Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Saturday, January 24, 2015

It's Complicated

by Kathleen Bradean

For the past two years, my family's drama has been building to a bad ending. A real life bad ending. In a book, it would be a great ending, somewhere between a trashy Dynasty catfight and the bleakness of Fargo, a train wreck that Dominick Dunne would have appreciated.

The friends that have followed the play-by-play of this drama have asked if I'd ever consider writing a screenplay or a book about it. It's no fun to live through, so stepping back to look at it as a writer gives me some much needed distance. Looking at this sprawling mess from that distance, I can see the strengths and weaknesses of it as a piece of entertainment. (And believe me, from a gallows sense of humor perspective, some of us in this family find whats going on both grimly amusing and horrifying in equal measures.)

It's amazing how a seemingly normal family can be torn apart when they've been nurturing a Cuckoo egg in the nest.  (Some cuckoo birds are brood parasites which lay their eggs in the nests of different species. When the eggs hatch, the larger cuckoo hatchling  pushes the other chicks out of the nest or crowds them out to get all the food, often exhausting the unwitting foster parent birds with it's constant demands for more as the step-siblings that didn't get shoved out starve to death.)  Any reader with siblings could relate to this warning tale, and elderly parents could learn a thing or two about defending themselves from predatory children. So this story would work as fictionalized true crime or as non-fiction.  

But writer me also sees the structural flaws in this story as a story.

1) It sprawls over many years as the build-up to the denouement.  That could be condensed, or the writer could opt for a James Michener (does anyone remember his work now?) length tome.

2) there are so many fascinating side stories that could be woven in, but they might hopelessly muddy the narrative. Which of these stories would the writer chose to write? The alleged financial crimes against the sister? The alleged elder abuse and alleged financial shenanigans committed against the mother? Any of the many other alleged scams and frauds now coming to light? How do you pick? How do you narrow down the focus while preserving the wide scope? And which trial would be the dramatic highlight?

3) there's more than one villain. One is so over the top as to be almost unbelievable to the reader. Seriously. After a while, a reader would say "Come on. in real life, no one would do that."  We often find ourselves saying to the latest events "Really? Really? Un-fucking-believable."


All this musing has been a good thought exercise on storytelling. While side stories and just one more example of heroism or villainy might seem to drive home the point, we have to keep our narratives focused and tightly written. I've often said that writing a novel is like hiking through a forest. Many writers begin their work knowing the starting point of the tale and where it's supposed to end up, but picking the path between those two points is often a mystery that unfolds as the writer writes. Finding that right path is as much art as it is craft.  The tale should not wander off the path to pick pretty flowers. Nor should it take the scenic route. It's okay to tell complicated stories, but those demand the most focus in the narrative,

I hope some day to be able to report a happy ending to our family drama. Life doesn't usually give us closure though. I think that's why people crave stories. They have a decisive end.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Keep on Keeping On!

by Lucy Felthouse

I don't talk about personal stuff online, really, so I'm sorry for being vague when I say the second half of 2014 was really tough for me. On a positive note, I got through it and came out the other side, and now, the only way is up.

But, the crappy few months had a knock on effect. I managed (somehow!) to keep on top of all my client work, my editing, etc, but my writing output went waaaaay down. My time was less, and because of all the stress and worry, my inclination wasn't there, either. So, when I did my round up post for 2014 on my own website, where I tot up my achievements, publications, etc, my total word count for the year compared to 2013 was much lower.

I'd expected it, of course. Yes, I was disappointed, but I certainly didn't beat myself up. How could I? I had a damn good reason for not writing as much. Plus, somehow, I actually ended up with more publications in 2014 than 2013! (32 vs 30, if you're interested). I also bagged my very first writing award - a Golden Ankh for my erotic short story, A Taste of Rome.

So, while 2014 wasn't a complete loss, it could have been better. And I intend to make sure 2015 is lots, lots better. And how am I going to do that?


Yep, that's pretty much the plan! I can't change what happened, and I can't get that lost word count back, but I can do my best to make it up for it this year. I've already had one book release, and another three will be hot on its heels, with others lining up as things fall into place with my writing and my various publishers.

So, look out for what will hopefully be a very productive writing year from me! And, as the title of my post says... Keep On Keeping On!

Happy Reading,
Lucy 

*****

Author Bio:


Lucy Felthouse is a very busy woman! She writes erotica and erotic romance in a variety of subgenres and pairings, and has over 100 publications to her name, with many more in the pipeline. These include several editions of Best Bondage Erotica, Best Women's Erotica 2013 and Best Erotic Romance 2014. Another string to her bow is editing, and she has edited and co-edited a number of anthologies, and also edits for a small publishing house. She owns Erotica For All, is book editor for Cliterati, and is one eighth of The Brit Babes. Find out more at http://www.lucyfelthouse.co.uk. Join her on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to her newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/gMQb9

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Call for Submissions

Who Thrilled Cock Robin?
Edited by Sallyanne Rogers
Publisher: House of Erotica
Deadline: Feb 28th 2015
Payment details: 50% of royalties split equally among the contributors and editor. Royalty threshold is £50.

Word count: 2000 - 6000
Theme: Stories inspired by or based on traditional folk songs
Genre: Any: contemporary, historical, fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal etc.
Pairing: any
Heat level: hot and hotter.
Submission limit: Two stories per author

Folk songs are absolutely rammed with sex, love, yearning, innuendo, bawdiness and darker passions. They often feature trickery, cross-dressing and lovers hiding sinful secrets, so they're an excellent source of inspiration. I want stories that are either inspired by or based on traditional songs, but you can take the storyline or theme of your chosen song and let your imagination run riot.

Submission details at:
http://www.erotica-readers.com/ERA/AR/Who_Thrilled_Cock_Robin.htm

Wrangling Sentences

By Lisabet Sarai

I realized that I hadn’t written a craft-oriented post for the ERWA blog in a while, so I thought I’d remedy that today. My topic: making your sentences work to accomplish both your narrative and emotional goals.

Defining terms

When I teach writing classes, I begin by stating that, in English, the sentence is the basic unit of meaning. A (simple) sentence consists of a subject and a predicate. The former identifies what we are talking about, while the latter expresses what we want to say about the subject. A subject may be a noun (“spanking”), a pronoun (“she”), a simple noun phrase (“the riding crop”) or a noun phrase with modifying clauses (“the riding crop that dangled casually from her belt”) A predicate may specify an action (“heated his butt”), a relationship (“was his first Mistress”), or a state of being (“was obviously new”). Both subject and predicate are required in order to have a complete idea. The subject “spanking” may conjure a variety of theories regarding the point to be made, but we really don’t know what the author intends without the predicate.

Compound sentences combine two (or sometimes more) simple sentences using conjunctions or adverbs that specify a logical relationship between their components. English provides a wide variety of relationships including coordination (“and”), opposition (“but”, “although”), sequence (“before”, “during”, “after”), and causality (“because”, “if”). A compound sentence expresses a meta-idea that includes not only the individual concepts captured in the component simple sentences but also the relationship determined by the connector. Change the connecting words and you totally change the meaning.

Peter fantasized about spanking but he had never been to a BDSM club.
Peter fantasized about spanking because he had never been to a BDSM club.

Sentences – naive and experienced

We authors use sentences for both telling a story and for evoking specific emotional responses in our readers. When I wrote my first novel, Raw Silk, I was thinking mostly about the first goal, not the second. Certainly, I was trying to evoke various moods, but I didn’t consciously manipulate the structure of my sentences with that in mind. As a result, all my sentences tended to be fairly long and complex, regardless of what was going on in the story.

Paragraph from Chapter One:

Kate extricated herself from the car’s comfortable embrace. The house was small, almost a cottage, but had two stories, and was surrounded by lush gardens. A huge tree with gnarled, contorted limbs stood before the building, bearing drooping masses of vines and creepers. She breathed deep, savouring the sweetness of flowers she could not name. The humid air caressed the bare skin on her arms. She heard the chittering of insects, and softly, the music of flowing water. There must be a pool or fountain, she thought, smiling to herself. She noted a balcony on the second floor, overlooking the garden.

Paragraph from Chapter Four:

Somtow rocked his pelvis in time with her strokes, but otherwise remained still. He watched her as she rode him, harder now, grinding herself down on him, finding exactly the right position, the right angle, for her own satisfaction. Now he reached up and caressed her breasts gently, trapping the nipples between his first and second finger. Katherine responded by pinching his nipples, hard. His back arched, pushing his cock deeper into her.

Paragraph from Chapter Nine

The rubber felt foreign, solid and unyielding, no respite, no escape. Noi hammered into her, then pulled out slowly, so that Kate could feel each of the ridges as it caught and then released the edges of her hole. The huge dildo stretched her deliciously, but she wanted more. She pushed her hips back toward the woman fucking her, begging for deeper penetration, harder strokes.

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with these sentences, but they have a sameness, a similar rhythm and style even though they play very different roles in the story. In the sex scenes, the length and complexity of the sentences have the effect of distancing the reader from the action.

In the fifteen years since I wrote this book, I’ve learned to use shorter sentences, even fragments, in sex scenes, to evoke a sense of urgency and breathlessness.

Here’s a bit from my latest novel The Ingredients of Bliss:

The sting dwindled when he nuzzled the sensitive spot just below my ear. As Im sure he expected, my clit twitched in response. I arched up, trying to grind my pelvis against his bum. He raised himself to a half-kneel, breaking the contact between our skin, while still holding me more or less immobilized. His cock was now fully engorged. Barely a foot from my hungry mouth, it wept pre-cum onto my chest. I whimpered and struggled against his inexorable grip. I really didnt want to talk anymore. I just wanted him to fuck me. Again.

Notice the difference? I’ve deliberately chosen shorter sentences and more concrete nouns. The paragraph feels more immediate and intense than anything in my first novel.

The style in the passage above isn’t necessarily typical of all the prose in the book. Here’s a bit of description:

Buildings of brick, stone and stucco made the street into a shadowy canyon. Overhead there were decorative cornices and wrought iron balconies, remnants of another, more prosperous time, but at the ground level, most had roll down metal shutters, locked tight. Neon-hued graffiti decorated the blank steel panels. Fast food wrappers and crumpled newspaper stirred in the gutters. The temperature had remained balmy but fog had crept in from the harbor, bringing the smell of rotting kelp and giving halos to the scattered street lights.

As I’ve become more aware of my sentence structure, I believe that my writing has improved. I have more control over the reactions I’m trying to elicit from my readers.

Tips for more effective sentences

I called this a craft article, so I suppose I should try to distill my own strategies into a set of recommendations that might help other authors. So here goes!

Comprehensibility comes first. Before starting to play around with sentence structure in order to achieve particular effects, be sure that the literal meaning is clear and easy to grasp.

Avoid using complex noun phrases as sentence subjects since they burden the reader’s memory. Here’s a sentence from a story I recently edited for another author.

But what had been a nice little itch to scratch in private had bloomed within me and grown as uncontrollable as my hair.

This sentence is completely grammatical, but struck me as awkward and confusing because of the long subject – especially since that subject begins with a pronoun.

I suggested revising it as follows:

But the little itch I’d scratched in private had bloomed and grown as uncontrollable as my hair.

Multiple pronoun references in a single sentence that refer to different individuals can reduce clarity. Words that can act as both nouns and verbs (e.g. “present”, “market”) sometimes cause problems. Finally, cognitive research has shown that long sentences are more difficult to comprehend, regardless of their structure. I am not suggesting that authors “dumb down” their prose, but complexity must be weighed against comprehensibility.

I’m sure the average length of my sentences has declined as I’ve gained in skill, even as the variation in length has increased.

Match the pace of your prose to the pace of the narrative. I’ve already addressed this issue above. Brief, concrete, punchy sentences work well for action scenes (including many sex scenes). Longer, more intricately structured sentences are more appropriate for description and thematic explication. Also, you may want to use more complex sentences for flashbacks than for live action. Recollection does not generally have the same intensity as experience, unless the character is lost in fantasy.

Use sentence fragments with discretion. A sentence fragment is a bare subject or bare predicate, or else part of a complex sentence – a dependent clause without the corresponding independent clause that controls it. Without context, a fragment does not express a full idea, and strictly speaking, fragments are not grammatically correct. However, a partial sentence can be highly effective in the right circumstances, particularly inner dialogue.

Sympathy welled up inside me. I pushed it aside. I had to be strong. Stern. Maybe even cruel.

In their ice-blue depths I saw a flicker of something—something that both warmed me inside and turned up the volume on my arousal. Gratitude, maybe? Or complicity?

If you’re deliberately using sentence fragments, don’t let some over-zealous editor cite rigid grammar rules to red-pencil them out of existence. At the same time, be aware that overusing fragments can render your prose much harder to understand.

Avoid joining clauses with “and” unless they are logically equivalent and have strong semantic links. Compound sentences are powerful tools for expressing subtle connections between concepts. However, the “coordination” relationship, using “and”, is the weakest way to join two ideas.

Authors often use “and” when they are actually trying to convey temporal sequence:

She landed another stinging slap on my bare ass and I cried out in agony.

This sentence might be more effective if the clauses were split apart:

She landed another stinging slap on my bare ass. I cried out in agony.

Alternatively, you can make the temporal relationship more explicit:

When she landed another stinging slap on my bare ass, I cried out in agony.

Reserve “and” for cases where there’s a strong connection between concepts expressed in the joined clauses:

He’s my beloved Master and I’m his devoted slave.

Vary your sentence structure and length within a paragraph. A paragraph in which every sentence has a similar structure quickly becomes boring. Erotic books are full of passages like the following:

Now he sipped at my mouth rather than swallowing me whole. He feathered his tongue over my lips, coaxing me to let him enter. He breathed into me, warm and sweet, gentle as drifting clouds on a spring day. He held me close, so close I could feel the heartbeat under his sweat-damp shirt, and bathed me in his devotion.

Every sentence in this brief paragraph has “he” as the subject. I revised the passage as follows:

Now he sipped at my mouth rather than swallowing me whole. His tongue feathered over my lips, coaxing me to let him enter. He breathed into me, warm and sweet, gentle as drifting clouds on a spring day. Holding me close, so close I could feel the heartbeat under his sweat-damp shirt, he bathed me in his devotion.

Now the sentences have a more varied structure. One technique for achieving this variety is to use modifying phrases (like “holding me close”) to introduce some of the sentences. Another technique I’ve employed here is to use what some editors would label as an “Independent Body Part” (IBP), using “his tongue” rather than “he” as the subject in the second sentence. Like any other construction, IBPs can be over-used, but in fact they are an example of a type of figurative language called synecdoche , which involves using a part of something to represent the whole, or vice versa.

(Check out my blog post here for more about IBP.)
An exercise in wrangling sentences. Just for fun, I decided to take one of the passages from Raw Silk I quoted at the start of this post, and revise it according to some of the recommendations above. Here’s the result:

The rubber felt foreign, solid and unyielding. No respite. No escape. Noi hammered into her, again and again. With each invasion, the ridges on the obscene toy caught then released the edges of Kate’s hole. The huge dildo stretched her to the limit, but Kate wanted more. Shameless, she arched back toward the woman fucking her, begging for what she craved. Deeper penetration. Harder strokes.

This still isn’t great literature, but are the sentences more effective? Is the tone more urgent, more involving? I’d argue that it is.

Summary

The structure of your sentences impacts the effectiveness of your prose. Work to create sentences that are easy to understand, that match the pace and tone of the narrative, and that use devices like fragments and figurative language to add variety and spice. Be deliberate in your choices. You have more control than you may have realized.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Call for Submissions

Over the Knee
Publisher: Totally Bound Publishing
Deadline: 1st March 2015
Can you write a tantalising D/s story based around spanking and all the excitement that comes with it? We're looking for a desirable Dom and a sated sub who have a yearning to explore. MF pairing and BDSM genre please.
Submission details at:
http://www.erotica-readers.com/ERA/AR/Over_the_Knee.htm
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Cowboy/Western
Publisher: Totally Bound Publishing
Deadline: Open submission call
All we ask is that your story includes an MF pairing and will fit into the Cowboy/Western genre. Let your imagination run off into the sunset.
Submission details at:
http://www.erotica-readers.com/ERA/AR/Cowboy_Western.htm
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Totally Five Star
Publisher: Totally Bound Publishing
Deadline: Open submission call
Glamor, high society and exotic locales. We are actively acquiring submissions for our exciting new imprint, Totally Five Star. Here you have the whole world at your feet to explore and can choose from a vast array of different famous tourist destinations to be your location. Any pairing is possible for this imprint (MF, MM, MFM, MMF).
Submission details at:
http://www.erotica-readers.com/ERA/AR/Totally_Five_Star.htm
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Vampire Cowboys (MM)
Publisher: Totally Bound Publishing
Deadline: Open submission call
Mysterious men are lurking out there ready for their story to be told. These heroes are cowboys with a dark, underlying existence—vampire blood runs through their veins.
Submission details at:
http://www.erotica-readers.com/ERA/AR/MM_Vampire_Cowboys.htm

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sexy Snippets for January




It's that time again - time to heat up the Internet with your hottest erotic prose. Today's the 19th of January, which means it's Sexy Snippets Day!

The ERWA blog is not primarily intended for author promotion. However, we've decided we should give our author/members an occasional opportunity to expose themselves (so to speak) to the reading public. Hence, we have declared the 19th of every month at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association blog Sexy Snippet Day.

On Sexy Snippet day, any author can post a tiny excerpt (200 words or less) in a comment on the day's post. Include the title from with the snippet was extracted, your name or pseudonym, and one buy link, if you'd like.

Feel free to share this with erotic author friends. It's an open invitation!

Please follow the rules. If your excerpt is more than 200 words or includes more than one link, I'll remove your comment and prohibit you from participating in further Sexy Snippet days. I'll say no more!

After you've posted your snippet, feel free to share the post as a whole to Facebook, Twitter, or wherever else you think your readers hang out.

Have fun!

~ Lisabet