Monthly Archives: August 2015
A picture is worth a thousand words and, for a writer, sometimes a picture is worth a whole story – even a whole novel. Now some of you might already suspect that could be my shameless way of sharing some of my pictures from my recent trip to the Scottish Highlands and, while I’m not saying that you’re wrong, I promise if you bear with me, there’s a reason for the photos. Oh, not this first one though. It’s here just because I like it.
As internet connections, wifi and smart phones have gotten better, I’ve gone from totally forgetting to take photos – even on the most amazing holidays and events – to being a shutter-snapping fiend. I take hundreds and hundreds of photos when I go away on a holiday, and if there’s something that interests me, even at home, I take a gazillion shots of it. Of course the instant gratification of sharing a trip or an event with everyone one through Face Book or Twitter and enjoying their responses is added incentive. I admit having shamelessly sent piccies of everything from my fish and chips in Lyme Regis to the scars on my knees after surgery, from the courgettes I grew in my garden to the blisters on my hands from kettle bells. Dearie me! I have become the monster I most feared.
The thing about an image is that it evokes senses other than just sight. It also stimulates memory and emotion and, for a writer, it stimulates imagination. I think that, more than anything else, that fact is responsible for my increase in photo snapping. The image doesn’t have to be beautiful any longer as it did in my earlier shutter-snapping days. The image needs to be evocative. That’s the key for me. I played around on Pinterest quite a bit at one point. Some of you may recall I wrote a post about my Pinterest experience, but evocative images happen wherever I am and whatever I’m doing, and an iPhone guarantees that if I want to capture that image for later use, I can do it without a second thought.
Here are some examples of what I mean. These shots were taken in the men and women’s loos in a pub in Inverness Scotland. Hubby took the men’s room shots for me after I told him what I saw in the ladies.
The hair straightener in the ladies room at a pound a pop got me thinking about Rapunzel sneaking out from her tower prison for a little fun with her girlfriends.
After wild dancing at the ceilidh, she notices her do is gone all frizzy.
But since she’s Rapunzel, she has so much hair that she runs out of pound coins and has to offer sexual favors to the woman who spends money on a variety of sex toys from the vending machine, which she uses on Rapulzel.
Meanwhile Prince Charming, who finds her missing from the tower pursues her to the pub. Feeling frustrated, he treats himself to a Travel Pussy and some whisky flavoured condoms just in case he finds her. Well you get where I’m going with this.
Here is a shot of a deserted phone booth on the Isle of Sky near our cottage. With no wifi and no phone signal it’s easy to imagine a hiker getting lost and ending up on a small farmstead. In desperation, she tries the phone booth, but when the phone doesn’t work, she elicits the help of the farmer who lives there — a bit of a twist on the ole farmer’s daughter stories and jokes. Of course the farmer could be a woman…
Or perhaps you’d like a biker story with a twist? I’ve got inspirational images for that too. How about instead of a biker bar, we set our little tale in a biker bakery. In our little bakery the chef makes the most delectable bake goods of all time. She is enticed into providing all the bread, biscuits and buns for the local biker gang. What kind of deal would the head of the biker gang make with the curvy head baker/pastry chef to get a bargain on her delectable buns?
Oh, and the very wet hoodie sitting on top of the coffee shop part of the bakery looking rather forlorn, well, I figure a woman who makes baked goods for a biker gang might just have a crow for a pet.
I love the great outdoors, so for me every great-outdoorsy shot is an inspiration for a little garden porn or fun Al fresco, I’ve written whole series inspired by outdoor images of mountains lost in the midst and caves visited by demons and witches. But the truth is that sometimes a beautiful image is just a beautiful image, and being just back from the Highlands, as I am, and being a captive audience, as you are, I’ll leave you with this lovely image from the Isle of Skye.
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 three
cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook
page, and her Amazon Author Page.
My last few ERWA
posts have been quite serious, so I wanted to keep things light this month.
Writers often talk about their muses, including writers whose works have
inspired them. I’ve long been inspired by Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, Joe
Lansdale, Edgar Allan Poe, Dorothy Parker, and Oscar Wilde. Writers also talk
about the support they get from their family and friends. Some have a mentor or
two. I’m fortunate enough to have a great deal of support from my husband and
my writer friends, especially on Facebook. I know that plenty of writers are
shunned by their parents, siblings, and spouses who especially don’t take
erotic fiction seriously. They want to support the writers in their midst, but
they wish they wrote “real” books. I can’t count the number of times
I’ve been looked down upon because I erotic fiction and romance. The genres get
a lot of grief they don’t deserve, especially when it comes to romance. Romance
is the most successful genre out there. It deserves more respect.
I consider pets to
be an unusual muse. Our pets are part of our families, and they give us
unconditional love. We feed them and give then a safe place to live and they
repay us by doting on us, curling into our laps, and displaying cute behavior
that turns us into puddles of delighted goo. Cats and writers seem to go
together like, well, cats and writers. Probably the most famous literary cat
lover is Ernest Hemingway, whose polydactyl cats are the stuff of legend. Edgar
Allan Poe had trained the family cat to sleep on his wife Virginia’s chest to
keep her warm since she suffered from tuberculosis. Mark Twain said “Some
people scorn a cat and think it not an essential; but the Clemens tribe are not
Joyce Carol Oates
described the soothing calm she feels from her cat. “I
write so much because my cat sits on my lap. She purrs so I don’t want to get
up. She’s so much more calming than my husband.” Science fiction writer
Philip K. Dick wrote the following of his cat, Willis: “Willis, my tomcat, strides silently
over the pages of that book, being important as he is, with his long golden
twitching tail. Make them understand, he says to me, that animals are really
that important right now. He says this, and then eats up all the food we had
been warming for our baby. Some cats are far too pushy. The next thing he’ll
want to do is write SF novels. I hope he does. None of them will sell.”
Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, and William S. Burroughs were owned by cats. T. S. Elliot loved cats so much he wrote
poems about them that were turned into an award-winning, long-running
long been a cat lover, and their antics have inspired me so much I’ve included
some of my own in my fiction. Below is a picture of (from top to bottom)
Beowulf, Domino, and Scully. Domino is the matriarch. She was the first kitten
born to Oreo, whom I will talk about below. Yes, I have a cat named Scully. I
used to have a cat named Mulder but she died several years ago from kidney
failure. I like to tell people she was abducted by aliens.
My cats have
appeared in many of my stories. It’s my way of keeping them with me at all
times and making them immortal. Beowulf appeared in my short story The Party Crasher, which was published
by Scarlet Magazine in the U. K. It was one of my first published stories. One
of Beowulf’s nicknames was Mr. Fuzzyboy. Sadly, he died suddenly in January,
2015. I still miss him. This is Beowulf, showing off.
Here is the scene in
The Party Crasher when Beowulf made
his appearance. It’s Olivia’s birthday, and a man she’d been seeing (Fred) who
does not awaken her passions invited a medium to her surprise birthday party.
Madame Persephone quickly homes in on Jeremy, a friend of Olivia’s Olivia lusts
after. The resulting séance becomes quite comical.
The Party Crasher – Excerpt
Madame Persephone laced her thick
fingers together and looked around the room. She pointed to three guests,
including Fred, and asked them to take a seat at the table. She then asked
Olivia to take the seat next to her. That left one seat open.
She sniffed the air again. She
held out her hands, and her fingers danced on the air. She turned slowly, and
faced the kitchen.
“You, young man,” She
pointed to Jeremy. “I need you here. I have a strong feeling about you,
that you are especially sensitive.”
So Jeremy is “especially
sensitive” and Olivia is as thick as a rock. That made her feel just
wonderful. She doubted anything would happen during this silly séance, but she
couldn’t tell Fred to make the woman leave. Besides, the silliness could be
fun. At least the argument over Sir Paul’s divorce had finally subsided. Olivia
was afraid she was going to have to break it up, it got so heated.
“Sir –” Madame
Persephone pointed to Jeremy. “Please sit next to Olivia.” Fred
looked put out that he was not seated next to Olivia. He was between two of her
coworkers who were unable to stifle their giggling.
Madame Persephone lit the white
candles. She picked up the white sage incense, lit it, blew it out, and waved
the smoke around the table. She muttered some kind of prayer under her breath.
“We are ready,” she
said. “Someone please turn out the lights.”
One of the guests obliged. Olivia
let her eyes adjust to the dim light. Candlelight flickered on the table,
walls, and ceiling. Someone snickered in the quiet.
“All of us must be silent. I
will try to contact the spirits I sense lurking in this house. Everyone around
the table, please hold hands. Don’t break contact during the séance. That’s
very dangerous. You may trap a spirit here who doesn’t want to be here. I can’t
stress that enough.” Madame Persephone said. “Is everyone
Olivia saw heads nod around the
table. A ripple flowed up her spine. She was a little excited about this
silliness after all. While she didn’t believe for a second that Madame
Persephone would contact any spirits, deep down she had hoped she would.
“I call to you, oh restless
spirits that may occupy this house. Speak to us,” Madame Persephone said.
She trembled, and lowered her head to her chest. She moaned. It was quite a
good show. The woman knew her stuff.
Madame Persephone’s eyes bugged open. “Oh, now, Mr. Fuzzyboy, you behave
yourself.” She looked at Olivia. “My apologies. That was my spirit
guide, Mr. Fuzzyboy, making an ass of himself. He likes to show up at my
séances just to get noisy. He demands a lot of attention, and wants to talk
through me. He probably wants a treat.” Olivia realized that Mr. Fuzzyboy
sounded a lot like Fred, who was just as demanding and wanted treats for his
performances as well.
Madame Persephone closed her
eyes, and continued speaking. “Mr. Fuzzyboy, now is not the time. We can
play later.” She giggled. “Yes, I’ll get your catnip toy when I get
She rocked back and forth in her
chair, and hummed in a low voice. Glenda, one of Olivia’s coworkers, giggled.
Olivia heard someone kick Glenda under the table.
Madame Persephone bolted upright
in her chair, and stared at Olivia.
“My dear, there is someone
here who wants to speak to you.”
Olivia stared back. “Me?
“It’s a man – definitely a
man, but he won’t tell me his name. He’s asking… what, sir?” She jerked in
her seat as if offended. “I most certainly will not ask her that, sir, not in mixed company.”
What on earth could this be about, Olivia wondered.
“How rude! Seriously, sir,
do you take me for a fool?”
“What does he want to ask
me?” Olivia asked.
“I can’t repeat what he
said. It’s… crude.”
“This sounds like fun,”
Jeremy said. Olivia pinched his hand.
“Say it anyway. I’m
curious.” Olivia insisted.
Madame Persephone squirmed in her
seat. “He wants to know if he can stick his finger in your bellybutton and
Olivia could do nothing but sit
there with her mouth hanging open. A flush rose from her chest and warmed her
face. She thanked God that in the candlelight, no one could see her blushing.
“You are ticklish in your
belly button, Olivia.”
“Shut up, Fred.” Olivia
said. To Madame Persephone, she said: “Please tell him I said ‘no.'”
“That’s what I thought you’d
say.” Madame Persephone was silent for a few seconds. “Sir, if she
won’t let you stick your finger in her belly button, I seriously doubt she
would let you do that.”
I don’t want to know, thought Olivia. Her heart jumped in her chest. She glanced
at Jeremy, who fought off laughter by biting his lower lip. Olivia felt
Who the heck is that woman talking to?
Below is a picture of Lucky, our tuxedo cat. He’s about 12 years
old now and still acts like a kitten. He’s the most personable cat I’ve ever
met. He made a brief appearance in my short story The Wandering Cat.
Below is an excerpt
from my short erotic story The Wandering
Cat, which was originally published by eXcessica. It’s out of print now.
Oreo the cat is based on my late cat also named Oreo, who had a penchant for
clawing her way out of the house. She loved to wander around Rockport,
Massachusetts, where I live. She looked like Sylvester from the Loony Tunes cartoons.
The picture is of Oreo with her tongue sticking out, as it often did. I swear
that cat’s tongue was too big for her head. As you can see, Beowulf made an
appearance in this story, too. He got around. So did Lucky, who is also in the
The Wandering Cat – Excerpt
“Oreo! It’s chow time!”
Cat refilled the cat food bowl and the water
bowl. Beowulf and Lucky ran to see their new chow, but Oreo was nowhere to be
seen. That was unlike her.
Worried, Cat turned the house upside down.
She looked behind the bed, in the closets, and under the couch. No cat. There
was only one other place where Oreo could be, and that was sitting on her
The large Gothic window was open. No cat sat
on the plush window bench. Cat took a closer look at the window, and saw that
the screen had been clawed. There was a hole in the screen big enough for a cat
to climb through.
Great. Oreo got out again.
Cat put on her sandals and walked outside.
She saw cat paw prints in the damp earth, and followed them through her back
yard. They ended at the fence marking Lance Hendry’s back yard.
Her heart raced. Would Oreo give her an
excuse to say something to Lance other than “Hello, how’s the
weather?” She fantasized about his scrumptious body every night. What
would his arms feel like as they wrapped around her? She wished she could
summon up the courage to say more to him than a few quick words.
Oreo gave her that chance.
She walked into his back yard. Peter
Gabriel’s music played from somewhere inside, making Cat’s heart beat all the
faster. Not only was Lance home, he was another Peter Gabriel fan.
She knocked on the back door. Her fingers
sounded muffled against the hard wood. How could he hear her over the music?
After a minute of knocking on the door, she backed up.
A Gothic window was open on the second floor.
She hoped he was up there. She felt like the rebuttal to Rapunzel. The damsel
stood below the enchanted window, and wished her man would appear in it.
“Lance? Are you there?”
A head with rumpled hair and a broad set of
shoulders leaned out of the window. He wasn’t wearing a shirt. Cat took a good
look at his muscular chest and the black hair that covered it. She didn’t know
when she would get a gorgeous sight like that again.
“Hi. What’s up?”
“Have you seen my cat? Oreo? The little
black and white one?”
“The one that always gets out? No,
haven’t seen her.”
“Oh. Thanks.” She was too shy to
ask him any more questions. Muscle up
some courage, girl! Ask him how he’s doing. Something. Anything! Talk to him!
“Would you like some help looking for
“I’d love it!” Cat was so excited
over getting to spend some time with Lance that her knees knocked. What would
she say to him? For once in her life, she was speechless. Would she be able to
make enough small talk to keep him interested in her?
“Stay put. I’ll be down in a
He came outside wearing a button-down
short-sleeved shirt, shorts, and sandals. His shock of black hair looked as if
he hadn’t combed it in several days. That was the new fashion for young men
these days. Cat was ten years Lance’s senior, but she didn’t care. Maybe today
she’s win on two counts – they’d find her cat, and she’d gain a lover.
“What’s your name again?”
“It’s Cat. Short for Catherine.”
“Cat is looking for her cat?”
She laughed. “Yes, she sure is.”
“How long has Oreo been missing?”
“I don’t know. She didn’t come when I
refilled the food bowl, and she clawed through the screen window again. I’m
scared. I hope she’s okay.”
“I’m sure she is. She gets out often
enough. Have you looked around outside yet?”
“I’m just starting now. Want to come
with me?” Please say yes! Please say
“I’d love to. I’ve wanted to get to know
you better anyway.”
Cat’s stomach did The Happy Dance. She felt
light-headed and giddy. Lance wants to
get to know me better! All thanks to Oreo.
Below is an excerpt
from my upcoming family saga/thriller novel Secrets
and Lies, which will be published by Eldritch Press in 2016. Kate Stanwood
is my main character. Her cat Koala is based on a Snowshoe cat that owned me,
also named Koala. Snowshoes are a mix between Siamese and domestic shorthairs.
They have white paws called “boots”, hence the name. Koala was so smart he was
scary. My husband Bill (at the time we were dating) used to live next door to
me. Sometimes Koala would sometimes get himself locked out of the house at night.
So, he’d go over to Bill’s house. Bill often stayed up late. Koala would meow
loudly until Bill came outside, and the cat would then run to my front door and
meow to be let in. Bill would let him
in, and all would be well in the world. Koala used to do the exact same thing
to me that he is doing to Kate at stupid o’clock in the morning. The picture is
of Koala on the left and Oreo on the right. They were inseparable.
Secrets and Lies – Excerpt
Kate snapped awake. She always snapped awake
at the slightest sound. She was lying on her back. Koala stared at her from his
perch on the headboard, which was designed like a bookcase. She glared at him. He stared back and mewed.
not getting up just to top off your food bowl, she thought. Koala meowed at her again. He
looked at her with that “Get up and feed me now”
expression on his cherubic little Snowshoe face. He stood and stretched. He
looked at all the books stacked in a pile next to him. The stack teetered precariously over Kate’s
head. She knew what was coming.
She slowly reached for the water bottle
behind her on the bookcase. Koala froze, one paw touching the spine of a thick
hardback that was already threatening to tip over onto her face. She held the
bottle between forefinger and thumb in full view of the cat. He knew what was
coming, too. As if that would stop the little furball.
knock that book over on my head, cat, and you’re Vietnamese food in a few
hours. Koala tapped the book. Kate shook the bottle.
The cat’s eyes widened. He jumped off of the headboard and landed between Kate
and Ian, who slept through it all. He always slept through the nighttime
follies. The bed could fall through the floor and he’d sleep through it.
Koala used Ian’s shoulders as a springboard
and vaulted off of the bed. Ian said “Oof!” and rolled onto his back.
The snoring started almost immediately. Kate sighed and pushed him onto his
side. His snoring rivaled the foghorn at the end of the Cove.
She glanced at the clock: 4:51 a.m. She was
wide awake. She hated it when she woke up too early, which had always been a
bad habit of hers. Thank God she didn’t have to go to work, even though it was
a Tuesday. She could sleep through late morning once she became tired again.
She rolled out of bed and walked into the
upstairs kitchen. Koala followed her, mewing at her ankles, until she picked up
his food bowl, shook it, and placed it back onto the floor. That cat hated
eating anything that he knew had another cat’s spit on it, so she shook the
bowl until fresher contents reached the surface. Satisfied, he ate with gusto.
What a pain in the butt, but she’d never give him up for anything.
I don’t know what I
would do if I didn’t have my cats to keep me company and inspire me while I
write. They’re so important to me they’ve become a part of my fiction. Do you
have pets that inspire you to write? Do you cater to your dogs, or are you
owned by cats? Do you have unusual animals around you, like Flannery O’Connor
and her peacocks? I believe animals make some of the best muses, and they don’t
ask for anything in return but attention, food, and a place to sleep (often on
you). They are the ultimate givers of unconditional love. I wouldn’t part with
my cats for anything in the world, and I’ve immortalized them in my fiction.
b Jean Roberta
Much has been written about writer’s block, the internal censor, and various other personal demons that interfere with the flow of inspiration. J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels, conceived of story-killing depression as a group of evil characters called Dementors and included them in the plot so that she could write around them, so to speak.
The last few posts here have dealt with some of the external factors, or impersonal demons, that discourage writers. Changes in the publishing industry that have resulted in dwindling rates of pay and a dwindling market for innovative work, plus the free-for-all of self-publishing, can make it look almost impossible to have a writing career.
Aside from (or in addition to) all that, broad and clichéd writers’ guidelines are unhelpful. I’ve read too many messages on publishers’ sites that say something like this: “We set up shop because we thought it was time for someone to publish interesting work that engages the reader. We like believable characters, strong plots, and fresh language. We are completely different from all other publishers.” Sometimes a shortened version of this (“Enter the unique world of XYZ Press!”) appears below an editor’s name on a rejection message. More honest guidelines advise writers to read what XYZ has already published to get a sense of what they accept.
Harassment is another thing that seems guaranteed to harm any sensitive person – as writers tend to be, since we need to be attuned to our own consciousness and our own emotional climate. Some sites, both on-line and in the real world of writers’ events, need to be marked like medieval maps with images of dragons in the wild places.
During my annual two months off from teaching, when I hope to achieve phenomenal word-counts per day, and make at least a good start on a book or two, I’ve disappointed myself. Self-doubt has set in, as usual. When I’m surrounded by students and colleagues, I dream of having the time and solitude to write. Alone in a room with a computer, some notes, and a list of calls-for-submissions, I wonder if I am too out of touch with the general zeitgeist to write anything that would be meaningful for anyone else.
If I’m below the radar, however, I’m less likely to be a target for attack than writers who engage more regularly with on-line commentators. During the past few months, while taking part in an awards contest as a judge and co-editing a “best-of” anthology, I’ve become aware of feuds, sock-puppet identities, and the trashing of writers by other writers. I know it’s possible to grow a thick-enough skin to appear impervious to insults, but I’m not sure it’s possible to prevent unexpected hostility from wrecking one’s concentration. Recovery probably requires disconnecting from the on-line world, at least temporarily.
I sometimes wonder how to develop tough-minded resistance to rejection, snark, bad reviews and threats of violence while staying open to new ideas and editing advice. I wonder if any writer has really achieved that kind of balance.
The book I’m supposed to be writing is a work of creative non-fiction (to use a broad term) on “censorship” in various forms, focusing on my personal experience. A local publisher is waiting to read my approach to political conflicts in the writing/publishing world. Reading about vicious trashing which has not affected me directly reminds me of less-drastic ideological conflicts in my “real” life during the past twenty years.
I’ve written here before about a persistent belief on the political Left that grammar is inherently racist and elitist, that the best writing is “free” (an unedited stream of consciousness), and that language should float somewhere above the specific cultures that produce it. This set of beliefs drives me crazy. I can’t agree that the most incoherent student essays are beautiful in their own way. Saying this in public, however, seems likely to get me banished by the cool kids.
Then there is the more traditional objection to anything written by or about those who are not white, male, heterosexual, and “normal.” This bias shows up in the form of some editors,’ publishers,’ and reviewers’ preferences for work written by and about white men, and in complaints within the Ivory Tower that academic standards have slipped because of the introduction of “women’s studies” and “queer” and “ethnic” or international programs.
Traditional bias can seem to come from different directions, but it is always based on the same theme. As a teenage writer, I was warned by my boyfriend at the time that I should write about boys, not girls, so that my writing would appeal to more readers. As a graduate student in the local English Department, I argued with my academic father AND my faculty advisor about “women’s lit.” My father’s themesong was, “What’s wrong with Shakespeare?” as though I wanted to remove every Shakespeare play and poem from the curriculum to make room for the work of unknown women, and possibly for gangsta rap.
Defenses of a traditional literary “canon” as the only literature worth reading seem as long-lived as the racism of 1910. This stuff is the blood-sucking vampire or the rotting zombie that will not go away quietly, and which can’t be killed with logic.
For better or worse, I will soon enter the circus of Fall Semester in the university where I teach. For academics as well as Jews, September is really the beginning of the year. I’m hoping the new and the fresh (new students, some new colleagues, newish subject-matter, cooler temperatures) will be inspiring.
Somehow, in spite of everything, I’m never completely silenced. Many other writers continue writing as well, and I know from reading their work that the Muses aren’t stingy with their blessings. To keep going, it seems as if we all have to cherish a level of optimism that looks naïve on the surface. I like the statement that things always turn out well in the end because if they aren’t going well, it isn’t the end.
by Kathleen Bradean
While I agree with Remittance Girl’s assessment of the state of erotica, I also wonder at times if there ever existed such a genre as literary erotica. There were exceptional works: The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Little Birds, Story of the Eye. But was it really a genre? Have we been forever looking back to a golden age that never existed, and did we do that while we were in our own golden age for erotica?
Must over those questions if you wish, but what I’m more interested in is the future. If erotica – literary erotica – is forever changed and not in ways that we like as writers, what the hell are we supposed to do? The publishing world is in a constant state of upheaval. Most of the publishers who put out literary erotica aren’t supporting it anymore. So many annual anthologies are falling by the wayside.
Under a different pen name, I write a series of science fiction thrillers. I’ve kept it rather clean since my father, kids, nieces and nephews read them, but I feel constrained. There are scenes I imagine going much further. It feels dishonest to fade to black when I could so easily scorch the pages instead. I’ve even thought about doing fanfic of my own work and writing those scenes to purge them from my imagination. I’m sure some of my fans wouldn’t mind reading those scenes.
But what about other writers who don’t have an alternate outlet? Or what if writing fanfic of my own work isn’t in the cards for me? Things look bleak.
I’m tired of bleak. It isn’t a good look on me. So here’s what I plan to do:
Many of you know that I’ve long wondered if erotica is really a genre. Sometimes it fits into other genres, but generally it’s literary fiction. Meaning that it’s written in the genre style of literary fiction. (As opposed to the genre style of romance, which is the style erotic romance is written in). So I’m going to (after I write the next two books in my scifi series) write a story. A literary novel. It is not going to be a series of sex scenes loosely tied together by a story. But unlike my scifi novels, it will not fade to black when and if my characters have a sexual moment. It will probably use sex and sexuality to explore my characters. Most of all, it will be decadent with desire and sensuality. It will be lush. It may never be published. I’m fine with that. Really, at this point, I’m only writing erotica for myself.
As this post goes live, I’m at Sexhibition in Manchester, England – also known as “the erotic event of the year.” Myself, my other half, and Victoria and Kev Blisse are running the Smut UK stand, selling erotic books and generally waving the banner for smutty books galore. We also have swag, goodies and a charity raffle. Every time we do one of these events, we have a fantastic time. We get to spend time with each other, having a giggle. We get to see other friends we don’t see often. We get to meet new people, or people we may have only chatted with online in the past. Invariably, these people are interesting, and we come away from the events exhausted but inspired, and looking forward to the next time we can get together.
Which leads me to my question – what do you think of real life events? As an author, and someone otherwise heavily involved in the industry, I know what I get out of it – but I’d love to know what readers/visitors get out of it. The events I’ve been to so far are more general smutty events, or conferences, rather than pure signings (though I’m signed up for one of those next year, and am considering others), so the people that go aren’t necessarily there for the books… but they generally go away with at least one! 😉 So I’d just love to know, whether you’re into books specifically, or the lifestyle as a whole – what drives you to these events?
And for those of you that go to more traditional book signings – what drives you? Is it because you want to meet the authors? Get autographs? Buy more books? Meet new authors? See your existing favourites? Please, do let me know… enquiring minds, and all that 😉
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
I guess I must be really out of the loop, because it was only this month that I first encountered the term “30 day cliff”. That was in a discussion on the Excessica authors’ forum. Some of my colleagues were lamenting about the difficulty of bringing out releases frequently enough to keep them from “falling off the thirty day cliff”. From context I surmised that people believed you had to get a new book out every month in order to retain readers’ attention.
At first I shrugged off the whole topic. A book a month? Preposterous! And what was so magical about 30 days, anyway? I figured this must be one of those marketing rules that get bandied about the Internet with no real support from the data at all.
When I did a bit of research, however, I discovered that the 30 day limit apparently has its source in Amazon’s all powerful algorithms. The article below, for example, provides quite graphic evidence for this sales precipice.
Just what authors need. Something else to worry about.
Writing well is hard work. Heck, even writing poorly takes time. Then there’s the editing (for those of us who care about that step), cover art, penning the blurb, and formatting for different publishing platforms (if you’re self-publishing or working with a co-op like Excessica). Updating your website and blog. Sending out tweets or posting your news on Facebook. Begging your author friends to feature your newly birthed literary baby on their blogs, Facebook pages or Twitter feeds. Submitting the manuscript to review sites. Arranging blog tours. Running contests to attract readers. Running around like the proverbial decapitated fowl, waving your arms and shouting, “Look, look, I’ve got a new book! Buy my great new book!” until you’re exhausted and hoarse.
Do that every single month? Are you nuts?
Sure, I know some authors who do this, and more. I have one or two colleagues who send me media kits for their latest titles pretty much monthly, for posting on my blog. Some of them are quite well-known—certainly compared to me. Many of them write well, too, although I have noticed that their excerpts all sound similar. I guess if you’ve found a formula that’s successful, it’s crazy not to stick with it.
Doesn’t work for me, though. I have limited time to devote to my writing career, such as it is. Marketing already takes a serious bite out of that allocation. I’d love to have more people buy my books, not just because I’d like to make more money but because I want to share my erotic visions with a wider audience. However, pressure dries up the creative flow, at least for me. If I have to force myself to write, I know I won’t be satisfied with the results.
I’m pretty confident I could turn out a new 30K book every month—especially if I quit my day job—but I’m also certain these books wouldn’t be very original, or surprising, or memorable. Probably I’d write yet another BDSM initiation story, with a self-assured, ironic, slightly distant hero and an intelligent, feisty heroine who’s aroused and appalled at her own desire to surrender. That’s my Ur-story, one I’ve already written dozens of times, one I love but try to escape for the sake of novelty and exploring new territory. That story sells. I know it does. I could change the names, the location, the initial scenario, the sexual actions and the kinky implements, and sell it again and again.
The notion makes me slightly nauseous.
So despite the clamor by my colleagues—in defiance of the current market wisdom—I choose to turn my back on the precipice. I reject the anxiety whipped up by the pundits and claim my right to define for myself what it means to be a successful author. For me, the criteria include quality, diversity, originality and authenticity. Frequency just doesn’t enter into the equation.
It’s Wednesday, also known as “Hump Day”. How very appropriate! Because since it’s the nineteenth of August, it is also Sexy Snippets Day!
This is your chance to share the hottest mini-excerpts you can find from your published work.
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.
Please post excerpts only from published work (or work that is free for download), not works in progress. The goal, after all, is to titillate your readers and seduce them into buying your books!
Feel free to share this with erotic author friends. It’s an open invitation!
Of course I expect you to 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
Remittance Girl’s farewell column this month got me thinking—as always and sadly for the last time here at the ERWA blog. What effect has the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon had upon erotica writers? When the tidal wave first hit back in 2012, there was hope expressed that the novels’ huge readership would seek out the works of other erotica writers now that they’d been exposed to the pleasures of sexually explicit stories. I also hoped we’d all rise together, but didn’t really believe it would happen.
All signs suggest it has not happened.
Not that Fifty Shades is the only oppressive factor in the radically changing publishing world, but it’s certainly played a role. I appreciate that this may be a romantic recasting of history, but my exposure to erotica began with the mainstream publication of Anais Nin’s Delta of Venus in 1977. Of course I’d read Penthouse and more avidly its sister publication Viva, which was supposedly aimed at women, but Nin’s work showed that erotic stories could be beautifully written and gain some respect, or at least a glowing review in the New York Times Book Review. That erotic writing could be intelligent and literary was a revolutionary concept for our society.
A decade later, literary erotica, especially that written by women, was much more widely available and I’d even say the variety and quality of writing was celebrated. In the mid-1990’s I was personally inspired to write erotica by Maxim Jakubowski’s 1996 edition of The Mammoth Book of International Erotica and Susie Bright’s Best American Erotica 1997. I was particularly taken with a piece in the latter entitled “Lunch” about a man who pays for a private luncheon show involving spinach dressed in the female lubricant of a woman who is aroused by a dwarf rubbing a scarf between her legs. Pretty creative as it goes, but the real draw for me was the friend who introduced the narrator to the show—a guy named Drew who was shamelessly intimate with his own sexual desires. I wanted to be Drew. Writing erotica promised a path to that self-knowledge.
After a lot of labor and the requisite callous rejections, I eventually began to be published by the erotica webzines like Clean Sheets, Scarlet Letters, Fishnet, Oysters and Chocolate and The Erotic Woman. Eventually my original inspirations, Maxim Jakubowski and Susie Bright, published my work, as well as great editors like Violet Blue, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Alison Tyler with publishers like Cleis and Seal. My work even got me checks from places I’d never dreamed I’d penetrate like Penthouse and the Playboy Cyber Club.
None of this ever made me rich. In fact, the day I got my Penthouse check, I was pulled over for running a “red light” while making a left turn (I swear it was yellow, but the cop didn’t buy it) and the generous fine ate up the entire payment for my story. Crime does not pay, obviously. However, I did enjoy being part of a vibrant community of writers, many of whom write columns here today.
Then, somehow, the webzines, the publishers, the interest in a variety of well-written erotic tales, it’s all disappeared.
Can we lay the blame on the Fifty Shades phenomenon? I think so. Certainly we can blame the publishing industry, which has seen that “erotic writing” can make tons of money, so therefore the only kind worth publishing is that which will make as much as Fifty Shades. Of course, since no one really knows why a certain work catches fire, publishers play it safe and back projects that are like Fifty Shades at the expense of other kinds of stories, ignoring the lesson of history that the real next big thing will not be a copycat, but will come from a different direction. Most importantly, we must remember that commercial publishing has never been about giving the public high-quality writing. It’s about making money with as little risk as possible.
In his column this month, Garce reminds artists that if we focus on being rock stars rather than musicians, we’ll lose our creative souls. There are some writers who genuinely love to create the kinds of stories that are seen as marketable today, and these people have found their time in the wake of Fifty Shades. For those of us who feel more inspired by stories about X-rated salad dressing, well, let me put my own cock-eyed optimism out there. The urge for erotic expression is always with us, no matter whether the official culture is Puritanism, Victorianism, Freudianism or FiftyShadesofGreyism. I believe our time will come again or at the very least, there are readers out there who will appreciate our stories.
Writing makes me feel more alive. It enriches my world in ways money never can. In certain moods I do despair that Fifty Shades has placed expectations on our genre that few if any can meet. But that’s only when I’m not writing what I love.
And writing what we love, what we were born to write, is always the answer.
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
“Here. Here. Here. Here.”
The cricket under my bed is keeping time with my
heartbeat. Laying on my back in the darkness, alone, looking up, little
warm flashes of heat lightning in the clouds light up the ceiling overhead
through the opened window. I wonder if my heart is beating too hard and if I’m
about to have another panic attack at two in the morning for no goddamn reason
at all. It’s hard getting by on two or three hours of sleep every night.
“Late. Late. Late. Late.”
I have never been alone in my life.
Because of my odd religious background, as a young man I
grew up communally, always surrounded by people. I lived communally with
men and women from all over the world, sharing various houses and various
responsibilities together as a group, as a tribe. Afterwards I was married
and had a family. There was never a break in between where there was no
one around me.
Laying still; hoping for sleep or less woeful dreams, and
watching the little puffs of light come and go against the white ceiling.
Thunder would be comforting. Or maybe a train going by, that high
lonesome sound, followed by that hysterical shriek of power.
An interviewer asked Keith Richard what went wrong with the
Rolling Stones first lead guitar, Brian Jones. Why did he come to such a
bad end? Richard said “His problem was he loved being a rock star
more than he loved being a musician.”
“There. There. There. There.”
Something happened to me that made me love being a writer
more than I loved writing. I’ve been blocked since. The cellar door I open
to go down where the stories come from, I can’t get to it. The story
fairy locked it.
Things seemed to converge all at the same conjuncture.
My mother in law in Panama needed eye surgery. She had health problems
that threatened to end her at any moment. But her strong heart drove on
heedlessly like an engine even as she dwindled. My wife, close to her
mother, has gone to Panama on an open ended visit that will certainly cause her
to lose her job as well as maybe changing her as a person. My son has
just moved out to embark on life on his own as a young man must. And I am
But there was another thing as well. I had been
For many years I had no friends and didn’t actually know how
to make friends because, living communally, I had never needed to learn.
I was a mentally solitary person, living high in my head where the stories and
the fantasies and the voices were and happy to go on living in that world,
though I felt my loneliness always. I think this is a common thing for
writers and poets. I was adapted to an interior solitude while still
being a person who needed people. Writing was my way out of that
solitude. Black ink looping from my fountain pen like dark silk spinning
webs of fantasy and desire.
I discovered and joined the Unitarian Universalist church in
my town and the effect was life changing. I had found my natural tribe,
my natural beliefs and with it a ravenous desire for friendship and
people. Gradually I began to come out of my shell. I didn’t keep my
writing life hidden because these were also creative people, many of them far
more accomplished than me.
A small group of strong natured, well educated women
discovered my writing and loved it. And loved me. It was as though
a unicorn had wandered into their midst. We loved each other’s company
and for a time I was a phenomenon. And then my star fell. There was
no reason and no explanation. But the damage had been done. I had
briefly been a rock star instead of a musician. And how I loved it.
And how I longed to get it back.
The panic attacks began first in church. Panic attacks
are the evil cousins of religious ecstasy. They boil up from inside and
take you in their undertow and you wave your hands for help and people think
you’re just being friendly.
With these experiences I began to discover my own
insecurities, my insatiable addiction for approval, adoration if
possible. When my play “Fidelis” debuted in the Le Chat Noir
theater downtown I walked into the theater bar on opening night and someone
said “That’s the writer! Sanchez-Garcia! He’s the one who wrote that
play!” Everyone in the bar turned to me and applauded – me –
the solitary one, who had never been applauded for anything in his life.
There he is! There goes the writer. Everyone smiled filling the
bar’s dimness with Cheshire teeth. Oh, how I smiled back in my little
moment in the sun.
Understand, my loving tribe was unchanged. Most people
who knew me and had made up their minds about me liked me fine, except those
who had dumped me altogether. But my vanity had been awakened and with it
a terrible neediness that plagued me like a drug.
Then came the masks.
In the novel Moby Dick, there is a scene in which Ahab has a
huge argument with his first mate Starbuck. Starbuck is worried that they
are committing blasphemy in Ahab’s monomaniacal pursuit of the white whale
(“It’s just a whale!”, but Ahab cuts him off saying –
“ . . . All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard
But in each event in the living act, the undoubted deed
there, unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings
of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man
will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner
reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To
me, the White Whale is that wall, shoved near to me. He
tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable
malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the
White Whale agent, or be the White Whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon
him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me. .
Moby Dick is God almighty wearing the mask of a whale,
the world is a facade of paste board masks and, Ahab, that embittered mystic,
will penetrate this mask and strike at God by killing His whale. In
Freudian psychology this is called “transference” when a neurosis is
projected from the patient onto another person, often the therapist, as a way
of avoiding confronting their issues. My experience is that this can occur in a
kind of interior mythology, where an actual person can become associated in
your thoughts obsessively with a specific fear inside of you, even though that
person has nothing actually to do with that fear. But in your mind, in
your emotions, that person acquires the representative mask of that fear.
Some of the women who had been my admirers and then pushed me away acquired this
mask in my thoughts until I could hardly think of them without fear. One,
a fear of disapproval. Another, a fear that I would never have social
standing or acceptance. That I would always be kind of poor and beat
down, a nobody in the eyes of sophisticated people, the people I longed to be
most accepted by. I became afraid of these women who had once been
admirers. These masks stayed with me constantly and with the falling of
my star my emotional turmoil boiled into panic.
As my vanity fermented to sourness I alienated the one
goddess left in my life – the muse. She ultimately fled from me and I
couldn’t write anymore. The magic was just gone. That was when I
bailed out on OGG. I think this is the kind of thing that gets famous
people killed. I was never famous, but I had a taste of what it would
feel like to have fans. It wrecked me.
A writer writes. That’s what makes a writer. Not
publication, nice if you can get it, not money, nice if you can get it, not
even readers, nice if you can get them. A writer writes. That’s the
part you get to keep. You can’t be a rock star. You have to be a
musician. The act of creation never ends. Everything else is
“Most readers, however, choose erotica because they want to feel, not because they want to think. Specifically, they want to feel good–aroused, satisfied, reassured, or like they’re getting away with things they’d never attempt in the real world. To these readers, the deeper issues that concern you are close to irrelevant. Indeed, to many of them, craft and linguistic grace matters little if at all.“
She is, of course, absolutely right about this. The vast majority of contemporary readers come to the erotica genre to “feel good–aroused, satisfied, reassured,” most consider the themes that drive me to write “close to irrelevant” and don’t give a shit about “craft and linguistic grace.”
Many years ago, I was in the music business; I sang in a band. We got a record contract with a big company who then decided our music was too ‘alternative’ and pressured us into writing more commercially accessible music. I wanted to be loved so much. I wanted to be successful so badly. I thought it was the only thing in the world that mattered to me; that adulation. But even at the time, I knew I was betraying myself. Somewhere inside me, even as we made the changes they insisted would make us famous, I knew I was doing the wrong thing. I did it anyway.
It’s a term I don’t like and rarely use, but since I am speaking of myself alone, I feel justified in saying I whored myself for approbation. And the fact that you haven’t got a clue what band I was in or what the music was like is proof of the fact that my choice to compromise my artistic vision was not a wise one. Had I stood my ground and refused to write more ‘commercial’ music you might still never have heard my work, but at least I would have kept my integrity. In the end, you can only account for your own choices.
I had something of a mental breakdown after that experience and, when I recovered, I swore that I’d never choose the lure of commercial success over artistic integrity again. Not because writing pop music is demeaning or requires less skill, but because it was a totally inauthentic act for me. For some people, producing accessible work is exactly what they want to do. And they do it well. They deserve the success they get because they’re not faking it, they’re not putting on the breaks of their intellect or dumbing down their ideas. They genuinely believe in the product they produce, and it shows.
I have never wanted to produce writing that facilitated masturbation, or made people feel safe and satisfied and reassured. Although I would be happy in knowing something I wrote might have turned someone on enough to help them to orgasm, I definitely have never been interested in making a reader comfortable in any way.
I remember many years ago having a drink with the lovely Lisabet in a bar in the Far Sast and saying: “Not only don’t I want to write this stuff, but I don’t think I can even do it.” It’s not easy to do. I don’t want you to think that I believe that conforming to current reader expectations in the erotica genre is easy. Far from it. I literally have not got the skills or the drive to do it. But more importantly, I don’t have the passion for it. I don’t want to produce cultural work I would not feel proud about publishing. I don’t want to write what I’m not interested in reading.
I believe that this has been coming for a while. The immense rise in popularity of erotic romance, its eclipse of the genre, and the sensational success of Fifty Shades of Grey has literally redefined the genre of erotica. It has led readers to expect something wholly different from what I can or am interested in producing.
For this reason, I think it is futile to continue to fight a battle that can’t be won. It’s an absurd fight and I should have realized this a long time ago. Moreover, I find myself in cast in the role of some stern, arrogant and, ironically, old-fashioned harridan in this debate. I feel like a crazy old Marxist with long, greasy grey hair who smells of body odor and cat piss, who stands on the corner of Oxford Street, screaming unintelligible gibberish at people who walk by, wrinkle their nose and go back to texting on their mobile phones. I am, in this genre, an irrelevance.
As Anais Nin said in the quote above, “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” And I am no longer an Erotica Reader and Writer. Time to move on. This is my last post on the ERWA blog. It has been a wonderful experience sharing this virtual space with all these talented writers and adventurous readers. I wish you all the very best.
Good night and good luck.