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 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. Her story Neighbors appears in the new lesbian anthology The Girls Next Door. You will also find her new novel No Restraint at Amazon. Enjoy a good, sexy read today.
As anyone familiar with me is aware, I love to spend time at the beach. I live in Massachusetts so it gets quite cold here but that doesn’t stop me from taking my nearly daily walks in the sand and surf. This time of year it’s far too cold to swim in the water, though, but that hasn’t stopped some crazy people (especially surfers) from doing it. My husband and I are used to the surfers dodging waves and the brave (crazy) locals who swim in 50 degree water, but what we saw this past weekend just astounded us at how stupid some people can be.
Not long ago, we were on Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester, Massachusetts enjoying a warm bout of weather. He went swimming (crazy), but not me. That water is like ice. We went for our daily mile long walk, not expecting anything unusual but we were in for a scary surprise.
There is a small island about a half mile from shore. It’s called Salt Island and it’s basically a huge boulder in the water covered with vegetation and seagull guano. When the tide is low enough, the water recedes so much there is a sand pathway between the island and the shore. People, including me, love to walk that pathway and explore the beach side of the island. You can’t get to it during high tide or even normal tide. Most of the time the island is completely surrounded with water. This is what the sand pathway to the island looks like from the beach. Note the two people on the pathway. They give you a scale to judge how big this area is.
This particular day, we walked to the island end of the beach and saw four young people standing on top of the island. There was a serious problem – it wasn’t low tide. Water completely surrounded the island and it can be pretty deep. We thought they might have had a boat moored on the opposite side of the island, and they’d get off that way.
They didn’t. To our surprise and horror, the four climbed down the island facing us and proceeded to swim in the water towards shore. The shore is at least a half mile away and there might be riptides out there.
This is what the island and the beach look like when the tide is almost in. That’s Salt Island straight ahead.
This is the view from the side with Salt Island on the right and the beach on the left.
That’s a lot of water between the island and the beach.
These four idiots (three guys and one woman) swam in water that was way over their heads. We were afraid they weren’t going to make it, so my husband dialed the Coast Guard in case they needed a rescue. We had hoped they’d make it to the shallow area where they could tread water or walk with water nearly over their heads. The first two guys made it and we weren’t worried about them. We were more worried about the guy and woman bringing up the rear. They were slower and in the deeper water. However, they did make it to the shallow area and were able to walk to shore. We didn’t need to call the Coast Guard after all.
They were young, reckless, and had lots of stamina to pull off that crap. We left that side of the beach when it was clear the four of them were safe. Several people had stopped at that end of the beach to keep an eye on them and I saw iPhones out. It was tense and touch and go, but they did make it to go on and do other stupid things. Like kiss snakes. Skydive. Light bottle rockets up their butts and set them off. You know, like the thrill seekers they were.
I wrote a short sweet romance years ago about an idiot who walked to a similar island during low tide and got stuck there when he got drunk and passed out. He wakes up during high tide with the walkway gone and finds himself stranded on the island. With a Nor’easter coming. He knows damned well he can’t swim across to shore. What to do?
I never thought I’d see people actually try to get off that island during high tide for real. Truth is stranger than fiction.
If you’d like to read my story, it’s called The Storm and it’s free on my web site. While you’re reading it, keep in mind I saw four young people pull the stunt for real while on one of my beach walks. Wonders never cease.
by Jean Roberta
Over the years, I’ve read a lot of advice on how to write, what to write, and how to promote it. Some of that advice has been contradictory, while some of it might have been brilliantly relevant to current trends, and for particular writers who are not me.
During the Feminist Sex Wars of the 1980s, I was warned by sister-feminists that “porn” was a male writer’s genre, and that its goal was to reduce live women to objects, or sex toys without wills of their own. There was evidence to support this theory, and “jokes” about the sexual abuse of women have not disappeared from the culture. They probably never will.
However, I discovered that sexually-explicit fiction is as diverse as fiction in general. In fact, since most human beings secretly or openly want sex in some form, it’s hard to imagine a narrative about humans in which sex is absent. In some cases, the sex shows up in a central character’s dreams and fantasies. In nineteenth-century fiction, it often shows up in Latin/legal terms. (“They were caught in flagrante delicto.”) In “literary” fiction, the sex used to appear in euphemisms (“And that night, they were not divided”) and metaphors (“The earth moved”).
Since the sex is already there, I thought, coyly lurking between the lines, why not bring it out into the light so we can see it? If the sex is meant to violate the will of one or more of the participants, an explicit description makes that clear, and readers can respond.
Writing about sex felt thrilling when I first tried it. I knew that most of my relatives, not to mention friends, coworkers and other acquaintances, would probably disapprove and consider me misguided at best, but it was still a big relief to describe things I had actually done as well as things I had only imagined. Okay, I thought, call me a slut if you want, but if you never think about such things, why do you read my stuff?
The Erotic Readers Association (as it was called in 1998, when I joined) was a great source of support. Other members consoled me when I complained on-list that my stories seemed to disappear into the Bermuda Triangle when I sent them off to editors in response to calls-for-submissions. (My first three erotic stories had been “accepted” in the 1980s by a small publisher that mailed me a letter, then immediately went bust.)
I began getting stories published in anthologies, and I thought the thrill would never wear off. It never completely did, but as Lisabet has mentioned, books are more ephemeral now than we bookworms of the Baby Boom generation ever believed in our youth. Having dozens of erotic stories in anthologies has not made me famous on any level, nor has it provided a reliable income. Thousands of books are published each year, and most of them probably won’t be remembered in another generation.
Besides all that, as M. Christian has said somewhere (probably in a blog post), there are only so many ways to describe sex. Characters, situations and plots can be different in every story, but body parts are limited, and what can be done with them fits into a few categories. I grew tired of repeating myself, and I hesitate to go far beyond my own experience in describing elaborate scenes that might be physically impossible. (And on that note, unclear sentence construction can suggest that a character has three arms, three breasts, or three balls, or that two characters can grope each other from across a room. The logistics of a sex scene have to be carefully managed.)
My age has probably played a role in my desire to write about something other than sex. I doubt if I will ever completely turn off like a burned-out lightbulb, but I no longer feel as if I will just die if I don’t get some. And if I don’t need it desperately, it’s hard to convince myself that my characters do.
In short, I have begun to stray into other genres. According to those who advise writers to discover their “brand” and stick to it, this is a problem. If I have a brand at all, it is clearly erotic fiction.
During the past two years, I’ve written several stories that are not sexually explicit, and most are still unpublished. My story for an anthology that is meant to tweak the imaginary world of a famous horror writer was tentatively accepted, but I haven’t been offered a contract, and this project seems to have no clear completion date. I wrote a queer mystery story for a Sherlock Holmes-flavoured anthology, and I haven’t had a response yet. (In fairness to the editor, he probably hasn’t had time to make decisions yet.) I sent a fantasy story to an editor who said explicitly in the call-for-submissions that the anthology was not meant to include erotica. This editor sent me a flattering rejection (“This was an enjoyable read, but it’s not quite right for this collection”), so I sent the story to a speculative-fiction magazine that rejected it.
I feel as if I have started over. If I continue to write fiction without sex scenes, I will continue to send it to editors and venues that probably don’t recognize my name. The competition might be even more intense than it is in the erotic fiction market, though this is debatable.
I am grateful that the “Writers’ Block” I thought I had when I was responsible for a child and for too much unpaid work, while scrounging for a living, seems to be permanently gone. As Virginia Woolf put it so well, a woman writer needs a room of her own, and I now have several. And while I’m on sabbatical, I’m not distracted by the day job.
What I didn’t expect, and what writing coaches never seem to acknowledge, is that the Muse changes over time. For that matter, individual identity changes over time. As long as that is the case, I’m not sure how more “successful” writers (in terms of royalties and name recognition) manage to promote their “brand” for a lifetime without burning out. That seems to be one fate that ever-changing writers don’t need to fear.
Who doesn’t long for the touch of a stranger, the touch of someone who is too damn sexy to be real while at the same time, too damn terrifying to really let in? I’ve always had fantasies of that sexy someone whose name I never know, the ghost, the demon the preternatural being who’s both terrifying and totally compelling. I know my fantasies are common ones, possibly even archetypal. What woman doesn’t have a secret longing for that deliciously dangerous negative animus?
I think one of the reasons these fantasies are so powerful is that they stem in part from our childhood speculations of what it’ll be like the first time we have a real lover, the first time we really have sex. We fear it and yet we long for it. I remember back in my days of fantasising, back before I’d ever even been kissed, I was as terrified by what I’d heard happens between men and women as I was intrigued by it, as I was drawn to it. Therefore my lovers always lived in my imagination and, in my fantasies, there was only a certain point to which they could take me before I became too frightened and too uncertain to fantasize about what happened next. In other words my power as an innocent, as a child, was to keep my demon lovers at bay. As long as I was innocent, as long as I was afraid to truly let them in, they I couldn’t really be touched by them. They needed to be invited, just like the vampire in the traditional tales. They needed me to offer myself unconditionally to them. They could tempt me, but they couldn’t hurt me – not really.
It was only when I truly began to understand the way it is between men and women, it was only when I reached the point of overcoming my fears enough to take the fantasies to the next level that the demon lovers truly took shape on my head, that they began to whisper what deliciously nasty, unspeakable things they would do to me. Of course that came hand in hand with my first masturbation experiences, with my first discoveries of just how overpowering my body could be when I let it have free rein, when I was willing to let go of my inhibitions – at least a little bit.
There are still things I fear to do in the real world that I am happy to invite my demon lover in to do to me or even to allow me to do to him … or her. I can’t help but wonder if that demon lover, that fantasy lover who can take us places we would never go in reality, is the inspiration from which erotica writers write. My most powerful experiences have come with the discovery of what my body is capable of doing when I’m willing to let go. My darkest fantasies, the ones I would never share in the real world, even in my own erotica, are the fantasies dominated by my demon lover, the fantasies of the dark places that aren’t safe to tread. The demon as fantasy lover holds central place in paranormal erotica and paranormal romance. I think – whether that demon is a vampire or a werewolf, whether that demon is a billionaire or an incubus, his power is that the rules don’t apply to him.His power is that he can take us to the darkness at our center and bring us back safely … if he chooses to. And in that place where our fate is truly out of our hands, the erotic and the horrific are separated only by a breath of consent.
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 and The Andromeda
Strain. Buy it at Amazon!
It’s finally feeling like spring. The weather here on the
northeast Massachusetts coast has been cooler than average for this time of
year. It’s also rather wet. I like the cool temps, though. Now that the leaves
are sprouting and the forsythia has finished blooming, it’s time for me to get
into my warmer weather routine after being cooped up in the apartment the
I look forward to spring every year. That’s the time for me
to replenish myself and to assess my progress in life. I’ve begun my beach
walks again, complete with a stop at the beach ice cream shop. The shop has
been open for about two weeks. I like to run plots and characterizations
through my head as I walk in the waves. The very, very cold waves. LOL The
ocean up here is far too cold for me to swim in even during the dog days of
August. My husband and I are talking about moving to Hawaii when he retires in
a little over three years. We can swim in that water. Pacific, here we come!
I believe writers need a safe space where they can listen to
the quiet inside and work out their stories. The beach provides that solace for
me. I worked out a horror story in my head over this past weekend, and I
finished the first draft Monday morning. It’s one of those stories where the
movie version kept getting in the way of my imagination. I finally got past
that. Think outside the box, as my husband says. I’d go today but there isn’t
enough time. Until Wednesday.
I also relax by gardening, which I’m into full swing now.
Spring brings forth the herbs and veggies I like to grow that won’t survive in
the apartment over the winter. I’m growing tomatoes from seeds for the first
time. If you write to University of Florida and donate $10, the horticulture
department will send you tomato seeds. This department is developing tomatoes
that actually taste delicious. Most mass-grown tomatoes you buy in the
supermarket are so bland they’d might as well not have any taste at all. The
two tomato strains I bought are Garden Gem and Garden Treasure. The seeds have already
sprouted and are doing well. I bought more seeds in the hope they’ll take and I
can plant them in pots. I bought more tomato seeds (Roma and Best Boy),
chamomile, and cilantro. They’re planted but the seeds haven’t sprouted yet. I
also buy starter plants. This year I picked up sage, rosemary, oregano, and
three varieties of thyme – lemon, orange, and English. Then there are the
pineapple sage, tarragon, and marjoram. My jalapeño peppers from last year
survived and they’re just starting to flower. The peppers grow from the
flowers. My bay plant needs to be transplanted since it’s root bound and it’s
complaining. I have a huge plastic pot for it. My tiny avocado I grew from the
pit three years ago is now almost five feet tall. That one is adjusting to a new
pot and the great outdoors. Here are pictures of my herb garden, which I keep
in pots since I can’t plant them in the ground.
Getting outside myself and away from the computer only makes
my writing flow easier. I need time away from writing so that I may continue to
write. It’s easier for me to do this in the spring, summer, and fall since
there are so many opportunities out there for exploration and enjoyment. I
don’t get that sort of thing during the winter. It’s too easy to hole up up
here, and I’m reclusive by nature. It
also doesn’t help that I took on far too many projects recently, and I need to
finish them before the end of the month. Hopefully by the time this article
posts, I’ll be mostly finished. One can hope. By getting away, I come full circle
to meet my muse and the words flow. I need that.
By Lisabet Sarai
A few nights ago I woke from a vivid dream with an idea for a new story. Consumed with excitement, I grabbed the notebook I keep on the shelf in my headboard and scribbled down a synopsis, in the dark. When the next day dawned, I was delighted to find that (a) I could actually read my notes, and (b) the story premise still struck me as really promising.
Having just released a novel, I’ve been wondering what project I should tackle next. This new concept—a scifi tale that resonates with a lot of contemporary issues—really got my mental wheels turning. Though the dream was little more than a single scene, with hints of a back story, I could see how to expand it, and how to focus its harrowing emotional intensity. Tragically romantic—intellectually challenging—distinctly different—the idea really sank its claws into my psyche.
Then I realized that although what I’d envisioned was a love story, it definitely did not have a happy ending. So if I wrote and published it, I couldn’t sell it as romance. And at this point in my publishing carreer, romance is what I know how to promote. The readers on my 300-odd mailing list, the daily visitors to my blog, the people who enter all my giveaways, are readers of romance. They crave an ending where the characters ultimately get what they want, not a finale where the hero dies. Yet that’s the natural way my dream would play out, if I spun a story from it.
Could I make it into a romance with a HEA? Probably, though finding a believable solution to the hero’s impending demise would take significant creativity. As a romance, I suspect this would sell, at least among the readers who have come to appreciate my unconventional approach to romance tropes. Did I want to turn this notion into a happily ending tale, though? Wasn’t that a betrayal of my midnight vision?
I could always keep the original ending and market the book as erotica, of course. Although the thematic core of the tale is not primarily about sex, I expect it to contain a significant amount of carnal activity, since the hero is a prostitute. Even erotica readers tend to shy away from dark endings, though. They might not require the characters to make a commitment, but they like it when everyone ends up satisfied. Heartbreak, injustice, terror—these aren’t favorite topics in erotica.
In any case, I don’t know how to market erotica these days, at least not stuff that would probably be more literary than smutty. Blue Moon is gone. Cleis (and just about everyone else) wants romance. In the old days, Circlet would have been the perfect publisher for this tale. But even Circlet seems to have largely climbed on the romance bandwagon.
What about turning the dream into mainstream fiction? Tragic endings are always welcome in literature. Or genre science fiction? But then what would I do about the sex? Play it down? Leave it out? I’d probably need to create a new pseudonym, too, to avoid being tarred with the opprobrium of also writing “porn”. I’d be starting from scratch, in an environment about which I know very little, at least as an author.
Let me be clear. I don’t make my living from my writing. Heaven forbid. I don’t write primarily for the money. On the other hand, I have very limited time to write, so I try to produce books that I think people will actually read. That’s the payoff, for me—emails like the one I received a few weeks ago, from a guy who absolutely loved Rajasthani Moon, or gushing reviews like I’ve been getting for The Gazillionaire and the Virgin. I write to be read. So I don’t want to put effort into creating something that will go over like a lead balloon.
It’s a dilemma. Do I follow my muse down a barely-trodden path, or divert her onto a more well-traveled highway? I go back and forth about this. Is it principled or foolish to stick to my original notions? Or maybe a bit of both?
A lot of authors read this blog, so I’ll ask: what would you do? Which would you choose, the muse or the market?
I’m still seeing a fair few of the NYR runners intrepidly pounding the pavement, and the gym is still surprisingly full of NYR th, the universal urge to be ‘better’ in the New Year is already losing its sparkle. All those best made plans always sound better that week before New Year when we’re all still feasting, still drinking, still overindulging, still watching crap TV. The question is, how do we fool ourselves into making a new years resolution a habit, how do we make it a positive change for life?
“get-fitters.” I give the die-hards until the first of March. I’m talking New Years resolutioners, of course. Me? Nope! No New Years Resolutions here. It’s way too early. I can’t stand the drama! I can’t take the pressure! Ask me in a month, and I’ll tell you how it’s going, once 2016 is well and truly under way and I’ve got a feel for it. Every January first people stop drinking, stop smoking, begin learning Spanish or French; people promise to take better care of themselves, to eat better, to keep their houses cleaner; people vow to be better organized, spend more time with good friends, waste less time in front of the telly, and the list goes on. But by January 7
It happens every year; that urge to reflect on what’s been and plan ways to make the New Year better. Hope and excitement at new beginnings is so much a part of our human nature that the end of a year and the beginning of another can’t help but be the time when we anticipate, plan change, and dare to dream of what wonderful things we can bring about in the next year. In fact there’s a heady sense of power in the New Year. I think it’s the time when we’re most confident that we can make changes, that we really do have power over our own lives. It’s the time when we’re most proactive toward those changes, those visions of the people we want to be. It’s the time when everything is possible … in theory.
Before I began to sell my writing, back when I dreamed of that first publication, back when there seemed to be a lot more time for navel gazing, I was a consummate journaler. I filled pages and pages, notebooks and notebooks with my reflections and ruminations. Nothing took more time and energy, however, than the END of the YEAR ENTRY, in which I reflected on and scored myself on last year’s resolutions before busily planning the ones for the next. This was a process that often began in early December with me reading back through journals, taking notes, tracing down some of what I’d read during that year and reflecting on it. Yeah, I know. I needed to get a life!
By the time New Years Day rolled around, I had an extensive list of resolutions, each with a detailed outline of action as to how I was going to achieve it. Some of those resolutions fell by the wayside almost before the year began — those things that, if I’m honest with myself, I knew I was never gonna do, no matter how much I wish I would. Others I achieved in varying degrees-ish. But sadly, for the most part, a month or maybe two into the year, that hard core maniacal urge to be a better me no matter what always cooled to tepid indifference as every-day life took the shine off the New Year and I was reminded again that change is hard.
It was only when there stopped being time for such ginormous navel-gazes and micro-planning that I discovered I actually had achieved a lot of those goals that were my resolutions simply by just getting on with it. As I thought about how different my approach to all things new in the New Year had become the busier I became, I realised that I had, through no planning on my part, perfected the sneak-in-through-the-back-door method of dealing with the New Year. The big, bright New Year changes I used to spend days plotting and planning no longer got written down, no longer got planned out. Instead, they sort of implemented themselves in a totally unorganised way somewhere between the middle of January and the end of February – sometimes even later. They were easy on me, sort of whispering and waving unobtrusively from the corners of my life. They came upon me, not in sneak attacks so much as in passing brushes and furtive glances.
I’m my own harsh taskmaster. I’m driven, I’m tunnel-visioned, I’m a pit bull when I grab on to what I want to achieve with my writing. No one is harder on me than I am – no one is even close. And yet from somewhere inside me there’s a gentler voice that sneaks in through the back door of the New Year and through the back door of my life reminding me to be kinder to myself, to be easier on myself, to find ways to rest and recreate and feed my creativity. I’ll never stop being driven. The time I’ve been given, the time we’ve all been given, is finite. And that gentler part of ourselves must somehow be a constant reminder of comfort and peace, of self-betterment that comes, not from brow-beating and berating ourselves, not from forced regimentation, but from easing into it, trying it out, making ourselves comfortable with it. We, all of us, live in a time when life is snatched away from us one sound-bite, one reality TV show, one advert at a time. Often
our precious time is bargained away from us by harsher forces, by ideals and scripts that aren’t our own, and the less time we have to dwell on the still small voice, the deeper the loss.
So my resolution, my only resolution every year is to listen more carefully to that gentler, quieter part of me, to forgive myself for not being able to be the super-human I think I should be, to settle into the arms of and be comfortable with the quieter me, the wiser me who knows how far I’ve really come, who knows that the shaping of a human being goes so much deeper than what’s achieved in the outer world, and every heart that beats needs to find its own refuge in the value of just being who we are, of living in the present and coming quietly and gently and hopefully into the New Year, even if it take us a little more time to get there.
A picture is worth a thousand words and, for a writer, sometimes a picture is worth a whole story – even a whole novel. Now some of you might already suspect that could be my shameless way of sharing some of my pictures from my recent trip to the Scottish Highlands and, while I’m not saying that you’re wrong, I promise if you bear with me, there’s a reason for the photos. Oh, not this first one though. It’s here just because I like it.
As internet connections, wifi and smart phones have gotten better, I’ve gone from totally forgetting to take photos – even on the most amazing holidays and events – to being a shutter-snapping fiend. I take hundreds and hundreds of photos when I go away on a holiday, and if there’s something that interests me, even at home, I take a gazillion shots of it. Of course the instant gratification of sharing a trip or an event with everyone one through Face Book or Twitter and enjoying their responses is added incentive. I admit having shamelessly sent piccies of everything from my fish and chips in Lyme Regis to the scars on my knees after surgery, from the courgettes I grew in my garden to the blisters on my hands from kettle bells. Dearie me! I have become the monster I most feared.
The thing about an image is that it evokes senses other than just sight. It also stimulates memory and emotion and, for a writer, it stimulates imagination. I think that, more than anything else, that fact is responsible for my increase in photo snapping. The image doesn’t have to be beautiful any longer as it did in my earlier shutter-snapping days. The image needs to be evocative. That’s the key for me. I played around on Pinterest quite a bit at one point. Some of you may recall I wrote a post about my Pinterest experience, but evocative images happen wherever I am and whatever I’m doing, and an iPhone guarantees that if I want to capture that image for later use, I can do it without a second thought.
Here are some examples of what I mean. These shots were taken in the men and women’s loos in a pub in Inverness Scotland. Hubby took the men’s room shots for me after I told him what I saw in the ladies.
The hair straightener in the ladies room at a pound a pop got me thinking about Rapunzel sneaking out from her tower prison for a little fun with her girlfriends.
After wild dancing at the ceilidh, she notices her do is gone all frizzy.
But since she’s Rapunzel, she has so much hair that she runs out of pound coins and has to offer sexual favors to the woman who spends money on a variety of sex toys from the vending machine, which she uses on Rapulzel.
Meanwhile Prince Charming, who finds her missing from the tower pursues her to the pub. Feeling frustrated, he treats himself to a Travel Pussy and some whisky flavoured condoms just in case he finds her. Well you get where I’m going with this.
Here is a shot of a deserted phone booth on the Isle of Sky near our cottage. With no wifi and no phone signal it’s easy to imagine a hiker getting lost and ending up on a small farmstead. In desperation, she tries the phone booth, but when the phone doesn’t work, she elicits the help of the farmer who lives there — a bit of a twist on the ole farmer’s daughter stories and jokes. Of course the farmer could be a woman…
Or perhaps you’d like a biker story with a twist? I’ve got inspirational images for that too. How about instead of a biker bar, we set our little tale in a biker bakery. In our little bakery the chef makes the most delectable bake goods of all time. She is enticed into providing all the bread, biscuits and buns for the local biker gang. What kind of deal would the head of the biker gang make with the curvy head baker/pastry chef to get a bargain on her delectable buns?
Oh, and the very wet hoodie sitting on top of the coffee shop part of the bakery looking rather forlorn, well, I figure a woman who makes baked goods for a biker gang might just have a crow for a pet.
I love the great outdoors, so for me every great-outdoorsy shot is an inspiration for a little garden porn or fun Al fresco, I’ve written whole series inspired by outdoor images of mountains lost in the midst and caves visited by demons and witches. But the truth is that sometimes a beautiful image is just a beautiful image, and being just back from the Highlands, as I am, and being a captive audience, as you are, I’ll leave you with this lovely image from the Isle of Skye.
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 Lisabet Sarai
I guess I must be really out of the loop, because it was only this month that I first encountered the term “30 day cliff”. That was in a discussion on the Excessica authors’ forum. Some of my colleagues were lamenting about the difficulty of bringing out releases frequently enough to keep them from “falling off the thirty day cliff”. From context I surmised that people believed you had to get a new book out every month in order to retain readers’ attention.
At first I shrugged off the whole topic. A book a month? Preposterous! And what was so magical about 30 days, anyway? I figured this must be one of those marketing rules that get bandied about the Internet with no real support from the data at all.
When I did a bit of research, however, I discovered that the 30 day limit apparently has its source in Amazon’s all powerful algorithms. The article below, for example, provides quite graphic evidence for this sales precipice.
Just what authors need. Something else to worry about.
Writing well is hard work. Heck, even writing poorly takes time. Then there’s the editing (for those of us who care about that step), cover art, penning the blurb, and formatting for different publishing platforms (if you’re self-publishing or working with a co-op like Excessica). Updating your website and blog. Sending out tweets or posting your news on Facebook. Begging your author friends to feature your newly birthed literary baby on their blogs, Facebook pages or Twitter feeds. Submitting the manuscript to review sites. Arranging blog tours. Running contests to attract readers. Running around like the proverbial decapitated fowl, waving your arms and shouting, “Look, look, I’ve got a new book! Buy my great new book!” until you’re exhausted and hoarse.
Do that every single month? Are you nuts?
Sure, I know some authors who do this, and more. I have one or two colleagues who send me media kits for their latest titles pretty much monthly, for posting on my blog. Some of them are quite well-known—certainly compared to me. Many of them write well, too, although I have noticed that their excerpts all sound similar. I guess if you’ve found a formula that’s successful, it’s crazy not to stick with it.
Doesn’t work for me, though. I have limited time to devote to my writing career, such as it is. Marketing already takes a serious bite out of that allocation. I’d love to have more people buy my books, not just because I’d like to make more money but because I want to share my erotic visions with a wider audience. However, pressure dries up the creative flow, at least for me. If I have to force myself to write, I know I won’t be satisfied with the results.
I’m pretty confident I could turn out a new 30K book every month—especially if I quit my day job—but I’m also certain these books wouldn’t be very original, or surprising, or memorable. Probably I’d write yet another BDSM initiation story, with a self-assured, ironic, slightly distant hero and an intelligent, feisty heroine who’s aroused and appalled at her own desire to surrender. That’s my Ur-story, one I’ve already written dozens of times, one I love but try to escape for the sake of novelty and exploring new territory. That story sells. I know it does. I could change the names, the location, the initial scenario, the sexual actions and the kinky implements, and sell it again and again.
The notion makes me slightly nauseous.
So despite the clamor by my colleagues—in defiance of the current market wisdom—I choose to turn my back on the precipice. I reject the anxiety whipped up by the pundits and claim my right to define for myself what it means to be a successful author. For me, the criteria include quality, diversity, originality and authenticity. Frequency just doesn’t enter into the equation.