Let’s say you’ve been bitten by the Writing Bug and you want to be the next J. K. Rowling or Stephen King. You bought a writing program, took a couple of classes – or even majored in English or Creative Writing – and you’ve attended a writer’s conference or two. Or three. Those things can be addictive. You’ve joined a writers group. Your mom loves your stories although she wishes they were less violent or didn’t have so much smut in them. So now you are ready to take the literary world by storm. You are on a high like you’ve never experienced before.
I’m about to burst your bubble. Are you ready for the facts about your chosen career?
Rather than take the literary world by storm, you’re more likely to run into a very unpleasant drought. Here are five realities of being a writer.
- Book publishing is about sales, not about how great a writer you are. Getting a publisher or agent won’t guarantee you a best seller.
I read a depressing article about actress Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark on the hit HBO series Game Of Thrones. She was auditioning for a new role and it was between her and a woman she described as a much better actress. Turner got the part, not because she was a better fit for the role but because she had a much stronger social media presence. She has thousands of followers on Twitter whereas this unknown woman couldn’t match that. Turner’s fame could help bring in an audience – and that translates to sales and big box office. So although she was not the better actress – and the other woman likely would have been a much better fit – the studio went with Turner because she had pull.
You may be the most talented writer in the world, but if you don’t have a following, it will be harder for you to make your way in the writing world than it is for George R. R. Martin to not kill his characters. Agents and especially big publishers are reluctant today to take on unknown talent. They are in the business of making money and they don’t like to take risks. That’s why you see so many Harry Potter knock offs. That’s why 50 Shades of Grey became so famous. Yes, that should piss you off. The writing in 50 Shades is atrocious, but E. L. James had a built-in following when she wrote her Twilight fanfic Master of the Universe. That alone made an agent’s job easier. In order to make it big-time as a writer you already need to have made the big-time as a writer. It’s the ultimate Catch-22. An agent and big publisher will help such a writer make bigger time. That said, there is no guarantee landing an agent will result in a best seller. The average U.S. book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime.
- You need a good editor and a good cover artist.
There is an old saying that goes, “you can’t judge a book by its cover.”
Whoever said that has never published a book. The cover matters. The cover is the first thing a potential reader sees when looking for a new book to read. If it looks like a 3 year old pasted clip art all over your dust jacket, that will sink your book. If you are not a master of Photoshop, it is vital you pay an expert to create a kick-ass cover for your book. No, you are not an exception. Put up the cash for a good book cover artist. Look at the covers that person has designed. Choose someone who has won awards. Know your book inside-out so you know what to stress to the artist when creating your book cover. Look at book covers in your chosen genre to see what they may have in common. Common styles, common themes. You don’t want heaving bosoms or oiled male bodies on a horror novel cover. You don’t want blood and guts on a romance novel cover. Know your readers, and give them what they want. Catch your reader’s attention and make him or her grab your book. That’s what the cover does. It catches the reader’s attention and leads to a sale. Make that cover count.
One big mistake many self-published writers make is that they do not hire an editor to edit their works. They think since they aced English 101 they don’t need to spend roughly one hundred (or more) dollars for a professional editor. Take my word for it – you do. One of the biggest gripes readers have outside ugly covers is poorly edited books. If your book is full of misspellings and grammatical errors, you won’t sell another book. Pony up the cash for a good editor. Get referrals from writer friends online or talk to people in a local writers group for recommendations. A good editor will save your life and that person will come in handy for future books. Look into asking writer friends to be a beta reader for your book. Beta readers are not substitutes for good editors, but it’s a great idea to have a second or third pair of eyes look at your work. Do an exchange – you’ll beta read a book for them if they beta read yours. The key is to get outside opinions to improve your book. After a long period of time you could write entire passages in Greek and you wouldn’t notice since you’re too close to your own book. Get an editor. It’s an investment in your future.
- Promotions don’t guarantee sales. In fact, most of your promo work is for naught. Sell your persona, not your book.
Face it. You must engage your audience to promote your books. That sentence probably scared the piss out of you because if you are like many writers you are a social klutz. Writers are often insecure, awkward and anti-social – and that’s on a good day. You must carry on conversations with potential readers on social media like Facebook and Twitter. And by “engage your audience” I do not mean spam everyone within earshot with book promo. That is a huge way to turn off people. No one will buy your books if you dup book spam in their mail boxes. Instead, talk to them like they are right there in the room with you. Treat them like people and not potential sales. Give people something worth seeing and reading. Keep in mind that due to Facebook’s algorithm, you are really reaching about only 1 or 2% of the people on your friend’s list. Make your posts clever and worthwhile so people will talk to you.
- Your friends and family may not support your endeavors and when they do they may expect free books from you.
Your Catholic family may take umbrage to you writing erotic dinosaur porn. Don’t look for praise and acceptance there. Look to other writers who write erotic dinosaur porn. Even if you write something as innocuous as romance, there will be critics and those critics may be your friends and family. They may expect you to give it up and get a “real” job. They may treat your writing work as a hobby and not take you seriously. Let them. Find others in writers groups and online in places like Facebook and Twitter who support your chosen field. Do you write fantasy? Find other fantasy writers and make connections. The same applies to all other genres. If you do have support from your friends and family, more power to you and consider yourself fortunate.
On the other hand, when you do get support, some friends and relatives may expect you to give your books to them for free. Don’t do it no matter how much pressure you feel. They are not entitled to a freebie just because you share the cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving every year. A truly supportive friend or family member will buy your book from you. Now, if you want to give your book away for free, be my guest. I’m talking about those who expect a freebie from you and have a hissy fit if you refuse. Don’t feel guilty for wanting to make money from your books. Grandma likely can afford a couple of bucks for a paperback or Kindle version. Just don’t tell her about the dino porn.
- You probably won’t make much money.
Chances are, you won’t make millions. You may have already accepted that realistic scenario but also realize you likely won’t make enough money in quarterly royalties to buy gas for your beat up old Honda. Most publishers, especially indie publishers, do not offer an advance against royalties. For the most part, you are on your own. According to an article at Publishing Perspectives, “a survey [of over 9,000 writers in the 2014 Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey] revealed that 54% of “traditionally-published” authors (and nearly 80% of self-published authors) earn less than $1,000 a year.” Let that sink in.
Now that I have thoroughly depressed you, here is some good news.
While according to that survey most traditionally-published writers barely break even, nearly half are able to earn enough money to satisfy themselves and even live off their earnings. Self-publishing is a much harder route to take, but a 20% success rate is rather high considering the hurdles you must pass in order to publish your own books.
If your family and friends don’t support you, find people who do. Join a local writers group. Not only will you gain much needed valuable support and criticism, you will make new friends. Turn yourself into a social butterfly on Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Engage your audience. Post items designed to get a response such as asking people what they are reading at the moment or ask what books influenced them the most when they were children. Ask their opinions of current movies, TV, and music. Are you a fan of Game Of Thrones or Preacher? Let everyone know and find other fans. Just don’t bring up spoilers without warning (don’t do it at all) or you will make enemies. Talk about stuff other than your books. Nothing turns off potential readers more than a Facebook page full of nothing but book promo. Screaming “Buy My Book!” guarantees no one will touch it.
While many of your books may bomb, you may be surprised to find one or two you didn’t expected to be a hit take off. Take full advantage of that. Write another book in the same genre (or write a series) and get the new book out there as soon as possible. Then, offer the hit book for a sale price temporarily as a promotion for the new book. You’ll draw in new readers that way. Try to write one or two books per year if you can. The more works you have out there, the more you’ll be in the minds of readers and authors alike.
Create a newsletter and send it out no more than once per month. Get to the point in it and keep it brief. Readers like updates from their favorite writers.
While you will likely not be the next George R. R. Martin, there are ways to be happy as a writer. Relish the positive reviews and fan letters. Don’t respond to negative comments or reviews. That’s unprofessional. Don’t let rejections get you down. Everyone gets them. Even J. K. Rowling was rejected numerous times before her Harry Potter series found a home. Have a realistic view of the writing world and you won’t let yourself down.
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 m/m erotic medical thriller Roughing It is out! This book is a sexy cross between The X Files, The Andromeda Strain, and Outbreak. This book is 30% off at JMS Books until June 30. Get your copy now! Read her short erotic story Babes in Begging For It, published by Cleis Press. You will also find her novel No Restraint at Amazon. Enjoy a good, sexy read today.
What inspires me when I write? I get my ideas from my personal life, the news, and my imagination. Positive feedback also inspires me. Nobilis Erotica recently accepted one of my short stories for a podcast. Thumbling will be available in audio format sometime in the near future. This story is my erotic retelling of the fairy tale Thumbling, which you may know as Thumbelina. The original involved a guy and not a woman. It’s a very sexy story that illustrates how versatile one can be as a lover when as small as can be. Thumbling can get into places no mere man can get into and what he does while in there will want you to take a cold shower after listening. Two other stories are under consideration for publication and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I’m also going to self-publish these erotic fairy tales plus several others in an collection.
My short fantasy story The Care And Feeding Of Your New Pet Dragon will soon appear in the FARK charity anthology, Through A Scanner Farkly. FARK is a news aggregator that specializes in weird news, current events, and sarcastic humor.
Seeing acceptances, especially two within such a short period of time, inspire me. I’m sure I’m not the only writer who craves good news regarding her writing. When I am in the midst of a dry spell – no good reviews, lackluster sales, rejections – I can easily get into such a funk I don’t want to write. When that happens I take time away from the computer to take care of myself. I garden, go to the beach, watch TV and movies, and ride with my husband around town just to cruise.
Events in my life inspire me. Something happened recently to my Dad and sister that is inspiring a short horror story. My sister was helping my dad with his phone when she found 83 old messages that he never listened to. He didn’t know they were there. These messages date back several years. So, they had to go through each one and delete them individually. One of the ones was my mother telling my father to turn on the TV and watch a channel she liked to watch. It freaked him out, since my mother has been dead for two years. He went to turn on the TV when my sister told him it’s a very old message. It’s not my mother calling from the grave. That message was at least 2 years old. He calmed down and erased it. The next message was from his sister (my aunt) who died several months ago. More creepiness. The messages are now off the phone and it’s in proper working order. There is definitely a weird story in this business somewhere.
Conventions also inspire me, although I haven’t been to any in a very long time. That is about to change. NECON is in a few weeks. That’s a New England writers convention. This is my first NECON and I’m looking forward to it. Many of my friends in the horror community will be there, so it’s not like I’m diving into unknown waters. Some of the talks sound interesting. Here are a few examples:
- Kaffeeklatsch: How to Avoid Shooting Yourself in the Foot: Self-Publishing Pitfalls and Tips
- Not Dead Yet: The State of Publishing Today
- Edge of Your Seat: Pacing and Plotting the Thriller
I plan to schmooze with the guests (including the Guests of Honor) and I’ll ask some of them to be a guest on my podcast, Into The Abyss With Elizabeth Black. That’s how I get my best guests – I ask them. There’s nothing magical about it. I just ask. Most of them say “yes”. Some of my guests have been very high caliber, such as Joe R. Lansdale (mojo storyteller and author of the Hap and Leonard series that appears on Sundance), Daniel Knauf (writer and producer of the TV shows Carnivale and The Blacklist), and Walt Bost (supervising sound editor for the TV show iZombie).
Finally, as anyone who knows me is aware, the ocean inspires me. I head there every day and walk about 2 miles. It’s not only exercise (which doesn’t feel like exercise), it clears my head so I may brainstorm about my writing. I’ve worked out plot holes while walking on the beach. I’ve thought out brand new stories while walking on the beach. I go to the beach with my husband and we talk, play in the very cold water (I live in northeastern Massachusetts. The water up here ain’t bathwater.), and crush empty crab shells with my feet. The last one is an obsession. I love to go for long walks on the beach, which sounds like a romance cliché but it’s true.
Everyone is different. What will inspire you will not inspire someone else. Find what inspires you and keeps you going. Writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Live life and stay inspired. Keep at it and best wishes to you.
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 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.
Opening a novel or short story can be a bitch. Elmore Leonard, author of Get Shorty and other novels, had advised writers to avoid prologues and to refrain from opening a story talking about the weather. Marc Laidlaw, an author who also helped develop the game Half Life, once tweeted the following advice about opening paragraphs of fiction works: The first line of almost any story can be improved by making sure the second line is, “And then the murders began.”
Normally, a writer would not begin a sentence with the word “and”. Laidlaw purposefully included that word because it “gives my use of the phrase an extra florid, self-important note that puffs it up just enough to be suitable for narrative frivolity.” My husband and I had argued about the title for my erotic romance novel Don’t Call Me Baby. He thought I should call it And Don’t Call Me Baby. I didn’t want to partly because that word dangled and irritated me and for the same reason Laidlaw laid out. It ended up not mattering since the book didn’t sell and it’s now out of print, so there’s that. I’d always done much better with my erotic fairy tales, and I’m working on a short story collection of them right now. One of my best-sellers, Climbing Her Tower (erotic Rapunzel), lends itself very well to this exercise.
Climbing Her Tower by Elizabeth Black
The warmth of the sun glowed on Rapunzel’s face as she stood before her window, awaiting Mother’s instructions. And then the murders began.
I also write horror. This exercise doesn’t work as well with that genre because it’s dark and bleak to begin with. However, when coupled with romance novels, the fun begins. Here are some examples of best-selling romance novels with that particular sentence added to them.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. And then the murders began.
Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught up by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. And then the murders began.
True Believer by Nicholas Sparks
Jeremy Marsh sat with the rest of the live studio audience, feeling unusually conspicuous. And then the murders began.
Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 1) by J. R. Ward
Darius looked around the club, taking in the teeming, half-naked bodies on the dance floor. And then the murders began.
50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James
I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. And then the murders began.
Bared To You (Crossfire Book 1) by Sylvia Day
“We should head to a bar and celebrate”. And then the murders began.
Gabriel’s Inferno by Sylvain Reynard
The poet stood next to the bridge and watched as the young woman approached. And then the murders began.
You may see the point behind this exercise by now. Many writers, in particular fledging ones, have difficulties with exposition and telling instead of showing when beginning their stories. They ramble about the weather or describing backgrounds or pontificating about a character’s history or inner thoughts without providing a hook for the reader. Without a hook, your reader won’t continue reading. She will get bored and toss your book aside like so much garbage. You need to grab the reader in the first paragraph – nay, in the first sentence. That’s why agents and publishers often ask for the first chapter or first five pages of your manuscript when you submit to them. They want to see your hook. If you don’t have one or if it is weak, that is one reason you likely won’t get that joyous letter offering representation or a publishing contract. You need action and vibrancy to pique someone’s attention.
Sometimes, a writer’s story doesn’t really begin until the third or fourth page. If that’s the case with your story, delete the first few pages and begin your story where the action begins. Not only must you engage the reader from the onset, you must keep that reader engaged throughout every chapter of your book. Books are like fractals. There should be a hook at the beginning and end of each chapter as well as at the beginning of the book. The beginning hook holds the reader’s attention and the end-of-chapter hook encourages that eager reader to continue reading into the next chapter. Clayton Purdom described Laidlaw’s exercise in his article for A. V. Club when he wrote “the sudden introduction of murder provides a contrast with tone-setting exposition or an unexpected development to its more direct action.”
“And then the murders began” is a funny and effective way to get the point across. Watch your reader jump out of her seat with excitement over your works. Don’t let her sigh and become bored with exposition. That way, you’ll both attract and hold readers.
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.
For The Love Of God, Montresor!
Literary and Media Figures and Their Favorite
Since ’tis the
season for festivities, I though it would be fun to not only write about famous
literary and media characters and their favorite drinks, but to include
recipes! During this holiday season, feel free to be like Phryne Fisher or
Ebenezer Scrooge and toss back one of their favorite cocktails. I found some of these cocktails at The Cocktail Chart of Film & Literature at Pop Chart Lab.
These first three
aren’t meant to be taken seriously, but they’re so amusing I had to include
them. I’m not encouraging you to throw cigarette ash or downers into your drinks,
but if you insist on doing that, at least be creative.
Moe Szyslak – The Simpsons
The Flaming Moe
Drops of various
non-narcotic cough syrup
Charlie Chaplin – The Adventurer
cocktails in the bar poured into one glass.
Alex – A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
Alex and his cronies
downed this drink before engaging in some wholesome, clean ultraviolence where
they’d beat up strangers, rob stores, and the like. It’s nothing more than milk
barbiturates – Vellocet, Synthemese, and Drencrom
The following are
classics. I enjoy drinking Amontillado since I am a huge Poe fan. I could drink
this stuff and argue with writers as to who is better – Poe or Lovecraft? That
always ends up being a very heated discussion. When I went to the Stanley Hotel
Writers Retreat in October, 2015, I passed on drinking bourbon on the rocks
despite that being Jack Torrance’s favorite drink since I detest bourbon. That
said, I can’t let this article continue without mentioning those fine
Montresor and Fortunato – The Cask Of
Amontillado – Edgar Allan Poe
Jack Torrance – The Shining – Stephen King
Bourbon on the rocks
Harry Potter – Butterbeer – J. K. Rowling
generally thought of as non-alcoholic but there are boozy varieties of the
drink. There is even a Starbuck’s version. I’m here to give you both.
From Food52, the alcoholic version
includes ½ stick of unsalted butter, light and dark brown sugar, freshly grated
ginger, dark rum, ginger beer, and other ingredients. Go to the link for the
full recipe including ingredients and instructions on how to make it.
Here’s one of the many
versions of a grande butterbeer
for Starbuck’s. Just save this blog post page on your iPhone and show it to
the barista who will make the drink for you. Please don’t do this when it’s
very busy because you may annoy the staff with a special order.
for a Creme Frappuccino base. Don’t skimp on the fat by asking for skim or 2%
milk as whole milk is required for the right consistency.
pumps of caramel syrup.
pumps of toffee nut syrup.
with caramel drizzle.
Phryne Fisher – Miss Fisher’s Murder
Mysteries – Kerry Greenwood
I have enjoyed Benedictine
for many years, but I was sold when I discovered Phryne Fisher likes the
liqueur. My husband’s late father used to declare it on his taxes as medicine
and he got away with it. Maybe it’s because he lived in Europe. Ha! Kerry
Greenwood, who created Miss Fisher, talked about Phryne introducing herself in
the forward to her books.
from Kerry Greenwood, about Phryne Fisher for the books Cocaine Blues,
Flying Too High, and Murder On The Ballerat Train.
Thank you for buying this book. I have a wizard and three
cats to feed. Picture the scene. There I am, in 1988, thirty years old and
never been published, clutching a contract in a hot sweaty hand. I have been
trying for four long and frustrating years to attract a publisher and now a
divinity has offered me a two book conract about a detective in 1928. I am
reading the ads as the tram clacks down Brunswick Street. They are not
inspiring posters. I am beginning to panic. This is what I have striven for my
whole life. Am I now going to develop writer’s block? When I never have before?
Then she got onto the tram and sat near me. A lady with a
Lulu bob, feather earrings, a black cloth coat with an Astrakan collar and a
black cloche jammed down over her exquisite eyebrows. She wore delicate shoes
of sable glacé kid with a Louis heel. She moved with a fine louche grace, as
though she knew that the whole tram was staring at her and she both did not
mind and accepted their adulation as something she merited. She leaned towards
me. I smelt rice powder and Jicky. ‘Why not write about me?’ she breathed. And,
in a scent of Benedictine, she vanished. That was the Honourable Phryne Fisher.
I am delighted to be able to introduce you to her.
Ebenezer Scrooge – A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
I can’t let a
holiday article about cocktails go by without mentioning Mr. Scrooge. This
drink is served warm and it’s perfect for curling up in front of a roaring fire
and listening to Victorian Christmas carols with someone you love.
¼ cup sugar
1 bottle red wine
Juice from several oranges
1 bottle port
Prick oranges with
Let sit for 24 hours
Edgar Allan Poe – Eggnog
I must mention Poe
one more time, since he liked a classic holiday drink. Poe loved eggnog. He
even used in in his classic tale The Pit
And The Pendulum. Poe’s West Point roommate recalled he also couldn’t be
found far from a bottle of Benny Haven’s best brandy. Benny Haven was Poe’s
favorite place to go to drink. The jury is still out as to whether or not he was
an alcoholic. Stories regarding the cause of his death range from rabies to
being beaten to death after refusing to be used in vote rigging. The eggnog was
a family recipe.
cups whole milk, divided
cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cups brandy
the egg yolks and sugar in a medium boll and whisk until thick and pale. Set
aside. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside. Warm 3 parts milk over
low heat. Whisk 1 cup of warm milk into the yolk mixture. Add this back to the
milk in the pan. Stir over low heat until combined and thickened. Remove from
heat and stir in the cream quickly. Place the saucepan in the ice water. Stir
until chilled then add the brandy, rum, and remaining milk. Pour eggnog into
glasses. Whip the egg whites into stiff peaks in a bowl and spoon over the
eggnog. Top with nutmeg. Merry Christmas!
Topper – Pink Lady
When I first watched
the movie Topper, I became very
interested in Pink Ladies since Marion Kerby swore by them. I have yet to try
one, but maybe this season I’ll give one a try.
1½ -2 oz. Gin
1 Egg White
1 teaspoon Grenadine
1 teaspoon Double
Fresh Strawberry for
ingredients with ice, shake vigorously. Strain into a glass. Garnish with ½
strawberry on a cocktail stick.
2 oz. Gin
¾ oz. Each of
Cointreau and Lemon juice
1 Egg White (if
[Omit the grenadine
ingredients with ice, shake vigorously. Strain into a glass. Garnish with ½
strawberry on a cocktail stick.
Carrie Bradshaw – Sex and the City – Candace
I am not a fan of Sex and the City for reasons I won’t go
into here, but I must give Carrie Bradshaw kudos for popularizing the Cosmo.
4 parts vodka
1 part Cointreau
2 parts lime juice
3 parts cranberry
Shake and serve on
John Steed and Mrs. Emma Peel – The Avengers
The reason my
favorite drink is champagne is due to it being the preferred beverage of Steed
and Mrs. Peel. It’s nearly all I drink aside of red wine, Benedictine, Campari,
and Amontillado. Those two drank it all the time, even when they were painting
Mrs. Peel’s flat. I recall they preferred Chateau Mouton Rothchild, but that’s
a bit out of my price range. I also like brut champagne. The drier the better.
FYI – Oscar Wilde
also preferred to drink iced champagne. At the time of his death, he was
drinking a combination of opium, chloral and champagne. He did say, “And
now I am dying beyond my means.”
And now for the
hard-boiled characters. You don’t get much more hard-boiled than Raymond
Chandler. Chandler was as much of a double-fisted drinker as were his
creations. An alcoholic, he suffered blackouts and threatened suicide. He lost
a job due to drink and began writing at 44. When his wife died, he dived
further into the bottle. His alcoholism haunts his stories. He favored the gin
gimlet just like his character Philip Marlowe. Still, if you want to drink like
the heavies, go for it.
Vivian Sternwood Rutledge – The Big Sleep –
2 to 3 ounces
scotch, bourbon, or brandy
½ cup crushed ice
lemon twist over
edge of glass
Philip Marlow – The Long Goodbye – Raymond
½ Rose’s lime juice
And now for the disasters
amongst us. The Great Gatsby included drinking and excessive living. It was
mainly about the downfall of the American Dream in the 1920s. Fitzgerald
favored gin because he believed people couldn’t smell it on his breath. He ad
his wife Zelda were heavy gin drinkers. Another alcoholic writer, cocktails
figured prominently in his fiction. He preferred the gin rickey, just like his
character Jay Gatsby did.
Daisy Buchanan – The Great Gatsby – F. Scott
2.5 ounces bourbon
2 sugar cubes
4 or 5 mint leaves
Serve over ice
Jay Gatsby – The Great Gatsby – F. Scott
1 shot gin
½ shot fresh
squeezed lime juice
2.5 ounces bourbon
Here’s to the rise
and fall of rugged masculinity from Hemingway and Williams. Although Hemingway
was fond of drinking, he did not do so while writing. Also, his favorite drink
was not the mojito. He was diabetic and couldn’t tolerate the sugar so it’s
unlikely he drank mojitos. He did drink absinthe and double daiquiris without
sugar. His favorite drink was the dry martini.
Jake Barnes – The Sun Also Rises – Ernest
2 ounces applejack
1 ounce lemon or
dash of grenadine
suffered from severe anxiety and drank to ease the pain. He often spoke of his
love for downers saying that they enhanced and unblocked his creativity,
although his critics disagreed. Downers did him in in the end when he choked to
death on a bottle cap to his prescription barbies. Alcohol played an important
part in the lives of his characters as well, Brick Pollett being an excellent
Brick Pollett – Cat On A Hot Tin Roof – Tennessee Williams
2 tbsp bourbon
1 tbsp mild honey
2 tbsp fresh lemon
¼ cup boiling hot
Stir and serve warm
I can’t talk about
rugged masculinity without mentioning Bond. James Bond. While most people
associate Bond with a martini, shaken, not stirred, it wasn’t the only thing he
drank. He enjoyed an Americano in Casino
Royale. My husband and I are huge fans of Campari and vermouth. The
Americano is similar to a Negroni, but it uses Perrier instead of gin. We could
drink either one. To you, Mr. Bond!
James Bond – Casino Royale – Ian Fleming
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet red
You can’t go wrong
this holiday season with all these cocktails at your disposal to drink. Celebrate
Christmas and honor Phryne Fisher, Marion Kerby, and Scrooge with warmth and
nostalgia. Don’t forget to share with your friends. Happy Christmas to all, and
to all a good night!
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 Facebookpage, 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 and The Andromeda Strain. Buy it at Amazon!
You’ve seen those web articles about life hacks. Stuff like pouring iced tea into ice cube trays so your tea doesn’t dilute. Punching holes in the lid of an orange juice container so that it may function as a water pitcher for plants. When freezing raw meat, flatten it out in the plastic baggie as much as possible to cut down on thawing time. You get my drift. Have you ever wondered what kinds of life hacks for writers exist? Look no further! Here are a few I dreamed up.
1. Turn your phone off. Get off the Internet. That means no Facebook or Twitter. The point is, cut off contact with the outside world so you aren’t distracted. As the meme says, you should be writing.
2. Many writers like to drink while they write, whether it’s wine, cocktails, coffee or tea. Or something else. Coffee is elixir of the gods though, according to nearly every writer I’ve ever spoken to. Keeping the brew hot is a major concern. I use a travel mug that keeps my drinks cool or hot. If you don’t want to go that route, but you don’t want your coffee getting cold on you, invest in a Mr. Coffee Mug Warmer. I picked up this handy little hint at Positive Writer.
3. Make up your mixed drinks ahead of time. I like Negronis, so my husband and I bought bottles of Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth. We mixed equal parts of each and poured them into a container we keep in the fridge. This way, by making your cocktails ahead of time, you don’t waste writing time measuring, mixing, shaking and stirring and getting out of your groove. You pour your drink and BAM! Back to writing.
5. Invest in a water boiler. I use one by Zojirushi. You won’t have to wait for your water to boil when you’re making coffee or tea. It’s in the boiler, ready for you. You can even use the boiler to make ramen. My husband and I take ours with us when we travel for fun or for conventions and retreats. We can have hot drinks 24/7 in our room without having to wander down to the hotel lobby, thanks to the boiler.
6. Collect music compilations that match the mood of what you are writing. When I write those smoldering sex scenes, I like to listen to Enigma and Lords of Acid. Both are incredibly hot. When I write horror and dark fiction, I listen to the Internet radio station Drone Zone. It’s full of dark ambient and minimalistic electronic music.
7. If you need to get out of the house because you have a scorching case of cabin fever, go to a location that allows you to stay for a bit with your laptop but does not have wifi. That way, you won’t be tempted to spend too much time answering Buzzfeed quizzes when you should be writing. Make sure you bring cash with you so you don’t overspend your budget by using your debit card too much. Those coffee shops can be expensive. I also read about the cash idea at Positive Writer.
8. Get exercise balls for your feet so you don’t cramp or tire while seated for long periods of time. Another possibility is to get a standing desk. I read about them at Write On Sisters.
These are only a few suggestions for things to do to make your writing life easier and more enjoyable. Do you have any writing hacks? Feel free to tell me about them in comments.
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
two cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.
I’m breathing the crisp, thin air of Estes Park, Colorado
right now. I’m attending the Stanley Hotel Writer’s Retreat, my very first
writer’s retreat. This one is for horror, but since it’s my first retreat I
thought I’d report on it. I bought the short story package, and my two stories will be critiqued after the retreat.
The Stanley Hotel is the hotel Stephen King stayed in that
inspired him to write The Shining. He
stayed in room 217, which is supposedly haunted. We’re in room 319, which is
not haunted. I tried to book room 401, which is also haunted, but someone beat
me to it. The Concert Hall and the fourth floor are haunted as well. I went to
the fourth floor and took pictures, but no ghosts. Yet. Here is a shot of the
haunted fourth floor hallway. I fully expected to see two very creepy little
girls hanging out at the end of the hall. Redrum!
We drove from the northeast coast of Massachusetts (any more
east and you’re in the ocean) to Estes Park, Colorado. It took us four days to
get to Denver, where we stayed overnight and took advantage of pot tourism in
the state. We bought edibles since we don’t want to smoke – Cookies and Cream
Cake Bites and sublingual Energizing Tablets, both infused with marijuana. Recreational marijuana is no longer seeds and twigs in a plastic sandwich baggie. I had no idea it was so fancy! The
tablets were okay but those cake bites are amazing. Pure chocolate decadence and a very mellow high. I
discovered something very important – I cannot write when baked. LOL I drool
when baked, and that’s about it. We’re enjoying the mellow in our hotel room
when things are slow, which isn’t often. We also have Jacuzzi jets in the
bathtub, and I’m taking full advantage tonight after all the events for the day
We saw elk taking their good old time crossing the road on
the way to the hotel. I understand the elk own the roads out here, so who am I
to complain? LOL
The Opening Scaremonies (after all, this is a horror writer’s
retreat) consisted of our Guests Of Honor horror writers and editors you’ve likely
never heard of since you read and write erotic fiction and romance. In case you
have heard of them, they are Trent Zelazny, Jack Ketchum, Josh Malerman, Chris Morey, and
Daniel Knauf. One of next year’s Guests of Honor is Chuck Palahniuk. He wrote Fight Club. If we can swing it, we’re going. Our host is Dark Regions
Press editor RJ Cavender, and he did a bang-up job putting this behemoth
together. This year’s guests gave a very informative talk about the craft of
writing, editing, playwriting, Hollywood, and their works in general. In two
hours I’m going to a talk by a lake about dialogue and scene construction.
It’ll be given by Daniel Knauf. I do excel at writing dialogue, but I’m always
on the lookout to learn something new. UPDATE: I attended the highly informative lecture by Daniel Knauf, who is one of the writers of the hit TV series The Blacklist. I learned why I’ve been having difficulty working on two short horror stories lately. I don’t know my characters. I’ve done historical research, developed the location, and envisioned most of the plot. I’ve neglected my characters. I won’t be able to work on the story until I know them better. Next step – write character profiles for each character.
I highly recommend you attend as many
planned events as possible even if they cut into your writing time. You will
learn a great deal, and you’ll be in a position to mingle with other writers. You
might even meet someone you’ve admired for years. One of the purposes of a
writer’s retreat is to inspire you to write. This one is doing its job. Not only have I made some fine contacts, Jack Ketchum is interested in being my guest on my radio show The Women Show in early 2016. He’s one of the top horror writers out there. The Girl Next Door was sufficiently upsetting. Based on a true crime, too.
I’ve been asked by darker fiction publisher Rampant Loon
Press to write a new short story based on a small Massachusetts island town
I’ve created for one novel and several short stories. Rampant Loon published
one of those stories – The Oily – and
it has accepted a second one – Unrequited.
Both are horror. I’ve decided to go one better. I’m going to write two new stories. One set in a wooded
location in modern times, and another one set in the same location in
approximately 1830, not long after the Salem witch trials. Salem plays an
important part in my story since it’s not very far away from my island. I’ve already done all my research including
hiking in the five acre area of woods near my home which provided much
inspiration as well as a nasty twist to my right leg that is still healing.
This wooded area is an abandoned colonial settlement, and you can still see the
ruins. My two horror stories will be very desolate and creepy. I even read some
Stephen King for inspiration, speaking of the Stanley Hotel. I’m using my time
here at the retreat to inspire me to finish at least the modern day story. I need to concentrate on character development before I can begin to write the story, though. I learned that today during a lecture outdoors at a restaurant on a lake where we saw a bald eagle flying around. The eagle even dived into the lake to catch a fish. Knauf talked about getting to know your characters very intimately with important things like what are their dreams? What are they afraid of? Once I write down those notes I can begin writing the stories. There’s no deadline so I’m not in a rush.
There’s nothing like writing undisturbed by children, pets, television, Facebook, Twitter, strange foreign men on Facebook asking me if I’m married, email, the phone ringing, people banging at my door, the upstairs
neighbors screeching at each other, and the latest appliance to stop working in
my apartment. I’m free to be creative here, and I write when I want. I’ve also decided, with the help of discussing the matter with one of the guests, that I need to begin my agent search again. My family saga/thriller novel Secrets and Lies won’t be published in 2016 after all since the publisher is going out of business. I was told about a week ago, and I have my rights back. Lucky for me, the book was never published so I don’t have to worry about trying to sell a reprint. It was recommended to me to begin the agent hunt in earnest and don’t aim for the smaller presses since they can be so unreliable.
Aim high. Good advice.
It’s a long way from home, but
the beautiful Stanley Hotel was well worth the drive. The views of the Rockies
are gorgeous. Although I’m a beach girl at heart, I could see living here
because of the views. I’d have to get used to the altitude – just walking up
and down the stairs gets me winded – but otherwise this is a beautiful location
to write. If you have a chance to go to a writer’s retreat, I highly recommend
writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, and dark
fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and three
cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook
page, and her Amazon Author Page.
My last few ERWA
posts have been quite serious, so I wanted to keep things light this month.
Writers often talk about their muses, including writers whose works have
inspired them. I’ve long been inspired by Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, Joe
Lansdale, Edgar Allan Poe, Dorothy Parker, and Oscar Wilde. Writers also talk
about the support they get from their family and friends. Some have a mentor or
two. I’m fortunate enough to have a great deal of support from my husband and
my writer friends, especially on Facebook. I know that plenty of writers are
shunned by their parents, siblings, and spouses who especially don’t take
erotic fiction seriously. They want to support the writers in their midst, but
they wish they wrote “real” books. I can’t count the number of times
I’ve been looked down upon because I erotic fiction and romance. The genres get
a lot of grief they don’t deserve, especially when it comes to romance. Romance
is the most successful genre out there. It deserves more respect.
I consider pets to
be an unusual muse. Our pets are part of our families, and they give us
unconditional love. We feed them and give then a safe place to live and they
repay us by doting on us, curling into our laps, and displaying cute behavior
that turns us into puddles of delighted goo. Cats and writers seem to go
together like, well, cats and writers. Probably the most famous literary cat
lover is Ernest Hemingway, whose polydactyl cats are the stuff of legend. Edgar
Allan Poe had trained the family cat to sleep on his wife Virginia’s chest to
keep her warm since she suffered from tuberculosis. Mark Twain said “Some
people scorn a cat and think it not an essential; but the Clemens tribe are not
Joyce Carol Oates
described the soothing calm she feels from her cat. “I
write so much because my cat sits on my lap. She purrs so I don’t want to get
up. She’s so much more calming than my husband.” Science fiction writer
Philip K. Dick wrote the following of his cat, Willis: “Willis, my tomcat, strides silently
over the pages of that book, being important as he is, with his long golden
twitching tail. Make them understand, he says to me, that animals are really
that important right now. He says this, and then eats up all the food we had
been warming for our baby. Some cats are far too pushy. The next thing he’ll
want to do is write SF novels. I hope he does. None of them will sell.”
Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, and William S. Burroughs were owned by cats. T. S. Elliot loved cats so much he wrote
poems about them that were turned into an award-winning, long-running
long been a cat lover, and their antics have inspired me so much I’ve included
some of my own in my fiction. Below is a picture of (from top to bottom)
Beowulf, Domino, and Scully. Domino is the matriarch. She was the first kitten
born to Oreo, whom I will talk about below. Yes, I have a cat named Scully. I
used to have a cat named Mulder but she died several years ago from kidney
failure. I like to tell people she was abducted by aliens.
My cats have
appeared in many of my stories. It’s my way of keeping them with me at all
times and making them immortal. Beowulf appeared in my short story The Party Crasher, which was published
by Scarlet Magazine in the U. K. It was one of my first published stories. One
of Beowulf’s nicknames was Mr. Fuzzyboy. Sadly, he died suddenly in January,
2015. I still miss him. This is Beowulf, showing off.
Here is the scene in
The Party Crasher when Beowulf made
his appearance. It’s Olivia’s birthday, and a man she’d been seeing (Fred) who
does not awaken her passions invited a medium to her surprise birthday party.
Madame Persephone quickly homes in on Jeremy, a friend of Olivia’s Olivia lusts
after. The resulting séance becomes quite comical.
The Party Crasher – Excerpt
Madame Persephone laced her thick
fingers together and looked around the room. She pointed to three guests,
including Fred, and asked them to take a seat at the table. She then asked
Olivia to take the seat next to her. That left one seat open.
She sniffed the air again. She
held out her hands, and her fingers danced on the air. She turned slowly, and
faced the kitchen.
“You, young man,” She
pointed to Jeremy. “I need you here. I have a strong feeling about you,
that you are especially sensitive.”
So Jeremy is “especially
sensitive” and Olivia is as thick as a rock. That made her feel just
wonderful. She doubted anything would happen during this silly séance, but she
couldn’t tell Fred to make the woman leave. Besides, the silliness could be
fun. At least the argument over Sir Paul’s divorce had finally subsided. Olivia
was afraid she was going to have to break it up, it got so heated.
“Sir –” Madame
Persephone pointed to Jeremy. “Please sit next to Olivia.” Fred
looked put out that he was not seated next to Olivia. He was between two of her
coworkers who were unable to stifle their giggling.
Madame Persephone lit the white
candles. She picked up the white sage incense, lit it, blew it out, and waved
the smoke around the table. She muttered some kind of prayer under her breath.
“We are ready,” she
said. “Someone please turn out the lights.”
One of the guests obliged. Olivia
let her eyes adjust to the dim light. Candlelight flickered on the table,
walls, and ceiling. Someone snickered in the quiet.
“All of us must be silent. I
will try to contact the spirits I sense lurking in this house. Everyone around
the table, please hold hands. Don’t break contact during the séance. That’s
very dangerous. You may trap a spirit here who doesn’t want to be here. I can’t
stress that enough.” Madame Persephone said. “Is everyone
Olivia saw heads nod around the
table. A ripple flowed up her spine. She was a little excited about this
silliness after all. While she didn’t believe for a second that Madame
Persephone would contact any spirits, deep down she had hoped she would.
“I call to you, oh restless
spirits that may occupy this house. Speak to us,” Madame Persephone said.
She trembled, and lowered her head to her chest. She moaned. It was quite a
good show. The woman knew her stuff.
Madame Persephone’s eyes bugged open. “Oh, now, Mr. Fuzzyboy, you behave
yourself.” She looked at Olivia. “My apologies. That was my spirit
guide, Mr. Fuzzyboy, making an ass of himself. He likes to show up at my
séances just to get noisy. He demands a lot of attention, and wants to talk
through me. He probably wants a treat.” Olivia realized that Mr. Fuzzyboy
sounded a lot like Fred, who was just as demanding and wanted treats for his
performances as well.
Madame Persephone closed her
eyes, and continued speaking. “Mr. Fuzzyboy, now is not the time. We can
play later.” She giggled. “Yes, I’ll get your catnip toy when I get
She rocked back and forth in her
chair, and hummed in a low voice. Glenda, one of Olivia’s coworkers, giggled.
Olivia heard someone kick Glenda under the table.
Madame Persephone bolted upright
in her chair, and stared at Olivia.
“My dear, there is someone
here who wants to speak to you.”
Olivia stared back. “Me?
“It’s a man – definitely a
man, but he won’t tell me his name. He’s asking… what, sir?” She jerked in
her seat as if offended. “I most certainly will not ask her that, sir, not in mixed company.”
What on earth could this be about, Olivia wondered.
“How rude! Seriously, sir,
do you take me for a fool?”
“What does he want to ask
me?” Olivia asked.
“I can’t repeat what he
said. It’s… crude.”
“This sounds like fun,”
Jeremy said. Olivia pinched his hand.
“Say it anyway. I’m
curious.” Olivia insisted.
Madame Persephone squirmed in her
seat. “He wants to know if he can stick his finger in your bellybutton and
Olivia could do nothing but sit
there with her mouth hanging open. A flush rose from her chest and warmed her
face. She thanked God that in the candlelight, no one could see her blushing.
“You are ticklish in your
belly button, Olivia.”
“Shut up, Fred.” Olivia
said. To Madame Persephone, she said: “Please tell him I said ‘no.'”
“That’s what I thought you’d
say.” Madame Persephone was silent for a few seconds. “Sir, if she
won’t let you stick your finger in her belly button, I seriously doubt she
would let you do that.”
I don’t want to know, thought Olivia. Her heart jumped in her chest. She glanced
at Jeremy, who fought off laughter by biting his lower lip. Olivia felt
Who the heck is that woman talking to?
Below is a picture of Lucky, our tuxedo cat. He’s about 12 years
old now and still acts like a kitten. He’s the most personable cat I’ve ever
met. He made a brief appearance in my short story The Wandering Cat.
Below is an excerpt
from my short erotic story The Wandering
Cat, which was originally published by eXcessica. It’s out of print now.
Oreo the cat is based on my late cat also named Oreo, who had a penchant for
clawing her way out of the house. She loved to wander around Rockport,
Massachusetts, where I live. She looked like Sylvester from the Loony Tunes cartoons.
The picture is of Oreo with her tongue sticking out, as it often did. I swear
that cat’s tongue was too big for her head. As you can see, Beowulf made an
appearance in this story, too. He got around. So did Lucky, who is also in the
The Wandering Cat – Excerpt
“Oreo! It’s chow time!”
Cat refilled the cat food bowl and the water
bowl. Beowulf and Lucky ran to see their new chow, but Oreo was nowhere to be
seen. That was unlike her.
Worried, Cat turned the house upside down.
She looked behind the bed, in the closets, and under the couch. No cat. There
was only one other place where Oreo could be, and that was sitting on her
The large Gothic window was open. No cat sat
on the plush window bench. Cat took a closer look at the window, and saw that
the screen had been clawed. There was a hole in the screen big enough for a cat
to climb through.
Great. Oreo got out again.
Cat put on her sandals and walked outside.
She saw cat paw prints in the damp earth, and followed them through her back
yard. They ended at the fence marking Lance Hendry’s back yard.
Her heart raced. Would Oreo give her an
excuse to say something to Lance other than “Hello, how’s the
weather?” She fantasized about his scrumptious body every night. What
would his arms feel like as they wrapped around her? She wished she could
summon up the courage to say more to him than a few quick words.
Oreo gave her that chance.
She walked into his back yard. Peter
Gabriel’s music played from somewhere inside, making Cat’s heart beat all the
faster. Not only was Lance home, he was another Peter Gabriel fan.
She knocked on the back door. Her fingers
sounded muffled against the hard wood. How could he hear her over the music?
After a minute of knocking on the door, she backed up.
A Gothic window was open on the second floor.
She hoped he was up there. She felt like the rebuttal to Rapunzel. The damsel
stood below the enchanted window, and wished her man would appear in it.
“Lance? Are you there?”
A head with rumpled hair and a broad set of
shoulders leaned out of the window. He wasn’t wearing a shirt. Cat took a good
look at his muscular chest and the black hair that covered it. She didn’t know
when she would get a gorgeous sight like that again.
“Hi. What’s up?”
“Have you seen my cat? Oreo? The little
black and white one?”
“The one that always gets out? No,
haven’t seen her.”
“Oh. Thanks.” She was too shy to
ask him any more questions. Muscle up
some courage, girl! Ask him how he’s doing. Something. Anything! Talk to him!
“Would you like some help looking for
“I’d love it!” Cat was so excited
over getting to spend some time with Lance that her knees knocked. What would
she say to him? For once in her life, she was speechless. Would she be able to
make enough small talk to keep him interested in her?
“Stay put. I’ll be down in a
He came outside wearing a button-down
short-sleeved shirt, shorts, and sandals. His shock of black hair looked as if
he hadn’t combed it in several days. That was the new fashion for young men
these days. Cat was ten years Lance’s senior, but she didn’t care. Maybe today
she’s win on two counts – they’d find her cat, and she’d gain a lover.
“What’s your name again?”
“It’s Cat. Short for Catherine.”
“Cat is looking for her cat?”
She laughed. “Yes, she sure is.”
“How long has Oreo been missing?”
“I don’t know. She didn’t come when I
refilled the food bowl, and she clawed through the screen window again. I’m
scared. I hope she’s okay.”
“I’m sure she is. She gets out often
enough. Have you looked around outside yet?”
“I’m just starting now. Want to come
with me?” Please say yes! Please say
“I’d love to. I’ve wanted to get to know
you better anyway.”
Cat’s stomach did The Happy Dance. She felt
light-headed and giddy. Lance wants to
get to know me better! All thanks to Oreo.
Below is an excerpt
from my upcoming family saga/thriller novel Secrets
and Lies, which will be published by Eldritch Press in 2016. Kate Stanwood
is my main character. Her cat Koala is based on a Snowshoe cat that owned me,
also named Koala. Snowshoes are a mix between Siamese and domestic shorthairs.
They have white paws called “boots”, hence the name. Koala was so smart he was
scary. My husband Bill (at the time we were dating) used to live next door to
me. Sometimes Koala would sometimes get himself locked out of the house at night.
So, he’d go over to Bill’s house. Bill often stayed up late. Koala would meow
loudly until Bill came outside, and the cat would then run to my front door and
meow to be let in. Bill would let him
in, and all would be well in the world. Koala used to do the exact same thing
to me that he is doing to Kate at stupid o’clock in the morning. The picture is
of Koala on the left and Oreo on the right. They were inseparable.
Secrets and Lies – Excerpt
Kate snapped awake. She always snapped awake
at the slightest sound. She was lying on her back. Koala stared at her from his
perch on the headboard, which was designed like a bookcase. She glared at him. He stared back and mewed.
not getting up just to top off your food bowl, she thought. Koala meowed at her again. He
looked at her with that “Get up and feed me now”
expression on his cherubic little Snowshoe face. He stood and stretched. He
looked at all the books stacked in a pile next to him. The stack teetered precariously over Kate’s
head. She knew what was coming.
She slowly reached for the water bottle
behind her on the bookcase. Koala froze, one paw touching the spine of a thick
hardback that was already threatening to tip over onto her face. She held the
bottle between forefinger and thumb in full view of the cat. He knew what was
coming, too. As if that would stop the little furball.
knock that book over on my head, cat, and you’re Vietnamese food in a few
hours. Koala tapped the book. Kate shook the bottle.
The cat’s eyes widened. He jumped off of the headboard and landed between Kate
and Ian, who slept through it all. He always slept through the nighttime
follies. The bed could fall through the floor and he’d sleep through it.
Koala used Ian’s shoulders as a springboard
and vaulted off of the bed. Ian said “Oof!” and rolled onto his back.
The snoring started almost immediately. Kate sighed and pushed him onto his
side. His snoring rivaled the foghorn at the end of the Cove.
She glanced at the clock: 4:51 a.m. She was
wide awake. She hated it when she woke up too early, which had always been a
bad habit of hers. Thank God she didn’t have to go to work, even though it was
a Tuesday. She could sleep through late morning once she became tired again.
She rolled out of bed and walked into the
upstairs kitchen. Koala followed her, mewing at her ankles, until she picked up
his food bowl, shook it, and placed it back onto the floor. That cat hated
eating anything that he knew had another cat’s spit on it, so she shook the
bowl until fresher contents reached the surface. Satisfied, he ate with gusto.
What a pain in the butt, but she’d never give him up for anything.
I don’t know what I
would do if I didn’t have my cats to keep me company and inspire me while I
write. They’re so important to me they’ve become a part of my fiction. Do you
have pets that inspire you to write? Do you cater to your dogs, or are you
owned by cats? Do you have unusual animals around you, like Flannery O’Connor
and her peacocks? I believe animals make some of the best muses, and they don’t
ask for anything in return but attention, food, and a place to sleep (often on
you). They are the ultimate givers of unconditional love. I wouldn’t part with
my cats for anything in the world, and I’ve immortalized them in my fiction.
By Donna George Storey
I’d planned to write my column on another topic this month, but I was overcome by the desire to write this one instead. I’ve also recently been overcome with inspiration to write a brand-new story, which is unusual because unless a story is for a specific call, I tend to let ideas steep for months or even years. This time the characters, the setting, the plot just popped into my head and insisted on immediate expression. It’s romantic when the Muse leads the dance, and fittingly this story is an erotic romance. An historical erotic romance. I don’t usually write in this genre, although I’ve veered close. Perhaps it’s high time? Historical romance was a favorite guilty pleasure as a teenager. In novels by writers like Anya Seton, the eroticism was never explicit, but my vivid imagining of what happened off the page no doubt planted the seeds of my erotica-writing future.
Every story needs obstacles, of course, and I’m discovering that the historical setting supplies a fresh abundance of them. The stakes are high if a woman even walks in public with a man. An impulsive kiss is a delightfully taboo act. Chaperones watch proper young people in love as intently as voyeurs at a peep show, so there’s plenty of drama in just finding time and place to be alone.
Still because it’s erotica, my characters find opportunities for sensual delight. That’s expected and I’m comfortable writing erotic scenes. Yet, just recently, I was both amused and bemused to discover something that truly made me blush as I wrote.
I blame my male protagonist for the example below. He told me he wanted to say the following words to try to convince the woman he loves to marry him. Go on, Donna, just write it down for me, he said.
“There’s a wall between us now, and that’s as it should be. But I want to do so many things I can’t do, simple things. Reach out and take your hand when someone’s watching. Brush my fingers through your hair when it’s down around your shoulders. Kiss your cheek, your ear, your neck, your lips. Wake up beside you. Eat breakfast together. But once we’re married, Elizabeth, the wall will disappear. When our wedding night comes and we start our life together, we can do all of those things and more. And what I want most of all is to make you happy. I promise I’ll do that in every way I know how.”
I’m pretty sure my heroine wants to hear this. To be honest, I wouldn’t mind hearing such sentiments from a future or even current husband. But as I wrote, a little voice whispered, “Oh, jeez, it’s such a female fantasy that a guy would actually say something sappy like this. They just don’t.” And I blushed. Partner-swapping, anal sex, Japanese fetish clubs—my cheeks stay cool and pale. But gooey, earnest declarations of love—oh, the obscenity!
Erotic romance is often—disdainfully–called women’s porn. I used to interpret that to mean that it arouses women, but is gentler, less explicit and safely couched in emotional connection. The way all things designated as feminine tend to be. This still might be true, but while I pondered my discomfiture, I came to appreciate there might be another reason for the comparison. Women might want a lover to get on bended knee and say s/he will dedicate his/her life to making them happy, but in real life it happens about as often as an attractive stranger of the desired sexual orientation is overcome by the urge to give a man a blowjob in a stalled elevator.
In other words, our porn gives us what we yearn for, but don’t get nearly enough of in real life. But we’re still kind of ashamed of what we want, because there are plenty of people out there who are happy to make fun of us for it. In my case, one of those people lives inside my own brain. (There seem to be a lot of people living there.) Coming of age in the midst of the Sexual Revolution, I got the message that having sex was always cool for a liberated woman. Falling in love was a far more private, scary and vulnerable thing to do. The legacy for me: baring the heart is scarier than baring mere skin.
Or maybe trying to express deep emotions is hard no matter what the genre or the sex of the author? It’s much easier to be clever and cool. I have to remember that back when I first started writing erotica, I would also occasionally blush when I wrote a scene that pushed me into new sexually explicit territory. For me, I almost feel as if I should let my characters share their intimate declarations of love off the page. It’s too private a matter for strangers to be watching on. But perhaps, with practice, emotionally explicit writing will get easier too?
I’ll let you know as the process unfolds!
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
As you know, lots of the other regular contributors to this blog pen some fabulous posts about the technicalities of writing, how to do it, how to improve, how to get inspired, and so on. A couple of recent examples being Three Workouts for Erotic Writers and Writing exercise – the canzonetta.
I don’t tend to write posts like that. I’m not one for the technicalities. Yes, I’ve got a degree in Creative Writing, I know how to write, I know how to spell and I know how to use an apostrophe (though I still occasionally wrestle with them). As long as I get to the end of a story, a novella or a full-length book and it’s correct and I’m happy with it, I don’t worry about anything else. That’s not because I don’t care. It’s because I’ve gotten to the stage where I have to trust myself, trust my ability to write. If I get bogged down in the technicalities, the many, many tiny elements that make up a piece of writing, I’m at risk of sinking into that bog and never finishing anything.
So I write what comes into my head, or from an outline I’ve sketched out, and I let the words flow naturally. Let my characters and the situation dictate what is said or done next. I put my backside in the chair, my fingers to the keyboard, and hope that what arrives on the screen isn’t a load of crap. And when it’s finished, I edit, tweak, polish and improve until it’s the best I can possibly make it. Then I hope like hell that someone will accept it.
So, what do you think? As long I’ve done my very best work, is it okay not to be worried about… everything?
Lucy Felthouse is a very busy woman! She writes erotica and
erotic romance in a variety of subgenres and pairings, and has over 100
publications to her name, with many more in the pipeline. These include several
editions of Best Bondage Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica 2013 and Best Erotic
Romance 2014. Another string to her bow is editing, and she has edited and
co-edited a number of anthologies, and also edits for a small publishing house.
She owns Erotica For All, and is book
editor for Cliterati. Find out more at http://www.lucyfelthouse.co.uk. Join
her on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to her
newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/gMQb9