Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Few Kicks

By Lisabet Sarai

Let me entertain you.
Let me see you smile.
Let me do a few tricks,
Some old and then some new tricks;
I'm very versatile.

- Stephen Sondheim, from Gypsy

I grew up singing musicals. When I was still in grade school, I knew most of the lyrics from "My Fair Lady", "South Pacific", "West Side Story", and "The Sound of Music". We had all the records (LPs, of course). My mom, in particular, used to play them while she was doing housework. I've always picked up songs and verse, without really trying. So I can still sing "On the Street Where You Live", "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair" and "Tonight", as well as dozens more classics.

One of my mother's favorites was "Gypsy". I can see why, nowshe was a bit like Gypsy Rose Lee's mom, flamboyant and stage struck. (It was her idea, for instance, for me and my two siblings to perform on a local TV amateur hour.) As for me, I was fascinated with the character of the famous burlesque star. I must have known even at that young age that there was something naughty about Gypsy's vocation. (I've always had instincts about that sort of thing!) Anyway, I would belt out "Let Me Entertain You" while I was doing the dishes, in between renditions of "Have an Eggroll, Mr. Goldstone" and "If Mama Was Married".

As I was thinking about a post for the ERWA blog this month, I realized that the song above could be my author-ly theme. I don't write to become famous (it'll never happen) or to contribute to the canon of great literature (despite my fantasies). For the most part, I write because I want to entertain my readers - and myself. And like Gypsy, I'm very versatile. I write in a wide range of different styles and genres, depending on my mood.

Want serious BDSM romance? Try The Gazillionaire and the Virgin. Steampunk fantasy? I can recommend Rajasthani Moon. Do you like M/M stories? Pick up a copy of Necessary Madness or Quarantine. For lesbian erotica, sample The Witches of Gloucester. If vampires are your thing, there’s Fire in the Blood, my M/M/F vampire ménage set in Jamaica. Speaking of ménage, my backlist includes Truce of Trust (M/F/M with a touch of BDSM), Monsoon Fever (M/M/F historical), and Wild About That Thing (M/F/M contemporary) among other titles. I’ve written paranormal, suspense, science fiction, and hard core BDSM erotica. About the only genres I haven’t tackled are Western (though my short story “Spank Me Again, Stranger” is set in cowboy country) and sweet romance (though I’ve been tempted to try the latter, just to see if I could keep my nasty streak under control).

I've noticed that many authors seem to specialize, to carve out a niche and stick to it. Not me. I'm easily bored, I guess. Or presenting myself in a more favorable lightI like to challenge myself by attempting to write in new genres. At the moment I have one WIP that's paranormal (vampire and shifter), one that's a satirical retelling of Faust, and one that’s dark BDSM. If that's not versatile, I'm not sure what you’d call it.

There's another song from "Gypsy", sung by several of Gypsy's fellow strippers, called "You Gotta Get a Gimmick":

You can pull all the stops out
Till they call the cops out,
Grind your behind till you're banned
But you've gotta get a gimmick
If you wanna get a hand.
You can sacrifice your saccro
Working in the back row.
Bump in a dump till you're dead.
Kid, you gotta have a gimmick
If you wanna get ahead.

I sure hope that this isn't true. I'm too busy exploring to figure out a "gimmick". My stories have some common features and themes, I guess, but they are all quite different. That's both good and bad. A reader who has experience with one of my books doesn't really know what to expect from the next. On the other hand, for a reader who likes surprises... well, I can show her a few tricks.

(Maybe I should write a story that revolves around musicals...!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Sexy Snippets for October


Greetings, smut slingers!

The 19th of the month has arrived once more--as it usually does--so it's time for Sexy Snippets Day! I hope you've saved up some really steamy snippet to share.

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. No extra promo text, please!

Please post excerpts only from published work (or work that is free for download), not works in progress. The goal, after all, is to titillate your readers and seduce them into buying your books!

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

Of course I expect you to follow the rules. One snippet per author, please. 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.


~ Lisabet

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

My Fiction Detox Diet: Or Where to Find the Real Meat in Writing

by Donna George Storey

This month’s column was inspired by another author interview I read thanks to the recommendation of Erotica for the Big Brain’s Terrance Aldon Shaw. TAS pointed me to “Back to School? How to get your novel published,” an interview with Jonathan Kemp (author of London Triptych, a novel about the lives of three gay hustlers in three different time periods) from Gasholder: The cultural guide to King’s Cross and beyond. The interview touched on some issues I’ve been thinking about as I continue writing and researching my historical erotic novel, in particular the meaning of "success" as a writer.

First, let’s get the title of the article out of the way. The interview with Kemp doesn’t really reveal new secrets on how to get your novel published, but rather advocates the values I think most of us here at ERWA follow in our writing: write a lot, be patient, stay true to your project, and do it for love not money. (For the record, if you are writing for the money and love doing that, that’s cool with me!) So clearly the interviewer or an editor decided to make the article more clickable with a classic “what’s in it for me?” hook for the wannabe writer-reader.

However, rather than get-rich-quick tips to finding a superagent, readers will find observations from Kemp’s experience teaching creative writing such as this:

Q: Do students think they’ll wind up famous?

A: There’s a lot of starry eyed-ness around creative writing; and yet what always drove me to it was the opposite. Jean Genet said, “the only two things a poet needs are anonymity and poverty”: there’s that sense in which the true spirit of literature is being compromised by capitalism, and the need to be rich and famous is driving the desire to write a book, rather than the need to express the human soul or psyche.

I myself am also nostalgic for the days that probably-never-were when literary writers did it for love alone and disdained profit or acclaim. From what I’ve read, even Genet dined out on his outcast celebrity on occasion. However, as writers we know that the hard work of storytelling does require some ego and expectation of reward to overcome all the obstacles inherent in the creative process. Writing for the market does not necessarily mean you’ve compromised your values, although it can. I’ve written dozens of stories for themed anthologies, which I’ve definitely shaped for a certain market, but tell myself I always put something true in my stories, something I want to say beyond the glory of a byline. Still I won’t deny that at an earlier phase of my writing life, the validation of publication was an important goal.

Perhaps it’s the lot of the fairly oft-published writer, but I don’t have stars in my eyes about authorship anymore. Publication, even by a “prestigious” press, isn’t enough. Writers have to earn my admiration. Frankly, these days I tend to avoid fiction, especially the ubiquitous bestsellers with “girl” in the title that invariably deal with murder, addiction, sexual abuse and other titillating violence that seems to be the surefire path to fame and riches. Good writing always makes me want to sit right down and start writing myself, but the predictability and sensationalism of these novels just makes me feel stupid, if I can even make it through the book (I often end up skimming). “Beautiful” writing doesn’t do it either. I need to feel my reading experience enriched my life and didn’t just show off how clever the author was. All too often, the mainstream fiction of today does not satisfy me.

Fortunately, I’ve found a steady source of nourishment in a different genre of writing: specialized nonfiction. I suspect that few of these authors have made millions. Still I regularly finish these books with a deep sense of gratitude for the love, care, and amazing amount of time and research these authors have put into their work.

I’m immensely grateful to Brian J. Cudahy for his books on public transportation in the New York Area (Under the Sidewalks of New York: The Story of the Greatest Subway System in the World and How We Got to Coney Island: The Development of Mass Transportation in Brooklyn and Kings County). His painstaking research and obvious love of subways and trains has recreated an important part of city life of one hundred years ago for me. Kathy Peiss’ Hope in a Jar: The Making of America’s Beauty Culture traces the history of cosmetics, once considered the lying trick of prostitutes but now seen as a way to express your “true self.” And Aine Collier’s The Humble Little Condom penetrates the silence around birth control, which is not only useful to get a sense of how a couple might control fertility in 1900, but puts the current controversy about this issue in perspective. These books have made me think about the world in new ways. I wish more fiction did the same. (In all fairness, some does, but not nearly enough).

Excellent and engaging writers that they are, these nonfiction authors are clearly privileging history and information over the effort of showing their brilliance as superior creative geniuses. I find this dedication to teaching us more about the human experience far more inspiring than the self-conscious pursuit of canonization as a literary genius. These authors rarely, if ever, make the cover of Time magazine a la "Jonathan Franzen: Great American Novelist." But for me, they have enriched and entertained and brought the past to life, magicians all. I’d like to thank them and the dozens of authors I’ve already consulted about life a hundred years ago for their labors of love. I appreciate what you’ve done more than words can say.

Write on!

Donna George Storey is the author of Amorous Woman and a collection of short stories, Mammoth Presents the Best of Donna George Storey. Learn more about her work at or

Saturday, October 15, 2016

It's all funny until someone gets pressed to death

Imagine, it's three hundred years from now, and a little town in Poland is reveling in mischief, merriment and good old family fun, folks from the world over have come to dress up in costume. A funhouse is set up for the kids; it's a scale model of a crematorium. That's right folks! Come one, come all; kick up your heels and help us celebrate Olde Auschwitz Days!

What? That could never happen ... people celebrating an atrocity? You gotta be kidding, right?

Well, the comparison might be a tad extreme, as atrocities are weighed, twenty as opposed to millions. Still, in my adopted hometown, the "Witch City," Salem, Massachusetts, folks are midway through a month-long festival that owes its inspiration to just such a morsel of murder.

Proponents and fans of Haunted Happenings will spin it otherwise. We're just celebrating the spooky season and inviting all things that go bump in the night to come to Salem, bump up against each other and in the process bump up the local economy. After all, we're the Halloween capital of the world.

Hey, everyone celebrates Halloween, but not every town has a witch on a broomstick flying on the doors of its police cruisers. Witches and witchcraft: An ironic source of fame. Until fairly recently, it was a source of shame. Even after nearly three centuries, Salem was embarrassed by its history of judicial malfeasance that saw innocent folks railroaded onto the gallows. Well, most of them were innocent – wink.

Salem would try to redirect attention to its seafaring past when its ships sailed to the far reaches of the globe and returned to the infant United States with rare and exotic goods and ideas. So many ships that the Chinese thought Salem was a nation unto itself. So much wealth was brought in that tariffs collected in Salem accounted for a majority of the revenue that funded the federal government and spawned America's first millionaires.

Nah, that kind of history doesn't play on Jerry Springer. So, sometime around the 1970s, people from "somewhere else" with bucks to invest took a look around Salem and mocked, "You people are sitting on a gold mine."

Visitors pose at the Bewitched statue.
Kitsch and marketing led to what these days is the closest thing to Mardi Gras you're likely to find in the chilly Northeast. And like Mardi Gras, Haunted Happenings has a sexy vibe, but more of that in a bit.

First, let's take a refresher on Salem's claim to fame. Salem actually gets a bad rap – initially. The so-called witchcraft hysteria didn't begin in the port of Salem, but five miles inland at the farming community of Salem Village, now Danvers. Everyone knows the basic story, a group of adolescent and pre-adolescent girls, bored out of their skulls in the midst of winter and inspired by a slave/servant's spook stories got caught messing about with forbidden (occult)  things. In an effort to escape a good whupping, they began to throw various adult neighbors under the bus, and in those days the bus was called witchcraft. Most folks were skeptical at the girls' claims, but events began to snowball, if slowly, aided and abetted by well-meaning and not-so-well-meaning adults.

After local judges determined there were cases to be made, the judicial proceedings were taken over by William Stoughton, a high-ranking colonial official who had no legal training at all, and who proceeded to toss out legal protections for the accused, such as the right to counsel. He allowed accusers to chat with judges and allowed spectral evidence. Imagine a DA today telling a jury, "Ladies and gentleman, I can't show you the murder weapon, on account of it's invisible, but that's okay, just take my word for it."

It became evident early on that verdicts were foregone conclusions. Those who did not confess were sent to the gallows, but for one grisly exception.

Giles Corey was a miserable old guy whose hobby was bringing nuisance lawsuits against his neighbors. In a fit of pique he accused his own wife of witchcraft, only to relent and recant his accusation. Big mistake, then he was accused of witchcraft.

Giles may have been the source of that Groucho Marx joke: "I went to court to press my suit, but the judge said, 'You can't press your suit here, you gotta take it to a cleaners.'"

Well, Giles didn't want to get taken to the cleaners by the authorities. See, if he pleaded guilty to save his life, his property might well be confiscated and his sons would lose their inheritance.

So Giles, being law-savvy, refused to enter a plea, which blocked his indictment. The downside of that was the sheriff was allowed to torture him until he agreed to plea or confess. Giles got pressed like a cheap suit.

That is, he was made to lay on the ground and something like a coffin was placed on top of him. Then the coffin was filled with rocks to the point of crushing him. He endured three days of this before he expired. The tour guides will tell you it happened in Howard Street Burial Ground. But most likely Giles was taken just across the street from the old gaol, to what is now the parking lot of the Polish Catholic church, St. John's.

So, final tally, 19 executed by hanging, one pressed to death.

There is a large Wiccan community in Salem who claim these twenty as martyrs for religious freedom. Well, no they weren't. Any of them would have been content to allow the hanging of a practicing witch. A creature so foul in the eyes of God, that they would rather go to their deaths rather than name themselves as such. Nonetheless, it's ironical that Salem today hosts lots of folks who follow the old religion.

One year, an organization of North American vampires based in Montreal announced they would have their annual vampires ball in Salem. The protests that flowed from the local Witches in the form of letters to the editor were hilarious, particularly the one that scolded: let vampires into Salem and the town will go to hell. Okay, it's paraphrased, but you just can't make this stuff up.

One of the newer, popular attractions is the statue of Elizabeth Montgomery as TV witch Samantha Stevens, donated by TV Land. Nevermind that the series, "Bewitched," was set in a Connecticut suburb of New York City, not Salem. Also, Samantha is grinning more or less in the direction of where the witch trials were held and so that troublesome dichotomy again rears its hydra heads. Is this supposed to be fun?

That dichotomy is on display, uncomfortably one would think, everywhere in Salem, most notably in the understated memorial to the victims, dedicated by Elie Wiesel in 1992, the 300th anniversary of the hysteria, and which borders an alley of kitschy stores and a pirate museum – Arrrrgh!

No matter, Haunted Happenings has caught on in a big way. The largest crowds recorded came last year when Halloween occurred on a weekend. Is it fun? Sure it is. It's a fun outing for families. But it's even more fun for adults.

Even though we are often blessed with a stretch of Indian Summer in October, some of the costumes worn by young women literally fly in the face of the season. Last year, I made note of one striking young woman, hair so blonde it could blind you with reflected sunlight, wearing a black peaked hat and a black baby doll ... with heels. So many heads turned that it was a wonder there wasn't a slow-motion pile up.

When the sun goes down and the kids go home, the pheromones are as pungent as rum and candy corn. It is like a fog settles downtown as chill air contacts hot bodies.

Yes, Salem is a sexy town. I've set a few stories here, two of which included sex scenes in the Old Burying Point.

You wouldn't want to 'hang out' behind Walgreens three hundred years ago.
Perhaps, in a way, that's the best balm for guilt, if indeed there remains any after so much time. Today romance rules in Salem as potential lovers try to cast spells at each other.

I live atop Gallows Hill. No one forgets my address. Already this month folks have approached me while I was walking my spirit dog (really she's a lab mutt, but she has one bright blue eye that freaks out the tourists), and asked, "Is this where they hanged the witches?"

"Nope. The foot of the hill ... behind Walgreens."

And then, in their expressions I detect a momentary letdown. As if something as mundane as a pharmacy chain could somehow subtract from hallowed ground.

I give them directions, send them on their way and then retreat to my home with my black dog and two black cats.

Happy Halloween, all.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker: The Only Winner... By M.Christian

The Only Winner...

So … contests. In a word: don't!

(sigh) What IS it with you people? Can't you just accept the word of an internationally renowned literary authority and acclaimed sex symbol?

Yes, I mean ME. Who else do you think I'm talking about?

Okay … okay … I GUESS I'm going to have to spell it out for you (sigh again). So here goes:

I've been seeing a lot of these things lately: send in your stories for this or that competition, and the winner gets published and (sometimes) a bit of cash. The worst of them – and clearly the ones to completely, totally avoid – are the ones that require a fee to enter.

But even the contests that don't make you pay to play are bad for writers (which means all of you) and bad for writing, in general. Sure, entering a contest might, at first, sound like a good idea: you get to say you won this or that competition, giving you a chance to put a blue ribbon on your resume or in your bio.

But let's think it through. Writing is hard. Getting a single story published in a magazine, on a Web site, or in an anthology is difficult. Do you need the added pressure of trumping dozens if not hundreds of other writers for a little recognition of (in most cases) dubious authenticity? The odds are not only ridiculously against you, but the rewards are questionable.

It gets worse. Say I'm doing an antho on … oh, I don't know, sex-on-a-train stories. To get in, you have to submit a well-written story related to that topic. Rarely, if ever, are contests that specific. Most of them are so ambiguous you'll have absolutely no idea what they are looking for, let alone who actually might be making the final decision and what kind of storytelling they might favor.

Again, think of the odds. As a writer, time is money. Do you seriously want to waste the time it takes to write – or even submit – a story to a contest versus writing something that may, actually, have a chance of getting accepted and published?

Okay, a lot of folks don't write something new for a contest; most will simply pull something out of their files. But even then, I still think entering a contest is a bad idea. A very bad idea.

Why? Call it part of a personal crusade. Writers always seem to get the short end of the stick – and what's even worse, we seem to be happy with that short stick, accepting it as our professional lot in life. We get paid very little for a lot of work, far too often have to deal with unqualified editors and publishers, and have to keep going against catty reviews and miniscule pay. Now, a lot of these things won't be fixed by staying away from contests but think of it this way: are you respecting yourself by entering the shark tank that's a competition?

Besides, these days even winning a competition means pretty much zilch. There are so many of them, and so many that are practically worthless, that even being able to hang that blue ribbon on your career means virtually nothing. As an editor, I can't tell you the number of times that a story has been submitted that is … well, in need of a lot of work. But the author has won an award. It's getting to the point where awards mean that the winner was either the best of half a dozen runner-ups or got themselves a ribbon because their circle or community knew them and not the other entrants.

But the bottom line is that contests really serve one – and only one – purpose, and it's not to help writers. Competitions are a cheap way to get a person, a Web site, or a magazine a grand dollop of promotion and publicity without having to pay a dime to anyone but the winner. It's viral marketing under the guise of literary acclaim. Meanwhile, the contest sponsors get all kinds of content that they didn't have to pay for but from which they will find a way to profit.

You are a writer. That's a very special thing. Yes, you have to deal with the realities of what that means but there's no reason why you have to enable people who are only trying to take advantage of your determination and passion. So the next time an invite for a contest drops into you're in box earn yourself a blue ribbon by doing what's good for you, as a writer: hit DELETE.

Oh my Word!

The deed is done, the manuscript (MS) complete. But in the course of submitting or getting feedback, it’s likely it’ll have to go through the formatting wrangler a few times before it’s ready to post in Storytime, or fit to be submitted to an editor's inbox. 

One of the most annoying things about writing is having to rearrange the appearance of your MS to fit the layout requirements of those who are going to read it. So, this editor’s corner article is devoted to the practical art of making MS Word work for you. 

  • Pull up an old document,
  • make a copy,
  • switch on the paragraph marker (the fat, back-to-front P with the double stalk), which you’ll find on the home menu under ‘paragraph’
  • and prepare to experiment with tips and tricks.

Before beginning any mass change in a document, it’s worth standardising things like your scene breaks first. For example:

  1. Open find and replace
  2. In Find, Type a space and then your scene marker
  3. Find next (you might not have any leading spaces. If so, good.)
  4. If you find one, type your scene marker into Replace with no spaces.
  5. Repeat for spaces after your scene marker
  6. Repeat to find any incidents where you’re an asterisk short (* * * ), and any other combination of mess-up you can think of.

Once all your scene markers look as you want them to, you can do your global reformats and fewer things will slip the net.

Aghhh moment #1 – scrunched post syndrome

You’ve posted your story to ERWA Storytime in good faith, but when the email is returned to you through the list, you find that all your line breaks have disappeared. The whole thing appears in one lump, with or without indents, and you struggle to pick out the starting point of each new paragraph.

  1. Open Find/Replace
  2. In Find, type ^p
  3. in Replace, type ^p^p
  4. replace all.

This will double up your paragraph spacers so that it appears normal on the email. If you find your story has indeed been scrunched, simply re-post in the expanded version with a quick note to say that the documents are the same, but that the format has been tamed. It’s worth just emailing it from one personal account to another to experiment before you post.

Aghhh moment #2 – ‘more white space, please!’

The editor wants scene break markers separated from the text with an extra blank line either side. Currently, yours look like these:

Waffle waffle waffle rhubarb waffle rhubarb Waffle waffle waffle rhubarb waffle.
* * * *
“Rhubarb!” Waffle waffle. “Waffle rhubarb waffle?”


  1. Open find/replace
  2. In Find, type ^p* * * *^p (this shows the single carriage return between the end of the last line, the scene marker line, and the break to the start of the next scene).
  3. In replace, type ^p^p* * * *^p^p (this will add in an extra line break for you)
  4. Find next, make sure it works, then replace all.

Aghhh moment #3 – ‘My scene breaks have all shifted to the left!’

Whether you’ve just tried the trick above, or simply discovered that your entire manuscript has to be left/fully justified (whichever format your MS isn’t in at the moment), it is rather exasperating to find that all your scene breaks have moved from their tidy central spots. Don’t foam at the mouth just yet.


  1. Open find/replace
  2. Click the ‘more’ button
  3. Copy your scene marker into Find (with no spaces either side)
  4. Go to the bottom of the screen, where it says ‘format’
  5. Select paragraph, and in the paragraph dialogue box (PDB for short!) go to the alignment selection and choose left/fully justified, depending on what your entire text has been converted to. Click ‘ok’.
  6. Now, in Replace, paste your scene marker again (still with no excess spaces)
  7. Go back to format, paragraph, PDB, and select ‘centred’ from the alignment section.
  8. Click Find next, and watch your asterisks ping back into the middle of the page.

Aghh moment #4 – the manuscript conversion

Currently your manuscript is in the ‘online’ format. In other words, all paragraphs are flush to the left margin with no indents, and there is a blank line between each paragraph. In MS Word, this is also called the ‘normal’ style.

BUT your editor/publisher/agent wants the full manuscript set-up:

Double-spaced; Times New Roman 12; normal margins; indent of a half inch at the start of each paragraph. No gaps between any paragraphs except for scene breaks or special effects.

Oh, and their rules say ‘no tabs’. In other words, don’t press the Tab key to create the indent.

Solution (select a sample of a few paragraphs to practice this on):

  1. open the PDB
  2. under ‘indentation’ select ‘first line’ from the ‘special’ drop-down box
  3. Under ‘by’, type 1.27 if that isn’t automatically set for you as soon as you choose ‘first line’. This is the standard half-inch indent.
  4. Under ‘spacing’, click the box that says ‘no extra lines between paragraphs of the same style’.
  5. Click ok.

You should now have several indented paragraphs with no gaps between them. You can now change spacing and font as you require. To reverse this process (from US MS format to 'online'):
  1. Select the paragraphs you want to change
  2. Open the PDB
  3. Under indentation and ‘special’, select ‘none’.
  4. Under ‘spacing’, make sure the tickbox for no spacing between paragraphs of the same kind is EMPTY.
  5. Click ok.
  6. You should be back to online format.

There are countless things you can do with Find/replace. You can standardise the type-setting, removing extra spaces between punctuation and following words. You can also use it to find an over-used word by typing into both Find and Replace, but assigning a highlight colour to the replaced version (go to format at the bottom, select ‘highlight’ and pick your shade.

By the time the next Editing Corner comes around, I’ll have type-setting standardisation document I can share. And perhaps, in the next editing corner, I’ll be able to dip into Find/Replace’s little magical world of ‘wild cards’. Until then, have more fun and less stress making MS Word behave for you.