Monthly Archives: January 2016
I’m still seeing a fair few of the NYR runners intrepidly pounding the pavement, and the gym is still surprisingly full of NYR th, the universal urge to be ‘better’ in the New Year is already losing its sparkle. All those best made plans always sound better that week before New Year when we’re all still feasting, still drinking, still overindulging, still watching crap TV. The question is, how do we fool ourselves into making a new years resolution a habit, how do we make it a positive change for life?
“get-fitters.” I give the die-hards until the first of March. I’m talking New Years resolutioners, of course. Me? Nope! No New Years Resolutions here. It’s way too early. I can’t stand the drama! I can’t take the pressure! Ask me in a month, and I’ll tell you how it’s going, once 2016 is well and truly under way and I’ve got a feel for it. Every January first people stop drinking, stop smoking, begin learning Spanish or French; people promise to take better care of themselves, to eat better, to keep their houses cleaner; people vow to be better organized, spend more time with good friends, waste less time in front of the telly, and the list goes on. But by January 7
It happens every year; that urge to reflect on what’s been and plan ways to make the New Year better. Hope and excitement at new beginnings is so much a part of our human nature that the end of a year and the beginning of another can’t help but be the time when we anticipate, plan change, and dare to dream of what wonderful things we can bring about in the next year. In fact there’s a heady sense of power in the New Year. I think it’s the time when we’re most confident that we can make changes, that we really do have power over our own lives. It’s the time when we’re most proactive toward those changes, those visions of the people we want to be. It’s the time when everything is possible … in theory.
Before I began to sell my writing, back when I dreamed of that first publication, back when there seemed to be a lot more time for navel gazing, I was a consummate journaler. I filled pages and pages, notebooks and notebooks with my reflections and ruminations. Nothing took more time and energy, however, than the END of the YEAR ENTRY, in which I reflected on and scored myself on last year’s resolutions before busily planning the ones for the next. This was a process that often began in early December with me reading back through journals, taking notes, tracing down some of what I’d read during that year and reflecting on it. Yeah, I know. I needed to get a life!
By the time New Years Day rolled around, I had an extensive list of resolutions, each with a detailed outline of action as to how I was going to achieve it. Some of those resolutions fell by the wayside almost before the year began — those things that, if I’m honest with myself, I knew I was never gonna do, no matter how much I wish I would. Others I achieved in varying degrees-ish. But sadly, for the most part, a month or maybe two into the year, that hard core maniacal urge to be a better me no matter what always cooled to tepid indifference as every-day life took the shine off the New Year and I was reminded again that change is hard.
It was only when there stopped being time for such ginormous navel-gazes and micro-planning that I discovered I actually had achieved a lot of those goals that were my resolutions simply by just getting on with it. As I thought about how different my approach to all things new in the New Year had become the busier I became, I realised that I had, through no planning on my part, perfected the sneak-in-through-the-back-door method of dealing with the New Year. The big, bright New Year changes I used to spend days plotting and planning no longer got written down, no longer got planned out. Instead, they sort of implemented themselves in a totally unorganised way somewhere between the middle of January and the end of February – sometimes even later. They were easy on me, sort of whispering and waving unobtrusively from the corners of my life. They came upon me, not in sneak attacks so much as in passing brushes and furtive glances.
I’m my own harsh taskmaster. I’m driven, I’m tunnel-visioned, I’m a pit bull when I grab on to what I want to achieve with my writing. No one is harder on me than I am – no one is even close. And yet from somewhere inside me there’s a gentler voice that sneaks in through the back door of the New Year and through the back door of my life reminding me to be kinder to myself, to be easier on myself, to find ways to rest and recreate and feed my creativity. I’ll never stop being driven. The time I’ve been given, the time we’ve all been given, is finite. And that gentler part of ourselves must somehow be a constant reminder of comfort and peace, of self-betterment that comes, not from brow-beating and berating ourselves, not from forced regimentation, but from easing into it, trying it out, making ourselves comfortable with it. We, all of us, live in a time when life is snatched away from us one sound-bite, one reality TV show, one advert at a time. Often
our precious time is bargained away from us by harsher forces, by ideals and scripts that aren’t our own, and the less time we have to dwell on the still small voice, the deeper the loss.
So my resolution, my only resolution every year is to listen more carefully to that gentler, quieter part of me, to forgive myself for not being able to be the super-human I think I should be, to settle into the arms of and be comfortable with the quieter me, the wiser me who knows how far I’ve really come, who knows that the shaping of a human being goes so much deeper than what’s achieved in the outer world, and every heart that beats needs to find its own refuge in the value of just being who we are, of living in the present and coming quietly and gently and hopefully into the New Year, even if it take us a little more time to get there.
Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica,
erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her
husband, son, and three cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.
They are coming out
of the woodwork. Plenty of people, especially women, have had to deal with Internet
crazies. These crazies often show up in your Facebook private messages.
Sometimes they aren’t even your friends. I’ve had a slew of them recently,
mostly men. Claiming to have military service is popular. Just today, I saw
another one who claimed to be military stationed in Iraq. He had only one
friend in common with me and I have no idea who that woman is. There was no
other information about him available on Facebook. He doesn’t update his
timeline with anything about himself. Nope, all these guys do the same thing.
He posted a picture of himself in civies and another picture of himself in his
uniform. That’s it.
Why do so many of
these guys think that making a fake military listing will attract women? I’ve
heard from numerous high-ranking (yeah, like I’m going to believe that) military
personnel, especially doctors, who say they are stationed in the Middle East.
They’re rank, all right. Then there are the non-American men who immediately
ask me if I’m married with children. Unfriend. Block. Or the men who tell me my
profile picture is beautiful and they want to be my friend. When I told one I
was married and not interested in hooking up with anyone, he said he’d love to
pretend I was his sister. Yeah, sure. Unfriend. Block. Or the men who claim to
have incurable illnesses (brain cancer is popular) and want to leave their
money to me if only I leave them my bank information. Unfriend. Block. I toyed
with one of these guys a few years ago only because he wrote in French and I
wanted to brush up on my French. He asked me where I lived, if I was married,
if I had children, and then launched into his sad story of having brain cancer
and he needed me to donate money to him for experimental surgery that just
happened to cost thousands of dollars. I noticed all his friends were female,
mostly romance writers I knew. I warned a few about him, and they unfriended
and blocked him. He did not update his timeline at all. The only updates were
from unsuspecting women thanking him for his friend invite. I imagine he
contacted them with the same tall tales hoping to get some cold hard cash out
of them. I told him I couldn’t give him any money, but I was suffering from an
illness myself – terminal acne – and I desperately needed him to send me money for experimental surgery. I
can’t take credit for that one. I first saw that one on the comic strip Bloom County. Bill the Cat died from
terminal acne. So I stole from the best. He ignored me and kept trying to get
money out of me. He didn’t react to anything I wrote no matter how outrageous
it was. All he wanted was to part me from my money. I finally got bored and I
stopped writing to him. He never wrote back and I see now his account is gone.
Women pull these
stunts, too. I heard from one from Japan whom I friended and I should have known
better. She immediately signed me up for two groups on Facebook with explicit
porn. Unfriend. Block. Or the other woman on Facebook who talked to me for a
few days before sending me a private message to say she was in dire need of
several thousand dollars and could I lend it to her? Nope. Those “I’m
stranded in Europe and I need money” scams from people faking your
friend’s accounts are common. So are money scams on the web. Unfriend. Block.
These Facebook porn groups piss me off. Facebook won’t take them down, but you
post a book cover with so much as a hint of a nipple and not only is your cover
taken down but you’re put in Facebook jail for a week or more.
About ten years ago,
I stumbled upon The Spam Letters, a
website by Jonathan Land, a wiseguy who answered spam he received in the most
outrageous and ridiculous manner. Some of the spammers actually wrote back and
still tried to sell him stuff he didn’t need or tried to part him from his
money. He included lots of his responses to classic Nigerian e-mail scam
letters. He has since taken down all of the several hundred spam letters except
for about two dozen since he has compiled them all in a book, and the book is
available for sale on Amazon. I did manage to find my favorite Spam Letter. He
responded to an unsolicited email trying to sell him erectile dysfunction
herbal supplements. Here’s his hilarious reply.
do I have a bone to pick with you.
should really pay more attention to who you send your advertising to.
am a 17-year-old college student, who, as any average 17-year-old male could
tell you, is sexually excited more often then not. If a butterfly flaps its
wings in China, I guarantee you there isn’t an atomic clock that can accurately
measure the speed with which I will pitch a tent.
know you were hoping to get some 45-year-old dentist who has spent the past 20
years of his life with a woman who makes any given NPR personality look like a
sex kitten, and yes, that includes the guys from “Car Talk”.
point is this: because of your primitive “marketing strategy, you have
screwed me over BIG TIME!
I’ve been seeing this girl for about three months now, and I’ve finally figured
out the right combination of sensitivity and alcohol to coerce her into
relieving me of that mighty, mighty albatross: virginity. So, we’re back at my
room in the frat house. We start making out a little and I need to go to the
bathroom because I’m wicked blitzed, and I haven’t taken a leak all night. So
she asks, “while you’re gone, do you mind if I download some mood music
off of Napster”? Since I only have Limp Bizkit CDs, I have no
“sensitive, love-making music,” so I say, “Sure, get some
Smashing Pumpkins or shit like that Baby.” Am I good or what?
I’m in the bathroom thinking: Okay, if I take her clothes off at the rate of
one article every 10 minutes (an efficient, yet sensitive pace – I’m a math
major), I will be losing my virginity within the hour, but then I realize: Hey,
we’re in Buffalo, NY. In winter. Who knows how many layers of clothing she’s
wearing! I might stay a virgin for two more hours! I can’t take it! (That’s
when I remembered that I had thermal underwear on, and that just ain’t manly by
any yardstick, so I got rid of them.)
come out of the bathroom, and she’s just sitting there wit this completely
different expression on her face. She says: “Sweetie, I saw that e-mail
about the natural Viagra stuff that your friend sent you. It’s okay, we don’t
need to rush this.” I was completely torn. I can’t say something like,
“Yo, that ain’t true, I’ll make sweet, sweet love to you senseless right
here, right now, over and over and over” without giving up the sensitive
front. So I say, “Baby, I’m sorry you had to find out about my erectile
dysfunction this way, but I’d like to try this. I’d like to try and make you
happy.” She was on board. Kid Genius had saved the day!
we were fooling around for a few hours, and all I’m thinking from the get-go
is: “Okay, why am I not hard yet?” This girl is a cheerleader for
Christ’s sake, and my penis is acting like I’m in bed with Nathan Lane. After a
while she gets real frustrated, calls me a fag, goes home, and the next day
she’s doing one of my fraternity brothers. My one prospect of virginity-loss
has slipped through my hands like a grain of sand in an hourglass, a moment of
time that cannot be regained, just like that grain of sand that will never pass
through the glass chamber in the same way, no matter how many times you flip
the thing over. And believe me. I tried flipping her over, and that didn’t work
either. (I’ve got a minor in philosophy – can you tell??)
you know that some ancient tribes from South America, such as the Yanomamo,
punish murderers not only for the people they’ve killed, but for the deaths of
the potential descendants of those people as well? Well I should fucking sue
you to the tune of all the girls I could have done by now if I lost my
virginity as scheduled. All because of you, I’m still a virgin. Maybe since
last week I could have banged 30 chicks a night, but I’ll never know now. I’m
just sitting around waiting for the mayor of Poonville to award me the medal of
pity and give me the key to the city.
If you’d like to buy
the book to read more of these delightful letters, just to go Amazon and look
for The Spam Letters in either Print
or Kindle. What’s really amusing is that Land convinced a
spammer to write his forward. Go check out the book.
Now back to more
Internet crazies. Before I was a fiction writer and sex/relationships writer, I
wrote political and feminist articles for several magazines and web sites. I
was quite well known, and with the fame came the misogynistic baggage all
feminists have to deal with. These were my first Internet crazies. I regularly
heard from men’s rights activists who liked to tell me I was wrong about
everything while calling me a cunt and worse. In case you don’t know what they
are, men’s rights activists are men – mostly middle aged white men but some are
younger and of color – who feel that their sense of entitlement is being
threatened by gains made by women, people of color, and GLBT folk. There are
also women in the men’s rights movement. They are the men’s auxiliary, and they
support the guys in every way, even down to doing their grunt work for them.
These women were most often wives, girlfriends, sisters, and mothers of the men
in the movement, and they had a vested interest in seeing the status quo
maintained. I estimated that women comprised about 40% of the movement. Some of
these guys want to repeal women’s right to vote. They claim the vast majority
of rape allegations are false. These guys will whine to anyone who will listen
to them, and that often consists of an echo chamber of their own kind. Now,
they meet on the Internet. Before the Internet, they met in member’s homes,
church halls, or other public places. They’re very politically active and they
try to roll back gains made by women, people of color, and GLBT folk over the
past 30 odd years. And I heard from plenty of them, the emails ranging from
mild insults to death threats.
Due to the influx of
nutcases harassing me on Facebook over the past week, I’ve decided to host a
radio show on The Women Show about Internet crazies. Do you have your own tales
of strange men harassing you on Facebook? Do you get email from Nigerian
princes who want to send you millions of dollars (people still fall for that
one?)? Do writers friend you only to immediately spam your timeline and private
messages with junk about their books without so much as saying hello? If you’ve
experienced any of this or know someone who has, this is the show for you. Here
The Women Show –
Date: Thursday February
18, 2016 6:30 – 7 PM EST
Host – Elizabeth
Guests – Phoenix
Johnson, Christine Morgan, and Jen Winters.
Keep an eye on my
Facebook page for more details, including a link to the show with more information.
Black – Facebook
by Jean Roberta
On Saturday, January 23, I attended an annual event in the university where I teach: the Creative Writing Open House. In theory, everyone on earth is welcome to show up, free of charge (and sample the free tea, coffee and muffins), to hear half-hour talks on aspects of writing by faculty members who teach this subject at various levels. Questions are not only allowed, they are encouraged. In reality, this event is attended by a sprinkling of undergraduates who are thinking of taking a class in creative writing and want to know what they could expect. So far, no one has discussed grading standards, but I suspect this would be of great interest to most of the audience.
I gave my usual talk about “niche publishing.” As usual, I found this topic so inspiring that, at some point, I ignored my notes and spun off into the various niches that an aspiring writer can find, and I raised the question of whether literary erotica has been completely swallowed by erotic romance because of a constantly-changing, profit-driven publishing biz that tries to ride the crest of every wave, even though trends are hard to predict and dangerous to follow because they start to recede even while they’re peaking.
I had just been introduced by the current head of the Creative Writing Committee as probably the most-published person in the room. OMG! I’m far from being an expert on what works, and in fact, several of my colleagues have won more awards than I have (or probably ever will) for writing relatively “mainstream” fiction and poetry. (Dramatists seem scarce in these parts, although one of them was formerly head of the English Department here.)
One of the niches I discussed was non-fiction, loosely speaking: blog posts and reviews. It’s something we’re all encouraged to write for the purpose of promoting our “real” writing (erotica, romance, spec-fic, whatever), but when/if we write more words of on-line non-fiction than anything else, we’re either letting the cart pull the horse, or we’ve discovered a delightful new niche in which to express ourselves. (I prefer the latter theory.)
Re literary erotica, I said I would not rehash a tired debate about how this differs from “porn,” but I would attempt a definition: literary erotica is simply literature (fiction, poetry, even drama) that includes explicit sex scenes. One of my male colleagues seemed so impressed by this concept that he said he didn’t see why any reader would object to this type of writing, or why any writer would avoid writing it. I explained the project of British publisher Totally Bound to publish new versions of classic novels (Pride and Prejudice, The Picture of Dorian Grey, Wuthering Heights) with sex explicitly included. I also mentioned James Lear’s novels, which come close to being parodies of well-known novels of the past (Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped) as m/m erotic mysteries. My colleague seemed so delighted to hear that sex can appear on the page outside the context of “porn,” strictly speaking (films and magazines marketed as masturbation fantasies) that I could imagine him hard at work on an erotic poem or story.
This colleague is primarily a poet. For the sake of politeness, I avoided suggesting that Canadian poetry is a niche in itself, far from the kind of writing that appears on bestseller lists. (The poet showed the audience his latest royalty cheque, for $4 Canadian.)
The focus of the whole event definitely seemed to be on writing as self-expression and as communication with other writers rather than as a way of making money. Nonetheless, I pointed out that both literary erotica and writers who write about gay men or lesbians (Sarah Waters, Jeannette Winterson) seem to get more mainstream acceptance in Britain than in North America. The reasons for this are subject to speculation. Could the Puritan roots of North American culture still be keeping sex in general, and especially non-heterosexual, non-monogamous sex, in the margins?
A traditional relationship between the literary margins and the mainstream seems to me to be represented by the odd but moving friendship of John Preston and Anne Rice in San Francisco in the 1970s, before she became famous for bringing new life to vampire fiction. Preston was never even close to being mainstream: he proudly identified himself as a writer of gay-male BDSM “porn” before explicit sex, kink of any kind, or male-on-male lust could be mentioned outside of certain ghettoes, and he was a social/political organizer because he needed to help create the kind of community he wanted to live in. Like many pioneers, he died before he could see his efforts bearing much fruit.
Anne Rice has always admitted how much inspiration she got from John Preston’s writing as well as from his more personal conversations with her. However, I’m often reminded that most of the readers who love the gothic lushness of her novels about vaguely homoerotic vampires (who all have a kinky blood fetish by definition) have never heard of John Preston and probably wouldn’t think of him as her Muse even if they knew who he was. The margins nourish the mainstream, but this process usually seems invisible to everyone who hasn’t deliberately researched it.
If I continue to talk about “niche publishing” next year, and the year after that, I suspect my examples of what is “niche” will have to change with the times. I would love to see Canadian poetry outgrow the half-shelf it occupies (at most) in the brick-and-mortar bookstores that still exist. I would also love to see literary erotica marketed simply as “literature.” I’m not holding my breath until a miracle occurs. The one thing I know about “mainstream” culture in general is that the stream is always moving.
[The cover of an upcoming anthology of steampunk erotica (a niche within a niche?) in which I have a story]
by Kathleen Bradean
The first few years I wrote erotica, I didn’t think much about the reader, but a conversation with another erotica writer changed that. I casually referred to my writing as Wank Fiction. She giggled and said, “No one would masturbate to your stories. They’re interesting, but not porny enough.”
I’m still not sure if that was an insult, or if it was a spot on description possibly meant as an insult. Or maybe she thought it was praise. I don’t think she meant it maliciously.
Since then, I’ve wondered what readers want from erotica. It seems obvious, but I’m not sure that it is. So much visual porn is available now that reading a whole story seems like the long way around to self-pleasure, although I’ve always suspected that women (especially those with kids) have long used romance novels, and now erotic romance, as a way to carve out some much needed personal time in a day crammed full of doing for others. Those long soaks in the bathtub weren’t because they needed to scrub away layers of dirt, but rather to get a little dirty.
But I also wonder if here in the US, if people don’t use erotica as sexual education. Our society simply can’t bring itself to give anyone good information. We don’t want to hear it, and we certainly don’t want our kids to know. Ignorance, we’ve decided, is the best defense.
That leaves us in a terrible quandary when we’re adults in sexual relationships though. What is normal? What’s healthy? What’s the difference between enthusiastic consent for a D/s relationship versus lifestyle abuse? When I used to go to writer’s conventions, I always got shunned for writing erotica. People would actually get up and go to another table when I told them. But later on, people would corner me and whisper about the most intimate parts of their lives, then look at me with a mixture of hope and worry as they almost always concluded with the question, “Is that okay?”
I never set out to be a sex therapist. I’m no expert in human sexuality. What’s more, just because I write about sex does not mean that I consented to hear about their sexual practices. However, if someone can’t bear to ask their doctor, or a real expert in human sexuality, or a therapist, if I’m the only person they will ever dare talk to, what does it hurt to comfort them by saying, “So many people ask me that same question, so you’re not the only one. As long as everyone involved is an adult, everyone happily consents, and you’re all treating each other with respect and practicing good safer sex, then you’re probably just a normal person and you’re good to go.”
Maybe that’s what readers want to hear from us. Not as direct of a comment as that, but through our stories.
By Lisabet Sarai
My ninth novel comes out next week. I am, of course, excited. Publishing a new book is a bit like giving birth, without as much pain. I’m eager to find out what the world thinks about my new baby. My beta readers and my editor have been unabashedly enthusiastic. I can only hope the general reading public—okay, the few hundred of them that I manage to reach via my hit-or-miss marketing!—feel the same.
I’m particularly curious to discover whether this book (The Gazillionaire and the Virgin) is more successful than my previous work because this is the first novel I’ve written using the Character-driven Random Walk Method. When I began writing, all I had was a title and the two main characters (reflected in the title), Rachel and Theo. I really had no idea what they’d do, other than having sex and falling in love.
I did know this was going to be an erotic romance. In fact, although the book deliberately shreds romance stereotypes, it preserves the essential core of romance, namely, the characters’ journey toward a loving relationship. So I understood there had to be obstacles or conflicts that would stand in the way of the happy ending. At the start, though, I couldn’t have told you the nature of those obstacles. I didn’t plan. I didn’t outline. That’s not like me at all! I simply sat down at my computer, invoked Rachel and Theo, and let them interact. I can’t say I heard voices in my head, the way some other authors claim, but at each point in the plot, the focus character in some sense decided what would happen next.
I’d expected the book would be 20K at most. As I let Rachel and Theo lead me deeper into their story, I discovered I was wrong. They did not want to be rushed. It took four chapters for them to get to their first erotic encounter. The revelation that they shared kinky interests took another four. By the time I reached the book’s climax, the events that tear them apart, I had more or less figured out how they’d reconcile, but I couldn’t make them follow my script. Theo turned out to be far more stubborn than I would have guessed. Fortunately, Rachel’s imagination came to the rescue. Still, every time I sat down to write what I thought would be the final chapter (as I discussed last month), I’d come to realize there was yet another one needed.
When I finally wrote “The End”, I was seriously relieved. I wasn’t sure Rachel and Theo would ever let me finish their story!
So what were the results of this exercise? (Because I really do want this blog to discuss craft issues.) How does this book compare to those I’ve written using my usual technique, the TV Serial Method?
1. There’s not much plot
Don’t get me wrong. Gazillionaire is not boring (at least I don’t think it is). Things do happen in the external world. However, compared to my other novels, this book is far less “plot heavy”. My eighth novel, for instance, includes mistaken identity, kidnapping by an international crime syndicate, disguises and deception, infiltration into the bad guy’s headquarters, and a rescue involving a bloody shoot-out—as well as the usual intercourse, fellatio, cunnilingus, spanking and so on. My seventh novel includes abduction, secret agents, self-powered bondage devices, mysterious energy sources, exotic Asian ceremonies, a curse and the ritual to reverse it, along with plenty of kinky sex. Even my first novel had a plot trail involving industrial espionage.
In this novel, by contrast, the most significant events are those that change the protagonists’ feelings for one another. Indeed, there are very few secondary characters, compared to my other books. There’s enough movement to keep things interesting (I hope), but far less world building than I usually do.
2. Dialogue propels the book forward
The story is narrated in the first person present, alternating between the two main characters. Thus, we do get some insight into each of the characters’ thoughts. However, a significant part of the “action” is actually dialogue. Conversations between the two protagonists not only reveal their natures, but also cause real world changes.
I recently re-edited my first novel, written sixteen years ago, for a re-release. I improved the dialogue, but I couldn’t help noticing how stilted and wooden it remained, at least in comparison to the interactions I write now. I said earlier I didn’t hear voices when writing this book, but when it comes to conversations, that’s not strictly true. As these characters talked to one another, I wrote down what they said. The results feel much more real than any dialogue I’ve written previously.
3. The characters change
In any novel-length work, the characters have to develop and grow. If they have the same attitudes, beliefs and behaviors at the end of the book as they do at the start, the book will be neither engaging nor plausible.
However, Theo and Rachel change far more than any characters I’ve written previously, as a direct result of their interactions. Naive and socially awkward at the start, Theo matures into a genuine hero. Stubborn, bossy Rachel softens and becomes more flexible as she lets down her guard and opens herself to love. Their relationship involves more than just incredible sexual chemistry and complementary kinks. Each gradually brings out the best in the other.
Would I use this method again?
I didn’t consciously choose to use the Character-driven Random Walk method for this book. It just sort of happened. I do think that the method requires a very clear initial notion of just who your characters are. When I start a book, that’s not always the case. Many of the novel-writing methods I’ve outlined involve character discovery in the process of writing (but not, I think, the Dissertation Method or the Snowflake Method). My understanding of Rachel and Theo deepened while I was writing, but I had a strong sense of their essential characteristics before I began.
I found it was more difficult to make progress using this method. As I’ve mentioned, my plans didn’t always match those dictated by the characters. I’d often come away from a writing session frustrated that I hadn’t moved further along in my quest toward an ending.
At the same time, I’m very pleased with the result. Despite the lack of an outline, the book feels very “tight” to me. I managed to link a lot of the early details into the ending in a rather elegant fashion, I think. (These were suggestions from the characters.) And I feel that I accomplished my objective, writing a book that was both classic romance and anti-romance (in the sense that it breaks a lot of rules).
I do believe that we authors can grow through experimenting with new techniques, as well as new genres. The last thing I want is for all my books to feel and sound the same. People who’ve read my other novels will find The Gazillionaire and the Virgin a significant change. I hope they view that as positive.
New year, new inspirations! Time to share your latest erotic visions with the world. That’s right, it’s Sexy Snippet Day!
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.
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!
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!
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.
From Erotica Readers & Writers Association
By Lisabet Sarai
Dear Lascivious Literati,
Welcome to the Winter edition of the Erotica Readers & Writers Association website. Forgive me for the tardiness of this newsletter. (Yes, I’ll take a spanking as punishment if you feel that’s appropriate…) As you may have heard, ERWA recently experienced a changing of the guard, and we’ve been a bit busy working out the kinks. (Not that we really want to *get rid* of the kinks…just get them under our control!)
In any case, the Winter edition is now available for your browsing pleasure. As usual, I’ll give you a quick peek at all the goodies we’ve got for you.
The Erotica Gallery features a new cohort of Awesome Authors, each of whom has a sizzling story or book chapter for your delectation. This edition includes luscious lesbian lust, voluptuous voyeurism, breathtaking BDSM, randy role-playing and a merry menage.
(Okay, no more alliteration in this issue.)
We’ve also got a variety of fantastic fiction by the members of the ERWA Storytime, in moods that range from playful to plaintive.
(Sorry. Should I bend over now?)
Get serious about erotica:
If our Gallery doesn’t fully satisfy your hunger for erotic tales, browse through our Books for Sensual Readers pages. We have dozens of suggestions for your next read. Anthology fans should definitely check out the lovingly curated collection by Rose Caraway, THE SEXY LIBRARIAN’S BIG BOOK OF EROTICA. For those who prefer longer work, I recommend Charlotte Stein’s outrageous novel THE PROFESSOR. We’re also featuring A.N. Roquelaure’s new addition to the Beauty saga, BEAUTY’S KINGDOM. That’s definitely on *my* TBR list. In erotic romance, my pick for this edition is Beth D. Carter’s ALONG CAME MERRIE, full of motorcycles and a sexy menage. We have lots of great LGBTQ books, too. Katie Gilmanton’s BLACKMAIL, MY LOVE is a murder mystery deeply steeped in San Francisco gay history, while editor Ily Goyanes serves up a heaping portion of F/F erotica in APPETITES. For those of you who are into self-improvement, we offer lots of self-help and sex-ed books, too–for example, Violet Blue’s treatise KISSING: A FIELD GUIDE.
You could spend hours ogling our covers and reading our blurbs. Don’t forget to use our affiliate links to buy anything that catches your fancy. Your purchases via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo or iBooks help support the best free adult site on the web (ERWA, that is).
Read, and dream:
Maybe you’re more of the visual type. We’ve definitely got what you want, in our Adult Movies listings. Gamelink.com has compiled a list of their ten best-selling titles from 2015, including the emotionally intense drama “The Submission of Emma Marx: Boundless” and the over-the-top “My Evil Step-Mother Fucked My Ass – Volume 2”. What can I say? Something for everyone! You’ll also find Best of 2015 lists for couples porn and big budget flicks, as well as our ever-growing categorized pages of everything from classics to parodies.
Seeing is believing:
Are you into action as opposed to observation? Visit the Sex Toy Playground. You’ll find a quick history of sex toys (brought to you by Adam & Eve, who were an important part of that history) plus a round-up on the latest and greatest amorous implements in the Sex Toy Scuttlebutt column. I can’t believe how many new toys are designed to work with mobile phones! I personally prefer more traditional offerings, like the Crystal Jelly butt plug. If you act fast, you could win a Womanizer clitoral stimulator from Eden Fantasies!
The Playground also has links to a wide range of informative and fun articles about toys and techniques, and to the very best purveyors of sexual devices.
Do what comes naturally:
Inside the Erotic Mind this month, the topic is obesity and sexuality. Can fat be a turn-on? Read the comments by our fearless contributors, then if you like, add your own. Just click on the Participate link.
There are no taboos:
Erotic authors, I have not forgotten you! The Authors Resources page is brimming with new material. Selena Kitt, who has just taken the helm at ERWA, founded the phenomenally successful Excessica erotica co-operative. She knows what’s going on in the erotica publishing world. The current edition includes at least a dozen new calls for submissions, from Excessica, Cleis, JMS Books, Sexy Little Pages and more. Check out Hot Chili Erotica, a new website that pays for erotic stories. Whatever genre, length or style of erotica you pen, you’ll find a home for it in our listings. We update them whenever we get new information, by the way, as well as posting new calls to the ERWA blog (http://erotica-readers.blogspot.com). So come back often!
Sell your sexy stuff:
I’ve by no means exhausted the content on the ERWA site, but I realize I may have exhausted your patience, so I’ll stop here. I’ve got to go anyway–the batteries in my clit vibe have died.
I’ll be back in April with another naughty newsletter. Until then, stay sexy!
By Donna George Storey
I just finished Dirty! Dirty! Dirty!: Of Playboys, Pigs and Penthouse Paupers, An American Tale of Sex and Wonder by Mike Edison (Soft Skull Press, 2011). It was a quick read and a nice change of tone from my usual research for my historical erotic novel these days. The book is about the history of sexually explicit magazines for men; the tone is funny, fearless and conversational, which you don’t usually get in studies of the apartment house in New York in the early 1900s. The familiar, cozy tone is no doubt due to the fact that over the years, Edison worked at Hustler, Screw and Penthouse, so he knows most of his stuff from the inside (and which may be why Hugh Hefner is presented with less affection than the other publishers).
I bought my first Playboy in a bookstore in downtown Washington, D.C. while on lunch break from my summer secretarial job at the IRS between high school and college. Yes, I was self-conscious as I stood in line to pay, although I wasn’t worried I’d be carded or anything. Eighteen wasn’t the hard cut-off it’s become in this day. The middle-aged guy behind me seemed bemused, but hey, it was the “Women of the Ivy League” issue, and I was headed to Princeton. Granted my later purchases have been a few vintage issues from the 1950s, and my enduring interest is in the mass presentation of erotic fantasy and the sensibilities of the men who made fortunes feeding on the sexual desires of men in our fairly repressed society. But frankly, I was thrilled to have my work published and generously compensated for by the Playboy Cyber Club and the print version of Penthouse under its new owners in the 2000’s. I wish I could tell that guy behind me in the bookstore what my brave purchase would lead to….
So, maybe I am unusual compared to the average woman, but I would argue that even though these magazines were not aimed at women as consumers, we, too, were profoundly affected by the new availability of erotic images and especially the manner of their presentation. Playboy, Penthouse and others defined what was sexy in a woman in our culture. It taught us what red-blooded straight men “really wanted.” Over the years I’ve had talks with men about their responses to these magazines, and it’s certainly more complicated than mere slavish acceptance of what Hefner or Guccione liked. However, we must acknowledge that these nationally distributed magazines helps shaped the erotic imaginations of millions, whether we like it or not.
There’s a lot I could say about Dirty! Dirty! Dirty! It rightly points out our debt to the men’s magazine honchos for battling for our First Amendment Rights with their sweat and treasure, for example. But I’ll mention two things that I’m sure I’ll remember, the takeaways from my reading. First, I got a new insight into the role of Hugh Hefner in the grand story of moving the heterosexual erotic impulse from the closet into the public sphere in the twentieth century. I’d always felt Hefner was a good example of how money and power make you weirder than you might ordinarily be, and it’s not just the round-the-clock pajamas. Edison spared no report of Hefner’s weirdness. He even had an epiphany while watching an episode of Playboy After Dark—which aired way back in 1969-1970–and that is: Hefner “hates women.”
Which of course is ironic because someone who celebrates the female form and has slept with thousands of women might be assumed to “love” women. Edison’s epiphany made a small light bulb go on in my head as well. I get where he’s coming from but the word “hates” is a blunt instrument. “Fears” is closer. Hefner created a world where real women are kept at a distance, controlled, their beauty airbrushed into a safe, predictable, tasteful form. By packaging these smooth, clean, unthreatening girls-next-door with decent journalism and “the best” of contemporary literature (every one of the “great” authors Edison mentioned as appearing in Playboy are men), Hefner allowed America to dip its toes in the shallow end of the pool. Hustler and even Penthouse were too raw, low-class and possibly honest about the fantasies of the Average American Male. History shows us that middle-class self-indulgence always seem less threatening to society. We know that proper upper-class men can handle mistresses, French postcards or a glimpse of Pompeii’s brothel art without going mad and raping every woman in sight, unlike their working class brothers whom we must keep carefully in line. So that’s what Hugh did for us: he eased the door open for the millions with a generous greasing of “good taste.”
Bravo Mike Edison for giving me a new look at Playboy. But I have a beef with him as well. When describing the many business mistakes made by Penthouse publisher and chief Pet photographer, Bob Guccione, Edison pointed a big fat finger at Viva magazine, co-edited by the Gooch’s wife, Kathy Keeton. He described Viva as “a porn magazine for women (always a bad idea).” He hinted that the main readership of Viva was gay men, as is often claimed of Playgirl as well, and this is why it failed.
Sorry, Mike, I think you and society at large may be guilty of the very same failing you attribute to Hefner—that he never listened to real women or cared what they really wanted. We hear it over and over again. Women don’t like pornography. Women don’t respond to erotic images. Don’t waste your time trying to make tons of money from women’s sexual fantasies. It’s a mistake.
I loved Viva as a teenager. Maybe gay men were buying it, but so was my older sister, who made no effort to keep her issues from my curious hands. I didn’t question the magazine was meant for women to read. I figured young, worldly women were interested in the content: sexual fantasies and sexuality itself and feminist politics and sophisticated articles about the waning glory of England’s Royal Family and other provocative discussions of the early 1970s. I spent some very enjoyable summer afternoons perusing the articles, the “analyzed” sexual fantasies, and the pictorials. I learned a lot about myself and my desires.
Now I will agree the photographs of nude men didn’t do it for me the way Playmates and Pets apparently seared into the libidos of my male peers. But one very important reason may be that all the penises were flaccid. Even in my state of inexperience, it struck a false note. Looking back through the issues now, I get anxious when I see these beautiful young nude men and women embracing (including Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson as very young lovers) and the guy’s dick is soft. Something is wrong here and it’s hard, so to speak, to get drawn into a lustful fantasy when the man clearly is not aroused.
On the other hand, I have to admit if Mike Edison means the type of pornography produced for men is unlikely to be profitable if the exact same thing is slapped with a label “for women” without deeper inquiry, then I agree with him. But “women don’t like pornography” suggests we don’t enjoy erotic images at all. That is not true for me. Is it true for you?
So instead of saying all women don’t like pornography, how about this? Maybe women don’t “like” or buy what has been on offer, because it’s a spin-off of the recipe for males and we respond to a different sensibility? Women don’t buy jock straps or mustache combs because they aren’t made for our needs. Has there ever been mass-distributed pornography that has “listened” to women’s wants and desires without fear? Who and what in our society are threatened by the idea that women might genuinely get turned on by erotic images?
Instead we get Fifty Shades of Grey. It certainly made plenty of money and caused nearly as much to-do as Playboy and Penthouse in their day. The heroine of the Fifty Shades is the special one-and-only rather than the endlessly replaceable pet of the month. The woman’s experience is important and she gets lots of orgasms, perhaps not won honestly for a virgin who never masturbated, but still. Oh, right, and those muscled torsos on erotic romance covers, which seem rather too literal of a riff on the Playboy centerfold, all unnatural bulges and oiled tan skin. Perhaps we need our own female version of Hugh Hefner to get that revolution going, with or without the twenty-four-seven pajama look?
I guess what I really take away from Dirty! Dirty! Dirty! is that the public acknowledgement of our culture’s sexual desires is still in its infancy. We have so much more to learn about female and male desire, if we can resist the temptation to retreat to worn formulas and truisms—women all like this and don’t like that, men want this and never want that. Each story we write or cover we choose can take that exploration further. In some sense, that discovery is what’s kept me writing for almost twenty years now.
Let’s keep making history!
Donna George Storey is the author
of Amorous Woman and a collection of short
Presents the Best of Donna George Storey. Learn more about her
work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com
I read a lot of BDSM erotica and erotic romance. While what
I write is fairly specific, I enjoy reading a wider diversity, all different
sorts of pairings and groups. I enjoy the sort that is all about building a
fantasy for the reader, from the billionaire natural alpha dom, to the corral
where you park your submissive at the club. I also enjoy the sort that is
intended to feel real, to reflect the realities of kink life. I’m not one of
those folks who do BDSM and need fiction to be realistic; I’m perfectly fine
sinking into a fantasy story about a magical mind-reading dominant, whether it
comes with a critique of kink life (e.g. Cecilia Tan’s Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords) or
is purely there to fulfill a fantasy (e.g. Cherise Sinclair’s Club Shadowlands)
What I’ve found is that there’s a particular thing that’s
pretty much guaranteed to spoil my investment in and enjoyment of a BDSM story:
carelessness in the context of a scene or D/s dynamic.
To be clear, I adore mean, cruel and even cold dominants.
I’m not talking about sadism here, or needing to go easy on bottoms in a way
that treats them as fragile. I’m not even just talking about tops. Bottoms can
definitely be careless too.
I’m not talking about stories where folks have casual play,
or play that’s not centered on emotions or caring for each other romantically.
I’m not even talking about psychological edge play scenes that center on a top seeming careless. I’m fine with that
sort of play as long as I know, as a reader, that the top is actually seeing to
the well-being of the bottom, and that the bottom knows somewhere in the back
of their mind that they can trust the top to be careful with them.
What do I mean when I talk about carelessness?
I mean carelessness in terms of leaving a bottom tied up and
unattended. I mean carelessness in terms of casual selfishness where the
character is solely focused on their own needs to the point of ignoring the basic
well-being of the folks they are doing BDSM with. I mean carelessness in terms
of launching into heavy humiliation play with a novice with no negotiation. I
mean carelessness in terms of deliberate ignoring of basic bodily needs. I mean
carelessness in terms of deliberately fucking with someone’s head when mindfuck
was not on the table. I mean carelessness in terms of a dominant giving a
submissive away to someone without ensuring that the submissive is ok in that
For the most part, what it often boils down to is a
character treating another character like they are not a real person, but an
object, not as part of an agreed upon D/s dynamic or humiliation scene, but in
actuality. Treating them as if they are a tool to get off with, not a human
being with, y’know, needs and vulnerabilities, who is worthy of a basic modicum
of respect and care.
Is it realistic to have characters do this? Absolutely. This
behavior abounds in kink life, just as carelessness does in many other kinds of
Do I want it in my erotica or erotic romance? Absolutely
Please do write about miscommunication, misunderstandings,
secrets, scenes that go wrong, common novice mistakes, times when people need
to safeword, accidents that happen in play, times when folks are not aware of
their feelings or not up for talking about stuff they should, and all the other
ways that people are human and have opposing needs and fuck up and things fall
apart and need to be repaired, especially if you are writing realistic stories
about BDSM. I’d love to see more of that in the kinky fiction I read. I don’t
need or even want characters to be perfect.
Carelessness is in a different zone for me.
I don’t trust the character any more as a practitioner of
BDSM. I wouldn’t recommend them as a player to a stranger, must less to someone
I care about.
I am not rooting for the couple anymore. I want the other
character to dump that asshole, not make excuses for them or sink deeper into
connection with them or ignore the problem or want to be treated that way.
I don’t want to witness them playing or falling for each
other. It’s not hot. I wouldn’t watch that scene in a public dungeon; I
definitely don’t want to read it.
I don’t want stories that support, elide, apologize for or
excuse carelessness in kink. Especially not in a main character I’m supposed to
be identifying with or desiring or rooting for. Especially not in a story that supposedly
has a HFN or a HEA ending.
Want me to love your BDSM erotica and erotic romance and
invest in your characters and story?
Show the reader moments where characters are careful with each other.
Where dominants take an extra moment to ensure they still
have consent. Where submissives consider a dominants needs. Where tops check in
after a scene. Where bottoms share information a top might need in order to
fully consent to something. Where a dominant pays attention to body language
and tone of voice and not just the words a submissive uses. Where a submissive
notices that a dominant seems off and checks in. Where a top thinks about what
a bottom might need from play. Where a bottom thinks about the shit a top had
to deal with today and treads carefully around sensitive subjects. Where
characters negotiate in a way that shows they are invested in each other’s
It’s those moments that make me fall for your characters,
root for them as a couple or triad or group or whatever they are together, want
to follow them to the end of the story. Those are the moments that make me sigh
and smile and swoon.
It may come as a surprise, but far too often authors—people who are supposedly very comfortable with words!—have days when they just don’t want to write at all.
It’s a common mistake writers make when they begin to think about social media, marketing, and all that other fun stuff: this idea that words are the be-all and end-all for them. They force themselves far too often to script tweet after tweet, Facebook post after Facebook post…until they just can’t write another line of original content, even if only to say “Look at my book!” Worse, they come to feel that because they’ve burnt out on writing tweets and posts and marketing copy, they have failed. They think about all the potential readers they have lost; markets they haven’t tapped; piles of beguiling words they should have written—because are they not supposed to be endless fonts of text? (Spoiler: no.)
Fortunately for you if you’re one of these writers, there are some great options for social networking that don’t require you to write a word. They are wordless yet powerful, simple yet evocative, easy yet poignant.
In short, Facebook and Twitter are not the only games in town when it comes to keeping yourself and your writing in the public eye.
I’m talking about using pictures rather than words. Using Flicker, Instagram, Pinterest or Tumblr to make your point, catch your Twitter followers’ imaginations, engage them emotionally in a way that leaves a favorable impression of you in their minds. An image-sharing tool like these can help you reach out to others, and save you a thousand words of writing, every day.
There are quite a few image-sharing venues out there—and while your mileage and social media needs may vary, in my experience they’ve basically boiled down to just one. Allow me: Flickr is ridiculously clunky and doesn’t share well with others—just spend a few minutes trying to either find an image or a keyword, or pass along a photo. Pain. In. The…youknowwhatImean. Instagram is fine and dandy for taking snapshots of your dinner, your dog, your kids, your whatever…but when it comes to sharing what you snap, or using images from other sources, it’s not exactly user-friendly.
This basically leaves us with two choices, if you want to save those thousands of words: Pinterest and Tumblr. I’ve tried both and the choice was extremely easy to make—it comes down to one thing: sex.
Let’s face it, when you’re an author of erotica and erotic romance, you are dealing with—in one way or another—characters having sex. Like lots of erotica authors, I’ve learned to (sigh) deal with platforms like Facebook that will wish you into the cornfield for showing—or in some cases even talking about—something as threatening as a nipple. We deal with Facebook because we have to. But an open-minded image-sharing social media venue is a bit like Twitter: the more the merrier.
Pinterest doesn’t like sex…at all. I used to have a Pinterest account but then I began to get messages, here and there to start, but then tons: each one about a posted image of mine that was removed due to the dreaded Terms of Service. A few were obvious, but then the images they were yanking became and more innocent. Bye-bye Pinterest.
Tumblr isn’t perfect—far from it—but even after being purchased by the search engine deity Yahoo, I can count on the fingers of one hand the times it has caused me any kind of headache. Mostly they will reject anything that really pushes a button—think of the deadly erotica sins, but with pictures, and you know what I mean (hate speech, rape, bestiality, incest, underage, pee or poo, etc).
In a nutshell, Tumblr is easy, fun, and—best of all—a rather effective social media tool that also neatly and simply integrates into Twitter and Facebook…and, no, I do not own stock.
The way it works couldn’t be less complicated: you can create any number of Tumblrs—think folders—(even with an “age appropriate” warning if you want), and then design them with any one of a huge number of themes. From your master dashboard you can see—and tweak —all the separate Tumblrs you’ve created. The themes are a blast, and the interface takes very little skill to navigate.
As for what Tumblrs you should create…well, that’s up to you. Like food? Make a nice edibles Tumblr (and they have an app that lets you to take shots of your meals if that’s what you’re into). Like history? Create a vintage photo site. Love sex? Well, it’s pretty obvious about what you can do with that.
Where do you get your pictures? You can certainly take them yourself or upload them from your various devices, but where Tumblr becomes a real social media machine is in reposting. Once you create your account just look for other Tumblrs by interests or keywords and then hit that little follow button. Then, when you look at your dashboard, you’ll see a nice stream of pictures that you can like, share, or repost to your own various Tumblr incarnations. Plus, the more people you follow, the more people will follow you.
Just to give you an idea, I started—rather lazily—my dozen or so Tumblrs four or so years ago and now my main one, Rude Mechanicals, has over 5,000 followers. You can imagine the reach you could have if you really put some work into it.
And if you want to see how far that reach extends, you can go back and look at your posts to see how many times they’ve been liked or reposted. It’s harder to tell when it’s a reposted picture but it can also be very heartwarming to see that, for instance, when you post about a good review or a new book announcement, dozens of people liked your news or, even better, shared it with their own vast audience.
What’s also fun about Tumblr is the auto-forward feature. It’s not perfect, as there are some periodic glitches, but all in all it works rather well. When you set up your separate Tumblrs you can then select an option where—if you choose—you can also send any image to Twitter or to Facebook.
That increases the number of people your image will potentially reach. It can even go to a Facebook page you’ve created. Neat!
One trick I use is to click the handy “like” button to create an inventory of images and then—once or twice a day—go back into my list of likes to repost them to my appropriate sites…with or without Twitter or Facebook reposting as I see fit. Tumblrs also feature RSS, which means you can subscribe to one of them through an aggregator like Feedly.
What’s also neat about Tumblr is its flexibility: you can post images (duh) but you can also embed video (from YouTube or wherever) and post text, quotations, links, chat streams, and audio.
Let your eyes do the walking and let the images they find do the talking. Image-sharing tools like Tumblr are a super easy way to fulfill your need for social media presence without having to write anything.