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writing

I returned from Necon this past Sunday. Necon is the Northeastern Writers Conference which is for horror writers but what I learned applies to any writer. The conference was held in a conference center in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

I was on one panel: Heroes Like Me: The Importance of Representation in Genre. There is more of a problem with representations of women in horror fiction and films than in romance or erotica. I’m happy to see that strong female characters who aren’t doormats or shrinking violets are much more popular in romance and erotic fiction now than they have been in the past. Women in these stories know what they want and they go after it. Sometimes, especially in the billionaire genre of romance, the heroine is inexperienced and rather naïve, but I’ve noticed she comes into her own as the story progresses. The hero often learns quite a bit from her. Hero and heroine are on equal footing in many of the stories.

Other panels included Guest of Honor interviews, Collections, and Editing. I was especially interested in the editing panel since I enjoy writing for anthologies. Some of the panelists were editing anthologies I had submitted to. I managed to snag some fine guests for my podcast Into The Abyss With Elizabeth Black. I took July off and I’ll start up shows again in August.

The best part about Necon was the same thing I liked about the Stanley Hotel Writers Retreat – socializing. Everyone was friendly and on equal turf. The casual atmosphere was very relaxing. I didn’t have to pay $50 or more to talk to an author and have him or her sign a book. There was a pre-Necon party I attended at one guest’s house. I saw old friends and made new ones. The BBQ ribs and chicken were delicious and I even had stuffed clams. You can’t live in New England and not eat stuffed clams. There were gatherings in the outdoor courtyard every evening with saugies, which are hot dogs well known in Rhode Island. They’re longer than most hog dogs and they have casings. They were delicious on the grill. I mingled and chatted which isn’t easy for me since I tend to be on the shy side. I talked to other writers about what they were working on. I did not ask the editors of the anthology I submitted to when submitters would hear back. That would have been in bad form. I know the rejections and acceptances will come soon enough. The networking opportunities were very good.

I liked Necon and I will attend again next year, money permitting. I do highly recommend writers attend conferences and conventions when they can. Some good ones are Viable Paradise, Clarion, Readercon, Arisia, and the RWA convention. Some of these cons include agents and publishers. The opportunity to pitch yourself is more than welcome.

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.

K D Grace

Happy Masturbation month, everyone! I hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am. Aside from the obvious, May is my favorite month for a lot of reasons. The flowers are blooming and the birds are singing … and mating themselves silly and everything is suddenly made new. As is always the case in this glorious month, I can’t keep myself from thinking about those new beginnings and the fact that many of them seemingly come from nothing. 

At the moment, I’m finishing the final rewrite of Blind-Sided, the second novel in the Medusa Consortium series. Like all the Medusa tales, it’s a big book and, as I work through the final draft, reading it out loud as I go, occasionally I find myself wondering how we writers can create something out of nothing, from the tiniest seed of an idea. And that’s all any novel I’ve ever written is in the beginning. Honestly, I’m amazed at what results. But this is masturbation month, so how can I not think about the absolute pleasure I take in creating something out of nothing, in the solo act of sitting in front of a laptop for months and hammering out a tale that didn’t exist before. Oh yes, my dear friends, for me, writing a novel is very much self-pleasure.

The ancient Egyptians believed masturbation was a creative act in its own right. In the Heliopolis creation myth, the
god Amen rises from the primeval ocean and masturbates the divine son and daughter into existence. Then they, of course, populate the world. Even the Judeo/Christian myth of the first two chapters of Genesis, in which God speaks the world into existence, is a solo act. And what writer of stories and teller of tales can’t identify with ‘the word becoming flesh,’ or with the ritual of creating a world using nothing but words alone.

If creation is, in the great myths, masturbatory, then it makes sense that so many writers I’ve talked to, myself included, find their work, whether it’s erotic or not, to feel almost sexual. That leads me to wonder if perhaps the writing of story is a form of masturbation, a form of solo creation. Certainly for me, when I’m in the throes of story, completely in the thrall of something that seemingly came from nothing, there is a physical response, and it’s quite often arousing. But then how could the visceral euphoria of being The Creator not be a total turn-on?

A writer friend once told me she’d had a novel rejected by an editor who said that, while it was beautifully written, there was no blood on the page. Every novel I’ve ever read that sticks with me has demanded something physical from me. I’ve felt the story in my body and not just had an awareness of it in my mind. That being the case, it’s not much of a leap to think the power of the written word, the power of story, comes as much from a writer’s body is it does from the mind. It also isn’t much of a leap to think that writing from the gut stimulates the libido. When I’m under the spell of story, the physicality of the experience, the way I feel it below my waist, is as much a part of the creative process as the hours spent in front of the computer. 

While I can completely see writing a story as a masturbatory act, even a curmudgeonly introvert like me needs the social connection with people, and the flip side of my masturbatory acts is that they’re also exhibitionist acts. Creation, from a writer’s point of view, may take place in solitude, but the resulting story is very much meant to be shared far and wide. While story telling is an act of love for me, it’s not complete until I can share my creation with someone else. What comes from my isolation is meant to be exposed for the world to see. I suppose like the gods of the myths, I want adoration. I want people to look and see and gasp in awe at the power of what I’ve created. (Can’t you just hear my sinister laugh as I plan world domination?)

Masturbation as a creative act, to me that’s what Masturbation month is all about. There are connections, deep connections to the Self and to the mysterious creative force curled at the center of all of us that, I’m convinced, can only be accessed through solo acts of exploration and pleasure. Those places within us are places only we can discover, and the discovery is, indeed a cause for celebration.

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, horror, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and her three cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page. 

Her m/m erotic medical thriller Roughing It is out! This book is a sexy cross between The X Files, The Andromeda Strain, and Outbreak. Read her short erotic story Babes in Begging For It, published by Cleis Press. You will also find her new novel No Restraint at Amazon. Enjoy a good, sexy read today.

___

Opening a novel or short story can be a bitch. Elmore Leonard, author of Get Shorty and other novels, had advised writers to avoid prologues and to refrain from opening a story talking about the weather. Marc Laidlaw, an author who also helped develop the game Half Life, once tweeted the following advice about opening paragraphs of fiction works: The first line of almost any story can be improved by making sure the second line is, “And then the murders began.”

Normally, a writer would not begin a sentence with the word “and”. Laidlaw purposefully included that word because it “gives my use of the phrase an extra florid, self-important note that puffs it up just enough to be suitable for narrative frivolity.” My husband and I had argued about the title for my erotic romance novel Don’t Call Me Baby. He thought I should call it And Don’t Call Me Baby. I didn’t want to partly because that word dangled and irritated me and for the same reason Laidlaw laid out. It ended up not mattering since the book didn’t sell and it’s now out of print, so there’s that. I’d always done much better with my erotic fairy tales, and I’m working on a short story collection of them right now. One of my best-sellers, Climbing Her Tower (erotic Rapunzel), lends itself very well to this exercise.

 

Climbing Her Tower by Elizabeth Black

The warmth of the sun glowed on Rapunzel’s face as she stood before her window, awaiting Mother’s instructions. And then the murders began.

 

I also write horror. This exercise doesn’t work as well with that genre because it’s dark and bleak to begin with. However, when coupled with romance novels, the fun begins. Here are some examples of best-selling romance novels with that particular sentence added to them.

 

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.  And then the murders began.

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught up by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. And then the murders began.

True Believer by Nicholas Sparks

Jeremy Marsh sat with the rest of the live studio audience, feeling unusually conspicuous. And then the murders began.

Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 1) by J. R. Ward

Darius looked around the club, taking in the teeming, half-naked bodies on the dance floor. And then the murders began.

50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James

I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. And then the murders began.

Bared To You (Crossfire Book 1) by Sylvia Day

“We should head to a bar and celebrate”. And then the murders began.

Gabriel’s Inferno by Sylvain Reynard

The poet stood next to the bridge and watched as the young woman approached. And then the murders began.

 

You may see the point behind this exercise by now. Many writers, in particular fledging ones, have difficulties with exposition and telling instead of showing when beginning their stories. They ramble about the weather or describing backgrounds or pontificating about a character’s history or inner thoughts without providing a hook for the reader. Without a hook, your reader won’t continue reading. She will get bored and toss your book aside like so much garbage. You need to grab the reader in the first paragraph – nay, in the first sentence. That’s why agents and publishers often ask for the first chapter or first five pages of your manuscript when you submit to them. They want to see your hook. If you don’t have one or if it is weak, that is one reason you likely won’t get that joyous letter offering representation or a publishing contract. You need action and vibrancy to pique someone’s attention.

Sometimes, a writer’s story doesn’t really begin until the third or fourth page. If that’s the case with your story, delete the first few pages and begin your story where the action begins. Not only must you engage the reader from the onset, you must keep that reader engaged throughout every chapter of your book. Books are like fractals. There should be a hook at the beginning and end of each chapter as well as at the beginning of the book. The beginning hook holds the reader’s attention and the end-of-chapter hook encourages that eager reader to continue reading into the next chapter. Clayton Purdom described Laidlaw’s exercise in his article for A. V. Club when he wrote “the sudden introduction of murder provides a contrast with tone-setting exposition or an unexpected development to its more direct action.”

“And then the murders began” is a funny and effective way to get the point across. Watch your reader jump out of her seat with excitement over your works. Don’t let her sigh and become bored with exposition. That way, you’ll both attract and hold readers.

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.

___

My first blog post goes way back – Sept. 3, 2003. Back when dinosaurs ruled the Internet. LOL Back then, iPhones hadn’t even been imagined let alone invented. Internet piracy was a new thing. NCIS, Arrested Development, and Two and a Half Men were new TV shows. Adam and Jamie in Mythbusters started their schtick. Usenet (Newsgroups) was at its height. Blockbuster was thriving. Video tapes were still a thing. As far as I remember, CNN was the only 24 hour news station. Fox News was not a thing yet. AOL was at its peak. And I still remember what dial-up sounded like.

I had read about blogging in the New York Times, and it fascinated me. What a weird term – blog. It sounded like a shoe or some type of awkward dance. Or the sound a cat makes when it’s throwing up furballs. LOL But I wanted in. How could I become a blogger? Where could I find blogs? The articles I read sent me to conservative blogs like Instapundit, which was the first blog I ever read. It didn’t appeal to me much because I’m a flaming liberal, but it was a sane, intelligent read so I read it regularly. I did find the liberal and feminist blogs. Each day over the years I devoured Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo, Body and Soul, Scrappleface, Kevin Drum, Echidne of the Snakes, and many more. I wrote several times per day and I had over 1,000 hits per day. This was the heyday of blogging.

Blogging back then was much more like The Wild West. As a political and feminist blogger who concentrated on family law issues, I made quite the name for myself. I was trolled. I made many friends and fantastic networking colleagues. I received hate mail and death threats. It was fun! LOL My blogging led to non-fiction political writing jobs for reputable and respected publications like the Ms. Magazine Blog, Alternet, American Politics Journal, and On The Issues Magazine. It was different back then. Not everyone and his brother was a blogger. It was easier to make a name for yourself. I’ve since stopped political and feminist blogging and concentrated on sex writing and entertainment. Burnout was a huge factor. I also enjoy sex blogging and entertainment much more. Both are much more relaxing and considerably less stressful.

Today, writers are told they must blog in order to gain readers. Is this really necessary? The problem is there are so many blogs it’s hard to keep track of them. In my opinion, the ones who do best are the ones who have been around for close to a decade and therefore have developed a large following. The first ones out the gate who survived do best. If you start up a blog now, you’ll be lost in a sea of blogs with very few readers. I think that group blogs with a huge readership are the best way to go if you are a writer looking to attract readers. The blog for the Erotic Readers and Writers Association (this one, heh heh) is a great example of such a blog. You have the advantage of a huge audience that reads frequently. Fans of better known authors will read your posts and possibly buy your books as a result. When I set up my own blog tours, I go to group blogs most often. The key is to find a blog with a large audience. That’s not always easy to do. Write about something other than your book unless the blog’s owner requests such a post. I write about writing-related topics and anything fun that may appeal to my chosen audience. Then I include a blurb, excerpt, cover, and link for one of my books. Don’t spam. Talk to your audience. If you can get a conversation started in comments you’re already ahead of the game. Conversations – or arguments, if you want to be more accurate, LOL – on my first blog (the political/feminist one) could go on for days. That isn’t as common anymore unless you’re an established blog.

Blogging is useful today but it’s not the way it was when I first started. Granted, I was writing in a different and volatile genre but things have changed. Find a few group blogs or busy individual blogs and try to write for them. Blogging is a great way to get word out that you exist, but only if the blog has a huge following. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time. Above all, have fun blogging. You’re chatting with people about what interests you. Enjoy it.

K D Grace

I recently found myself skipping over a sex scene in a novel I was thoroughly enjoying. It’s not the first time that’s happened. This particular novel was a fast-paced paranormal story that was original and gripping. There was nothing wrong with the sex scene. Like the rest of the novel, it was well-written and pacey. It was just in the wrong place. It stopped the action in it’s tracks until the couple had their romp – which satisfied them a helluva lot more than it satisfied me. I just wanted to know what happened next. I guess you could say I just wasn’t in the mood.

Because the book was really good and action packed, enjoyable in every other way right down to the last word, I found myself thinking about misplaced sex scenes and story-interuptus. I did a mental inventory of the novels I could recall in which I’ve skipped over sex scenes, then I analyzed the reasons why I’d done it. Interestingly enough, I found that it seldom had to do with the fact that the sex scene was poorly written. Though I’ve read plenty of novels in which the writing of sex scenes was less than stellar, those weren’t the scenes I skipped. In those cases, I usually overlooked the flaws and just got on with it. I reckon writing sex well is a learned process and I can forgive awkwardly written sex in a pacey story that keeps me turning the pages. If the pacing is good, then the sex will not be there without a purpose.Sometimes even poorly written sex still contains an element essential to the story being told. 

 As I analyzed what I’ve read and what I’ve skipped, I found two main situations in which I skip sex scenes entirely because I know it’s a waste of my time. The first situation is when the writer interrupts the action for sex. When I began writing erotic novels, the standard rule of thumb was that there should be a sex scene every two thousand words. Seriously! So I spent a good deal of time scrambling trying to figure how a sex scene could be inserted that would move the story forward and not stall the plot. I didn’t always succeed. Thankfully more literary heads prevailed and now the tale being told determines the where and when of sex, just like it does with all other action in a story. Like any other action a writer uses in fiction, there needs to be a reason for sex. Like all other actions, sex should move the story forward, ratchet up the plot, or reveal something new about the characters.

The second situation in which I skip over sex scenes, and the one that irritates me far more, is when the writer has

substituted sex for action.  I know, I know! I just said sex should be the action that moves the plot. But when it’s not, when it does nothing but fill space where action is sorely needed, then I have a problem with that.  Sadly I see a lot of examples of sex being used to resolve a situation, and while I don’t necessarily believe everything has to be resolved for a story to reach a satisfactory conclusion, I also am not romantic enough to believe that a good romp in the hay will lead to

all problems solved, love everlasting and catapult us all to a HEA with hearts and flowers and fluffy bunnies. In erotica, sex can most definitely be the pay-off the reader is waiting for, but in romance isn’t a substitute for resolution. 

The thing that I love about sex in fiction is that it’s one of the best movers and shapers of story and certainly one of the most powerful driving forces in epic archetypal tales. It often launches the journey from which there is no return, it introduces chaos for which there is no easy solution and it reveals the heart and soul of a character, flaws, neuroses and all. How can you not love that? That it should ever be skipped over is a sad indication of its misuse – even for this jaded writer. I want it to count. I want it to change things, and I most definitely need it to do more than make me squirm in my knickers.

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, horror, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and her three cats. Visit her web site, her Facebookpage, and her Amazon Author Page.

Her new m/m erotic medical thriller Roughing It is out! This book is a sexy cross between The X Files and The Andromeda Strain. Buy it at Amazon!

You’ve seen those web articles about life hacks. Stuff like pouring iced tea into ice cube trays so your tea doesn’t dilute. Punching holes in the lid of an orange juice container so that it may function as a water pitcher for plants. When freezing raw meat, flatten it out in the plastic baggie as much as possible to cut down on thawing time. You get my drift. Have you ever wondered what kinds of life hacks for writers exist? Look no further! Here are a few I dreamed up.

1. Turn your phone off. Get off the Internet. That means no Facebook or Twitter. The point is, cut off contact with the outside world so you aren’t distracted. As the meme says, you should be writing.

2. Many writers like to drink while they write, whether it’s wine, cocktails, coffee or tea. Or something else. Coffee is elixir of the gods though, according to nearly every writer I’ve ever spoken to. Keeping the brew hot is a major concern. I use a travel mug that keeps my drinks cool or hot. If you don’t want to go that route, but you don’t want your coffee getting cold on you, invest in a Mr. Coffee Mug Warmer. I picked up this handy little hint at Positive Writer.

3. Make up your mixed drinks ahead of time. I like Negronis, so my husband and I bought bottles of Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth. We mixed equal parts of each and poured them into a container we keep in the fridge. This way, by making your cocktails ahead of time, you don’t waste writing time measuring, mixing, shaking and stirring and getting out of your groove. You pour your drink and BAM! Back to writing.

5. Invest in a water boiler. I use one by Zojirushi. You won’t have to wait for your water to boil when you’re making coffee or tea. It’s in the boiler, ready for you. You can even use the boiler to make ramen. My husband and I take ours with us when we travel for fun or for conventions and retreats. We can have hot drinks 24/7 in our room without having to wander down to the hotel lobby, thanks to the boiler.

6. Collect music compilations that match the mood of what you are writing. When I write those smoldering sex scenes, I like to listen to Enigma and Lords of Acid. Both are incredibly hot. When I write horror and dark fiction, I listen to the Internet radio station Drone Zone. It’s full of dark ambient and minimalistic electronic music.

7. If you need to get out of the house because you have a scorching case of cabin fever, go to a location that allows you to stay for a bit with your laptop but does not have wifi. That way, you won’t be tempted to spend too much time answering Buzzfeed quizzes when you should be writing. Make sure you bring cash with you so you don’t overspend your budget by using your debit card too much. Those coffee shops can be expensive. I also read about the cash idea at Positive Writer.

8. Get exercise balls for your feet so you don’t cramp or tire while seated for long periods of time. Another possibility is to get a standing desk. I read about them at Write On Sisters.

These are only a few suggestions for things to do to make your writing life easier and more enjoyable. Do you have any writing hacks? Feel free to tell me about them in comments.

It’s good to be busy.

I just returned from a retreat and a networking evening.
Both events took place on the Massachusetts coast. I’ve decided that I prefer
retreats to conventions now. Less unpleasant commitment and much cheaper, if
you work the retreats the right way. The retreat in Hampton, New Hampshre two
weekends ago was free because it was for members of Broad Universe. That’s a
networking group for women who write speculative fiction (and other forms of
fiction). I worked on Full Moon Fever,
my bisexual male werewolves erotic romance novella I’m turning into a novel. I
also worked on Neighbors, a lesbian
short story reprint for a new submission call about sexy neighbors. I’m also
going to submit a new story for that one. I learned of the submission call from
the Erotic Readers and Writers Association. I get lots of use from this group.

The interesting thing about Full Moon Fever is that it employs “The Other” (or
“The Double”), which is an archetype of twins who are really mirror
opposites of each other but aren’t related at all. They are two people who look
very much alike but they compliment each other. Two men in Full Moon Fever are
dead ringers for each other, but they are very much different. One man, when asked
if he’d like to get it on with his look-alike, says “I’ve always wanted to
have sex in the third person.” Two women, who are lovers, are also
look-alikes who are very different. One is quiet while the other is chatty. One
is pensive while the other is boisterous. I have a thing about “The
Other”. There is another set of opposites in a WIP family saga thriller
I’m working on.  These two women are
mirror images of each other. One is dark – dark hair, dark eyes – while the
other is light – blond hair, eyes so pale blue the irises disappear into her
whites. She looks blind but she sees all. I want to explore this archetype much
more. It’s a fascinating one. Are they related or not? Why is the blonde so
interested in the brunette? What’s her secret? Those are some questions driving
the book.

The Broad Universe retreat was the first retreat where I
actually did any writing. LOL My first retreat was the Stanley Hotel Writers
Retreat last October in Estes Park, Colorado. This one is for horror writers. My
husband and I had such a good time last year we’re returning this year. The
Stanley Hotel is where Stephen King stayed, and the hotel in its then rundown
condition spooked him so much it inspired him to write The Shining. I didn’t get a stitch of work done. I went to talks,
meals, hangouts, and even had some marijuana cookies and cream cake balls since
pot is legal in Colorado. I learned I can’t write worth spit when I’m stoned.
All I do is stare into space, drool and giggle. Someone recommended I eat half
a cake ball (or a quarter) the next time and see how I feel. It would be
interesting to write when stoned. I write when tipsy which is fun. Maybe my
writing will end up looking like James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. LOL

Here are pictures of North Beach in Hampton, NH which was in
front of the beach house where I did my writing. I walked on the beach each morning. Talk about inspiring!

The networking event is called the Writers Coffee House New England and
this month’s meeting was held an hour away from my home at a bookstore. The
meeting room was packed! I met old friends and made plenty of new ones. This
was a networking meet-and-greet discussion event. Although the majority of
writers wrote horror (including myself and this is New England we’re talking
about – home of the witch trials, Shirley Jackson and H. P. Lovecraft), the
advice applied to any writer. I picked up more tips about how to promote my
upcoming releases. I also learned that if I find a publisher for my family saga
thriller, I should write to the agent at the top of my list and pitch my book
before I sign the contract. Say I need an agent to look over and negotiate the
contract for me. Apparently, it’s easier to find an agent for a book that has
already been accepted. That’s news to me. I need to investigate the best
cozy/mystery/thriller publishers and send the book out, but first I need to
divide it in two. It’s a mega novel and far too large to sell as one book. One
agent who rejected me told me that. He was right. But that’s a fixable problem.
My husband came with me. We ended the evening at dinner at a restaurant with about
15 of the attendees. Then, we headed to a hotel where I had booked a jacuzzi room
for under $100 per night. We spent our time soaking and drinking – he Campari,
me Fra Angelico. Now that’s a weekend get-away!

Next month I attend the When Words Count retreat in the
mountains of Vermont. I won my stay at this one so it costs only for food. I’ve
never been to Vermont. This will be my first time. Maybe I’ll run into Bernie
Sanders. LOL I plan to finish Full Moon
Fever
and hand it in to Xcite Books after Xcite publishes my new erotic
romance novel No Restraint. That one
is a corporate and food porn erotica with elements of billionaire erotica. I
plan to write, takes walks on the mountain trails, and relax with some wine
when I’m not writing. We write all day and eat dinner together and chit chat
about our work at night. I’m going to enjoy this.

Finally, in June, my husband and I are attending No-Con. It
was originally Anthocon, a horror convention, but the organizers aren’t able to
do it this year. Two of them moved on. There were four total. They were
nicknamed The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Sadly, Anthocon is no more. Despite
the lack of convention this year, the regulars wanted to get together anyway,
so No-Con was born. It’s just a gathering where everyone can get together and
hang out. We got a great rate on the hotel, which I have to reserve soon. I get
to see everyone I hung out with last year. No pressure of manning tables,
readings or selling books. Just hang out in the bar, eat, and drink and
schmooze. I can get used to this!

I definitely like these retreats and get-togethers. I want
to make a habit of them. If you can get away to retreats, I highly recommend
them. The networking opportunities are phenomenal and I find them to be less
stressful than conventions. Plus, they’re just fun. Fun is always a good thing.

K D Grace

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.

Elizabeth Black 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.

They are coming out
of the woodwork. Plenty of people, especially women, have had to deal with Internet
crazies. These crazies often show up in your Facebook private messages.
Sometimes they aren’t even your friends. I’ve had a slew of them recently,
mostly men. Claiming to have military service is popular. Just today, I saw
another one who claimed to be military stationed in Iraq. He had only one
friend in common with me and I have no idea who that woman is. There was no
other information about him available on Facebook. He doesn’t update his
timeline with anything about himself. Nope, all these guys do the same thing.
He posted a picture of himself in civies and another picture of himself in his
uniform. That’s it.

Why do so many of
these guys think that making a fake military listing will attract women? I’ve
heard from numerous high-ranking (yeah, like I’m going to believe that) military
personnel, especially doctors, who say they are stationed in the Middle East.
They’re rank, all right. Then there are the non-American men who immediately
ask me if I’m married with children. Unfriend. Block. Or the men who tell me my
profile picture is beautiful and they want to be my friend. When I told one I
was married and not interested in hooking up with anyone, he said he’d love to
pretend I was his sister. Yeah, sure. Unfriend. Block. Or the men who claim to
have incurable illnesses (brain cancer is popular) and want to leave their
money to me if only I leave them my bank information. Unfriend. Block. I toyed
with one of these guys a few years ago only because he wrote in French and I
wanted to brush up on my French. He asked me where I lived, if I was married,
if I had children, and then launched into his sad story of having brain cancer
and he needed me to donate money to him for experimental surgery that just
happened to cost thousands of dollars. I noticed all his friends were female,
mostly romance writers I knew. I warned a few about him, and they unfriended
and blocked him. He did not update his timeline at all. The only updates were
from unsuspecting women thanking him for his friend invite. I imagine he
contacted them with the same tall tales hoping to get some cold hard cash out
of them. I told him I couldn’t give him any money, but I was suffering from an
illness myself – terminal acne – and I desperately needed him to send me money for experimental surgery. I
can’t take credit for that one. I first saw that one on the comic strip Bloom County. Bill the Cat died from
terminal acne. So I stole from the best. He ignored me and kept trying to get
money out of me. He didn’t react to anything I wrote no matter how outrageous
it was. All he wanted was to part me from my money. I finally got bored and I
stopped writing to him. He never wrote back and I see now his account is gone.

Women pull these
stunts, too. I heard from one from Japan whom I friended and I should have known
better. She immediately signed me up for two groups on Facebook with explicit
porn. Unfriend. Block. Or the other woman on Facebook who talked to me for a
few days before sending me a private message to say she was in dire need of
several thousand dollars and could I lend it to her? Nope. Those “I’m
stranded in Europe and I need money” scams from people faking your
friend’s accounts are common. So are money scams on the web. Unfriend. Block.
These Facebook porn groups piss me off. Facebook won’t take them down, but you
post a book cover with so much as a hint of a nipple and not only is your cover
taken down but you’re put in Facebook jail for a week or more.

About ten years ago,
I stumbled upon The Spam Letters, a
website by Jonathan Land, a wiseguy who answered spam he received in the most
outrageous and ridiculous manner. Some of the spammers actually wrote back and
still tried to sell him stuff he didn’t need or tried to part him from his
money. He included lots of his responses to classic Nigerian e-mail scam
letters. He has since taken down all of the several hundred spam letters except
for about two dozen since he has compiled them all in a book, and the book is
available for sale on Amazon. I did manage to find my favorite Spam Letter. He
responded to an unsolicited email trying to sell him erectile dysfunction
herbal supplements. Here’s his hilarious reply.

Boy,
do I have a bone to pick with you.

You
should really pay more attention to who you send your advertising to.

I
am a 17-year-old college student, who, as any average 17-year-old male could
tell you, is sexually excited more often then not. If a butterfly flaps its
wings in China, I guarantee you there isn’t an atomic clock that can accurately
measure the speed with which I will pitch a tent.

I
know you were hoping to get some 45-year-old dentist who has spent the past 20
years of his life with a woman who makes any given NPR personality look like a
sex kitten, and yes, that includes the guys from “Car Talk”.

My
point is this: because of your primitive “marketing strategy, you have
screwed me over BIG TIME!

I’ve been seeing this girl for about three months now, and I’ve finally figured
out the right combination of sensitivity and alcohol to coerce her into
relieving me of that mighty, mighty albatross: virginity. So, we’re back at my
room in the frat house. We start making out a little and I need to go to the
bathroom because I’m wicked blitzed, and I haven’t taken a leak all night. So
she asks, “while you’re gone, do you mind if I download some mood music
off of Napster”? Since I only have Limp Bizkit CDs, I have no
“sensitive, love-making music,” so I say, “Sure, get some
Smashing Pumpkins or shit like that Baby.” Am I good or what?

So
I’m in the bathroom thinking: Okay, if I take her clothes off at the rate of
one article every 10 minutes (an efficient, yet sensitive pace – I’m a math
major), I will be losing my virginity within the hour, but then I realize: Hey,
we’re in Buffalo, NY. In winter. Who knows how many layers of clothing she’s
wearing! I might stay a virgin for two more hours! I can’t take it! (That’s
when I remembered that I had thermal underwear on, and that just ain’t manly by
any yardstick, so I got rid of them.)

I
come out of the bathroom, and she’s just sitting there wit this completely
different expression on her face. She says: “Sweetie, I saw that e-mail
about the natural Viagra stuff that your friend sent you. It’s okay, we don’t
need to rush this.” I was completely torn. I can’t say something like,
“Yo, that ain’t true, I’ll make sweet, sweet love to you senseless right
here, right now, over and over and over” without giving up the sensitive
front. So I say, “Baby, I’m sorry you had to find out about my erectile
dysfunction this way, but I’d like to try this. I’d like to try and make you
happy.” She was on board. Kid Genius had saved the day!

So
we were fooling around for a few hours, and all I’m thinking from the get-go
is: “Okay, why am I not hard yet?” This girl is a cheerleader for
Christ’s sake, and my penis is acting like I’m in bed with Nathan Lane. After a
while she gets real frustrated, calls me a fag, goes home, and the next day
she’s doing one of my fraternity brothers. My one prospect of virginity-loss
has slipped through my hands like a grain of sand in an hourglass, a moment of
time that cannot be regained, just like that grain of sand that will never pass
through the glass chamber in the same way, no matter how many times you flip
the thing over. And believe me. I tried flipping her over, and that didn’t work
either. (I’ve got a minor in philosophy – can you tell??)

Did
you know that some ancient tribes from South America, such as the Yanomamo,
punish murderers not only for the people they’ve killed, but for the deaths of
the potential descendants of those people as well? Well I should fucking sue
you to the tune of all the girls I could have done by now if I lost my
virginity as scheduled. All because of you, I’m still a virgin. Maybe since
last week I could have banged 30 chicks a night, but I’ll never know now. I’m
just sitting around waiting for the mayor of Poonville to award me the medal of
pity and give me the key to the city.

Thanks
loads, dude,

Jon

If you’d like to buy
the book to read more of these delightful letters, just to go Amazon and look
for The Spam Letters in either Print
or Kindle.  What’s really amusing is that Land convinced a
spammer to write his forward. Go check out the book.

Now back to more
Internet crazies. Before I was a fiction writer and sex/relationships writer, I
wrote political and feminist articles for several magazines and web sites. I
was quite well known, and with the fame came the misogynistic baggage all
feminists have to deal with. These were my first Internet crazies. I regularly
heard from men’s rights activists who liked to tell me I was wrong about
everything while calling me a cunt and worse. In case you don’t know what they
are, men’s rights activists are men – mostly middle aged white men but some are
younger and of color – who feel that their sense of entitlement is being
threatened by gains made by women, people of color, and GLBT folk. There are
also women in the men’s rights movement. They are the men’s auxiliary, and they
support the guys in every way, even down to doing their grunt work for them.
These women were most often wives, girlfriends, sisters, and mothers of the men
in the movement, and they had a vested interest in seeing the status quo
maintained. I estimated that women comprised about 40% of the movement. Some of
these guys want to repeal women’s right to vote. They claim the vast majority
of rape allegations are false. These guys will whine to anyone who will listen
to them, and that often consists of an echo chamber of their own kind. Now,
they meet on the Internet. Before the Internet, they met in member’s homes,
church halls, or other public places. They’re very politically active and they
try to roll back gains made by women, people of color, and GLBT folk over the
past 30 odd years. And I heard from plenty of them, the emails ranging from
mild insults to death threats.

Due to the influx of
nutcases harassing me on Facebook over the past week, I’ve decided to host a
radio show on The Women Show about Internet crazies. Do you have your own tales
of strange men harassing you on Facebook? Do you get email from Nigerian
princes who want to send you millions of dollars (people still fall for that
one?)? Do writers friend you only to immediately spam your timeline and private
messages with junk about their books without so much as saying hello? If you’ve
experienced any of this or know someone who has, this is the show for you. Here
are details:

The Women Show –
Internet Crazies

Date: Thursday February
18, 2016  6:30 – 7 PM EST

Host – Elizabeth
Black

Guests – Phoenix
Johnson, Christine Morgan, and Jen Winters.

Keep an eye on my
Facebook page for more details, including a link to the show with more information.

Elizabeth
Black – Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/elizabethablack

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