Monthly Archives: December 2015
After sending out a photo on Facebook of Hubby and me in Dubrovnik eating the lovely Croatian holiday treat of
“Saruman” — often eaten with mash potatoes — we tried to edit our update only to be re-auto-corrected to eating “Sarah” for lunch. The incident reminded again of just how much fun words can be and how much trouble they can get us into. I decided that instead of my usual rather serious end of the year navel gaze, that I would approach 2016 with a celebration silliness while I look back on some of my best best typo and autocorrect moments. Writers, especially erotica writers, tend to have a particularly juicy collection. By the way, it was sarma we were actually eating – no evil wizards were stewed and no women named Sarah were fricasseed, nor invited for a steamy threesome while frolicking on a bed of spuds.
Any writer will tell you that word-herding is hard work. Words are unruly things and not always willing to fall in line like we want them to. They’re tricksters just waiting to trip us up when we least expect it. That’s why I’m blotting about typos and, the bane of everyone’s existence, auto-correct. I recall a very fun twitter convo with Madeline Moore about my latest blot post, which was up for everyone to read right not! She promised me she would go right to my blot and read the pist, then buy my book not.
Writers constantly play with words, and as Madeline and I tweeted back and froth, I got to thinking about how much fin
we all have when the wrong word is used — either because of a typo or because of an over-zealous auto-correct. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve NEARLY called someone ‘Sweetit’ on FB or in an email. ‘i’ isn’t even close to ‘t’, so I can only hypothesize that because of what I do for a living, fighting the unconscious urge to write ‘Sweetit’ instead of ‘Sweetie’ is probably a Freudian thing. If I call you Sweetit in any of our correspondence, please take it in the spirit in which it is meant and know that it was probably my evil Muse’s way of giving myself the finger … in this case the wrong finger on the wrong key.
I once had the misfortune of being the victim of auto-correct when I asked Vida Baily about her latest ‘WIPE’ instead ofher ‘WIP.’ The silly convo that followed was caught for posterior on Facebook because for some reason, the ‘edit’ function wouldn’t work. Not long after, I was looking down through my blog content folder for an older post I wanted to refer to when I saw in my documents a post I’d written as I participated in the ‘Snob by the Sea’ blog hop, which will come as a real surprise to Victoria and Kev Blisse, who organized the ‘Snog by the Sea’ blog hop to promote Smut by the Sea. Honestly, there was not a jot of snobbery in that fabulous blot hog, just a lot of hot snogging!
I can’t count the number of times my characters have ‘shit the door behind them’, which is far more painful than shutting it … one would assume. And my poor Lakeland witches were nearly caught at the top of Honister Pass in a snot storm. I once read a story in which the hero’s face was pinched by an uncomfortable erection … After I fell off my chair laughing, terribly relieved that it hadn’t been fatal, I was reminded how easily I can make a sentence go on and on forever until it’s hard to tell what part of a character’s anatomy is being pinched by what … or whom, which is simply a very long drawn-out way of saying that sentence argument is very important!
The thing is, as writers we think a lot faster than we can get those thoughts down on paper. When those thoughts come out of the imagination, and when our characters and plot take control and drag us down the rabbit hole, sometimes it feels like we’re actually just secretaries struggling to take down their words and actions as fast as we can before faces get pinched by erections and whole villages are buried under snot storms.
Language and word play say a lot about a person. They say a lot about a writer, about a story-teller. Writers choose to dance dangerously with words, so it comes as no surprise when we occasionally trip over our own semi-colons. It doesn’t help that I’m the world’s worst speller. Then there’s the constant battle of homophones. I’ve had the odd pale face end up pail … and while faces may be good for showing emotion, they’re not very practical for carrying large quantities water. Seriously though, it gets really tense sometimes when every word counts, when I want to make sure that my readers catch every nuance, every scent, every taste, every feel of flesh on flesh. That being the case, sometimes a writer just needs to play with the words and let them have their head. That means occasionally shitting the door on the more serious word-smithery and leaving the plot and the characters to stew in their own juices just for a little while, just long enough for a silly little blot post to all of you Sweetits out there before I get back to more serious word-herding in anticipation of the new year.
Higs and snobs all around, my Lovelies! Wishing you all Hippy Holidays, no matter how you celebrate, and all the beast in the New Ear!
by Jean Roberta
As 2015 speeds to a close, I’ve been thinking about memory and its relationship to the imagination that all writers need to cultivate.
I’ve been reading Skin Effect: More Erotic Science Fiction and Fantasy Erotica by M. Christian. I promised to review this collection months ago, and now I have time to do it. In the opening story, “[Title Forgotten],” the central characters can have their worst memories “overwritten” by mind-movies that seem like memories of real experience and which prevent the subjects from becoming aware of memory gaps (“Why can’t I remember 2013?”) Yet the traumatic memories underneath can still be accessed by means of special software, and some people choose to access them because they value the truth, however painful.
How many of us would make that choice? We like to think our lives are coherent narratives showing a logical process of cause and effect. “Overwriting,” however well-done, would probably throw something off. We would probably want to know, for example, why we dread visits from Uncle Fred , and when we first became aware of our fear of heights. Or why we like certain sexual activities more than others.
Actually, “overwriting” seems like something that human beings tend to do constantly, without need of external software. Most of the people I’ve known for years disagree with me about some of the details of our shared experiences, and this is why I’m reluctant to part with souvenirs that can serve as evidence.
I’m glad to know that one of M. Christian’s obsessions (the nature and value of memory) coincides with one of mine.
One of my worst memories involves someone else’s memory, if you follow this, but the someone else (my husband in the 1970s) is no longer alive. Even if he were, it’s unlikely that he would remember things differently now.
He was newly-arrived in Canada, after I had sponsored him in from England, where we had met. He was a refugee from the Nigerian Civil War. In Canada, I had helped him find a kind of loose community of international university students and Nigerian doctors who had been imported by the local health-care system. A group of people we hardly knew had attended our courthouse wedding, and came to the party someone threw for us later. It was fun.
On one occasion, we were invited to hang out in someone’s apartment with a crowd of people we hardly knew. My husband drank until he fell asleep in a comfortable armchair, which seemed rude to me. When he started snoring, I shook him awake and told him we should find the host, say our goodbyes, and leave. To my relief, he didn’t argue, and he managed to drive us home without crashing the car.
The next day, I launched into a discussion of his drinking. He interrupted to tell me how hurt and humiliated he was when he walked down a hallway to the bathroom and saw me in flagrante. According to him, I was lying on a bed in a bedroom (with the door open, unless he had X-ray vision), and some man he didn’t know was fucking me wildly. My husband said he didn’t understand how I could do that. Neither did I. This was hardly the evening I remembered.
In vain, I asked him how likely it was that I would be that reckless, and that he had walked past, silently, despite feeling wounded to the heart. He accused me of gaslighting him: trying to make him think he was crazy, when he was no such thing, and no loyal wife would suggest it.
In hindsight, I realize that I should have left my husband that day, but I soldiered on for two years longer, trying to convince him that dreams prompted by jealousy and paranoia (or mistaken identity?) are not reality. He persisted in telling me how much I was hurting him, and how real his feelings were. If his feelings were real, how could they be based on illusions?
Since I wrote my first erotic stories in the late 1980s, I’ve wondered how this scenario, or credibility gap, could be turned into an exciting erotic story, purged of the anguish on both sides. How could I describe the mystery man? Could I imagine my husband as a fan of spontaneous threesomes, and to do that, would I have to reimagine him from scratch, with different cultural roots and physical characteristics?
There is a bleakly funny story by Mark Twain (the title escapes me) about an acre of ground that is claimed by two families, who continue the conflict for generations, even though the land is so barren that nothing can be grown on it. Eventually, the man who narrates the story claims to be the only person involved who made any money from that land. In that sense, the land finally produced a paying crop.
Real-life conflicts tend be remain unresolved, and real-life relationships often trail way without satisfying endings. (My ex-husband’s death was definitely an ending for him, and it ended a phase of my life, although I didn’t find it especially satisfying.) The challenge for all writers, including those who write fantasy, is how to make a profit from barren ground by transforming the often frustrating, boring, enraging, or work-in-progress quality of life into narratives that are exciting to read, and also realistic enough. And with a beginning, a middle, and a conclusion.
I don’t have a handy formula, but I have plenty of raw material to work with. Maybe I will find a way to turn garbage into gold. Beginning in July 2016, I will have a full-year sabbatical (a break from teaching) to spend on writing. I already have an outline for a book on censorship in various forms, which will draw on my involvement in the stranger-than-fiction cultural politics of the 1980s and 1990s. I will also have enough time to battle my internal censor and squeeze out some fiction.
I hope everyone who reads this is blessed with time and inspiration in 2016.
pressing wine after the harvest, circa 1400s
writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, horror,
and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, her tuxedo cat, Lucky, and the new feline additions Chloe and Breena who are now Lucky’s best friends. Visit her web site, her Facebook
page, and her Amazon Author Page.
I’m happy to
announce I have a new permanent writing job! I can’t go into detail because I
signed a non-disclosure agreement, but I’m doing some travel writing. It’s fun!
I’m reading about places I want to visit now, especially the haunted hotels.
Some I’ve heard of and I was excited to write about them.
always paid better for me than fiction. My last long-term non-fiction writing
job was with the British sex toys company Bondara a few years back. I wrote
product descriptions using SEO (search engine optimization) verbiage. If it is
made of silicone and went into a fun orifice, I wrote about it using all kinds
of fun descriptions. This company specialized in high end bondage gear, and I
learned a great deal about how the products work, what they were made of, and
what was high quality vs. low quality. I wrote for the company blog. I pretty
much did whatever my boss Chris wanted me to do. When we needed to speak in
person we used Skype. I was paid by direct deposit into my bank account. I
worked from home. This was the perfect, ideal job for a writer. I worked for
Bondara for about four years. I made a decent amount of money, and when my
husband was laid out and out of work for five years, this job kept us afloat. It
was one of the most fun jobs I’d ever had, and I used to work as a gaffer
(lighting) making movies. That says something.
I like writing
non-fiction. It’s a nice break from fiction and a completely different mindset.
When I’m working for a steady paycheck, I feel much more confident and
productive. When I’m working for a steady paycheck and paid to write, I feel
much better about the endless rejections for fiction manuscripts I submit. It
also takes the edge off of selling a book only to see it crash and burn when it
comes to sales, although that still hurts like hell. While writing non-fiction,
I keep hope alive for my fiction which is much harder for me to succeed at.
I interviewed mojo
storyteller Joe Lansdale on my radio show The Women Show in mid-December. He
used to do non-fiction writing. It’s not unheard of for fiction writers to do
this, especially since it does seem lucrative IF you find the right job. I was
lucky enough to find one that paid a reasonable fee per hour for the current
travel writing or – in the case of Bondara – paid a reasonable monthly flat
fee. I have a better grip on my career now that I’m actually making money at
My husband and I
visited Kennebunkport, Maine the day after Christmas for a little get-away.
This is the ritzy town that is home to the Bush family compound. We didn’t see
that – didn’t want to – but we did stay at a haunted inn – The Kennebunk Inn,
which is in Kennebunk, Maine, next to Kennebunkport. Rumor has it that
Silas Perkins, one of The Inn’s clerks who passed away in the mid-twentieth
century, continues to inhabit his place of former employment—his presence being
made visible occasionally by flying or falling wine glasses and other objects. Like the Stanley Hotel, I
didn’t see any ghosts, but we had a lovely time. Our room had a fainting couch! That was delightful. I sprawled on it with my hand to my forehead, trying to imitate the Edward Gorey drawings from Masterpiece Mystery.
My husband and I brainstormed
the idea for a wonderful non-fiction book about traveling the haunted venues in
New England. This kind of book has been writing before many times, so we had to
find a new twist to make our book unique. We thought of turning it into a
travelogue where the reader may follow our directions and repeat our experience
on their own. Each chapter describing a haunted inn, restaurant, forest, or
whatever would be followed by a short fictional story set in each particular
location. I could write any kind of story I like. Romance. Light horror.
Mystery. Comedy. I’ve already decided what I’m writing about for the Kennebunk Inn. We decided the characters in each story would be the same two,
most likely my husband and I in fictitious form. I’d write the stories as E. A.
Black, my dark fiction and horror pen name, but publish the book with my real
name. A gimmick would be that the reader would quickly figure out both persons
are one and the same. I took lots of pictures so I could start on this book
now. It would likely take us a year to visit most of these spots, take
pictures, notes, and write a chapter and a short story. I came up with a very silly working title which we will of course not use: Maniacs and Massholes: A Haunted Tour Of New England.
Here’s the Kennebunk Inn, all dressed up for Christmas. There was an outdoor skating rink right next door. It looked like fun, but my body would splay out on the ice if I even attempted that. LOL
I’ve already visited
one haunted location here in Rockport, Massachusetts, the coastal town where I
live. Three months ago, I went hiking with my writer’s group in Dogtown, which
is an abandoned colonial settlement. I did this with the intent to write two
short horror stories set there, which I have yet to do but I have no deadline. Still working through plot bunnies and characterization. When searching for “Haunted New England”, Dogtown was listed in the first article to come up on my search. I’d heard Dogtown was haunted, but I’d never experienced anything odd although the location is very creepy. The thing is, while
hiking, I injured my right leg something fierce, and I was in physical therapy
for three months until a week ago today – Monday. It took that long for the
injury to heal. I already have lots of pictures and I vividly remember the
place, which I’ve been to before the injury. Dogtown will go in the book.
Here’s a shot of one of the Babson boulders in Dogtown. These boulders were carved in the 1930s, and they dot the landscape. They’re deep in the woods, and they are carved with inspirational words and sayings.
This is an exciting
project and I’m looking forward to the research and the writing. I don’t know
if I should try to find an agent for it first or just write it and search for the
agent after it’s finished. Probably the latter. I could also look for medium or
small dark fiction/travel publishers. There’s a small set of haunted New
England books published here, and I own a few of them. They’re a fun read, but
our book will be better. I could easily write to the publisher of those books
to pitch this one. I do like writing non-fiction. I don’t think it’s for
everyone, but it is a good way to make steady money if you can find a long-term
gig. I’ll keep everyone posted regarding my new job and this wonderful new
project. I feel very confident about 2016. Things are looking up for me.
by Jean Roberta
Oops! Due to being on holiday time, I didn’t write my December 26 blog post soon enough. However, I have a post ready to go.
I hope to post it on one of the in-between days after the December 28 post.
By Kathleen Bradean
The need to write seems to run strong in the Bradean gene pool. My father, grandmother, sister, daughter, and cousins have all tried their hand at it. Recently, one of my cousins saw a comment on FaceBook I’d made about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and was intrigued by the idea, but like many people, was hesitant to give it a try. My first thought is always, “What are you so afraid of?” But that’s an easy thing to say when you’re already published. I don’t want to be flippant about new writer’s fears, so if you’ve always wanted to write but haven’t worked up the courage to try it yet, I’m here to give you constructive advice. NaNoWriMo is over, so if that felt like too much pressure, you can now work at your own pace.
So… you have a story you want to write. Last month, I mentioned that the stories we tell ourselves are like dreams. They seem to make sense, but once exposed to the harsh light of day, we can realize how fuzzy our grasp of it is. Maybe you have a detailed vision of what you want to do. If so, that’s great and you can plunge right in, but if you don’t have it mapped out that well, you can still get started as long as you know the following things:
1) The central conflict of your story.
This conflict will be created by:
2) What your main character wants.
Does she just want to go home (Wizard of Oz) or is she seeking something? (Winter’s Bone)
3) What stands in their way of getting it?
Society, culture, parents, a corrupt system, her own self-delusion, a crazed duck who won’t let her near her car… And it helps to know:
4) The cost of failure/success.
These are the stakes, and they should get more intense as the story progresses. Life is hard, and we like to read about people becoming their better selves when tested. But feel free to show people
corrupted by their desires. Sometimes we get what we want then find out it wasn’t worth it. Pick your moral and run with it.
That’s the bare minimum. You could get started with just those points in mind, but it’s also important to know
A character working at a high school has much different challenges to face than one working in a tattoo parlor, with different norms of behavior and rules to follow, not to mention working hours. Winter in Boston isn’t winter in Tallahassee. Mass transit in NYC and San Francisco are integrated well into the cities but don’t work the same way, and don’t even think of trying to get around in Los Angeles on the trains even though they exist. As Harold Hill’s nemesis says in The Music Man, “You got to know the territory!”
Of course you’re going to add much more as you write. I’m talking about the absolute least information you need to know about your story.My process, if you can even call it that, is that from nowhere, I’ll envision a snippet of a scene. Then I’ll go What was that? And replay it in my mind. Each time, I’ll push the timeline a little longer or try
to fill in more of the details. As I’m playing with it, I’m asking myself questions such as “Who the hell are these people and what are they doing?” If they’re working together, what are they working for. If they have a conflict, what is it about and why do each of them have a valid reason for their opinions? I’m noticing where they are. If they’re in a hut, is it because they were traveling and got caught in a storm so they took refuge there, or is that hut home? So what I’m doing is searching for the five information points I mentioned above. Other writers may feel differently. I’d love to hear their input.
By Lisabet Sarai
I’ve been working on my latest erotic romance novel for more than a year. It’s not that I’m an incredibly slow writer—my new 8.5K holiday story took me about sixteen hours to write, edit and format—but in the case of this novel (The Gazillionaire and the Virgin), life kept getting in the way. In fact, from May through October, I could scarcely work on it at all.
There’s also the fact that I didn’t really expect this to be a novel in the first place. When I came up with the premise and the characters, I figured the story would be 20K, tops. My characters did not agree, however. This is the first time I’ve tried the Character-driven Random Walk method for novel writing. I began with a moderately clear notion about the story arc, but Theo and Rachel kept taking time out from the plot to have sex. I mean, the sex wasn’t gratuitous—it developed the characters and helped define their emerging relationship—but it slowed things down, from both a productivity and a narrative perspective.
Figuring that a deadline might help me finish the thing, I reserved a publication date at Excessica and committed to completing the first draft by the end of 2015. I’ve made some excellent progress over the past few weeks (partially because some of the other demands on my time have relaxed). One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that the plot is moving faster as I approach the climax and conclusion. The characters seem less likely to dawdle in bed. That got me started thinking about the general question of pacing in a novel—how it impacts the reader’s experience and how we as writers can control it, or at least be aware of it.
What do I mean by pacing? I can define the term as the ratio of the amount of action to the number of pages it takes to express that action. (Sorry—can’t get away from my engineering background!) In other words, pacing is the speed with which the story develops.
Many novels begin at a relatively gentle pace, as the author introduces the characters, the setting and the initial situation. It’s also fairly common for the pace to pick up as you get deeper into the book.
Not all books work that way, though. Some authors begin with an intensely active scene (sort of like the intro to a James Bond film), build to a minor crescendo, then slow down in order to provide the back story. This strategy can be very effective. It yanks the reader into the book, triggering all sorts of questions, which are then answered when things settle a bit and the reader can catch her breath. Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books fit this model, as do the couple of books I’ve read by Carl Hiaasen. It’s also a favored style in science fiction.
There are some risks to this approach, though. If you extend the section with frenetic action for too long, your reader may begin to feel exhausted. The tension arising from unanswered questions can be pleasurable for a while, but if you don’t resolve the mysteries eventually, you’ll have a reader who’s confused, frustrated, or both.
The rapid-fire pacing one typically finds in some genres (e.g. thrillers, mysteries, horror) is a relatively modern phenomenon. Fiction a hundred years ago tended to be more discursive and deliberate, the action interspersed with frequent description. Nineteenth and early twentieth century fiction also tends to use more consistent pacing throughout the book.
Jane Austen epitomizes, for me, the effective use of slow and relatively steady pacing. Many twenty first century readers might find her novels too sedate, but I feel that her pace fits the stories she’s trying to tell. In the world and society she describes, change occurred gradually. Relationships took years to develop, and news (and gossip!) required days to circulate.
In modern erotica and erotic romance novels, things often happen more quickly. Characters may become sexually involved in the first chapter. Things then happen to threaten their sexual and emotional connection. Typically some conflict, internal or external, appears. The opposition of forces implied by that conflict propels the story forward, further ramping up the pace. Eventually the conflict will be resolved, and the story will slow down as it concludes.
It doesn’t have to be that way, however. A book may alternate between fast and slow paced sections, cycling between action and reflection. Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife uses this pattern. In erotica, the pacing may tend to pick up during sex scenes and slow down in the bridging periods where the characters are getting on with their lives. On the other hand, as I’ve found in my current novel, the opposite can also be true. My characters get distracted by carnal activities, in some sense putting the plot on hold.
When I noticed the accelerating pace of events in Gazillionaire, I started to worry. Was I rushing the story too much, in trying to get it finished? After considering the question, I’ve concluded that more rapid pacing is what the novel requires at this point. The core relationship has been established; the conflict has been exposed and has temporarily torn my protagonists apart. It’s time to move forward in order to get them back together again.
There’s no one right way to pace your novel, of course. In fact it’s not an issue I think about much. Normally, I trust my intuitions, developed over decades of writing and more than half a century of reading. However, when something feels wrong about your novel—when you sense it’s not working the way it should, but you don’t know why—pacing could be the problem.
Earlier this year I reviewed a four hundred page BDSM erotica novel that, in some ways, I liked very much. It offered a much more realistic and nuanced treatment of power exchange than many books in the genre. It featured interesting characters and hot sex. Yet somehow it left me feeling flat. When I analyzed my reactions, I concluded that pacing was partly to blame. The novel was constructed as a series of episodes that unfolded over a fairly long period of time (at least a year). The pace of the book didn’t vary at all, over the full four hundred pages. There was no rise in tension (and consequent increase in pace). This even pacing somehow decreased my interest in the action.
Pacing is one component of each author’s individual style. You probably shouldn’t try to force your books to use a different pace than what comes naturally. Being aware of the issue, though, may give you clues as to how to make your writing even more effective.
Greetings of the season to everyone reading this! I know you’re all busy with cards and gifts, shopping, baking and writing. But I do hope you’ll take some time off to enjoy Sexy Snippet 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
I’m always amused when I see erotica writing workshops that advertise the potential for big money in our genre. More power to those who’ve gotten rich, and there are some out there, aren’t there, E.L. James? But most of us are doing this for love and the occasional check for the amount of a modest family dinner at the local Thai restaurant (without the tip).
Actually, I tend to take a familial attitude toward my writing, as if my stories and novels are my children and deserve my best, if imperfect, efforts at nurture and support. Two recent columns here, Lisabet Sarai’s “The Care and Feeding of Your Back List,” and Elizabeth Black’s “Preparing for the Publication of a New Novel” reminded me that I have not been as attentive a parent as I should be.
Namely, I have several dozen previously published short stories in my archive that I would like to re-issue in themed ebook collections. I managed to drum up the energy to find a new publisher for my novel, Amorous Woman, when I got the rights back from the original publisher, but I haven’t gotten it up to move beyond a list of tables of contents for my collections. But Lisabet is right. I should be doing more for these “children” in the digital age.
Part of my reluctance can be explained by Elizabeth’s thorough list of what an author needs to do to promote her work. I’ve been down that path for my novel. It was exhausting, even though I did meet some wonderful people and had some very cool adventures. But how do you promote collections of previously published short stories? And won’t they all just be relegated to the erotica desert on Amazon?
With the New Year close at hand, I figured this is a good time to resolve to do something this year with my back list, but I am wary of the realities of publishing. Larger publishers are prestigious, but in my experience, they’ve dropped the ball on promotion and take a much larger cut of the proceeds, even if I could get their interest (highly unlikely).
My preference would be a smaller publisher, but there are horror stories out there about author abuse and publishers melting into the dew, resulting in a hassle to get the rights back. Then there is self-publishing which takes the stress from the submission process and puts the responsibility for promotion all in one place.
No one said this is easy, but… is there any erotica writer out there who’s been happy with her choices? What do you think about the trade-off between a small publisher or self-publishing? I really would love to dialogue with my fellow erotica writers about these choices in the current market. It seems the pro’s and con’s are changing every day. Erotica publishing is not at all what is was when I started writing in 1997 (when Libido and Yellow Silk were still around) nor when I reached a peak of output in the mid-2000s (Bay-Area-based Cleis, Seal, Best Mammoth Erotica, Best American Erotica and Clean Sheets).
It is so valuable to share our experiences of publishing, especially in terms of how the reality is very different from the dream of publication as a path to validation and riches.
Although come to think of it, some of the most validating moments of my life have been when a reader tells me she loved one of my stories. That’s worth millions to me.
Wishing you all a happy, productive and creative New Year!
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
One of my favorite moments to write (and read) in erotica and erotic romance is when a character’s desire first gets sparked. It’s often the kernel of a story that comes first, that sparks the story for me as a writer. I love stories that sit in that moment, let me take the time to really witness the
character realize they are hot for someone, or something. And then see what they are going to do about it. (Because realizing desire, even naming it, is not the same as choosing to act on it.)
I’m not necessarily talking about the first moment of attraction for a new person, though that’s lovely. More that first moment in this particular story when the character’s juices get flowing. It can be that first attraction. It can be that moment when a character is hot to do something in particular with this person or people. It can be that moment when a character really lets themself sink into desire after a scene has already begun—when they let go. Here’s an example of a top sinking into desire for cruelty and D/s at the beginning of a scene, from my story “My Precious Whore”
“The edges of her stockings are peeking out from under her skirt, tantalizing me. Her beautifully large body is offered up for my pleasure, and I bask in the sight of it, sinking into my desire. I want her fear tonight. And her breath. I want her tears. I want to split her open, fluids dripping. I want to unleash my cruelty upon her. I want to reach deep inside and wrap her around my fingers.”
Desire is powerful, and important, and something I deeply value. I want to write stories that center characters figuring out how their desire works, seeking their desires, acting on their desires. I want my characters to be intensely in their desires when they play and fuck and kiss and approach someone for a date. That’s what I love about writing erotica—it gives me an arena to show people claiming their desire. That’s my context for writing this moment, in my own work.
What is your context? What do you believe about desire? Why do you want to write stories about desire and sexuality? What is important to you about centering those things in your own writing?
Just as we have contexts and beliefs about desire as writers, our characters also bring those things to their own desire. So, when I’m writing about that moment of sparking desire, part of what I need to consider is not just what I want to do, but what the context is for the character. To get specific enough in my own mind so that
I can work from inside the character’s relationship with desire, instead of my own scripts and assumptions. (Believe me, if I don’t get clear, I will work from those!) Desire isn’t easy stuff, and it’s not straightforward. Most people struggle with it.
“Hell, it’s hard to even figure out what our desires might be! Where can you go to learn about sex and the possibilities of desire? How do you learn to understand the physical body and its transformative potential, to appreciate the erotic uniqueness of each individual—the knowledge and skill we can only gain as we feel, smell, and discover ourselves through sexual acts, giving ourselves to (or taking) a willing partner? Who will help us learn what we need to know in order to practice our desires with awareness and comprehension? Where in this culture can we discover what is erotically possible between ourselves and other human beings? Where can we gain sexual and gender knowledge without being ruthlessly punished?” –Amber Hollibaugh, “Defining Desires and Dangerous Decisions”
Some questions to consider when figuring out your character’s relationship with desire:
- Are they knowledgeable about their desires? How did they learn what they know about their desires?
- Do they notice desire building inside them? Are they aware of what sparks their desire? Are they surprised by their own desire?
- Are some parts of their desire taboo or hidden or denied, either in general or in this relationship/encounter?
- Are they able to admit their desires to themselves? Do they accept their desires? Do they value honoring their desires?
- What is the cultural context for their desire? How does desire work in that context in general? How does it work for this particular character? For this encounter or relationship?
- Are they comfortable or experienced at naming their desires? discussing their desires with others? seeking their desires? experiencing their desires?
- What moves this character from desire to action? What prevents them from acting on their desires? What makes them hesitate to act on desire?
The questions above can shape so much about how the character responds to desire, how much they recognize about their own desire, what choices they make about the fact of their desire. But before I go there, I need to center in on the spark of desire itself, the shape and heft of it.
I want to get really specific here, want to make this spark as individual as I can. It’s a way to illuminate the character for the reader, and I want to use that opportunity well. The details are where pleasure really resides. I especially like to revel in the sensory aspects of desire, as in the below example from my story “Ready”, of a boy’s desire for his Daddy that’s sparked by scent.
“Daddy was looming over me, his large belly brushing against my head. He smelled so good, a musky sweaty scent mixed with oil and metal. That smell alone gets my dick hard—the smell that tells me a man has been working hard on a bike. It was clear he had. He was dirty as only a mechanic can get dirty, and I ached to suck the grease off his thick fingers.”
As the example above illustrates, desire is as individual as any other aspect of relationships and embodiment: it does not all look the same. There are infinite possibilities here, so much that I could not name them all, or even categorize them all.
When I teach BDSM, I often offer several lists of things that might turn someone on, to assist folks to learn more about their own desires, and to find language to describe them. I’m going to reproduce some of those lists below, as I think they might be useful jumping off points for getting specific about the spark of desire in your story. I’m pairing each section with an example from my recent collection, Show Yourself To Me.
For some, desire can be visually oriented. This can be visuals that are actually in front of the character, or something that sparks the character picturing something that turns them on. These are the most common descriptions I’ve seen in erotica and erotic romance, so I’d be wary of overusing the same visual repeatedly. (For example, the image of breasts bouncing while someone is being fucked as the spark to desire for heterosexual cis men is rather over-used, in my opinion.)
Some Ideas for Visual Sparks: Spotting a cock in his pants; A girl on her knees, bent over, in the position of your choosing; Watching hir eyes tear as ze takes it; Standing over him kneeling; Seeing your cock disappear into their mouth; The reveal moment; Eyes widening; Her mouth on your boots; Hir wrists bound; Your hand disappearing inside him; Licking lips; A slow secret smile; Eyes dropping; Tight jeans; Garters; That strut.
It’s a good idea to get really specific with visuals, in my opinion. It helps the reader see it, and also makes the spark for desire more individualized to the character. In the excerpt below from my story “My Pretty Boy”, the visual that sparks Jax’s desire is his pretty boy’s blue sparkled mouth sucking off a pair of sharp scissors.
“He pulled out the scissors and pressed them to Rickie’s lips. ‘Open up those pretty lips, boy. I wouldn’t want to smear your lipstick. Yet.’
They shined in the shallow of his mouth, and Jax groaned as he saw the boy’s tongue caress them, his cock pulsing. Those blue sparkled lips closed on the sharpness, and his pretty boy sucked the scissors off with a glorious enthusiasm, pausing to pant around them before suckling again, drawing himself off and then sliding back down, his eyes on Jax’s face the entire time.
‘I don’t think I’ve seen anything more beautiful,’ Jax murmured.”
Some folks are very aurally oriented in their desire. Sounds can be very powerful sparks, and provide great opportunity for you to get inside how the character interprets the sound. Some folks are turned on by the sounds they make themselves.
Some Ideas for Sparks that are Based in Sound: Thud; Rip; Screams; Moans; Boots on the floor; Taunts; Breath catching; Voice wavering; Humiliation; Begging; Gasps; Throaty laughter; Firm tone of voice
The excerpt below from “Compersion” centers around a Daddy’s desire being sparked by listening to his boy sob, describing how one of the reasons he loves watching his boy get topped by sadists (like the two men he is watching him bottom to in the story) is that he can revel in the sound of him crying.
“Franklin reached around to remove the clamps, and Abe yowled as they were twisted off, writhing and gripping the bed with his fists until his voice broke and he began to sob harder. My cock felt like it was going to burst at the sound of it.
I love it when he cries. There is nothing that makes my cock throb more than hearing him sob. And to get to watch it, to hear it, gave me more time to savor the sounds, more freedom to sink into my skin and enjoy it. I didn’t have to control myself with him and make sure his sobs didn’t ramp me up too high. I could trust that Marcus and Franklin were going to keep up their cruelty, that he would be free to sob as he fucked Marcus, and that Franklin would continue to fuck the tears out of him.
This is what I love about watching him—the freedom to let go and really enjoy the impact his tears have on me. That is the show Daddy really wants and he knows it.”
Some folks really get off on language. Words can be really hot. Not just dirty talk, but also things like honorifics and role names (like Daddy, Ma’am, girl, etc.), as well as homophobic slurs and misogynist slurs. Part of this is about the larger narrative that these words can evoke or the roleplay that they can keep going. For some folks it’s the language itself, and for some it’s the story that really gets them hot.
Some Ideas for Language Sparks: “Good boy”; “Take it”; “Slut”; “Mine”; “Yes, Sir”; “queer”; “Oh, Ma’am”; “Please, Daddy”; “cocksucker”; “girl”
In the excerpt below from my story “Dancing for Daddy”, an adult who does Daddy/little girl play describes the power of language in age play, and how being called princess sparks her desire.
“The words are classic, basic. They should not work as well as they do. But they reach into my throat and twist fear into my being. Afraid. Excited. Shamed. Special.
The words are charged for me. Daddy knows just what to say. They are charged for her, too. She watches my eyes after she calls me princess, sees the struggle and intensity, and feeds on it. She knows which words will reach in and hold me.”
For some, the spark of desire is more about what particular things mean to the character, the kind of feelings or dynamics they invoke, or the kind of emotional reactions that get them hot.
Some Ideas for Sparks Based in Emotions and Dynamics: Teasing; Denial; Gratifying; Torture; Exposure; Serving; Shame; Mercy; Suffering; Praise; Nurturing; Helplessness; Fear; Desire; Objectification; Possession; Pride; Strength; Humiliation; Pleasure; Endurance; Reward; Control; Cruelty; Invasion; Force; Nervousness; Respect; Ferocity; Worship; Dependence; Frustration; Embarrassment; Betrayal; Safety; Structure; Punishment; Usefulness; Boldness; Deference
In this excerpt from “My Will”, a submissive describes what boot worship means for him, how it sparks his desire.
“I lick boots the old fashioned way: belly on the floor, as low as I can be. As I placed myself on the floor at his feet, I shivered. It felt so good to be here, to be worshipping the boots of this man I deeply respected. I was in his care, and he would be careful with me—I knew that. When I touched my lips reverently to his boot, I felt so full I could burst. This was exactly where I wanted to be.”
In my novel in progress, Shocking Violet, I spend an entire chapter building up to and savoring the first moment of desire Jax has for Violet, so that you feel the shock of intensity with Jax when it crystallizes, when it’s visceral and real and he knows that he wants her for the first time. I’m loving the slow burn of that kind of storytelling, where the build-up is such a deep part of the pleasure of the story.
In short stories, you don’t have that kind of space for this moment; you have a couple paragraphs at most. So, I urge you to make them specific and concrete and individual to the character. Your story will be better for it, I promise you.
Here’s another old favorite. It’s not quite an article but as it is about writing … and the special people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing…
“You could have stayed with me,” he’d said the first time I went to Seattle to see him, but stayed in a motel. I hadn’t even thought of it, and so the disappointment in his eyes.
I never went back. After he got promoted there wasn’t any point.
You could have stayed with me evolves into a fantasy in which those four days play out differently: an invitation made earlier, my discomfort of staying in someone else’s house miraculously absent. Fresh off the plane, strap digging into my shoulder (I always over-pack), out of the cab and up a quick twist of marble steps to his front door. A knock, or a buzz, and it opens.
A quick dance of mutual embarrassment as I maneuver in with my luggage, both of us saying the stupid things we all say when we arrive somewhere we’ve never been before. Him: “How was your flight?” Me: “What a great place.”
Son of a decorator, I always furnish and accessorize my fantasies: I imagine his to be a simple one-bedroom. Messy, but a good mess. A mind’s room, full of toppling books, squares of bright white paper. Over the fireplace (cold, never lit) a print, something classical like a Greek torso, the fine line topography of Michelangelo’s David. A few pieces of plaster, three-dimensional anatomical bric-a-brac on the mantel. A cheap wooden table in the window, bistro candle, and Don’t Fuck With The Queen in ornate script on a chipped coffee cup.
Dinner? No, my flight arrived late. Coffee? More comfortable and gets to the point quicker. We chat. I ask him about his life: is everything okay? He replies that he’s busy, but otherwise fine. We chat some more. I say that it’s a pleasure to work with him. He replies with the same.
I compliment him, amplifying what I’ve already said, and he blushes. He returns it, and then some, making me smile. My eyes start to burn, my vision blurs, tears threatening. I sniffle and stand up.
He does as well, and we hug. Hold there. Hold there. Hold there. Then, break – but still close together. Lips close together. The kiss happens. Light, just a grazing of lips. I can tell he wants more, but I’m uncomfortable and break it but not so uncomfortable that I can’t kiss his cheeks. Right, then left, then right again.
But his head turns and we’re kissing, lips to lips again. Does he open his first or do I? Sometimes I imagine his, sometimes mine. But they are open and we are kissing, lips and tongue, together. Hot, wet, hard.
But not on my part. Wet, definitely – in my mind it’s a good kiss. A generous and loving kiss. Hot, absolutely, but only in a matter of degrees as his temperature rises and mine does in basic body response.
Not hard on my part, but I am aware of his. Between us, like a finger shoved through a hole in his pocket, something solid and muscular below his waist.
Does he say something? “I want you,” “Please touch me,” “I’m sorry,” are candidates. I’ve tried them all out, one time or another, to add different flavors, essences, spices to that evening. “I want you,” for basic primal sex. “Please touch me,” for polite request, respect and sympathy. “I’m sorry,” for wanting something he knows I don’t.
“It’s okay,” I say to all of them, and it is. Not just words. Understanding, sympathy, generosity. All of them, glowing in my mind. It really is okay.
I’m a pornographer, dammit. I should be able to go on with the next part of this story without feeling like … I’m laughing right now, not that you can tell. An ironic chuckle: a pornographer unable to write about sex. Not that I can’t write about myself, that making who I am – really – the center of the action is uncomfortable, because I’ve certainly done that before. I’ve exposed myself on the page so many other times, what makes this one so different?
Just do it. Put the words down and debate them later. After all, that’s what we’re here for, aren’t we? You want to hear what I dream he and I do together. You want to look over my mental shoulder at two men in that tiny apartment in Seattle.
I’m a writer; it’s what I do, and more importantly, what I am. So we sit on the couch, he in the corner me in the middle. His hand is on my leg. My back is tight, my thighs are corded. Doubt shades his face so I put my own hand on his own, equally tight, thigh. I repeat what I said before, meaning it: “It’s okay.”
We kiss again. A friend’s kiss, a two people who like each other kiss. His hands touch my chest, feeling me through the thin cloth of turtleneck. I pull the fabric out of my pants with a few quick tugs, allowing bare hands to touch bare chest. He likes it, grinning up at me. I send my own grin, trying to relax.
His hand strokes me though my jeans, and eventually I do get hard. His smile becomes deeper, more sincere, lit by his excitement. It’s one thing to say it, quite another for your body to say it. Flesh doesn’t lie, and I might have when I gave permission. My cock getting hard, though, is obvious tissue and blood sincerity.
“That’s nice,” “Can I take it out?” “I hope you’re all right with this.” Basic primal sex, a polite request including respect and sympathy, and the words for wanting something he knows I don’t – any one of them, more added depth to this dream.
My cock is out and because he’s excited or simply doesn’t want the moment and my body to possibly get away, he is sucking me. Was that so hard to say? It’s just sex. Just the mechanics of arousal, the engineering of erotica. Cock A in mouth B. I’ve written it hundreds of times. But there’s that difference again, like by writing it, putting it down on paper (or a computer screen) has turned diamond into glass, mahogany into plywood.
Cheapened. That’s the word. But to repeat: I am a writer. It’s what I do. All the time. Even about love – especially about this kind of love.
He sucks my cock. Not like that, not that, not the way you’re thinking: not porno sucking, not erotica sucking. This is connection, he to I. The speech of sex, blowjob as vocabulary.
I stay hard. What does this mean? It puzzles me, even in the fantasy. I have no doubts about my sexuality. I am straight. I write everything else, but I am a straight boy. I like girls. Men do not turn me on.
Yet, in my mind and in that little apartment, I am hard. Not “like a rock,” not “as steel,” not as a “telephone pole,” but hard enough as his mouth, lips, and tongue – an echoing hard, wet and hard – work on me.
The answer is clear and sharp, because if I couldn’t get hard and stay hard then he’d be hurt and the scene would shadow, chill, and things would be weighted between us. That’s not the point of this dream, why I think about it.
So, onto sex. Nothing great or grand, nothing from every section of the menu. A simple action between two men who care about each other: he sucks my cock. He enjoys it and I love him enough to let him. That’s all we do, because it’s enough.
He sucks me for long minutes, making sweet sounds and I feel like crying. He puts his hand down his own pants, puts a hand around his own cock. For a moment I think about asking him if he wants help, for me to put my hand around him, help him jerk off. But I don’t. Not because I don’t want to, or because I’m disgusted, but because he seems to be enjoying himself so much, so delighted in the act of sucking me, that I don’t want to break the spell, turn that couch back into a pumpkin.
He comes, a deep groan around my cock, humming me into near-giggles. He stops sucking as he gasps and sighs with release, looking up at me with wet-painted lips, eyes out of focus. I bend down and kiss him, not tasting anything but warm water.
I love him. I wanted to thank him. I hope, within this dream, I have. The night that didn’t happen but could have.
For me, writing is just about everything: the joy of right word following right word all the way to the end. The ecstasy of elegant plot, the pleasure of flowing dialogue, the loveliness of perfect description. Sex is good, sex is wonderful, but story is fireworks in my brain. The reason I live. The greatest pleasure in my life.
And he has given me that, with nearly flowing letters on an agreement between his company and I, between his faith in my ability and myself. He looked at me, exposed on the page of a book, in the chapter of a novel, in the lines of a short story, and didn’t laugh, didn’t dismiss or reject. He read, nodded, smiled, and agreed to publish.
Sex cannot measure up to that. Bodies are bodies, but he has given me a pleasure beyond anything I’d felt: applause, and a chance to do much, much more with words, with stories.
He doesn’t have a name, this man in my fantasy. There have been a lot of them over the years, and a lot more in the future, no doubt. Gay men who have touched me in ways no one has ever touched me before, by making love with my soul through their support of my writing. Each time they have, this fantasy has emerged from the back of my mind, a need to give them the gift they have given me: passion and kindness, support and caring, and pure affection.
I worry about this. I worry that they won’t understand, take this secret dream of mine as being patronizing, diminishing them to nothing but a being with a cock who craved more cock. I’ve confessed a few times, telling a select few how I feel about them, how I wish I could do for them what they have done for me, to be able to put aside my heterosexuality for just an evening, an afternoon, and share total affection together.
Luckily, or maybe there really isn’t anything to worry about, the ones I’ve told, they smile, hold my hand, kiss my cheek, say the right thing and to this day, even right now, make me cry: “I wish we could too, but I understand. I love you too.”
Am I bi? I know I’m physically not – I simply don’t get aroused by men – but that doesn’t mean I don’t adore men, or for the ones I care about, the men who have touched my soul through their support and affection for my stories and writing, I wish I could change. More than anything I wish I could give them what they have given me.
With a cock or a pen, with a story or hours of wonderful sex, it all comes down to one thing: love.