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Monthly Archives: August 2017

Elizabeth Black 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, and her three cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page. 

Her new m/m erotic medical thriller Roughing It is out! This book is a sexy cross between The X Files, The Andromeda Strain, and Outbreak. Read her short erotic story Babes in Begging For It, published by Cleis Press. You will also find her new novel No Restraint at Amazon. Enjoy a good, sexy read today.

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Yet another publisher suddenly announced it’s going under. DarkFuse, a horror imprint, sent a generic form letter to everyone who either had outstanding submissions or contracts with them. DarkFuse always struck me as being a market to get into, but from what I’m hearing from those affected by the Chapter 7 filing, DF isn’t handling the whole mess in a professional manner. I had submitted a short story to DF and I did not hear anything until SEVEN MONTHS LATER when DF announced it was in hiatus. Suffice to say I was pissed. Granted, I knew DF could take up to 8 months to respond to submissions, but to finally get word and to know the press didn’t even open my file left me quite miffed. I could have sent the story out to other markets during that long period of time and may even have found a home for it. Now I have to start the entire process all over again – seven months late.

Remember when Samhain closed? Samhain was best known for publishing romances but it had delved into horror. This one was another market to aim for, and even it wasn’t immune to the changing publishing landscape. Everyone knows of the disaster that was Ellora’s Cave. EC did not do right by its authors. There are signs that a pub is going under. Here are a few:

  1. Does not respond to emails in a timely fashion or at all.
  2. Sudden non-communication.
  3. Publisher email bouncing or phone calls not going through.
  4. Dragging out the publication date for weeks or months on end.
  5. Press threatens writers who protest poor treatment.
  6. Royalties not being paid on time or at all.
  7. Web site is not updated.

If you run into any of these issues, beware. The pub may be in trouble. I don’t know what to do if you request your rights back when you get wind the pub is actually closing and it refuses to release them or you hear crickets. Some writers have hired lawyers to fix the problem but most writers I know do not have money coming out of their ears. After all, they are writers. Most don’t earn a living wage. Eventually the rights have reverted back but it may take awhile.

Here are some tips I’ve learned from watching one small press after another close:

*Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Submit to several publishers so you have works in more than one. This is to protect yourself. You don’t want to see all your works dissolve once your only publisher goes belly up.

*Have as many as a dozen short stories out there in circulation as submissions to numerous publishers.

I was told this trick from a writer who has had many short stories published. Submit to as many markets as you can. Look up Duotrope, Ralan’s, and of course the ERWA submissions page for submission calls. Go to your favorite publishers and see if there are any themed or non-themed anthologies calls. If you like the theme, write something and submit it. Don’t write one or two stories and hope for the best. Submit as many as a dozen stories. You’ll hear back more often and you may see more acceptances. The more irons you have in the fire, the more likely you are to see some good results.

*Think of yourself as blessed if your book was under consideration by a publisher yet it wasn’t published before the press closed.

My first indie press closed before it published my book. Twilight Fantasies was one of several publishers that closed one right after the other in 2007. At first I was angry that the press had been stringing me along insisting my book was coming out in a month or two and then later not responding to my emails at all. When the pub folded, I was told it was a good thing my book was never published because if it had been, to resell it would have been quite difficult since it would have been considered a reprint even if it had been available for purchase for only a month or two. Or less. Once the pub closed my rights reverted back to me and I sent the book off to Dark Eden Press only to see that press fold. I then send it to a third press whose name I can’t recall anymore – and it (you guess it) promptly folded. Talk about a string of rotten luck! So I was able to show my rights had reverted back to me via an email TF sent me and finally Fanny Press later published the book. That book is my paranormal erotic romance An Unexpected Guest and you may buy it at Amazon. This was my first novel and the experience gave me a sour taste in my mouth that I never really recovered from.

*Get your rights back and send the work out again. Find it a new home.

Don’t be dismayed that your book isn’t going to see the light of day with a publisher that went belly-up. That doesn’t mean no one else will want it. Research other viable markets and resubmit. If you wish to do some further editing by all means do so but get that book back out there as quickly as possible lest you lose your nerve. I research several markets and I send my works to each one in order until one accepts my work. You can’t give up or get depressed about it. If you do, you’ll never see your books published.

The best bet when dealing with questionable publisher is to be wary and be informed. Research Ellora’s Cave, Twilight Fantasies, Dark Eden Press, Samhain and DarkFuse to see what all the closings had in common and what writers did to protect themselves. That way, you hopefully won’t be caught up in disaster should one of your pubs deep six itself.

Cleavage

Did you know that breasts are out of fashion? Apparently Millennials have little interest in cleavage. As a result, restaurant chains like Hooters and Twin Peaks (hadn’t heard of that one!), where the main draw is busty waitresses in low cut blouses, are losing money, closing stores, and being forced to reevaluate their business strategies.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/millennials-have-a-new-attitude-about-cleavage-thats-forcing-breastaurant-hooters-to-close-locations-a7900506.html

While I can’t say that I feel much sympathy for the silliness of “breastaurants”, I find the apparent shift in tastes for particular sorts of bodies quite intriguing. I could posit a variety of explanations. Maybe the increased cultural acceptance of LGBTQ individuals had led to a more androgynous physical ideal. Maybe, with sexting and other sexual instantiations of social media, the sight of naked tits has become so commonplace that it’s uninteresting. Could there be a Freudian explanation, a repudiation of the maternal principle as women choose careers over motherhood? Or perhaps this is simply a typical rejection by one generation of the values and preferences of its predecessors—a breast rebellion.

Of course, throughout history, we’ve seen cyclical changes in cultural norms about body type and sexuality. Perhaps we’re headed back to the days of flappers, with their slender, boyish figures. Hopefully we’re not also on the brink of another economic collapse, like the Great Depression.

Now there’s a topic for someone’s doctoral dissertation: the relationship between popular breast size and the health of the economy. After all, ample bosoms were exceedingly popular during the boom years of the nineteen fifties. Full-figured ladies were much admired in the prosperous Victorian period, when England reaped the benefits of scientific progress and a far-flung empire. If we believe the paintings, breasts were big in the Renaissance as well, with its flowering of trade, art and culture.

But I digress.

The article above reminded me of the link between sex and money. Sex sells. The fact that this is a cliché does not make it any less true. And when one’s marketing strategy is based primarily on sex, a change in popular sexual culture can spell economic ruin.

Have you checked out the latest innovations in sex toys? You really can’t get a simple vibrator anymore. Anything you purchase is likely to be USB-chargeable. It has a Bluetooth connection to your iPhone. To use it, you need to download an app. Innovate or die. That’s apparently the law of the market, even in the realm of sexual implements.

Which brings me to erotic writing. I have to ask myself: am I just as guilty of exploiting the Id for my own enrichment as tasteless and gimmicky places like Hooters? And if I am, do my personal sexual preferences, molded in the Golden Age of the sixties and seventies between the invention of the Pill and the advent of AIDS, doom my work to eventual obsolescence? Am I headed in the direction of Twin Peaks, scrambling to reinvent myself in order to sell my stories?

For instance, how many millennials find pubic hair arousing? Or chest hair on men, for that matter? Dangly earrings and long skirts, worn with no underwear? Sweaty sex in the back seats of automobiles? The sweet bounce of unfettered breasts under a loose tee shirt?

I really can’t imagine what sort of sex twenty-somethings find interesting. Given the general decline in literacy, it may be Millennials aren’t likely to read my books no matter what sort of sexual content they contain.

Fortunately, it doesn’t matter. My livelihood doesn’t depend on my writing—praise the Goddess. I love seeing the royalty payments bump up my PayPal account, but that’s primarily because it’s evidence that someone is reading my stuff. I am writing for fun, to explore new ideas and genres, to entertain myself and my readers, and yes, to turn myself on. If Millennial’s can’t connect with my characters, well, that’s too bad, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t claim to understand them. I’m not surprised if they feel the same about me.

I’d like to believe there are some universal truths about human sexuality captured in my tales, that I can tell a story that will resonate and arouse despite one’s background or generation. I am probably deluding myself, though.

For one thing, I like breasts too much.

 

What is the difference between erotica and porn? The classic reply is “erotica is what I like and porn is what you like,” which underscores the inherently arbitrary nature of any judgment. Some might challenge the need for this question at all, and I understand the appeal of taking each piece of writing on its own merits, classifications and hierarchies be damned. Still I’ve always found it rewarding to contemplate what makes certain kinds of sexually explicit writing more personally satisfying to me than others—what makes it my erotica, so to speak.

My definition has changed over the years and is still changing. Today, my favorite definition of erotica is that you still have an interesting story left if you take away the sex. As in my own life, what intrigues me is not the physical consummation alone, but the people involved and what they bring to the encounter.

The latter sentiment is starting to sound more like “romance,” another genre that has negative connotations for many due to its association with foolish women. Truth be told, my current project was inspired by a gendered coupling: my reading about WWI on its hundredth anniversary—hmm, the politics are fascinating, but what was sex and romance really like at that time?–and an unexpected dip into Fifty Shades of Greyhmm, I understand why some love this story and some hate it, but what kind of romance would I write to please myself?

I like a good romance as much as anyone who likes a good romance, so I’ve enjoyed exploring the path my lovers take in deciding they must be together, despite obstacles of social background and religion. The values and expectations of an earlier time naturally raise the stakes, because romance and sexual intimacy had more serious consequences for one’s reputation and fertility than they do today. I’m especially interested in how courtship has changed—and remained the same—in the last century.

One of the pleasures of this project is hearing voices from the past through books written at the time and primary sources such as letters. James Joyce and his wife Nora, Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins and his fiancé Kitty Kiernan, Franz Kafka and Milena Jesenska, playwright John Millington Synge and actress Molly O’Neill, all provide insights into the passionate epistolary expressions of more-or-less famous artists and political figures. It should perhaps be no surprise that these correspondences have a bit more artistic panache than the emails between Christian Grey and Ana Steele. But the romances of ordinary folk are also revealing of their times. This month, I’d like to share a more humble sample from my archives, two letters exchanged by a courting couple, the first from John to Annie, shown at the beginning of this post. The text is as follows (my apologies for the quality of the scan as this blog won’t let me upload the highest resolution files):

McSherrystown, Pa.
April 25, 1915

Dear Friend Annie,

Hoping I am not taking to [sic] much liberty in addressing a few lines to you to ask you if I could see you some time reel [sic] soon to exchange a few ideas. Hoping you are not offended and if you wish to see me let me know if not please destroy this letter for old time’s sake.

From your friend, I hope,

John A. Smith

This letter is from Annie to John:

Hanover, Pa.
October 7, 1915

Dear friend,

I received your letter which was more than a surprise to me, I surely thought you did not want to speak to me, but Johnie the way your letter read you do not want very much about speaking to me. I would like very much to talk to you, so if you care to see me and it is convenient for you please meat [sic] me on Friday evening after Service down at St Joseph’s, if not destroy this letter, if you please + excuse this writing and all mistakes.

I remain a friend,

Annie C. Hufnagel

I hold the originals in my hand, the paper yellowed and spotted, torn at the creases and fixed with Scotch tape. The ink is faded, and someone has traced over the writing in ballpoint pen with some indifference to the original. Perhaps some of the misspellings are the fault of the second writer? As for the content, my first response was amusement at the reserve in “see you sometime soon to exchange a few ideas” and the concern of both writers that their invitations might not be welcome, hence the pleas to destroy them, which I assume means burning them in the stove. Was this simply convention? Did courting couples in 1915 worry that an unwelcome written overture would be circulated among friends or posted in the town square to be mocked? Modern technology, Snapchat aside, can hold similar dangers of regret and discovery, but most people don’t beg recipients to delete texts. (Or do they?) I have also read that in the nineteenth and early twentieth century if a courtship ended, it was polite to either return the other party’s letters or assure them that you had destroyed them to save embarrassment. Perhaps we should revive that custom today?

Yet a second more careful reading of the two extant letters raised a new question. John’s letter is dated April 25, 1915 and Annie’s, which I initially assumed was a direct reply to his, was written on October 7 of that same year. Did she wait over five months to reply? Or were other letters exchanged in between? If so, there’s little evidence of the development of confidence in the relationship or ease between the two.

We might wonder if there was much of a future between these two people. Beneath the reserve, I do sense some yearning on both sides in those expressions of friendship. Fortunately, in this case as well as in my novel, I know the ending. John and Annie went on to marry in 1919, when he was 35 and she 29.

They had seven children; the girl on the right of the photograph standing next to John is their second-to-youngest, my mother. I am one of their 23 grandchildren. Thus in retrospect, the personal stakes for this relationship’s success are high, but we can assume John did indeed meet Annie after church on Friday and exchange some appealing ideas. The long courtship led to a marriage of sixty years, until my grandfather’s death at 95. My grandmother confided that on the morning of the day he died, my grandfather made a sexual advance, which I like to think represented a long and fulfilling life of romantic “ideas” between them.

It’s a nice thought for the future and an appealing inspiration for my novel set in the past. Whether you call it erotica or porn is your choice!

As are most people in North America, I am anticipating a partial solar eclipse next week. Not eagerly anticipating, however. I’ve experienced a couple of partial solar eclipses in my life already. They are about as exciting as a cloud passing in front of the sun. One couldn’t even call it a dimming, no more than a fine curtain dims sunlight coming through your window.

Still, my neighbors are excited. They’re buying eclipse glasses so they won’t go blind looking at it. I expect they’ll be disappointed. Like me, they’re in the right time, but the wrong place. Ah, but that’s life, isn’t it?

The other side of that sad coin, of course, is being in the right place, but in the wrong time. That was kind of how I felt on my first visit to New Orleans, a city I always wanted to visit, but didn’t get the chance to until I was in my fifties.

As my bride and I strolled Bourbon Street on a Tuesday night, it was like the height of the weekend in any other town. It was March, and it was as warm as June in Massachusetts. Trees and flowers had bloomed and the air was redolent with floral scents and the aroma of liquor.

Young people carried glasses across the street from one bar to another congealing in one place before drifting back into the general current, with various eddies swirling amongst one or two establishments in particular.

Sex was in the air too. Young women baring their bellies and thighs and young men entranced, buzzing about like gnats swarming in a pheromone frenzy.

The thought came into my head, then out my mouth: “Damn, I wish I was here when I was single.”

Then a gulp, and momentary panic. Had I actually said that out loud? A sidelong glance at the wife answered that question. But she eyed me with wry grin.

I shrugged, grateful to be off the hook. She’d felt it too.

We stopped in to one joint and had a few drinks, chatted up some very friendly strangers, then strolled back to our hotel. Later we banged each other’s brains out, like a pair of kids on spring break (another experience I seem to have missed).

I haven’t gotten back to the Big Easy, though I’d like to. There are just so many other places I want to go, and I’m not immortal. At least, I don’t think so. Of those places I do get to visit, I expect some will be disappointing in some way, but letdown or no, it’s the journey, right?

And wherever you are, it might just be the right place, for that particular time.

Editing Corner banner

By Iris Perkins (Poetry Editor)

Most people that write know about the stumbling block that most call, consider or term “writer’s block.” Well, I am here to let you know that there really is no such thing.

Make sure that you’re writing for you, then for your readers. There is a story that you are trying to convey and you are trying to get it out. Don’t force it.

If there is a block, then that is from not surrounding yourself with creative people who can help push you or from being in a stagnant place for far too long. Also, something else could be requiring your attention, halting your creativity.

If you ever have that moment where you feel stopped, halted or blocked, think about what is the best way to push yourself—or even come up with a different storyline. Or even find something else to do like cook, read, watch a movie, go for a walk or rest.

Is it hard? May be for some; however, not impossible.

The biggest part of writer’s block comes from the writer him/herself. It is like you are trying so hard to make yourself do something when it is not time. It will not happen.

Forcing yourself to idly sit at a blank page/screen will not make words come to you; however, you can make yourself a word bank and keep that around to spark some creativity.

Go outside. Watch television. Listen to some music. People watch. Do something.

Doing something else may trigger a memory or provide something to write about in your so called “dry spell.”

The advice I was always given when totally stuck was to envision the one scene or moment that made me want to write the entire story. Capture the original spark and forget about how you get to that point, or what happens afterwards. Imagine you’re looking at that scene through a little hole cut in a sheet of cardboard and describe only what you can see in that shot. Forget being linear, or chronological or logical. Just go with the descriptive flow. Save (and print, if you like things visual) then move onto the next clear image. Eventually your brain might figure out how to link things up, and then those moments become the reason you wanted to write that story…

Don’t underestimate that dry spell though. That dry spell just may mean you’re on the brink of greatness!

 

 by Ashley Lister

I’ve courted you for eons now
And still we have not done the deed
Without trying to be highbrow
I think you know just what I need

 

I’ve probably mentioned the French form of the kyrielle before, but it’s one of my favourites, so I’m coming back to it here.  Typically, the kyrielle is a four-line stanza form that has a refrain in the fourth line. It’s customary for the kyrielle to contain eight syllables per line, although this doesn’t have to be presented in a specific structure, such as iambic tetrameter.  There is no prescribed limit to the number of stanzas but three is the minimum.

 

We’ve both held hands on moonlit nights
And you have heard me beg and plead
To have a chance at your delights
I think you know just what I need

 

The rhyme scheme for the kyrielle can either follow an aabB pattern, or an abaB. Because this is poetry, other variations on this rhyme scheme will always be possible.

 

So here we are, together now
And from our clothes we’ve both been freed
You are the field and I’m the plough
I think you know just what I need

 

As always, I look forward to seeing your poetry in the comments box below.

 

 

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