by Jean Roberta

Writing about sex and sexual relationships in all their complexity and then finding a suitable public venue for a story are parallel to deciding what kind of date you want, searching the dating pool for someone who comes as close to your fantasy as possible, then negotiating a relationship. And you need to brace yourself for the possibility that a Significant Other, a narrative, or a publishing contract might make you so uncomfortable that you want to run out the door.

Finding ideas for a story is not hard to do if you sift through your stream of consciousness, the current issues that attract your attention, and the dreams you have at night. However, not all ideas are equally worthy of being developed into a plot starring multi-dimensional characters in a well-described location. If you dreamed of riding a camel with wings to an island populated by kittens with poisonous fangs, could you persuade a reader that all this is meaningful? If the hero of your story is captured by man-hating Amazon warriors while trying to rescue a cave full of man-loving sex slaves with enormous breasts, would this epic impress a diverse group of readers?

Not all ideas that seem stupid at second glance deserve to be completely trashed, but in some cases, it’s easier to start over with a different plot catalyst and cast of characters than to add depth and complexity to a scene or a plot that no longer sparks joy.

Finishing a story, novella, novel or multi-novel series to your own satisfaction is only Phase 1 of the process, unless you are content never to see your work in print, or hear it recorded. If your piece was written in response to a call-for-submissions, you need to send the thing off before the deadline, and hope for the best. If you simply wrote the story because it was nagging you to write it, you need to find a suitable editor/publisher to send it to. Chances are, few of the venues you know of are a perfect match for your story, if any. Will a particular editor who prefers contemporary realism make an exception for a historical fantasy? Probably not. If the story includes explicit sex, does that make it erotica? How much sex is a deal-breaker for a publisher who specializes in, say, romantic suspense?

If you want to self-publish, you need a set of technical skills and a flare for self-promotion. If you want to lease your work to a traditional publisher, is there anything in the contract that gives you pause? (As a case in point, the old Black Lace line of women’s erotica, published in the UK, was known for paying very well for rights that seemed to stretch endlessly into the future.)

Writers who experience writer’s block, or a series of rejections, or unexpected demands for sweeping revisions, or exploitation in various forms sometimes threaten to give it all up and fill their spare time with heavy drinking and mindless entertainment instead. Writers in this mood need to be comforted. Other writers usually encourage the desperate to get back on the horse that threw them, and continue the journey. Keep going is a slogan that has led to many a success after failure.

If “persist” is your motto, however, the question is persist at what? Persist against all odds? Persist at going deeper into debt as a full-time writer when you have dependents to support? Is there never a time when giving up, at least in part and temporarily, would be a wiser choice?

About the year 2000, when I rarely got responses to my erotic story submissions, let alone acceptances, my sympathetic girlfriend advised me to be “more assertive.” She thought I should respond to rejection by demanding explanations. This didn’t mean she actually approved of my stories about sex, especially lesbian sex, but she didn’t think any of the callous editors out there had a right to reject my work, especially if they were accepting raunchy stories by writers who undoubtedly had less class or brilliance than I had.

After a year of silence from the publishing biz, I followed Girlfriend’s advice by writing and snail-mailing letters to four editors I had never met. I acknowledged that editors have a right to make choices which can be difficult, but I pointed out that writers are the source of all writing, and therefore I felt that editors who rely on writers to send them material should respond with clear answers. I wanted those faraway strangers to confirm that my typed pages had arrived on their desks, and I actually got some polite responses, which encouraged me to keep going.

Since then, I’ve been relieved that I didn’t burn bridges by demanding reasons why my unique erotica had been shot down by idiots.

Long before the “me-too” movement began, I remembered being confronted by guys who didn’t see why they should take no for an answer. Was I dating someone else? Was I a snob because my father was a university professor? Why did I think I was too good to get fucked—with no protection—by guys I hardly knew? (Apparently no logical explanations came to the minds of the ones I disappointed.)

My common sense advised me not to behave like That Guy. When I interacted with other writers on-line, I read several similar lists of do’s and don’ts, including the stern admonishment not to argue with the editor who rejected your submission, no matter how unfair you think that was. The logic of that rule was clear to me. As someone apparently said in ancient Rome, there is no explaining taste.

To sum up, I find that persistence during the long haul is probably the most essential quality for a writer, since it will accomplish more than talent alone. However, it needs to be a qualified and disciplined persistence, like that of a river that finds its way to the sea by swerving around boulders instead of making a big splash, drenching everything in sight, then drying up.

Just as a relationship with another person requires tact and negotiating skills, so does a relationship with your Muse, with the gatekeepers of the publishing world, and with all the readers you hope to reach.

Grammatical Intuition

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a fellow author say, “I’m not good at grammar.” I might even be able to afford a trip to Eroticon next year! Seriously, it seems that many writers find the entire question of conventionally correct grammatical structure intimidating. Some of them simply give up, relying entirely on their editors. Others try to convince themselves grammar doesn’t matter, that a reader who’s thoroughly seduced by their great story (or aroused by the amazing sex) won’t notice the blunders.

Alas, I think this is far less true than these authors would like to believe. Even if a reader doesn’t recognize an error as such, she’s likely to have a vague feeling of discomfort, a sense that “something’s wrong” with the sentence. Worse, a grammatical faux pas may end up confusing the reader, pulling her out of that zone where she’s connected with your characters to wonder exactly what’s going on.

Grammar is not just something dreamed up by high school English teachers to torture their students. English (as well as most other languages) relies on syntactic structure to convey meaning and resolve ambiguities. Consider the following example:

Rick couldn’t believe how good it felt to drive his big rod into the brunette’s pussy. It has been so long since he’d had a woman. Now he had two! The blond bombshell massaged his balls as he fucked her harder and harder.

This is adapted from a book I recently edited. The paragraph pulled me up short. “I thought he was inside the dark haired woman, not the blond,” I thought. “And how could the blond be fondling his balls at the same time that he’s screwing her?”

Of course, re-reading the paragraph made it clear that there was a problem with a pronoun reference. Pronouns should refer to the most recently mentioned noun with matching gender and number. That’s not the case here. The problem could be fixed by swapping the clauses, so the blond gets mentioned after the pronoun instead of before:

Rick couldn’t believe how good it felt to drive his big rod into the brunette’s pussy. It has been so long since he’d had a woman. Now he had two! He fucked her harder and harder, while the blond bombshell massaged his balls.

Another solution would be to replace “her” in the original structure with a noun phrase, e.g. “her girlfriend”. Now “her” does refer to the most recently mentioned noun (the blond bombshell).

The point is that by the time I figured out what the paragraph was trying to say, I’d lost the thread of the scene. The heat had dissipated. This is definitely not what you want if you’re an erotic author!

I’m sure that some of you authors reading this post are rolling your eyes. “Pronoun reference?” you may be thinking. “Matching gender and number?” You’re being assailed by visions of fat, grouchy Miss Mackleswain from tenth grade, the nasty old witch who made you diagram sentences ad nauseum and memorize the names of all the different tenses and constructions. “I couldn’t make sense of it all then, when I was young and smart,” you’re thinking. “I certainly can’t remember all those rules now!”

Relax. Take a deep breath. I have some good news for you.

Grammar is not about rules. It’s about relationships.

If you’re an editor or a pedant (and I’m something of both), it’s nice to be able to apply the correct term to a particular construction. However, that’s not necessary in order to write grammatical prose. You can produce beautiful, perfectly grammatical sentences, one that would make even Miss Mackleswain weep with delight, without having any idea of the so-called rules governing the structure.

In fact, so-called grammatical rules are nothing but abstractions developed after the fact to try and make sense of the way language is actually used. That’s one reason why there are so many exceptions! Grammarians and high school teachers like to present grammar rules as prescriptive (that is, as iron clad expressions of what you should do), but in fact grammar is descriptive, an attempt to systematize the complexities of linguistic structure.

And why do I say that grammar is about relationships? Because that’s what most constructions are trying to convey.

Consider the concept of independent versus dependent clauses. An independent clause expresses a single idea that can stand alone.

Louisa was desperately horny.

Louisa’s boyfriend Jim had been in Hong Kong for a week.

English allows you to use the conjunction “and” to combine two independent clauses:

Louisa’s boyfriend Jim had been in Hong Kong for a week and she was desperately horny.

This compound sentence states two facts of supposedly equal importance, leaving the reader to figure out why they’ve been conjoined. In this case, you might expect a further sentence explaining the situation, for instance:

Normally, they met for sex every Tuesday and Thursday.

A dependent clause, like an independent clause, has a subject and a verb, but the idea it expresses has some logical relationship to another clause. The nature of the relationship depends on the words used to join the two clauses into a single sentence.

Louisa was desperately horny because her boyfriend Jim had been in Hong Kong for a week. (Causality)

By the time her boyfriend Jim had been in Hong Kong for a week, Louisa was desperately horny. (Sequence)

Louisa was desperately horny long before her boyfriend Jim had been in Hong Kong for a week. (Also sequence, but with a somewhat different meaning.)

Louisa was desperately horny even though her boyfriend Jim had been in Hong Kong for a week. (Contrast/conflict)

This last, somewhat peculiar, example suggests that maybe Louisa has somebody on the side, but that she hasn’t been able to hook up with him or her!

Verb tenses are another example of grammar constructs that are used to establish relationships, in this case relationships related to time. You don’t need to know the names of the verb tenses to understand the temporal relationships in the following sentence:

(1) Genevieve was still a virgin, even though she had slept with several men.

The whole narrative is in the past, but it’s clear that the sleeping with several men occurred before the time of the story.

It would mean something different to say:

(2) Genevieve was still a virgin, even though she slept with several men.

This is also grammatically correct, but implies that Genevieve continues to sleep with the men at the time of the story, that it’s an ongoing state of affairs.

Contrast the previous examples with the following:

(3) Genevieve is still a virgin, even though she has slept with several men.

In this case, we’ve pulled the story into the present, but the time relationship between the events hasn’t changed from sentence (1). Her experiences with men still occurred before the main time of the story. However, we have to use a different tense to express that relationship, because we’ve changed the first clause from past to present.

To extend this further:

(4) Genevieve is still a virgin, even though she has slept with several men. Her mother had told her to keep her pajamas on until she was sure she’d found the right guy to be her first lover.

Now we have three points in time, neatly signaled by the verb tenses:

Present: Genevieve is a virgin.

Past: She has slept with several men.

More distant past: Her mother had given her instructions about staying dressed in bed.

Actually, this example actually includes a fourth, more complicated point in time, the hypothetical time when Genevieve is sure she’s in bed with Mr. Right. As far as we can tell, this event hasn’t happened yet. English has clear ways to grammatically mark this sort of hypothetical statement. (Not every language does.)

If you’re a native English speaker, you will have no difficulty understanding the relationships in sentence (4), despite its complexity. Furthermore, you’ll know something is wrong if you read a sentence like this:

Genevieve was still a virgin, even though she sleeps with several men.

The relationships in this sentence don’t make sense. The first, independent clause already happened, while the second, dependent clause is happening now.

The key to writing grammatical prose resides in that feeling that “something is wrong”. You don’t need to know the grammatical terminology or the rules, but you do need to develop your grammatical intuition. You need to learn how to evaluate your sentences based not only on the basic content, but whether the relationships are sensible and have the intended meaning.

How can you do this? By paying closer attention when you read, both your own work and work by other people.

Try to notice when you get that niggling feeling that something’s not quite right. Reread the sentence or paragraph that’s bugging you, considering the implied relationships between clauses, sentences and events. If you can’t figure out the nature of the problem, ask for help, but don’t just ignore that slight discomfort so you can get on with the story. (Don’t be lazy!)

Furthermore, you can strengthen your grammatical intuition by reading really clear, well-structured prose. I recommend works from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Literate prose from that period is often far more complex than would be appropriate for modern readers, but Jane Austen, Wilkie Collins, Edith Wharton and Henry James were grammar virtuosos. Educate your ear to the nuances of tense, the layering of logic. Notice how a sentence with five or six clauses can still be immediately comprehensible. You don’t have to study the structure, or figure out how it works. Just allow these exemplars to sink into your brain.

Don’t worry about the rules, just the relationships.

Of course, you also need to practice improving the grammar of your own work. Learn to recognize the mistakes you commonly make. Sensitize yourself to grammar gaffes. Finally, don’t become discouraged. Improving one’s writing craft is a lifelong process — one that can bring great joy and satisfaction.

Long-Term Relationships v. The Thrill of the Chase

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 two cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page. 

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 recently celebrated my 25thanniversary of the day I met my husband. We’ve been married for 13 years. Our relationship is a bit unusual in that we lived together for over a decade before marrying for no reason in particular. We were living our lives and were too lazy and busy to have the ceremony and sign the paperwork. When we finally tied the knot, I joked I married him for his health insurance.

Long-term relationships are different from initial romantic attraction. I’m sure readers have noticed – and wanted – that most romances are about that initial romantic attraction leading to a HEA or HFN ending. Serials are popular because readers becoming invested in characters they grew to love when those characters first met.

Limerance according to Wikipedia is “a state of mind which results from a romantic attraction to another person and typically includes obsessive thoughts and fantasies and a desire to form or maintain a relationship with the object of love and have one’s feelings reciprocated.” The heart-palpating rush when you hear your shiny new lover’s name and how your pupils dilate when you see that person is limerance. Limerance is that infatuation stage you find in budding romantic relationships. It’s good to remember this fevered state does not last long.

Romance readers love that feeling of infatuation they get when they read about their favorite characters. They can live vicariously through the stages of the character’s relationship, from initial attraction to conflict to honeymoon phase to a deeper and satisfying longevity. It helps to remember that the fevered intensity of a budding relationship is a temporary thing, and that when the high settles that doesn’t mean you are falling out of love. It means the love is deepening.

Over the years, my husband and I have learned from each other and we’ve changed in ways that have benefited our marriage. Jealousy isn’t an issue for us. Jealousy is a common feeling in newer relationships. I’ve been jealous in some of my past relationships, even in one case of going out to dinner several times with another man to make the man I was interested in jealous. It didn’t work. That relationship did not last.

I see and accept my husband’s flaws, and he does the same for me. There is very little he does that gets under my skin. I certainly don’t see him as a knight in shining armor which may be a feeling you have for your partner in a newer relationship. Your love interest can do no wrong and you feel that person is perfect in every way. It’s the old rose-colored glasses phenomenon.

As you get to know the person you love, you will find conflicts in personal views, taste, habits, and even how to raise children. During infatuation you see only the good things about your partner. When the not-so-good things rear up, don’t panic. You’re only finding out your love is human.

When written well, romances depict all of these stages and in the HEA ending, the couple successfully deals with conflict and grows in the process. Conflict is necessary to grow. It doesn’t have to mean fighting. It means the characters are removing those rose-colored glasses and are seeing each other as they really are, warts and all. Accepting those warts (the ones that are acceptable – I’m not talking about abusive relationships) and not trying to change the other person are both important qualities in a healthy, long term relationship.

The whirlwind of romance is a wonderful feeing that can be experienced when reading romance novels. The reader puts herself into the main character’s shoes and experiences what that character feels. It’s a safe way of experiencing the ups and downs of a relationship without actually being in one. In your own case, just remember that although the passion inevitably dies down, a deeper love will flourish in the healthiest relationships. And that’s what matters most.

Cocaine Love

By: Craig J. Sorensen

Recently, a good friend has been going through the sort of
relationship that has more pivot points than a double jointed hand with six
fingers.  It started before I left
Pennsylvania in June.  It ended before I
left in June.  Started again after I
left, ended again.  Started, ended… well,
you get the idea.

She’s a beautiful young woman, highly intelligent, very
creative, and successful in a field that is not easy to be successful in.  They have a lot in common, and just one or
two things where they differ.

But they are big things.

Each time relationship 2.0 and 3.0 and etc. ended, he gave
me a post mortem of how wonderful it felt when the relationship started, how
she was so understanding about his want to take it slow.  He described how quickly it changed toward
the end.  As he described the cycles in the most recent
release, it occurred to me what he was describing.  And maybe you’ve seen or felt it too:

Cocaine love.

When I described it in those terms to him, he practically screamed it out:  “That’s exactly what it is!”

Cocaine love:  Quick on the uptake, full of chemistry and biology and
euphoria.  More often than not this kind
of relationships end with an equally resounding crash.

Ultimately, each time this cocaine love began with her
accepting his position on a fundamental point. 
By the end, the actions spoke louder than words, and this flexibility fell away like a mask.  And the principle he
is operating on is one that really shouldn’t be asked to change.  Each time the relationship finished, he said how stupid he was, how he won’t get caught in that trap again.


It comes down to a person who will “give everything” if he
just “change one thing.”

But the essence of true love is not asking one to
change their fundamental principles, especially when they are the same core
values that make that person special. 
And that is the case here.

There are many things that can lead to a cocaine love, but
the bottom line is that it is hard to live on a steady diet of cocaine.  Maybe cocaine love can work, if both partners
are committed after the high wears off. 
And sometimes that means enduring the withdrawal.  Together.

The great relationships are like a fine meal.  Invigorating, and can be exciting, but
sustaining as well.  A good meal doesn’t
have the potential to emaciate the way that narcotics can.

Usually one person is the narcotic in a
cocaine love, while the other is deep in the high.

Again, this is not to say that a couple truly in love cannot
have an intense sort of desire, but there is a certain false-front that defines
cocaine love.  And the essence of being
able to see past it, is being willing to take a look at the relationship in

The essence is seeing the difference between being high and
being nourished.

I’ve used the dynamic of cocaine love in stories.  It makes great material, especially in erotica, but a lot better explored in fiction than lived through in life.

Just ask my friend.

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica


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