Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Importance of Time Off

By Lucy Felthouse

As a self-employed person, I do get annoyed by people that assume I can just take time off whenever I like, and do whatever I like. Of course, this is true - but they seem to forget one very important thing - if I don't work, I don't get paid. It's a simple as that. If I spend hours per day walking the dog, or lounging in the garden, I'm not working, therefore nobody is going to give me any money. As a result, I work damn hard!

On the flip side of this, however, I do think time off is important. I don't mean time off as in the aforementioned walking the dog and lounging in the garden, though. I mean not working all the hours under the sun, having proper days off. Which is why, although I do work longer hours during the week, especially if my workload is particularly heavy at the time - I take weekends off. Always - with the very occasional exception.

For starters, if I didn't do this, I would literally never see my other half. We don't live near each other, so we can only see each other at weekends. Therefore we make the most of the time we have together, and that absolutely does not include me sitting there tapping away on my laptop! Granted, if something akin to an emergency comes up, I'll do something about it - but generally, there's nothing, no email, that can't wait until Monday.

Other half, important though he is, isn't the only reason I take weekends off. It's because I work to live, not the other way around. I'm very lucky in that I enjoy my job - well, most of it, anyway - but that doesn't mean I want to work every single day. It's bad for your health, and I tend to find if I'm doing too much, pushing too hard, with no time off, then I start to burn out. I slow down, physically and mentally, become much less efficient - and what's the point in that? I'd rather make sure I'm well-rested, having time off and having fun. That way when I come back to work I'm energised and putting work out to the best of my ability. Otherwise, I may as well not bother.

*****

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

Monday, July 21, 2014

Legacy

By Lisabet Sarai

Over the past three weeks I've attended two funerals. No need to express your sympathy – both of the deceased were parents of colleagues, individuals I'd never even met. Still, one was was just a year older than I am, the other a mere three years older than my husband. Despite my determination to live in the now, there's nothing like a coffin to make you contemplate your own mortality. I can't help considering just what legacy I'll leave behind, when I finally do pass away.

I don't have kids, and my family is pretty small – two siblings, neither of whom have children, plus an assortment of cousins. It occurs to me that my circle of friends as Lisabet is actually far larger than the roster of people close to me in the so-called real world. So will my smut be missed? Probably less than my organizational ability. I might not be a best-seller, but I'm a pro when it comes to wrangling bloggers!

What about my books, though? Will they outlive me? I grew up reading authors who'd been dead for decades, even centuries. Edgar Allen Poe. Arthur Conan Doyle. H.P. Lovecraft. William Shakespeare. H. Rider Haggard. Charlotte and Emily Bronte. We writers have always consoled ourselves with the fantasy that even though we might toil in obscurity during our lifetimes, we might be “discovered” after our demise, our books finally recognized as the works of creative genius we knew we were creating while we lived. Given the state of publishing today, though, I wonder whether my books will even be available to be discovered.

The bulk of my published work over the past decade has been released primarily in ebook form, sometimes with a Print-on-Demand option. And despite my attempts to convince myself otherwise, ebooks are fundamentally ephemeral. An ebook is nothing more than a chunk of ones and zeroes, stored on some medium which needs compatible technology to be accessed. Meanwhile, technology changes constantly. Anyone (besides me) remember floppy disks? No, I'm not talking about the 3.5 inch squares of rigid plastic that stored 1.2 megabytes and fit in a shirt pocket, but real floppy disks, those fragile 5.25 inch circles of bendable magnetic material, wrapped square paper sleeves and holding a miniscule 256 kilobytes of data? Gone, of course, before some of you were even born, along with the devices that could read them. Why should CDs, DVDs, flash memory, Kindles and Nooks, be any different?

Furthermore, the ease with which ebooks can be copied, transferred, modified and deleted makes them feel like transient artifacts, to the reader and even to the writer. When I'm done reading a book for a review, I'll sometimes archive it on long term storage, but more often, I'll simply erase it. I know I won't want to read it again, so why take up space on my hard drive or my tablet? On the drive where I store my manuscripts, I sometimes have two or three versions of the same story, as submitted to different publishers. Which one is the authoritative version? Which one will students of literature pore over in the far future, as they contemplate the subtle themes and glorious language in the oeuvre of Lisabet Sarai?

Of course, during the first five years of my writing career, I was only available in print. In our storage room, I have a box full of old author copies of Raw Silk (both Black Lace and Blue Moon editions), Incognito, Fire, Sacred Exchange and Cream that I've been trying to get rid of for years. I've noticed used copies of the Black Lace book selling for $150 or more on Amazon. Surely that's some sort of legacy?

Yeah, well, maybe. But those books were printed so cheaply, they're already starting to crumble to dust. And I don't want to sell old books that will undercut the sales of republished versions (even though the new versions are ebook/POD only). Meanwhile, I'm nervous about getting rid of those volumes here in this conservative country where I live as a guest. I don't want to call attention to the fact that I have so many books that they could easily label as porn – all by the same author. Definitely suspicious!

There's another box in that closet, packed to the gills with author copies of every (print) anthology in which I've had a story, every collection I've edited, every novel or single-author collection I've published. One of my fellow bloggers at Oh Get a Grip wrote recently about her pride in viewing her books arrayed on a shelf in her living room. I'm proud of my work, but I can't display it, for the reasons cited above. Still, I occasionally dig out that box and look through it, just to remind myself how much I've accomplished in this semi-career I fell into accidentally.

I like to imagine that after I'm gone, someone might discover that box, like a trunk of treasures in an attic. I picture a young woman, uncertain and inexperienced sexually, uncovering my secret visions. She'd hide them away and read them late at night, after her family or her roommates were asleep. They'd open her eyes to a new world of sensuality and freedom – and maybe inspire her to take a few steps into that world on her own. Now that's a legacy that would please me.

Sometimes, though, I'm convinced that the entire concept of books as we know them will disappear. I recently read an article claiming that people born after 1990 cannot really extract information from written material. They require graphics, video, interaction, motion. When faced with a page of static text, their eyes simply flit over the letters, without grasping the meaning. If someone happened upon my books a few decades from now, would they understand them at all? Even if that individual could read, would my prose seem as complex, contorted and antiquated as Jane Austen or Wilkie Collins seem to some of us now? The always-on, lightning-fast digital world in which we live right now puts pressure on language, pressure to shorten and simplify, to encapsulate emotions in acronyms (LOL) or smileys. Did you know that the most recent update to the Unicode standard – the specification that maps all the characters in all world languages to digital codes – includes a page of values for emoticons (now known as emoji, I gather)? If that's where we are now, what will language be like twenty years from now? (I like to imagine I'll live at least into my eighties...!)

This train of thought depresses me more than the notion of dying, to be honest. So I'll drop it. In fact, this entire mental exercise reinforces my belief that contemplating one's future is a futile activity. Worrying about my legacy simply distracts me from what I want and need to do today. Much better for me to close this post, get it set up on the blog, and then get to the day's most important activity – adding to my current work in progress.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sexy Snippets for July



Published anything sexy lately? Today's your day to share your erotic visions. Today we want to read your Sexy Snippets!


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.


Please follow the rules. If you post more than 200 words or more than one link, I'll remove your comment and ban you from participating in further Sexy Snippet days. So play nice!

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

Friday, July 18, 2014

What’s “Good” about Paris Hilton? (Fame and Fortune, part 2)

by Donna George Storey

Celebrity culture and the often unexamined assumptions that slither into our brains because of it are not good for writers, whether aspiring, veteran or even genuinely famous. I firmly believe this. And yet, as I sat down to write this month’s continuing meditation on fame and the writer’s imagination, I felt drawn to talk about what’s actually “good” about the role of the famous in our ordinary lives. There is clearly something deeply appealing about glamorous, rich, but most of all “seen,” people we don’t know. Weird Al’s new song, “Lame Claim to Fame” is a hilarious illustration of the strange enchantment of even the most tenuous connection to these magical beings.

It’s easy enough to claim immunity, but none of us are, really. (Even academics have their “stars” with endowed chairs and faculty positions reserved for spouses.) There is something rooted in us, our ancient hierarchical programming perhaps, that compels us to seek an aristocracy of some kind. Yet the celebrity aristocracy occupies a much different place in our lives than the kings and dukes of earlier times. Our stars are exposed to us in endless “intimate” images and details of their private lives, some controlled by their managers, some not. We can easily pretend we “know” them and have a stake in their stories as well as the right to judge them. In that sense, stars unite the national and even global community (at the level, say, of Michael Jackson or Michael Jordan). They make the world a village.

The combination of intimacy and distance is important. We can enjoy the dramas of the British Royal Family as entertainment; if our tax money were at stake, it might not be quite so fun. (Overheard on a train to York back in 1989--an English woman commented drily to a fellow countryman, “The Duchess of York is pregnant again. Of course, we’ll have to pay for it.”) We can smile or roll our eyes at the endless cycles of celebrity life—innocent young star rises, corrupted young star falls victim to drugs and engages in drunken criminal acts, older, repentant star graduates from rehab and makes a come-back—without enduring the actual pain and disruption of addiction or an eclipsed career.

The familiarity of celebrity touches us writers in more mundane ways. I try to resist, but I am still swayed when a book gets a positive blurb from a writer whose name I recognize. At the very least, I admire the author’s luck in getting that plum endorsement. Such a blurb feels like a positive recommendation from a friend, an opinion I can trust, saving me the trouble of deciding for myself where I should direct my time and attention.

Except, of course, it is none of these things.

That’s because celebrity is above all a fiction. Overnight successes, models who “eat lots of fruits and vegetables and work out with a personal trainer” but never diet harmfully, fairytale weddings, bestselling writers who find contentment relaxing on their estates by the pool while they idly type out their latest ticket to immortality. None of this is real, and if ever it is, it doesn’t satisfy for long.

Celebrities are our dukes and duchesses, our heroes, our villains, our inspirations and cautionary tales. They allow us to watch drama at a remove, both in space and relevance to our lives, but they remain images, never full human beings. In the electronic media age, we need an ever-renewing visual “face” for the myths, symbols and fantasies our minds feed on. Celebrities themselves are most keenly aware that their personhood is subsumed in an image others project upon them. Some, in various ways, benefit from this position (money, professional power, invitations to the right parties). Fortunately for the scandal sheets, just as many lose their way in the hall of mirrors. Finally, I get to you, Paris Hilton!

Yet, ultimately, celebrity culture is about us, the ordinary folk, not the bodies in designer clothes parading on the red carpet. Without the mediocre masses, who would need the velvet rope, the security guard and bouncers? In next month’s installment, I’ll explore the deeper needs that are masked by the yearning for fame. Until then, stay cool!

Donna George Storey is the author of Amorous Woman and a new collection of short stories, Mammoth Presents the Best of Donna George Storey. Learn more about her work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com or http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bloody Google

The following was originally posted on the Oh Get a Grip blog back when we were posting about every week.  This was my post the week after I was roughed up by the ladies at the eXcessica blog after making some snarky remarks about an anthology of theirs.  It does have some useful advice regarding crits worth repeating.  Anyway, its always enjoyable to see a guy grovel a little too.

****
Wednesday, September 1, 2010




When I was a little kid and the world was full of haints and taints and supernatural wonders, there was this game called “Bloody Mary”. The way it works, you have a darkened room and a mirror, then you and your friends are supposed to look in the mirror and chant “Bloody Mary” three times and a blood soaked girl ghost with an embittered attitude will appear. Never worked for me. Later on I tried “Pamela Anderson” and “Sybil Danning” and that didn’t work either.

Ah!

But that was before the age of “Google Alerts”! Now let’s play the Bloody Mary game again and see how this goes.

To wit:

As some of us know, a couple of weeks back I really stepped barefoot into a big, fragrant, steaming pile when I made some uncalled for snarky remarks about a book called “Alison’s Wonderland” -

Alison’s Wonderland
Alison’s Wonderland
Alison’s Wonderland

which was edited by Alison Tyler

Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler

and has a nice story called “David” by Kristina Lloyd

“David” by Kristina Lloyd
“David” by Kristina Lloyd
“David” by Kristina Lloyd

and a pretty hot story called “Managers and Mermen” by Donna George Storey

“Managers and Mermen” by Donna George Storey
“Managers and Mermen” by Donna George Storey
“Managers and Mermen” by Donna George Storey

and a good retelling of the Billy goats gruff story called “The Three Billys” by Sommer Marsden

“The Three Billys” by Sommer Marsden
“The Three Billys” by Sommer Marsden
“The Three Billys” by Sommer Marsden

and

“Sleeping With Beauty” by Allison Wonderland
“Sleeping With Beauty” by Allison Wonderland
“Sleeping With Beauty” by Allison Wonderland

which reminded me a little of the Anne Roquelaire trilogy and a really good story “Unveiling His Muse” by the great Portia Da Costa,

“Unveiling His Muse” by Portia Da Costa
“Unveiling His Muse” by Portia Da Costa
“Unveiling His Muse” by Portia Da Costa

the first one of her stories I’d ever read though not the last, and some other authors whose stories I also enjoyed, whose wounded feelings and sharp reproaches appeared on the eXcessica

eXcessica
eXcessica
eXcessica

books blog which you can read here:

http://excessica.com/blog/index.php/2010/08/12/never-judge-a-book-by-its-cover-or-its-scene/

I won’t recap my snarky remarks since I would like to leave this post with my ass and my face in their original places, and they don’t bear repeating anyway. I said dumb stuff.

Wait.

Paranoia.

Holy moly.

I may be saying dumb stuff at this very effing moment without realizing it or be about to say dumb stuff without realizing it.

Hey – let’s do this:

I will make a preemptive apology in case it’s needed for anything insensitive I may say at any time in the immediate future:

I’m sorry.

I’m really really sorry. (fill in the blank)

And my point is, if any of you eXcessica folks show up here in my mirror please say hi. Write something on the wall so I know you’re around. I like you. I like your stuff. I was also much chastened when Lisabet pointed out that many or most of the writers I miffed are in fact regular contributors at my scene ERWA, some of them with a much greater contribution there than me. So I really stepped on my dick every way you look at it.

Having said that, I am unrepentant of my comment that Alison’s Wonderland has a very cool cover. It just does. Okay? You sure? It has a really nice looking cover art and I don’t give a shit who knows it. There I’ve said it. Get over it.

What haunted me about my remarks afterward as I explained to Lisabet when I was weeping on her maternal cyber-shoulder, was that I was entirely tone deaf to the way I was coming across. This will seem astounding to any writers reading this, since the accumulated effect of words is the magic we aspire to perfect, but it had never occurred to me in a zillion years that what I was saying was offensive to anybody or that Bloody Google would suddenly show up in the mirror and punch four more holes in my nose. I was actually trying to express something like what Sommer Marsden

Sommer Marsden
Sommer Marsden
Sommer Marsden

Said in the eXcessica blog –

eXcessica blog
eXcessica blog
eXcessica blog

- which is what I should have said which was something like “we are all different but great, look at how many groovy flavors of writing there are”. Which was what I thought it was coming out like but it wasn’t . . . like that is what I meant it wasn’t . . . but that it’s not . . . . Do you know what I mean?

It didn’t come out that way. Looking back on it, well, yeah. I get that. But not at the time.

What can I say.

I’m a guy.

My remarks were not constructive criticism, since there was nothing to construct. Constructive criticism is what we offer when we are attempting to guide the inquisitive seeker into better paths, so we hope. Constructive criticism is what we wish we’d had more of when we were younger if we’d been listening. Which most of us weren’t. Real world, constructive criticism is what we offer when someone offers us a manuscript for a critique. Giving critiques to the work of peers, at least when it is asked for, is how we improve our own work. It’s how we learn to read as a writer, which is an essential skill. It’s how we express and repay our gratitude for the generosity of those writers who took on our early incoherent junk as we were learning our chops and helped us improve. Constructive criticism is what Lisabet has given me, and still does, on those many occasions when I’ve sent her something half baked and she’s told me plainly what works and what doesn’t, and 90% of the time I go with what she says. She’s honest. I listen. Also I like her. I wouldn't have gotten anywhere past my first year without her and each and every year since. She has more faith than I do.

What she said of me, of digging deeper, this is what she does for me too. Neither of us go for the nits. That's why God made spell checkers. She deals with story. She deals with character. She tells me when that is working or failing, because she knows by now I'll tear down a story and rebuild it several times before I'm happy with it. I've torn out whole middle sections of stories when she said something wasn't working. That's what you need to hear. That's love. Thank you Lisabet. Ever and ever.

Here’s the real problem. When is criticism useful or even wanted?

I come from a unique background. I have had an unusually extravagant exposure to bullshit compared to the average person. As a consequence my relationship with truth is . . . . well . . . antagonistic. If I have to choose between speaking the truth and making someone happy – truth will get heaved overboard to lighten the load, pretty much every time. The exception is the person who really loves truth. The one who really wants to know. In that case to speak is a great honor and a kind of sacred thing. A spiritual act. And even then you’d still better be careful you’re being helpful and not being a jerk. This begs the question “What is humility?”

After a life time of passionate, lunatic spiritual searching I’ve got very little wisdom to show for it. But I’ve got one or two tattered gems.

“Listen friends,” he whispered, with a wave of his hand. “It’s okay. Come, come see.” He hunched down and waited. Reluctantly, they leaned in. He silently scanned the little crowd and saw only skepticism. In a low voice he said -

“I’m going to tell you something spiritual I know for sure is true.”

Here we go.

Humility as it relates to truth has nothing to do with pride. It is unrelated to true pride. Even the pride of an artist or a writer. Humility in its most useful and plain form is simply this:

The acquired discipline and skill of seeing yourself as you really are.

That’s it.

Humility is the ability to see yourself very plainly, no better or worse, without playing any games with yourself. It sounds ridiculous. But this is a very difficult, almost impossible thing to actually do in real life. You can spend your whole life trying to master this one point, to see yourself as you really are with no tricks. The ego plays tricks on you all the way. Writing can be a tool for exploring this, but what we find, what I find, is that my ego gets very involved in my writing. Ego is what kills rock stars. Ego is what kills creativity. But ego has a lot to do with what gets your ass in front of the keyboard day after day when nobody reads your stuff. It keeps you going. It’s your devil and your cheer leader.

Anyway, as Sommer Marsden would say, this is turning into “a long ass blog”.

“a long ass blog”
“a long ass blog”
“a long ass blog”

My point is this. Constructive criticism is criticism with kindness and purpose. Friend to friend. BUT – it should be asked for. Boundaries and specifics agreed on. And you had better be really sure you want it.

Otherwise, tell me what you want to hear and we'll just go with that and that way everybody wins.

I think.



C. Sanchez-Garcia



Sunday, July 13, 2014

Abberant Romances and the Rise of Erotic Fiction as a Self-Help Guide

I've got a confession to make. I'm addicted to House of Cards.  I remember being equally addicted to the original 1990's UK series, but the US Netflix adaptation is, surprisingly, even better than the British original.

Yes, the writing is excellent and the characterizations are superb, but what I most like about House of Cards is that it represents a very realistic but seldom written-about form of relationship.

The relationship between Frank Underwood and his wife, Claire, is a strange one.  On the surface it appears to be a marriage of convenience - neither is sexually faithful and there appears to be nothing but a cool sort of companionship of purpose between them - but as the series goes on, we get glimpses into something more complex.

This is a portrait of two people who feed each other's jouissance. Leaving the moral aspects of their individual actions and aspirations aside, this is love at its most powerful and revolutionary. 

In her amazing TED Talk on the secret to desire in long-term relationships, Esther Perel points out that distance is essential to desire. Being able to see your partner from a distance, doing what drives and impassions them, allows you to maintain the stance of an admirer. It allows for the preservation of a certain level of mystery and of uncertainty, which keeps the embers of desire burning hot. 

As married characters, Frank and Claire Underwood watch each other pursue their ambitions, execute their nefarious plans, as if they were each secret admirers of the other, aroused by their individual acts of ruthlessness.

When they finally come together, there's an amazing erotic tension between them. It is never a 'dutiful' performance of marital obligation. They come together to give each other a sort of carte blanche absolution for being the reprehensible creatures they are.  It's a bit like watching scorpions mate.

After the never-ending parade of superficially written, poorly characterized and formulaic love-bonds that seem to be the norm in almost all narratives these days, it is refreshing and exciting to see a well-wrought portrait of something that isn't pabulum.

Another interesting and complex relationship I have stumbled across recently is the novelized version of Macbeth by A.J. Hartley and David Hewson. They've done a magnificent job of digging into and expositing the compelling power dynamics between Lord and Lady Macbeth. Again, ambition definitely comes into it, but so does desperation, mania and regret. In this case, although Lady Macbeth is the instigator who gets the transgression ball rolling, there is a clever portrayal of how one hideous act leads inevitably to another, and there's no putting the genie back in the bottle.

So many modern fictional romantic narratives are offered and consumed as models to aspire to, especially in erotic fiction.  In this I see a tragic loss of  the potential of fiction to examine the places we should never go in real life. This current need to make all kinky scenes safe, sane and consensual; this obligation to never represent negative, abusive relationships without clearly condemning them within the fiction, places all our fictions within the genre of YA or as thinly disguised self-help paperbacks.

It is as if we have decided that adults have no capacity to distinguish between fiction and reality and must be guided in their fictional adventures by an overbearing, authoritarian hand whose job it is to constantly nudge the reader towards a post-modern sort of 'right thinking'.

This might be tolerable if most contemporary fictional love relationships were represented with any realism and complexity, but they're not.  Consequently, we are encouraged to judge our own relationships in the light of those that are not only fictional, but ones that aren't realistic and revel in their own formulaic qualities. 

In her book, Hard-Core Romance: Fifty Shades of Grey, Best-Sellers and Society, Eva Illouz breaks down the phenomena of the erotic novel as self-help guide:

"some narratives are not only symbolic rehearsals of social dilemmas and of the solution to these dilemmas: they are also performative structures offering ways of acting and doing."

To me, this is the anathema of contemporary erotic fiction. It is a closing off of the possibilities of using fiction as a refuge from the rules of social reality. Instead, it has become a place where we are schooled, counseled and given exemplars of how to 'do it right.'