Late Bloomers

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.


I got a
late start in the publishing world. I didn’t publish my first story until I was
47. That story was Happily Ever After,
which appeared in Scarlet Magazine in 2007. It was also my first erotic
retelling of a fairy tale. Suffice to say Cinderella had married her Handsome
Prince and all was not well in paradise. Her Prince preferred to torment the
peasants instead of spending time with her. Their love life was in shambles.
So, a Magical Sex Coach appeared to give her some tips in the lovemaking
department. This man was not her Fairy Godmother. That woman wouldn’t know what
to do with Cinderella’s problem if it came up and bit her on the ass.

I’m very
proud of that story.

I wonder if I waited too long to begin writing. After all, Billy Martin (known
professionally as horror writer Poppy Z. Brite) published his first novel to
critical acclaim when he was only 25. I’ve always been a late bloomer, but I
wondered there was too much moss on this stone.

It turns
out I’m not alone. There are many artists who didn’t get their start until
later in life. Here are a few examples.

Stewart found success at 41 when she published her successful book Entertaining. Seven years late at age
48, she launched Martha Stewart Living
and became synonymous with home décor.

designer Vera Wang started off as an accomplished figure skater. She didn’t
begin designing clothes until she was 40. I’m quite a bit like her in that I
started out in the theater as a stagehand. I worked as a union gaffer
(lighting), scenic artist and makeup artist (including F/X) when I was in my
30s. I didn’t have much interest in writing then. I was all about the movies
and television. I had wanted to be an actress until I discovered crew work 1)
was steadier, 2) paid better, 3) was less damaging to your self-esteem and 4)
had more respect than acting. I enjoyed my entertainment years and I don’t
regret the time I put into them at all.

my work in the entertainment industry, I was sidetracked into working as a
feminist activist. Primarily, I wrote political and feminist essays and opinion
pieces for publications like Sojourner, American Politics Journal, On The
Issues Magazine, the blog fo the National Organization for Women, and Alternet.
I was not often paid, but I found the work rewarding – for awhile. I was
writing but not fiction. Not yet. I gave up activism after several severe
disappointments in my chosen field that left me disillusioned with modern, mainstream
feminism. I still consider myself a feminist but I do not like what the
establishment and the mainstream large feminist groups have done to the
movement. I gave it all up cold turkey around 2007 – which was about the time Happily Ever After was published. At
that point, I switched from thankless activist work to working as a fiction
writer and a non-fiction sex writer. Both were more rewarding and more fun. I
also made money at it. That was an added, pleasant bonus.

Here are
some other late bloomers:

Tim and
Nina Zagat left their legal careers at age 42 to start their now famous
restaurant guides.

Sanders was an even later bloomer than I am. He had been fired from numerous
jobs and could be considered a failure career-wise. But… when he was 62, he
sold his first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise.

contemporary of Harland Sanders didn’t begin writing his first food and hotel
guides until he was 55. When he was at the golden age of 73, he licensed the
right to use his name to the company that developed cake mixes. You may have
heard of him. His name was Duncan Hines.

food-related news, Ray Kroc was past 50 when he bought his first McDonald’s
franchise. He expanded it to become the worldwide phenomenon it is today. Julia
Child published her first cookbook when she was 39. She made her television
debut in The French Chef when she was

Daniel Knauf, writer and co-executive producer for The Blacklist and creator of Carnivale, didn’t get his big break until he was in his mid-40s. I interviewed him for a podcast earlier this year. Here’s the link if you’d like to listen in. He’s a fun, fascinating guy who gave great information about the business of writing.


Charles Bukowski was 51 when he wrote his first novel, Post Office.

Darwin was the ripe old age of 50 when he published On The Origin Of The Species.

finally, for my list (there are many more), Samuel L. Jackson didn’t start his
motherfucking career until he was 46 years old when he starred in Pulp Fiction alongside John Travolta.

I’m going
to turn 57 in March. I know I’m not too old to make it as a writer. I’m not as
successful as I’d like to be, but I see now I have plenty of time. You don’t
have to be a child star like Mary Shelley who was 17 when she wrote Frankenstein or Bret Easton Ellis who
was 21 when he wrote Less Than Zero.
You can be a successful writer at any age.

Stories We Tell Ourselves

By Lisabet Sarai

Fantasy versus reality. This is a
recurring theme in our author discussions and blogs. As authors of
erotica, do we have a responsibility to paint a somewhat realistic
picture of the complexities of human desire? Or is our role to create
engaging fictional worlds and people them with characters who have
more and better sex than most of us actually experience? Should our
BDSM stories portray the actual practices of the kink community,
complete with negotiation and limits? Or should we allow ourselves to
descend into dark fantasies of acts that might be risky, even
physically impossible, because that’s what pushes our buttons?

I don’t intend to reopen this debate
right now. Even if you’re firmly in the “realism” camp, however,
I’m sure you’ll admit to consciously constructing your stories to
enhance their emotional impact. You introduce elements of suspense.
You gradually intensify conflict. Ultimately, you provide enough of
a resolution to give readers a sense of closure. This is, after all,
the job of the storyteller – to build a coherent whole out of an
assortment of people, actions and events, a tale that will linger in
the readers’ (or listeners’) minds and perhaps, change them.

We do this, often quite deliberately,
when we write fiction. But what about autobiography or memoir?

I’m currently reading, for a review, an
anthology of “true sex stories”. Each author has written about
some crucial erotic experience in her life, some encounter or
relationship that had particular significance. I’m perhaps halfway
through the book right now, and enjoying it quite a bit. The authors’
accounts are well-crafted, diverse, and frequently hot. However,
they’re more or less indistinguishable from the fictional erotic
tales that appear in so many collections from this same publisher.
There’s nothing about them that labels them as “true” or “real”.
They have been subjected to the storyteller’s craft, smoothed,
tailored, refined – turned into works of art.

Please understand, this is merely an
observation, not a criticism. As I contemplate the so-called true
stories in this book, though, I wonder whether the phrase is an
oxymoron, whether “story” and “truth” (in the sense of actual
experience) can ever coexist. “Story” by its very nature implies
an intervention to turn raw phenomena into narration.

Of course, many erotic authors –
myself included – mine their own histories as material for their
fiction. Much of my work is to a greater or lesser extent
autobiographical. A few tales (I won’t say which ones) are nearly
literal accounts. In every case, though, I’ve applied my
storyteller’s lens to the details of my real world erotic encounters
– bringing some aspects into sharper focus while blurring others.
Some alterations are intentional misdirections to protect the
so-called innocent, but most have to do with whipping the tales into
a more literary shape, transforming them from anecdotes to stories.

As I contemplated the phenomenon of
the“true” collection described above, however, I realized that I
do the same thing with supposedly accurate descriptions of my “real”
life. Between ERWA, Oh Get a Grip, my personal blog Beyond Romance,my publishers’ blogs, and my frequent guest posts, I produce quite a
lot of material about myself and my past. I know I’m writing for an
audience, and, without really meaning to, I adapt my life story to
fit my perceptions about what they’ll find intriguing. At this
point, it’s practically second nature to tweak a detail here, neaten
up an ending there, to heighten the effect.

I’m a bit disturbed to note that in
some cases, the stories I’ve told you are now the stories I remember.
I am not sure I recall what actually happened, only what I’ve told
you happened. In fact, some of my fictional tales, even the ones not
intended to be “true”, feel just as real.

As psychologist Daniel Kahneman points
out, direct experience is fleeting. Memory is an act of creation –
or re-creation – an effort to enforce some order on the fragmentary
impressions left by our senses. There’s no guarantee that our
recollections are accurate. Research has shown that memories can
be systematically manipulated by changing our foci of attention.


There are two ways to react to these
findings. We can panic, as the supposedly solid ground of remembered
experience turns to perilous quicksand. If we can’t be sure about our
own life histories, is there any certainty at all?

On the other hand, we can embrace our
storytelling genius, our genetic predisposition to rearrange and
restructure the world into some shape that makes sense, as a gift. We
all tell ourselves stories and create realities – whether we call
them fiction or not. That may be unsettling. But it’s also a kind of


By Lisabet Sarai

I have a
confession to make. I’ve never read any writing how-to book from
beginning to end. Years ago, I started Susie Bright’s How to Write
a Dirty Story
, but abandoned it about half way through, partly
because I found the author’s tone patronizing and partly because the
smell of ink from that very early POD volume was giving me a terrible
headache. The other classic writing texts that are supposed to be on
every author’s bookshelf – Stephen King and the rest – I’ve never
even opened. I don’t own a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style
or Strunk and White, either, though my paperback Roget’s
is definitely the
worse for wear.

After reading
Garce’s post this month, I began to feel rather creepy about my basic
disinterest in studying the nuts and bolts of the writing craft. I
recognized the validity of the concepts he explains so succinctly –
the narrative arc and the character arc, the “Coming to Death”
moment. The questions he articulates, the inquiries as to what the
character wants, where a story is going and how it should flower, are
the sort of things I think about when I’m critiquing someone else’s
work. When I’m writing my own stuff, though, nothing could be further
from my mind. Intellectual analysis has little to do with the
process. I write from instinct.

At this point
you’re probably snorting with disgust at my presumption. “She
thinks she’s got so much talent she doesn’t need to study the
masters,” you might be thinking. Or, “Right, she was born
knowing about characterization and conflict, suspense and catharsis.
A regular Mozart of the written word.”

Honestly, I don’t
think that at all. I do believe I’m moderately skilled at the craft
aspects of writing, but that’s not due to some fabulous genetic
endowment. Rather, it’s the product of more than half a century’s
experience, reading and writing – plus a certain amount of early

My life was filled
with words from its very first months. Before I could talk (hard to
believe such a time ever existed!), my parents read to me, both
fiction and poetry. All through my childhood, my father told us
fantastic tales of ghosts and monsters and wrote delightful doggerel
that he set to music. He and my mom taught me to read at four years
old, and almost immediately I began creating my own stories. I was
writing poems by the time I was seven. Nobody ever showed me how. I
guess I must have been emulating what I’d read and heard. It just
seemed a natural thing to do.

Reading was my
absolute favorite occupation throughout my childhood. My mom had to
force me to put my book aside and go out to play. I continued to
write all through elementary school, high school, college and
graduate school. And of course, I continued to read.

I adored the
literature classes I took. There, we undertook the sort of analyses
that Garce writes about, dissecting tales ancient and modern to see
what made them tick. Although I majored in science, I tried to
balance my schedule with at least one humanities course each term. I
still recall the intellectual thrill I derived from the Shakespeare
seminar in which I participated as a freshmen, the high I got from
Russian literature in translation course in my junior year.

I still love to discuss great books. A few months ago I spent more
than an hour Skyping with my brother (who lives half a world away)
about Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. We specifically set
up the call for that purpose, and I enjoyed every minute.

So even though
I’ve never deliberately studied the art of narrative, at least as
applied to my own writing, I seem to have acquired a significant
amount of knowledge by osmosis.

When I sit down to
write, I don’t consciously identify the “MacGuffin” that drives
my story, even though it must be there somewhere. I may or may not
know at the outset when and where my characters will experience that
moment of total despair, when all seems impossible. If I don’t know,
I simply trust that I’ll recognize the crisis when I get there. The
story unrolls in my mind, a journey along a road where some parts
may be foggier than others, but with a structure that seems to shape
itself around the premise, the setting and the characters, without
much deliberate effort on my part.

I do spend a
significant amount of mental and emotional effort on the prose itself, attempting to capture the elusive nuances of experience in mere words.
I’m also focused on the big ideas that underlie the action, struggling
to birth the sort of startling, original tale that transfixes me with
admiration when I am playing the role of reader.

That’s what I find
most difficult about writing. All the craft in the world won’t make
up for a ho-hum concept. All too frequently, I have the
uncomfortable sense that the story I’m working on has been
written a hundred times before – sometimes even by me. I listen to
Garce complain about his so-called lack of talent even as he produces
tales so wild, terrible and beautiful that they bring tears to my
eyes, and I try not to be envious.

That’s something
no craft book can teach.

Still, discouraged
as I sometimes am, I don’t stop writing. Through a combination of
nature and nurture, it appears that I’ve absorbed the so-called rules of story
structure. They’re part of me now. I probably couldn’t prevent myself
from following them, any more than the Canada geese could abort their
annual flight south.

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Hot Chilli Erotica


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