Monthly Archives: November 2014
By K D Grace
There are moments in my life that stand out like shiny new coins. These moments are clearer, crisper. They’re full-blown, high definition, three D, and thoroughly enhanced. Amazingly enough these vivid moments usually involve the simplest acts, and yet somehow, in their simplicity, they encompass the fullness of being in this body on this planet at this time. And for those brief few moments, I feel like I actually truly GET IT. The sun breaks through the clouds and the mysteries of the universe are revealed. Then, everything goes back to normal, I go back to my routine and life moves forward to the next shining moment.
I’ve always referred to these times as Eucharist Moments not because I’m religious, but because the original meaning of Eucharist in Greek is thankfulness, gratitude. Because those moments are so complete when I’m in them, what I feel is thankfulness, gratitude that I’m me, and that I am even MORE me than I realize.
I remember one such moment when my husband, Raymond, and I were in Philadelphia. We had driven all night to get there. It was summer, hot, humid and thick. We were there for a series of meetings, the details of which escape me now. But the Eucharist Moment is as brilliant as if it had happened only yesterday.
We’d been out in the heat most of the day playing tourist. We didn’t have a lot of time, and we wanted to see the Liberty Bell and all of the other historical sights. By the middle of the afternoon, we were parched and positively wilted. We were too tired to go out for a late lunch so we stopped in at a small local shop and bought a box of Ritz crackers, a small jar of peanut butter and some Lipton teabags. Back in our hotel, Raymond ran down the hall for ice, and I made tea in the complimentary coffee maker, tea which we then poured over the ice into the small hotel room glasses. I don’t remember where we got it, but we had a plastic picnic knife. We ate peanut butter spread thickly on Ritz crackers and wash it all down with freshly brewed iced tea while we discuss the adventures of the day.
I’ve had a lot of great meals in my life in a lot of nice restaurants and in a lot of amazing places, but I’ve never had one better than that one. The shades were drawn and the room was cool and quiet after the noisy heat of the street. The tea had that lovely crisp, bronze bite that only freshly brewed tea has, and the aroma of it filled the whole room. We sat with our bare feet kicked up on the coffee table, passing the plastic knife back and forth, spreading peanut buttery goodness on crunchy, crumbly crackers. We ate until our t-shirts were covered with crumbs. We ate until we were both replete and drowsy and happily, quietly amazed that we were actually in Philadelphia, seeing all the things we’d only ever read about in history books. Afterwards we napped sprawled across the king-sized bed, and when we woke the sun had gone down. It was the simplest of experiences, and yet it still, all these years on, shines in my memory.
The best writing is full of Eucharist Moments. Anyone who has ever read a story or a novel that is too full of the grocery lists which makes up every day life knows how boring that is, and how quickly they lose interest. Good writing, good stories and novels that stay with us long after we’ve finished them, the stories we just can’t put down, are a stringing together of those Eucharist Moments, those moments of clarity, those moments of sloppy poignant full-frontal, in-your-face humanity.
Not surprisingly those moments are as fabulous to read about as they are to write about. Eucharist Moments in a story are the next best thing to being there. They draw us into the plot in the same way they draw us into life. They are the points where the story reaches out to us, touches us and becomes a living, breathing thing. They may last only the length of a few words, and they’re seldom longer than a single page, which is just as well because the intense purity, the clarity with which those moments shine would be too much to bear for 250 pages.
The best writers, at least in my opinion, know how to string those Eucharist Moments together, leading the reader from one to the next, to the next, through to the end. Those moments are the lighthouses along the darkened,
rocky shore that is the plot of a story. They move us forward to discover what secret the writer has hidden at the end of the journey. And if it’s well done, the end of the journey is never the end because it will have been written in such a way to create in the reader her own Eucharist Moment. The power of these moments is that each time we have one, we’re changed. What writer doesn’t want to tell a story that changes her reader? What writer doesn’t want to be changed by the story she writes?
This is just as true of erotica as it is of any genre. Stringing together sex scenes is not creating a story. The story is the path between the Eucharist Moments, and sex scenes can often be the Eucharist Moments. They can be the moments of pure, unabashed joy. They can be the moments of clarity, of revelation, when the writer is able to give us a peek into the soul of a character. Sex lends itself to Eucharist Moments because of the vulnerability it demands, because of the exposure it forces. That’s apart of the reason I enjoy writing erotica. Though sex is not the story, sex affords wonderful opportunities for Eucharist Moments, places where the light shines through and the reader understands, yearns, empathizes, and experiences the character from the inside out. Then the journey of the story truly becomes intimate.
Happy belated Thanksgiving, and I wish you all many Eucharist Moments.
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.
Every writer on
Facebook has seen a variation of this meme: “Be nice to me or I’ll put you
in my book and kill you off”. Those same writers probably gave the meme a
wry smile. I have based some of my characters on real people. Two professors in
my Night Owl Top Pick erotic romance novel “Don’t Call Me Baby” are
based on two professors I had flings with in college. Neither man knows I’ve
done this. If they read the book, they’re probably recognize themselves. Why
did I do this? Because I wanted to write a fictitious account of one summer
during my college years, and those two men were a part of that summer. I’ve also
based a few characters in some short stories on people I’ve met in real life.
The depiction of one prof is not very flattering, but the other one is. I’ve
even based my character Eric in my free “Tuesday’s Tales” short
stories on my husband. He likes that. Those stories are available at my web
With the recent news
that J. K. Rowling based her Harry Potter character Dolores Umbrage on a
teacher she despised, you may wonder what other characters have been based on
real people. Here are a few of the more famous ones:
Tintin – The Adventures of Tintin
Based on Palle Hude,
a Danish boy scout who traveled around the world in 1928 as part of a
competition set up by a Danish newspaper. He had to circumnavigate the world in
44 days, unaccompanied, and not set foot on a plane. Hude’s travels made
newspapers all over the world, and it’s likely Tintin’s creator in Belgium
would have read about him. 20,000 people greeted Hude at the end of his tour,
not unlike the crowd that greeted TinTin at the end of his first album.
Ebenezer Scrooge – A Christmas Carol
Based on John Elwes.
He was an 18th century politician who was a miser. Despite his
wealth, he lived a sparse, hermit-like life. He’d eat rotting food rather than
spend the money to buy fresh produce. Rather than part with his fortune, he
chose to horde his money and live in squalor.
Severus Snape – Harry Potter novels
Based on John
Nettleship. J. K. Rowling’s former chemistry teacher. He had no idea he was the
basis for the character until after the movies came out. He, his wife, and kids
figured it out as they saw Alan Rickman play Snape on the big screen.
Dolores Umbrage – Harry Potter novels
Based on an unnamed
teacher J. K. Rowling “disliked immensely on sight”. This person had
been Rowling’s teacher “long ago… in a certain skill or subject.” In
her essay on Pottermore, Rowling wrote “The
woman in question returned my antipathy with interest. Why we took against each
other so instantly, heartily and (on my side, at least) irrationally, I
honestly cannot say,” Rowling wrote. She was also struck by the woman’s
“pronounced taste for twee accessories,” including “a tiny
little plastic bow slide, pale lemon in color,” which Rowling felt was
more “appropriate to a girl of three.”
Dorian Gray – The Picture of Dorian Gray
Based on John Gray,
one of Oscar Wilde’s alleged lovers. Wilde gave the character the first name of
Dorian in reference to the Dorians, an ancient Greek tribe that engaged in m/m
sex. John Gray was mortified when the story came out since he could see it was
based on him, and it caused a rift in his relationship with Wilde.
I interviewed several
writers who based characters on people they know. They had plenty to say,
including why they chose to do it.
Romance writer Jeanne Guzman: Years ago, while
having lunch at my favorite lakeside restaurant, The Oasis on Joe Pool Lake in
Grand Prairie, Texas, I said to myself “Self, this would make the perfect spot
for a murder,” and so was born my novel, Bridge Over Troubled Waters.
the enthusiasm of my waitress, my main character was born. The character of
Misty was a combination of several of the waitresses on staff, but the name was
a gift from the original Misty who sadly moved away and found other employment.
From the manager, to the cook, and even the ladies I was having lunch with are
mentioned in the book.
in mind, I had to change the names, but once you read the book, you’ll be able
to go to The Oasis and know who everyone is. Most important, you have to meet
the matriarch who not only has inspired me, but is so love by those around her
that the city named a street after her. (The book is dedicated to her, and all
those who put up with me while I did my research and wrote the book sitting on
the outside deck.)
inspiration came from the servers and the managers at the Oasis, it’s my
favorite place to go to relax and have a good time. The ones that were working
there at the time knew of my book, and the fact that I was using them as models
for my characters. They allowed me to take pictures and follow them around as
they did their jobs. I had originally wanted to use the name “Oasis” as my
setting, but when I talked to the owner, she said she didn’t feel right gaining
publicity through my book, even though she, and the employees were cast in a
positive light. I told her I would change the name and the location, but I
would still dedicate the book to her. And I did. As for the employees that
still work at the Oasis, they all have a copy of the book and even though I
combined different aspects of them into the characters, they knew who I was
talking about. They loved it.
Romance writer Lindsay Klug: My male leads are almost
always, without fail, based on my husband. He’s everything I’ve ever wanted, so
why not use his attributes? When he was military, the leads wore shaved heads
and clean faces. Now that he’s got a beard, I can’t imagine a lead without one.
Kind of weird, eh?
far as inspiration goes], [i]t just flowed naturally into my story lines. He
doesn’t read what I’ve written but he knows he’s a part of it. Lol, I just
couldn’t and still can’t picture anybody else for my leads. He always makes fun
of the pictures I look at for inspiration, but he doesn’t know I’m seeing his
face and character with them.
Romance writer Phoenix Johnson: So my only ‘based on real
life’ character is Bailey. She’s the slightly-overweight, self-conscious,
lacking self-esteem and confidence leading lady in my contemporary romance
Acapello’s Lady. So far, she’s much like me. We’re also both on a weight-loss
track to be happy with ourselves. I’m hoping that writing her story week either
motivate me or shame me to keep at my own. However, unlike me, Bailey is
single. She doesn’t feel deserving or needing of a guy right now. Until hunky
escaped-con Joe shows up looking for somewhere to hide. He was doing time for
someone else’s crime, and couldn’t stand it. Silly man. However, his heart was
broken when his wife died so his actions aren’t the smartest right now. His
attraction to Bailey, and their growing connection, however, reminds them both
that it’s ok to love and that they do deserve happiness.
Bailey is not just a way to try to motivate myself. I’m finding that she is
freeing for me, and in writing that she deserves to be happy and to love
herself, I’m frankly telling myself the same thing. Bailey, unintentionally, is
my way of saying to myself “be happy, you deserve it. And love yourself;
you’re allowed to, and it’s ok.” It’s actually something I want all
readers to take from her when I finish Acapello’s Lady and get it released. (I
haven’t intentionally based Joe on anyone but I think, with the lost-love, and
escaped con elements, he could possibly be based on the potential I see in my
fiance as well. Or he could also be a combination of the potential I see in
both of us.)
why she chose to base her heroine on herself]: I was having a shower after a
workout, and it started running through my head as a written scene. And it
occurred to me that there aren’t enough heavier heroines, so I thought it was
my turn, and loosely basing her on myself would hopefully be like a sounding
board for healthy changes. It’s also therapeutic, in a way, when you’ve
actually worn your heroines shoes.you know exactly what she’s thinking or
feeling because it’s what you have or would think and feel.
Romance writer Jacques Gerard: Yes, I have written many short
stories with one of the characters based on somebody I know. In those stories
the heroine is based on a lady I use to be involved with. I don’t use the
lady’s real name, but the heroine’s name begins with the same letter of that
lady’s first name. Those short stories
are based on a date that lead to us making love or what could have happened
between us two in a certain scenario I dream up. I have never shared with a
lady I knew that they were in my one of my stories. However, one lady I know
had an idea I used her as a character and was flattered.
inspired him to base his character on that particular woman? “She was a
co-worker and we had a special chemistry.” He said. “She also read
one of my stories and enjoyed it. We were talking at an office Christmas party
and got on the subject of romantic Christmas getaways. It was funny because at
the time I was thinking of writing a Christmas story for my website. I shared
that with her and asked her opinion about a lounging dress for the female
character in my story. She chuckled and asked if I was going to write about us.
I replied that wasn’t a bad idea. She
also knew about my foot fetish and liked it as well.”
Horror writer Dave Gammon: Eric A. Shelman often does
this and in fact has written myself in his runaway zombie hit series Dead
Hunger. I come in at part 2 and part 5 is my actual POV and continue on until
are many reasons writers may choose to base a character on a real person. Writers may even base characters on themselves. This inspiration has lead to the creation of some fine fiction. Without Palle Hude and John Gray, we may not have had
the pleasure of enjoying Tintin and Durian Gray. It’s always interesting to
learn who influenced certain characters. It’s sometimes flattering, and that
spark helps bring characters to life.
find these authors at Amazon and other sites.
Gammon: http://horrornews.net (regular contributor)
If you’re interested
in reading my novel “Don’t Call Me Baby”, you may find more
information at Amazon and other outlets.
Kindle – US
Kindle – UK
by Jean Roberta
We erotic writers have not yet been completely accepted into the literary or social mainstream. From time to time, someone in this blog points out that we Don’t Get No Respect, or at least not enough. This claim is hard to refute.
The good news is that the solid wall between Literature (which sometimes wins prestigious awards) and Porn (which was largely illegal in the recent past) seems to have been crumbling for years.
The genre called erotica can now be mixed with any other genre, not only romance. Much has been said here about the uneasy relationship between erotica (fiction that focuses on sex as a means of transformation, or the focal point of a plot) and romance (fiction about the development of a relationship, usually heterosexual, usually with a happy ending). There have been laments about the ways in which Romance, as the elephant of the publishing biz, has steamrolled over literary erotica so that brilliantly well-written, poetic, hot-yet-philosophical works on sex per se are now harder to find than ever before. There is clearly some truth in this claim.
However, if explicit sex scenes are the hallmark of erotica, these can be included in works of fantasy (e.g. rewritten fairy tales or ancient myths), science fiction and its various subgenres (e.g. steampunk), historical fiction, murder mysteries or detective stories, social satire, and every other genre one can think of. Sex is so central to human life that sex scenes don’t have to be forced into a supposedly non-sexual plot. They can now be included in a kind of organic way, so that they serve the plot and the development of the characters.
Circlet Press was founded in 1992 to publish fiction that combines explicit sex (often queer in some sense) with fantasy elements, and this combination has since been taken up by other publishers. It’s even possible to find novels that combine more than two genres.
To give an example, I recently had to replace a fantasy novel in my “Sympathy for the Devil” English course (four fantasy novels by women, all with male protagonists). Unfortunately, a novel by Tanith Lee about an immortal kind of devil was suddenly unavailable. I replaced it with Death by Silver by Melissa Scott and Amy Griswold (Lethe Press, 2013), a double-authored steampunk murder mystery with double (human) protagonists who must clear away a London fog of interpersonal misunderstanding while eliminating suspects in a complicated murder investigation.
I introduced this novel to the class by inviting my colleague, the local expert in the history of detective fiction, to discuss the genre. I suspect that his colourful, student-friendly, 75-minute talk was the condensed version.
If I knew any local experts in m/m romance as a genre (with its contested origins in Kirk/Spock fanfiction or slash, based on the original Star Trek as a television space opera), I would have invited her/him/them to speak. I would have given the same invitation to an expert in steampunk if I knew of any in my town. (I can easily imagine the English Department of the university where I teach acquiring a specialist to teach steampunk classes in the future, possibly as an offshoot of speculative fiction or Victorian studies.)
Death by Silver actually features a primary relationship which is sexual from the beginning, but IMO, the novel doesn’t qualify as erotica because the sex is dealt with in a traditionally British way, behind closed doors (usually in one line of coy dialogue or a short paragraph at the end of a chapter). None of my students seem shocked, and several have told me they enjoyed reading, despite the complexity of the plot. (This, rather than the frequent hints of “unmentionable” sex, seems to be the only thing that slowed them down.)
It is easy to imagine a sexually-explicit version of a similar novel, and m/m erotic romance is definitely a thing.
Cross-genre fiction seems to me to be the way out of the impasse created by the economic and cultural dominance of mainstream romance novels. (Not to mention the cultural dominance of Romantic Comedy as a popular film genre, i.e. “date movies.”)
Not only can descriptions of sex be smuggled into literary genres that are generally more respected than erotica, the importance of sex can be shown in work that can find its way out of a literary ghetto.
Rewriting “classic” novels to include explicit sex scenes is only one way to cross-breed genres. Those of us who started out as erotic writers, and who aren’t willing to ditch the sex for the sake of respectability, might not achieve critical respect any time soon, but we can have fun spreading our wings.
by Kathleen Bradean
Thank you, Donna George Storey, for your latest post about
the pleasure of trying hard. I’d already decided on my topic, and here, you
provide the salt and garnish to my thoughts!
Writing is hard
work. When it’s great it looks effortless. The letters appear on a page that’s
a flat plane of two dimensions, so the reader can never see what lies beneath.
The words evoke dimensions in the reader’s imagination, but that’s the story,
not the underlying structure that delivers it. And certainly not the process
that built that structure.
All this talk of work makes writing sound like a chore. (It
can be) A drudge (oh, it is sometimes). Torture (don’t get me started). So
non-writers wonder why we do it. It’s not enough to say we’re driven.
Non-creative types don’t get driven. Let’s not worry about them. Instead, let’s think about the aspiring
writers. All they seem to hear about is the agony. The wrist-to-forehead sighs.
The existential torment. We never talk about the joy. So let me tell all you aspiring writers about the magical
The first time you finish writing a novel.
You finish a story and it was exactly what you set out to do.
The serendipity of dashing off something from your
imagination then doing some research
and not only did you get it right, but the research adds depth and richness to
your story and now it’s at a whole new level of totally awesome.
That word. *snaps fingers* That word — it’s so elusive, the
only one that will do. It’s out there,
roaming around in the periphery of your mental vision but you just can’t get it
to… Oh! Yes! That’s it.
You’re crying your eyes out as you write because this scene
with these characters is so moving, and you’re a wreck the rest of the day.
When a beta reader points out exactly what’s wrong with your
story and you realize that deep down, you knew it all along. But what’s even
better, you know how to fix it!
That first acceptance.
That eightieth acceptance.
When out of nowhere, a scene drops into your brain, and you
realize you can build an entire story around those few seconds.
You’ve just written the truest story you could.
Writers with some experience, what are your moments of
This post has been reblogged from my website, but I thought it was incredibly fitting given the month we’re in 🙂
If you’d have said to me two years ago—maybe even just a
year ago—that I would “win” NaNoWriMo, I’d have laughed at you. For those of
you that don’t know, NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a yearly
challenge which takes place in November. Writers sign up via the website and
challenge themselves to write 50,000 words in a month—in order words, a novel.
Or at least a good chunk of one. Sadly, I haven’t been able to take part this year.
I’m not a fast writer, but then nor am I a slow one. I sit
comfortably somewhere in the middle. But for some reason, last year I decided I
was going to give NaNoWriMo a go. I’d already done a ton of research for the
novel I intended to work on next, all I needed to do was getting the planning
done and I’d be ready to go. And so, having worked out that I’d have to write
2,500 per day for twenty days (I don’t work weekends, so I had to remove
weekend days from the equation), I figured it was still achievable.
Come the 1st of November I was signed up, had
everything planned out and once I opened that Word document, I quickly started
to fill it with words. I’m a bit of a word count watcher when I write, anyway,
so the only difference was, rather than simply updating the widget in my
website’s sidebar, I would also update on the NaNoWriMo website. I started off
really well, and was achieving my target each day. Of course, I dropped behind
my “buddies” at weekends, but soon caught up again on weekdays.
I have to admit, it was addictive. Granted, I’d already done
an awful lot of hard work before opening
that Word document, but it didn’t mean the writing was easy, especially as it
was the most complex piece of work I’d written to date. But somehow, come the
29th November (the 30th was a Saturday, and so the 29th
was my finish date), I did it. I hopped over that 50,000 word mark, copied and
pasted the text into the NaNoWriMo site to get it validated, and received my
winner’s certificate and badge. It was a fantastic feeling—I’d done it!
However, the novel was far from finished. The challenge had
really broken the back of it, but I knew I still had a long way to go. I didn’t
stop writing, but I admit from the 50k mark until the end was a lot slower
going because I didn’t have that urgency pushing me to write faster. Not to
mention during November, I’d rejigged my days to make writing my priority.
Finally, in the New Year of 2014, I finished the book. It
was almost twice the length it had been at the end of November—95,000 words. So
personally, I still think I did pretty damn well to write it in that period of
time, and I’m delighted to see it out there for people to read and hopefully
The book has been incredibly well received so far, with lots
of four and five star reviews—so if you’re a paranormal romance fan, I hope
you’ll check out Pack of Lies.
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
A few days ago I finished reading The Sweetest Thing, a new short story collection by fellow ERWA member Julius Addlesee (and edited by another ERWA member, Nan Andrews). This isn’t a review – that will be coming at the beginning of next month, over at Erotica Revealed – but rather a reflection on the contrast between the sex in this book and the sex we tend to see today, both in the real world and in a lot of erotica.
The book is unabashedly vanilla. Although the characters and situations in The Sweetest Thing vary, all the tales focus on mutual heterosexual lust, seasoned by serendipity, affection, and, in many cases, lingerie. The stories feel a bit old-fashioned because the characters experience desire in such an enthusiastic, uncomplicated way. No one takes sexual pleasure for granted, but no one questions it, either – no guilt, no angst.
There’s an innocence about these stories. The narrators (all male) display a sense of wonder when confronted with the glory of women. The characters linger over foreplay, delighting in the tastes, smells, textures of their partners, who tend not to be model-thin or movie-star handsome but who are nevertheless almost unbearably desirable. Sex is special, a delicious mystery to decipher, a gift waiting to be opened.
I remember when sex was like that – powerful and intimate. To a heart-breaking extent, I feel like that kind of sex has been lost. When I was in my teens and twenties, stores hid magazines like Playboy and Penthouse under the counter. Porn movies arrived by mail in plain brown wrappers. A nude photo shoot like the one I did with the friend of a friend would be considered outrageous and daring. BDSM was shockingly perverse. To discover my own inclinations in that direction was a life-changing revelation.
In today’s mobile-obsessed, painfully public world, nude photos are commonplace. Teenagers broadcast them to their friends – kids who are not even their lovers. Porn is never more than click or two away. Sex is everywhere: in movies, in video games, in rock music, in advertising, in popular best sellers. I remember the thrill of reading James Bond in study hall, passing around a volume that marked the spot where the virile spy stroked his hand across the smooth, flat belly of his bikini clad partner. That was all – imagination filled in the rest – but oh, how that made me yearn!
What would Ian Fleming have thought of Fifty Shades of Gray?
I wouldn’t complain, if more sex meant better sex. However, I get the impression that many people find sexual satisfaction as elusive as ever – perhaps more. Casual sex has become more accepted and more available, but close, mutually enjoyable sex is another story. Divorce rates have soared. Rape occurs at least as frequently as when sex was rationed and forbidden, and my observations suggest that it is actually more likely to be tolerated in our sexually-desensitized world.
As I discussed in a previous post on this blog, an explosion of information on sexual technique has stolen the spontaneity from sexual encounters. When I was in my sexual prime, I never worried whether I was good in bed. All I knew was that being in bed with a lover felt good.
Even “deviant” behavior like BDSM has become ordinary and accepted rather than shocking. Fetishism influences popular culture. I can’t count the number of fashion ads I’ve seen where the model is wearing a leather corset and wielding a whip. These days everyone seems interested in kink. My master grumbles that everybody gets spanked now, or tied up. We’re not special anymore.
It’s not surprising that today’s erotica and erotic romance reflect the same trends. Authors include ever more extreme sexual activities in their tales, trying to get noticed. Voyeurism, exhibitionism, age play, infantilism, blood and water sports, body modification, bondage, threesomes, foursomes, orgies, gang bangs – you’ll find it all and more, not just in self-identified stroke fiction but also in anthologies released by publishers of “literary erotica”, and indeed, even in romance, once the bastion of coyness and traditionalism.
One of my readers complains that she can’t find any vanilla erotica anymore.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against outrageous sexual acts. I’ve written a few myself. My concern is that these acts have come to have no meaning. They don’t feel dangerous or brave or transgressive anymore. They scarcely influence my emotions or my physical reactions, unless they’re extremely well written. Meanwhile, warm, bawdy stories of straight sexual pleasure – like Julius’ tales – have become as rare as penny candy.
I know I sound like a curmudgeon – like my mother, railing against “the new generation” and praising the good old days. This change isn’t even generational, though. It encompasses a mere decade or so. When I wrote my first novel, the acts I portrayed were unusual, scary, and exciting. Now they’re ho hum.
You can’t stop time, nor control cultural change. You have to learn to live with the world as it is today, without pining for yesterday. I’m glad the market for erotica has expanded, offering more opportunities for us all. Still, I mourn the loss of sexual innocence, and the corresponding incandescence of sexual experience – in life and in fiction.
[The title for this post was stolen from a story by Robert Buckley, which features an aged bootlegger from 1920’s. Thanks, Bob! That tale is included in his charitable anthology, Coming Together Presents Robert Buckley, which I had the privilege of editing.]
Whoa! Almost slipped by me, what with everything else I’m doing, but I realized last night that today is 19th of November, which means that it’s Sexy Snippets Day!
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. 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. I’ll say no more!
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
“Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’ve long been aware of the many derogatory terms used to describe people who enjoy intellectual pursuits. “Brain,” “egghead,” “nerd” and “geek” come to mind. But in the past few years, my academically-oriented sons have mentioned another label they are sometimes given by peers because of their genuine interest in their classes—”try-hard.”
I looked up “try-hard” in the Urban Dictionary and the official definition suggests a person who is trying to be something he or she is not. However, it seems to me that the high school version of the insult is less complicated. It merely refers to someone who makes an extra effort when she does something, someone who cares about the quality of the result rather than simply completing an assignment with as little investment as possible.
I can see an argument for doing as little as you need to do to get by when it comes to a required subject you don’t connect with on a deeper level. A lot of what we do in high school and even college involves pleasing the teacher and not necessarily ourselves. However, this put-down seems to be directed at any effort to excel. While this attitude might seem the height of cool in school, it can mean trouble later on, especially with a creative endeavor like writing erotica.
Perhaps because reading a well-written story is an effortless experience, too many people believe that writing it must be effortless, too. Those of us who actually write stories know better, of course, but there’s still a small part of me that buys the myth that true artists are beguiled into a trance by their muse and great art thus flows effortlessly from their souls. Or in other words, it is in-born talent, not hard work that makes a creative work soar.
This disdain for creative sweat reminds me of an Italian word, sprezzatura, that I stumbled upon back in my high school days when I was both a nerd and a try-hard who loved to read anything I could get my hands on about the Renaissance. Sprezzatura was described in Baldassare Castiglione’s sixteenth-century bestseller, The Book of the Courtier, as “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.” The perfect noble courtier should appear to dash off a brilliant sonnet on a whim or execute a high-stepping court dance without breaking a sweat. Of course to pull this off, he had to practice and ponder in private for hours on end. Thus, ironically, the perfect courtier’s sprezzatura made him a try-hard in the official sense of the word.
The movie montage might be another culprit in our lack of understanding of how much time and effort it takes to excel. How many movies have you seen where the protagonist aspires to a lofty goal, but for the sake of cinematic flow, months or even years of hard work must be condensed into a minute of brief scenes showing her transformation from raw novice to skilled expert? Intellectually we know it was supposed to take a year, but emotionally we internalize the sense that just by wanting something, we can get good enough to wow the world in sixty seconds.
Again, I know that anyone who’s actually tried—hard—to write a story knows how much musing and shaping and word-crafting and editing is involved. Anyone who’s written many stories knows that skill increases with experience, but it’s still hard to face that blank document and make magic on the page, harder still to draw something fresh from within. And I’d bet many of us wonder if this challenging task is easier for other writers, those who are more talented or lucky or truly touched by greatness as we must not be since we have to try so damned hard.
Sure, maybe there are demigods like that out there, but I’d suspect not. And the truth is, I don’t want to read a story that was dashed off with little thought or effort. I want sweat and doubt and endless revisions. Now and then a story might flower beautifully in an afternoon, but that can only because the seed of it was germinating for months, maybe years. As a reader I give an author my precious attention–minutes, hours, even days of my life I can never get back. The author had better deserve it! And because I deserve this effort as a reader, then I owe it to my readers to give them the same.
Besides, no matter what those high school kids say, sweating and striving and and learning and caring about our writing is one of the most profoundly pleasurable and deeply satisfying ways to spend our time on this earth.
Don’t you agree?
If so, then keep trying—hard!
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
I’m not a poet and I don’t even see myself that way, but I
have the fundamental key I think to a poets nature. I love words and
language. This applies to point of view.
I’ve been studying a couple of craft books by Mary Oliver, a
pulitzer prise winning poet. She has several chapters which I need to
read several times on the subject of voice. In poetry it’s called
“diction”, voice and tone. Diction refers to your choice of words.
The overall effect of this choice of words is called “tone”. The diction
and tone together give rise to the “persona” of the person telling the poem or
story. In my opinion this “persona” is the key to your choice of point of
view, and most especially if it’s the first person point of view.
Erotica more than other forms of genre fiction, except maybe
horror, is a very physical and personal form of expression. I’m talking about
literary erotica in particular. I believe it should be written with some
immediacy from the senses from the dark waters of the unconscious. Some
writers like Anais Nin can get cerebral about it and still make it work, but
she’s an exception because of her ability to color it with the mysteries of a
character’s inner quirks. People should be able to feel what you’re
describing physically and emotionally. You do this partly by letting them
fill in the blanks in your description, but also very often by speaking in the
voice of experience of the deciding character. The most common mistake I
see in erotic writing, or at least the method I take issue with, is
speaking from the main character without giving them a specific
personality in that voice. That voice, when you get it right, can be the
most fun part of reading the story. A reader will forgive you for a lot
if you can get that voice right. And giving that voice a persona can
really drive the story forward for you as a writer. But it has to be a
voice that matches the character.
In poetry, and I’d say also just as much in prose, the sound
of the word, its accuracy and its meaning creates the atmosphere of a
poem. In old school horror writing like Lovecraft or Poe it seems like
the story is 70 percent about atmosphere. The author is making a slow
hand build up to a final effect that rises from the gathered gloom. In
“Masque of the Red Death” the first half of the story is dedicated entirely to
the description of the rooms in Prince Prospero’s castle, with almost no
character description except to let you know he’s a selfish guy. “The
Cask of Amontillado” is a short expository blast about Montressor’s unexplained
hatred of Fortunato and then therest of the story is his first person
description of the cellar they’re going down too. “The Tell Tale Heart”
told from the first person is the obtuse and obsessive voice of a dangerous
loon. What is interesting about that voice is the immediate lack of self
awareness in the speaker, his capacity for self delusion:
“ . . . TRUE! –nervous –very, very dreadfully nervous I
had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened
my senses –not destroyed –not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing
acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things
in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily –how calmly I
can tell you the whole story. . . .”
Poe was actually onto a great spiritual truth here about the
nature of evil. Evil does not know itself. Evil is ego gone wild
and refusing to see itself. But what is also special about this voice is
– it is a voice. A distinct voice. The voice of a dangerous
loon. You know this guys personality. You know who he would vote
for for president and why. This is the carefully thought out effect
of Diction + Tone = Voice. You feel this man, wide eyed and self absorbed
grab you by the collar, like The Ancient Mariner or a wino in an alley, and
haul you away from what you were doing to make you listen to his story from
beginning to end no matter what. He’s your crazy Uncle at Thanksgiving
dinner except this guy kills people and cuts out their heart. This is ego
gone boundless and is at the heart of true evil, the absence of empathy.
Here’s the First Person Present Tense voice of another evil
maniac, very different from Poe’s:
“ . . . At the brownstone next to Evelyns a woman –
high heels, great ass – leaves without locking her door. Price follows
her with his gaze and when he hears footsteps coming down the hallway toward us
he turns around straightens his Versace tie ready to face whatever.
Courtney opens the door and she’s wearing a Krizia cream silk blouse, a Krizia
rust tweed skirt and silk satin d’Orsay pumps from Manolo Blahnik. . . “
“American Psycho” Brett Easton
Now wait – read that again. He doesn’t just describe
her clothes, he knows their brand, how much they cost probably and even what
store they come from. Throughout the book wall street master of the
universe and human monster Patrick Bateman will do this with every person he
meets, it will become his signature and an expression of his governing
characteristic, a manic obsession with social status. He kills a male
friend with a fashionably expensive stainless steel ax possibly for
simply having a nicer business card than his. This a great device.
The first time you read him doing that, you think its annoying. The
third time its really annoying. After reading him do that every single
time it begins to sink in for you – this guy is dangerously nuts.
And how about this distinctive voice, the narrator Mattie
Ross from Charles Portis’ great book “True Grit”:
” . . . People do not give it credence that a
fourteen year old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge
her father’s blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it
did not happen everyday. . . .”
The use of the outmoded word “credence” as a noun
and the lack of contractions (did not) give it the 19th century parlor room
formality of a daguerreotype.
Here are two of my voices, from stories (published) told
from first person voices:
“ . . . The old prize fighters would bust your nose or your
ribs. A punch to the kidney that would make you piss blood for a couple
days. We sex fighters, we bust your will to live. We take away your
will to be free. People look naked to us. We see inside your
mind. You just think you know what you want, bitch. I
know what you really want, because that’s how I get you. That’s how I
take you down. I look at you bitch – I know what you want way better than
you do. I know it even before you know it. That’s because I see
you. I see you like God sees you. . . .”
from “The Peanut Butter Shot”
Crude language. Short punchy sentences like jabs to
the face. You don’t like this guy. But you’re curious to find out
what’s going to happen to him because you get a sense of what kind of a person
he is. Yeah, reader, that’s how I get you. That’s how I take you
And then there is this paragraph (Sorry Lisabet, I know
you’ve seen this paragraph about fifty times at least by now, I just
really like it) which begins one of my vampire stories
“ . . . . Blood has a range of taste, as scent has a range
of aroma. Blood has a high level taste and an under taste. It is a blending of
elements like music. This is also the way of scent. The under aroma will show
you there is a trail and betrays to you the direction. If the scent becomes
fresher you are following the creature that produced it, so you must use the
under scent to know which direction is older and which is newer. It is as
though the air is filled with singing
voices and you are picking out a single voice. The high scent
will tell you about the individual, the condition of the individual,
if it is injured or sick, horny or filled with fear. It will tell you how to catch
him, where he is likely to run to. To acquire the high scent the animal, or myself, must pause to
commune with the air and pay attention. Close the eyes. Hold the nose still and
just so. Let the night air speak. It is the same with the deep taste of blood,
except that scent is on the move, and if you are tasting the blood – well. It
is no longer on the move. . . . .”
(Opening Paragraph “The Lady and the
There is a lot going on in this paragraph. There is a
deliberate styling of Diction + Tone = Voice. This is the voice of a
sensitive young woman while at the same time being the voice of a practiced
predator and hunter of humans. An affection for the night, an ironic
humor. An absence of empathy. She never says she’s dangerous, she
never boasts, but by the end of the paragraph she doesn’t have to.
People write things their own way. But in my case what
I love is language and the sound of language. Its why I want to see
characters get a voice. It’s how I love them.
Each year, the Literary Review examines a sampling of recently published literary fiction and nominates a clutch of writers for consideration to win the Bad Sex in Fiction Award for the most egregious passage of sexual description in a work of fiction. This year’s shortlist is as follows:
- The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham
- The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
- The Hormone Factory by Saskia Goldschmidt
- Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
- The Age of Magic by Ben Okri
- The Affairs of Others by Amy Grace Loyd
- Desert God by Wilbur Smith
- Things to Make and Break by May-Lan Tan
- The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh
- The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirsty Wark
As per their own site, “The purpose of the prize is to draw attention to poorly written,
perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern
fiction, and to discourage them. The prize is not intended to cover
pornographic or expressly erotic literature” (Literary). Which should prompt many erotica and erotic romance writers to breathe a sigh of relief, because I’ve read equally poorly written representations of sex from writers who, supposedly, are more expert at it. Before you start smirking, erotica writers, ask yourselves if you’ve committed similar literary atrocities.
The shame in wining this award is legendary. It’s actually hurt a few people’s feelings. There is the implication that, if you can’t write sex with any flair, you’re probably bad at it in real life. Not fair, but it explains why so many literary writers avoid it like the plague.
This year, with the possible exception of Murakami, the nominated passages are well deserved. And they read like a how not to write sex guide for a number of reasons. However, there are some recurring sins. Either the author tries to turn sex into a cubist hallucination, a completely disembodied experience, or he/she feels compelled to add unaccountably eccentric details just so it doesn’t read quite like porn. Problem is, it reads like porn with unaccountably eccentric details.
There’s Kirsty Wark’s abstracted, over-idealized something that could be sex or could be canibalism:
I had never imagined that I was capable of wanton behaviour, but it was as if a dam within me had burst and we made love that day and night like two people starved, slowly suffused with more and more pleasure, exploring and devouring every inch of each other, so as not to miss one single possibility of passion. (The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle)
Either write a sex scene, or don’t. But studiously avoiding a single detail of realism reeks of purple prose.
Wilbur Smith’s Desert God offers ‘ruby nipples’ and a cringeworthy description of a wet pussy:
Her pudenda were also entirely devoid of hair. The tips of her inner lips protruded shyly from the vertical cleft. The sweet dew of feminine arousal glistened upon them. (Desert God)
Pudenda? Really? The ‘vertical clef’? Is there a horizontal one? Leaking ‘sweet dew’? Really? Only a person who is terrified of cunt could feel the need to turn it into a cross between an anatomy lesson and the Chelsea Flower Show.
Flanagan’s offering is not quite as egregious but it’s not good either:
Whatever had held them apart, whatever had restrained their bodies before, was now gone. If the earth spun it faltered, if the wind blew it waited. Hands found flesh; flesh, flesh. He felt the improbable weight of her eyelash with his own; he kissed the slight, rose-coloured trench that remained from her knicker elastic, running around her belly like the equator line circling the world. As they lost themselves in the circumnavigation of each other, there came from nearby shrill shrieks that ended in a deeper howl.
Dorrigo looked up. A large dog stood at the top of the dune. Above blood-jagged drool, its slobbery mouth clutched a twitching fairy penguin. (The Narrow Road to the Deep North)
You can see the problem here. Let’s pretend we’re NOT REALLY describing people having sex but insert a quirky detail (the skin indent from her knicker elastic) to avoid being accused of abstraction. PLUS, let’s juxtapose it with animal predation in all its glorious realism.
May-Lan Tan might have taken the time to wonder what human mouths have to do with volcanos:
I lie back and her hair tickles my stomach, her mouth wrapping over me. I’d forgotten this about her: she has the smallest, hottest mouth, as if she’s storing lava in her cheeks.
When I’m about to come, I flip her onto her back and take off her
underwear. I roll her nipple on my tongue and rub her clit with my thumb
until her lips get slippery. I glide my middle finger in and out, then
fold her legs up and push in. God. It’s like sticking your cock into the
sun. (Things to Make and Break)
Besides this theme of things too hot to consider while thinking about sex, the second paragraph reads either like a reject from Penthouse forum pile or someone working at IHOP.
This might, to my mind, be the worst offender of all. It does serve to remind you that if male writers often don’t have a clue as to how sex works for women, the opposite is often also true. Here’s Saskia Goldschmidt’s offering:
She was moaning softly now, her breath coming faster. She tasted of apples. Her soft warm flesh was driving me crazy – that dish of delight my tongue was now lapping at frenziedly. Her suppressed cries were coming faster and faster. I unbuttoned my pants, pushing them down past my hips, and my beast, finally released from its cage, sprang up wildly. I started inching my way back up, continuing to stimulate her manually, until the beast found its way in. She opened her eyes and said softly, ‘I’m still a virgin, please be careful.’
I kept myself quiet for a moment, kissed her and said, “I’ll be very gentle, all right?”
Running her tongue over her lips she nodded; she was as hot as boiling water in a distillation flask, and it wasn’t long before I was able to really get going. We both came at the same time. I stayed inside her for a few seconds, gazed at her, and smiled. (The Hormone Factory)
This is bad for so many reasons, it’s hard to enumerate them all. But the juxtaposition of the purpled ‘ beast, finally released from its cage, sprang up wildly’ and ‘continuing to stimulate her manually’ to the inappropriate simile of ‘as hot as boiling water in a distillation flask’ this probably takes the prize for the world’s most schizophrenic writing style ever. It’s not just bad sex writing. It’s bad writing. I have a feeling Ms. Goldschmidt is not a bad writer, but I suspect she doesn’t like men enough to get to know any.
I’m not going to bother going through Murakami’s snippet, because it doesn’t rate as egregious. It’s just a sex scene not written to arouse, but otherwise, there’s not too much wrong with it baring a few inappropriate nature similes.
The extract from The Lemon Grove, by Helen Walsh, offers us another example of how while visceral detail can be good, the overly visceral becomes ridiculous:
She closes her eyes. Shakes her head.
“We can’t,” she begins. His mouth is on hers; his tongue is jabbing around her gums, the wrinkled roof of her mouth. He pulls away a second time.
“Look at me,” he says.
She looks him in the eye. She reaches out and cups his balls and squeezes gently. Nathan closes his eyes, bites his lip. Then he steps into her, furious. And when it hits her, it slams her hard and fast, as life once had. (The Lemon Grove)
Now, apart from the ‘wrinkled roof of her mouth,’ this may be one of those occasions where a fragment has been taken out of context. The protagonist goes from reluctant to grabbing his balls, and it reads very badly here, but who knows what the character’s like? However, ‘he steps into her, furious’ might be one of the most sublimated metaphors for penetration I’ve ever come across.
This is not the first time Ben Okri has been nominated for this award. I’m pretty sure he shrugged the last one off instead of taking it to heart. It shows:
When his hand brushed her nipple it tripped a switch and she came alight. He touched her belly and his hand seemed to burn through her. He lavished on her body indirect touches and bitter-sweet sensations flooded her brain.
She became aware of places in her that could only have been concealed there by a god with a sense of humour. Adrift on warm currents, no longer of this world, she became aware of him gliding into her. He loved her with gentleness and strength, stroking her neck, praising her face with his hands, till she was broken up and began a low rhythmic wail. She was a little overwhelmed with being the adored focus of such power, as he rose and fell. She felt certain now that there was a heaven and that it was here, in her body. The universe was in her and with each movement it unfolded to her. (The Age of Magic)
I’m guessing he got stuck on the theme of the mechanical. This woman appears to be a piece of electrical equipment. But it goes on to, again, a total avoidance of what sex is actually about in such a studied way, you’d think the human race had discovered a way to fuck without using their bodies at all.
Amy Grace Lloyd suffers from the illness of a writer who can’t decide on a term for vagina, which makes the whole thing read a little like a very old Harlequin Romance:
Her throat as open as her body, wet everywhere from tears and the
coming, and I did hear it, a long high twisting cry and a twisting in my
arms as my fingers dove up and up into the full expressive wetness of
her. (The Affairs of Others)
The rest of the passage also studiously avoids much relation of the sex to the body, but it’s not as bad as some of the others.
At least Michael Cunningham can call a dick a dick and, to be fair, this was written with the view to being about rather bad sex for the woman involved, which is realistic and, you know, literary:
They both know they have to do this quickly. He slides his dick into
her. She sighs more loudly, but it’s still a sigh, not a sex moan,
though this time there’s a soft gasp at the end. Tyler is inside her,
here’s the heat, the powerful wet hold, and fuck, he’s about to come
already. He holds off, lets his cock rest in her, lies on top, his face
pressed to her cheek (he can’t seem to look directly at her), until she
says, ‘Don’t wait.’
“Are you sure?”
thrusts once, cautiously. He thrusts again, and he’s gone, he’s off into
the careening nowhere. He lives for seconds in that soaring agonizing
perfection. It’s this, only this, he’s lost to himself, he’s no one,
he’s obliterated, there’s no Tyler at all, there’s only… He hears
himself gasp in wonder. He falls into an ecstatic burning harmedness,
losing, lost, unmade.
And is finished. (The Snow Queen)
I’m finished eviscerating these poor writers, too.
There’s really only two reasons to write sex in a novel: because it is the writer’s intent to arouse the reader or because it is necessary to move the plot or character forward. As erotica writers, we write to arouse and, when we’re at our best, also move the story ahead.
Literary writers really need to decide why they are putting the sex scene in. It doesn’t have to be pretty or arousing, but they do have to be honest with themselves about what their aim is. This selection of literary luminaries show that few of them are.
Meanwhile, there’s a lot to learn for any writer on how not to write sex here:
- Whether you are writing to arouse or not, sex is embodied and only poor writers avoid the reality of that with flights into metaphysics.
- Overused and cliche imagery disconnects the reader from the moment and reminds them of the remediation of sex instead of actual sex. But, although fresh metaphors and similes can bring the reader to new ways of seeing the act, it’s a dangerous line to walk. If you’re going to risk the strange metaphor, make sure it doesn’t simply turn your whole attempt ridiculous.
- If under-writing is bad, over-writing is worse and shows you’re uncomfortable with writing sex. No one needs to be told that the vulva has a vertical slit, unless you’re worried your reader is going to mistake this for eye-intercourse.
- Context is always good, but the juxtaposition of sex with the likes of slathering, penguin-murdering dogs doesn’t situate the sex. It just makes the reader think that the sex was so bad it was impossible not to notice the dog.
My guess is that many literary writers fear writing about sex. They either avoid it or disembody it, or try too hard to reframe it as something no one has ever heard of before. It’s always good to begin by remembering that your reader is probably a human who has had sex and knows what it’s like.