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Writing Exercise

By Larry Archer

While I’ve understood the appeal of Kindle Unlimited (KU), up until now I’ve rejected it for a couple of reasons. First is narrow versus wide. With KU, you cannot publish your story anywhere but at Amazon. I think you can do print versions, but most of that stays with Amazon.

Going wide, you can publish at all the other sites such as SmashWords, Apple, Kobo, B&N, and others, in addition to Amazon. Another drawback to wide is that you can’t publish in ePub or other formats that are native to Windows, Mac, most tablets and phones.

Certainly, nowadays there are apps which allow you to read Kindle books on other types of devices besides a Kindle. But to me, it is aggravating that Amazon restricts you in an effort to keep you corralled into the Kindle World.

Publishing on Amazon and allowing your smut to be in the Kindle Unlimited section, allows people who cough up $10 a month to read all they can stomach. For an avid reader like myself, I like KU except the nonconformist side resents being told I can’t publish a story anywhere except on Amazon.

Amazon pays about one-half cent per page for every page someone reads of your masterpiece. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but when there are millions of people out there, it adds up.

I decided what the hell, I’ll try it again and published my latest story, House Party, both narrow and in Kindle Unlimited. This 85,000-word novel is my biggest yet, and I have to admit that I was a little hesitant about committing for the next 90-days before I could go wide.

I was floored when in the three weeks since release it has sold 31 copies, and almost 18,000 page reads, which translates into 74 complete story reads of the 243-page novel. This one story in three weeks has earned basically one and a half times my normal Amazon income for a typical month!

That’s all the bragging I’m going to do, and I apologize for it but what I’m trying to say is consider using Kindle Unlimited to see if it helps your book sales.

Normally I don’t pay a lot of attention to my Amazon sales as I’m too lazy to read all the reports but using Book Report ( makes it so easy to see your best selling stories and how much money you are making. Book Report also breaks out your sales per day, week, month, etc. so it’s a lot easier to see if you’re doing any good.

I’d had always read that Amazon has a 30-day cliff and will start throwing your story under the bus in a month. Since I’ve been using Book Report since May or June, I’ve confirmed to myself that is true.

If you release a story, it will bump your author’s rank for about a month, then you’ll see your rank start to fall. Publish a new book, and it’ll immediately jump up for another month.

So, the old saying “Publish or Perish,” is definitely a truism with Amazon. This does not seem to be true with SmashWords. From what I can see, SmashWords only goes by best sells or most popular, without considering age.

I have two books in SmashWords Men’s Erotica Best Sellers that are in the top 60, and one of the stories was published in 2014 and is ranked higher than a story published this year.

While certainly, you can argue that one story is better than the other, but the bottom line is that a story published four years ago is ranked about the same as a story published in the last few months.

This tells me that when you publish at SmashWords, your story doesn’t get forgotten in a month and continues to be ranked on its merits, without being penalized for age.

Up until recently, I’ve always made more money at SmashWords than I have with Amazon but the last couple of months have been just the opposite.

The thing I really like at SmashWords is that they automatically push out to Apple and others such as Kobo and B&N. My sales through SmashWords are typically split four ways between SmashWords, Apple, Kobo, and B&N.

Sales and marketing are the things I hate to do. I’d druther pound away at my keyboard than try to figure out how to market a story but I’m becoming convinced that I need to pay attention to things like sales figures, advertising, etc.

I’m not naive enough to think I’ll ever quit my day job and write smut but I am covering expenses and being able to buy a nice laptop every year or two.

That’s all for this month folks. Go out and VOTE on November 8th. Until next month, if it’s the 24th, it’s time for smut from the dirty mind of Larry Archer.

by Ashley Lister

Over the past couple of months we’ve looked at first and second person point of view. Whilst both of these are useful ways to convey a sense of story, neither of them are as popular as third person point of view.


The parlour was quiet enough so Victoria could hear the tick of the Grandfather from the hall outside. Stark spring sunlight filtered through the net curtains to illuminate the elegant furnishings. The family’s finest bone china was laid out on a lily-white tablecloth. The afternoon tea was completed with freshly baked French fancies. Sitting comfortably in one of the parlour’s high-backed chairs, Victoria placed one lace-gloved hand over the other, adjusted her voluminous skirts, and stared down at Algernon as he knelt before her.


If first person point of view is like a diary entry, and second person is like a recipe, I like to think of third person point of view being where the story is narrated from the perspective of someone sitting on the shoulder of the main character. Notice, in the example above, we’re told how Victoria can hear the tick of the Grandfather: but we don’t have Victoria telling us she can hear it. This distancing of narrative voice removes us slightly as readers, so we’re not as fully invested in the character. However, we are able to get a full picture of the world from the main character’s perspective: a much fuller perspective than we would have had from the somewhat limited perspective of a first person narration. (NB This fiction comes from my short story ‘Victoria’s Hand’).


She knew what was coming.
She had anticipated this day for months.
Before he started to speak, she knew what he was going to say.
It was the first time they had ever been together without a chaperone. Unless he had come to the house with this specific purpose her parents would not have allowed her to spend any time alone with a suitor. The idea of her being alone with a man was simply too scandalous for civilised society to contemplate.


“Victoria, my dearest,” he began.
There was a tremor of doubt in his voice. Victoria liked that. It suggested he wasn’t entirely certain that she would say yes. His bushy moustache bristled with obvious apprehension. His Adam’s apple quivered nervously above his small, tied cravat. His large dark eyes stared up at her with blatant admiration. He looked as though his entire future happiness rested on her response to this single question.
She was dizzied by the rush of rising power.


Third person is one of the most popular points of view and, in the contemporary marketplace, it’s the go-to position for writers when they’re trying relate events. Obviously, this will feel more natural for some writers than others. However, as with all the tools at our disposal as writers, it’s well worth trying this point of view to see how it works for your narrative voice.

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


By Ashley Lister

It was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who said, “There is nothing insignificant in the world. It all depends on the point of view.” These thoughts were echoed by Harper Lee who noted, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.” And, it is following these thoughts on the importance of point of view, that this month’s writing exercise looks at this most vital subject in the craft of writing.

There are four distinct points of view that a fiction writer can use. These include first person, second person, third person and omniscient narrator. There are some people who will tell you that there are disparate types of third person narrator – suggesting there are objective, omniscient and limited third person narrators – but these nuances are more academic than practical, and these writing exercises are all about practicality (which is my way of saying I’m going to ignore them here).

I’m going to tackle one each of these over the next four months, starting with my favourite: first person.


We’d been drinking vodka…

Isn’t vodka brilliant? The best stories I’ve ever told always start with the words, “We’d been drinking vodka…” and this one is no exception.

We’d been drinking vodka. Mel had found the bottle in the kitchen cupboard of my third floor apartment. It was next to a mouldering loaf of bread and a rusting tin of spaghetti in tomato sauce. The bottle wasn’t anything special – one of those made up Russian names (Glasnost, Prada, Kevorkian, or something) that are meant to make it sound authentic and as though it has been shipped direct from behind the Iron Curtain. The main thing I remember is that it was cheap, the aftertaste wasn’t too unpleasant, and it mixed well with the dregs of the Dr Pepper Mel had brought to our impromptu girl’s night in. The washing-up situation meant we had to drink from clunky coffee mugs rather than elegant glasses but neither of us was in a mood to be concerned by such trifling details. We had more important things on our agenda.

“Here’s to becoming lesbians, sweetie,” Mel toasted.
She raised her mug.

I clinked mine against the side and we both drank greedily.

I wasn’t sure if we were genuinely going to become lesbians, or if the toast was meant to signify that we were both pissed off at our boyfriends. Mine had elected to spend the night with drinking buddies, playing pool and watching the game on a fifty-inch screen at the local bar. Mel’s latest boyfriend had clearly upset her in some serious way because she had scoured the house like a bloodhound in her search for the vodka. When she found the bottle she had whooped in delight, made some disparaging remark about booze being better than blokes, and popped its cap with unseemly haste.

“Are we really becoming lesbians?” I asked doubtfully. “What does that involve?” I sat next to her on the settee and warily sipped my mug of vodka.


These lines are from the opening of my novel Once Bitten – an erotically charged tale of vampires and sexual intrigue. I decided to use first person for this particular story because I liked Tessa’s voice. She sounded carefree, not particularly bright with her obvious sexual naivete, but sufficiently savvy to know her own mind. I thought it would be fun to hear her tell the whole story. 

The first person narrator, as we all know, is a character-narrator who is telling a personal story. It’s easily identified because we recognise the use of personal pronouns (I, we, my, me, etc.) and the viewpoint shows us the world through the eyes of a single person. As a bonus, this allows us to get to know the character-narrator in more depth than other characters because we (the readers) are inside that character’s thoughts.

This is a point of view commonly seen in diaries and personal exposés and it is this sense of being told secrets that makes it an ideal voice for a narrator of erotic fiction because, what could be more arousing than the idea of being inside someone’s thoughts?

As always, it would be good to see a few lines from your first person narratives in the comments box below.

by Ashley Lister

Conventional wisdom tells us that we never get a second chance to make a first impression. Nowhere is this more true than in the opening line of a piece of fiction. Consequently, when Jane Austen writes, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”, we are immediately hooked and we want read on. There is humour in this line. There is intrigue. We don’t know if this statement is made in seriousness or in jest. But we do know we have to read on. 

Or take Dickens:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

This is another of those lines that makes us want to read on. After this catalogue of dualities, a list of binary opposites that suggest good and bad and light and dark and heaven and hell, readers know there’s going to be conflict, and they settle back and wait for the ride.  

A good opening line should do at least four things.

  1. It should arouse interest in your reader.
  2. It should relate to the rest of the narrative.
  3. It should introduce key themes of the story that’s about to unfold.
  4. It should make your reader want to read on. 

And, as a short exercise, crafting a strong opening line can often be a useful way of kick-starting the imagination.  The following are three opening lines I’d be keen to pursue.

For Jack, it was overwhelming all-consuming unbridled love at first sight. For Jill, the emotional connection was far more intense. 


“Anyone can talk to the dead,” he grinned. “But Betty’s different. Betty knows how to get the dead to give up their darkest secrets.”


Once upon a time there were three women who all lusted after Fat Tony.  This is the story of how they each got what they wanted.


As always, I’d love to see your opening lines in the comments box below.


by Ashley Lister

A few years ago I was at Eroticon and ended up chatting with the wonderful Janine Ashbless. We were discussing the usual questions that are thrown at writers (“Where do you get your ideas from?” and “Do you do all those things that are mentioned in your books?”) when Janine said, “I don’t care where someone gets their ideas from. What interests me is how they manage to sit down and produce large numbers of words on a daily basis.”

And it’s a valid point. It’s especially pertinent in the age of distractions in which we currently live. Aside from all the demands of family, friends and the workplace, there are also time-vampires such as emails, FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram and all those other social media apps, as well as the distraction of excellent blogs (such as this one). In truth, sitting down at a computer and simply writing has become something of an endangered practice.

There are various proffered solutions to this problem.

1. Turn off your internet connection.
I don’t subscribe to this one. The idea of turning off my connection to family, friends and colleagues is a non-starter. However, if you’re suffering from a terminal case of the diversions, it might be one worth considering.

2. Set targets and deadlines.
There are advantages and disadvantages to this one. Targets are a helpful guide as to what’s to be done. Deadlines can give a definite endpoint. But missing targets can be detrimental to a writer’s confidence. And, the danger with setting deadlines is that we will often make sure the work to be done takes up exactly the length of time allocated. I do use both of these, but I try to use them judiciously. My targets are what we in the teaching profession call SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound). This time-bound aspect helps to ensure my deadlines aren’t too lenient or too restrictive.

3. Timed writing sessions.
This is possibly my preferred approach to writing and overcoming the problem of distractions. One of my favourite books on writing is Margaret Geraghty’s The Five-Minute Writer which supplies exercises that can each be done in five minutes. Timed writing sessions can last from as little as five minutes, or they can last as long as you think your focus can be stretched. Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique from the 1980s advocated 25 minute blocks. Personally, I use a timer on my phone to set aside twenty-minutes where distractions and interruptions are forbidden. I don’t know if it’s the most effective way of avoiding diversions. But I do know it works for me.

If your new year resolution is to write more productively, hopefully one of the above will be of assistance. And, if you’re using some other method to help you progress with your writing, I’d love to see you mention it in the comments below.

By Ashley Lister

There are some forms of poetry that are so simple it’s easy to forget how compelling they can be. This is the loop poem and, in my humble opinion, it’s a powerful way of introducing repetition.

Leather, lace and whips and chains
Chains me to the bed at night
Night time comes and so do you
You lick and suck and sometimes bite

In each stanza of a loop poem the last word of the first line becomes the first word of line two. The last word of line two becomes the first word of line three. The last word of line three becomes the first word of line four. This pattern is followed for each stanza.

You pull the bindings far too tight
Tight enough to make flesh red
Red marks are like your calling cards
Cards hand-delivered to my bed

The rhyme scheme for the above format is xaxa, where x is an unrhymed line of poetry, although a rhyme scheme is not a necessity for this type of poem.

As always, I look forward to seeing your loop poems in the comments box below. And, finally, I’d like to extend season’s greetings to all the regular readers of this column. I genuinely hope the new year brings you all those things that you personally desire.

By Ashley Lister

I’d never say anything graphic
And I don’t want to be pornographic
But does your bum only do one way traffic?

As I’ve mentioned before, poetic triplets excite me. The idea of putting three rhymed lines of poetry together always strikes me as innovative. Couplets are good for a rhyme scheme. They provide a solid structure. But, to my mind, triplets increase the speed and allow for a bigger build to the conclusion of a stanza.

See I’d love to get into your drawers
And I’m sharing this honestly because
I like entering through exit doors.

Technically, I know, ‘drawers’, ‘because’ and ‘doors’ don’t rhyme. There are subtle variations in the vowel sounds and, although I can perform this one and make ‘drawers’ and ‘because’ sound like exact rhymes, this is only because I force the pronunciation.

I’m not so vulgar that I’ll mention pooh
I’m a gentleman, as I’m sure you knew
So, please let me push a stool in for you.

Your reputation will not be besmudged
Cos I’m sure you’re not going to begrudge
Me – the chance, to help you pack some fudge.

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

Ashley Lister

By Ashley Lister

Lucky Number

You count
Each brisk slap
Upon your bare ass
Groaning when you get to seven

The Fibonacci poem is an experimental Western poetry form, having similarities to haiku, but based on the Fibonacci sequence.

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21…

A typical Fibonacci poem is six lines in length, although it can be longer.

As I’ve said before, these short, simple forms are an excellent warm-up routine for writers because it works on so many levels. Not only is it a fun activity for the start of the writing day, it’s also a way to prompt different parts of our brains to consider the words we will use. Ordinarily, we don’t limit the lines of what we write to specific syllable counts. This approach can help us consider words in a way that differs from what we consider the norm.

Your Smile

tied and spread.
Ball-gag: secure.
And yet I still see your broad smile.

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

 by Ashley Lister 

Dark, dangerous
succumbing, submitting, surrendering
We want this badly


We’ve looked at the traditional cinquain in the past, but I don’t recall us looking at the modern cinquain. Whilst the traditional cinquain is based on a strict syllable count, the modern cinquain is based on particular types of words, as illustrated below.


line 1 – one word (noun) a title or name of the subject
line 2 – two words (adjectives) describing the title
line 3 – three words (verbs) describing an action related to the title
line 4 – four words describing a feeling about the title, a complete sentence
line 5 – one word referring back to the title of the poem


long, slender
testing, touching, teasing,
delving deeper and deeper

Remember – you’re not counting syllables with this form: only words. As always, I look forward to reading your poems in the comments below.




 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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