Angelina Jolie, I believe that the illusions of fame impact every creative artist to some degree.
Even if you yourself have never dreamed of mobs of fans winding around city blocks, waiting for you to sign their treasured copy of your novel, perhaps you’ve dealt with the annoying responses at parties when you mention you write. “Are you published? I haven’t heard of you. Has your novel been optioned for HBO?”
Too many people confuse celebrity with quality. If you aren’t famous, you aren’t good. “Success” must be measured by spots on the bestseller list, Pulitzer Prizes, major motion picture adaptations. Or perhaps your party acquaintance is satisfied with a more modest appearance in Best American Erotica. Yet we’re still playing by the rules of fame. I for one was slow to figure this out. When I first started writing, I longed for the validation of publication, then of winning a place in the best-of’s. My circle of acquaintances would ask, “How’s your writing going?” and slowly but surely I had progress to report. Ten stories in a year. Fifteen the next. A novel.
It was never enough. “What’s next?” they’d ask. “Do you have an agent yet?”
I no longer give a list of the year’s accomplishments when someone asks me how my writing is going. Because I’ve realized at long last that those measures of success are an effort to find satisfaction in others’ opinions of me. That is what fame is—the opinion of others. Sometimes it is based on a good reason. Often it is just their distorted projection with no relation to who you are or what you’ve actually done. Frankly, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve accomplished in my writing. I don’t need to prove anything to myself anymore. That is indeed enough.
Thus the most important way to say no to the insidious influence of celebrity culture even in the lower ranks of writers: Never lose sight of the pleasure and aliveness of your creative process which can never, ever be properly valued by another person. If you write, you succeed.
Not unrelated to this point is the relatively passive role fame assigns us, whether fan or celebrity. Sure, a fan can be quite active in terms of chasing down the object of her worship or collecting memorabilia or the latest gossip. But the decision about who matters is made by the vagaries of the “star-making machinery” (to quote Joni Mitchell). Is there any other rational reason why Kim Kardashian is a household name?
The other day I was reading Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and I came across an inspiring antidote to this passivity in her essay, “Woolf’s Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable.” Solnit describes her attempt to find or make a language to describe the things in our lives that can’t be quantified or categorized, an effort that lies at the heart of the revolt against capitalism and consumerism (the engines of modern fame). In short, Solnit urges us to become producers rather than consumers of meaning.
I like that because producing meaning is what writers do everytime they create a story. So of course, the best way to do this is to keep writing. At the same time, whenever we encounter assumptions about success, fame, and what constitutes “good” writing, we can interrogate those assumptions, agree or disagree, and better still make up our own new measures of value. In other words, we move from letting the market and celebrity culture define creative success to, at least sometimes, defining worth for ourselves.
It takes a lot more energy to think rather than let someone else make the decisions for us, but it’s the easiest way to become the star of our own universe.
Thanks for bearing with me through Justin Bieber and Dolly Parton. Keep writing and shine on!
Donna George Storey is the author
of Amorous Woman and a collection of short
Presents the Best of Donna George Storey. Learn more about her
work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com
Shinobu Dainagon No Suke
proud and sexy, kind of spooky
jumped in the sea, performed her duty
did Lady Dainagon No Suke.
She played koto, composed Haiku
and she wooed a biwa hoshi.
Who wields the blade makes up the rules
and she packed a wakizashi.
Although her man, he let her down
Lady Dainagon No Suke
her sword was mightier than his pen
and she served up penis sushi.
(Dainagon no Suke Shinobu appears in my kwaidan novella “The Color of the Moon”)
If trees fall, where no sound hears
does woman weep who sheds no tears?
Where no soul breathes does freedom matter?
Where no heart beats can hope be shattered?
Android Ilsa stood on the wall
Angry Ilsa had a great fall.
All the technicians and corporate men
won’t put Ilsa together again.
(Ilsa appears in the sci-fi novella “Mortal Engines”)
Lawd have mercy, for Heaven’s sake –
look what a mess poor Nixie makes
of a Pentecostal preacher man
who preached the blood of Christ the Lamb
Who preached of Christ’s grim crown of thorns
who called her from the unicorns
though she was dead, was now reborn.
Transformed with love for God and Man
killed by mistake her lover Dan.
Thou shalt not give hope to the damned.
(Nixie Skarsgaard appears in several erotic horror stories, most recently “The Tortoise and the Eagle)
I let them get away with murder
That I may be a litterateur.
It’s a huge no-duh that we live in an Information Age: from
high speed Internet to 4G cell networks, we can get whatever we want wherever
we want it – data-wise – at practically at the speed of light.
But sometimes I miss the old days. No, they weren’t – ever – the Good Old Days (I still
remember liquid paper, SASEs, and letter-sized manila envelopes … shudder), but back then a writer had a damned
long time to hear about anything to do with the biz.
If you were lucky you got a monthly mimeographed newsletter but
otherwise you spent weeks, even months, before hearing about markets or trends
… and if you actually wanted contact with another writer you either had to
pick up the phone, sit down and have coffee, or (gasp) write a letter.
No, I’m far from being a Luddite. To borrow a bit from the great (and late) George Carlin:
“I’ve been uplinked and downloaded. I’ve been inputted and outsourced. I
know the upside of downsizing; I know the downside of upgrading. I’m a
high-tech lowlife. A cutting-edge, state-of-the-art, bicoastal mutlitasker, and
I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond.”
I love living in The
World Of Tomorrow. Sure, we
may not have food pills or jetpacks but with the push of a … well, the click
of a mouse I can see just about every movie or show I want, read any book ever
written, play incredibly realistic games, or learn anything I want to know.
Here it comes, what you’ve been waiting for … but
… well, as I’ve said many times before, writing can be an emotionally
difficult, if not actually scarring endeavor. We forget, far too often, to care for ourselves in the manic pursuit of our writing ‘careers.’ We hover over Facebook, Twitter and
blog-after-blog: our creative hopes of success – and fears of failure – rising
and falling with every teeny-tiny bit of information that comes our way.
I miss … time. I miss weeks, months of not knowing
what the newest trend was, who won what award, who sold what story to what
magazine, who did or did not write their disciplined number of pages that
day. Back then, I just sat down
and wrote my stories and, when they were done, I’d send them off – and
immediately begin another story so when the inevitable rejection letter came I
could, at least, look at what I’d sent and say to myself Feh, I’ve done better since.
I’m not the only one.
Just this week I had to talk three friends off rooftops because they looked
at their sales figures, read that another writer had just sold a story when
they’d just been rejected, heard that the genre they love to work in is in a
downward spiral, that they’d been passed over (again) for an award, or that
someone else had written ten pages that day … and all they’d managed to do
was the laundry and maybe answer a few emails.
It took me quite a while but I’ve finally begun to find a
balance in my life: a way to still happily be – and now we’re bowing to the
really-dead Timothy Leary – turned on, tuned in … by dropping out.
Far too many writers out there say that being plugged in
24/7 to immediately what other writers are doing and saying, what their sales
are like moment-by-moment, or the tiniest blips in genres, is the way to
go. While I agree what we
all have to keep at least one eye on what’s happening in the world of writing
we also have to pay a lot more attention to how this flow of information is
making us feel – and, especially, how it affects our work.
By dropping out, I mean looking at what comes across our
desk and being open, honest, and – most of all – caring about how it makes us
feel. You do not have to follow
every Tweet, Facebook update, blog post, or whatever to be able to write and
sell your work. You do not have to
believe the lies writers love to tell about themselves. You do not have to subscribe to every
group, forum, or site. You do not
have to hover over your sales.
I’ll tell you what I tell myself – as well as my friends who
are in the horrible mire of professional depression: drop out … turn it off. If the daily updates you get from some writer’s forum make
you feel like crap then unsubscribe.
If you don’t like the way another writer makes you feel about you and
your work then stop following them.
If the self-aggrandizing or cliquish behavior of a writer
depresses you then stop reading their Tweets, blog posts or whatever.
You do not have to
be a conduit for every hiccup and blip of information that comes your way. You
Are A Writer … and, just like with flesh-and-blood people, if something diminishes
you in any way, punches you in the emotional solar plexus, or keeps you from
actually writing, then Turn It Off.
This is me, not you, but I don’t follow very many writing
sites. ERA, here, is wonderful, of
course … but beyond the true, real professional necessities, I only follow or
read things that are fun, educational, entertaining, uplifting, and – best of
all – make me feel not just good about myself and my writing, but want to make
me sit down at my state-of-the-art machine and write stories.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what it’s all about …
and everything else either comes a distant second or doesn’t matter at all.