Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What's Your Word Count?

by Kathleen Bradean

Since it's November, the month of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I thought I'd check in to see how everyone is doing. Oh sure, you might not be an official NaNoer, but you might be working on  something anyway. Or you might not. Maybe words just aren't flowing for you right now. They sure as heck aren't for me. But I'm still cheerful and optimistic.

I know what you're thinking. "How can this be?"

Here's the thing. I don't think it's possible to fail at NaNoWriMo. (Or whatever your current WIP schedule is). Sure, you can miss the word count goal by a wide margin. You can get so far behind that you feel hopeless and quit. You can even finish writing 50,000 words two days before the end of the month but realize you just wrote a steaming pile of gobshit. (That last one would be my NaNoWriMo experience several years ago.)  But WHY are you feeling bad about that? You didn't really fail. The only scenario listed above that's actual failure is quitting and giving up forever, but you're not going to do that. And you know why? Because you're a writer and you can't help yourself. You know you're going to write again eventually. 

So what did you accomplish even if you're on hiatus? Well, you learned that writing a novel is hard. That's actually a good lesson. So many people talk about writing a novel but never write the first word. If you wrote something, anything, you're ahead of many.

You learned that the story that you tell yourself in your head is like a dream - it seems to make sense but there's a lot of fuzzy logic in there that doesn't work in the harsh light of day. This is a good thing. So now you know you need to take some time away from tappa-tappa-tappa typing to think about the parts of your story that aren't working. Firm them up a bit. Flesh them out.

Maybe you learned that you need to outline. Or you learned that writing an outline sucks all the fun out for you. Whichever one of those lessons you took away from the experience, both made you realize that every writer finds a method that works for them and whatever works is the "right way."

Do you rewrite as you go? That's the right way.

Do you leave the rewrite until after you've finished the first draft? That's the right way too.

Did you have to step away? Damn right you're going to take some time to let that story ripen before you hit the keyboard again. You're going to think long and hard about what your characters would do next if they were real people in this situation. You're going to make sure you understand them before you plunge ahead. Then when you go back to writing, you're going to have them do that. Or you're going to decide that plot is king and you're going to force those stupid characters to do what the plot demands even if it's like Cinderella's step-sisters trying to cram their feet into that glass slipper.  

All of which is simply a way of saying that writing isn't always adding to word count. If you're thinking about your story, you're writing. Maybe that doesn't get you a little word count badge on November 30th, but it's going to enrich those words when you finally do get them on the page. So be of good cheer, my dear lagging NaNoers. You can do this, in your own sweet time.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Care and Feeding of Your Back List

By Lisabet Sarai

Last week a writer friend of mine included a wonderful excerpt from his first book in a blog post. I’d read (and loved) this book when it first released; perusing the post felt like meeting up with an old friend.

Then the author casually mentioned, in a post comment, that the book was out of print. I felt like shaking him in frustration. Why in the world, I wanted to scream, did you let that happen? Don’t you care about keeping your work available?

There’s so much in the world of publishing that we authors can’t control: Amazon’s latest tweaks to its ranking algorithms, payment schemes, and censorship policies; publishers being bought out or going bankrupt; out-of-the-blue bestsellers that have readers (and editors) clamoring for cookie-cutter copies. One thing we can control, however, is the disposition of our accumulated body of work. In my opinion, we owe it to ourselves to keep our backlog of books and stories out there in the world, where readers can access them.

Some of you may ask, why bother? Everyone knows it’s only new releases that get any sales (as demonstrated by the thirty-day cliff phenomenon). Who’s going to want to read a book that’s a year, or five years, or ten years old? Anyway, no publisher will be interested in a dingy old reprint. If some of your back list dates from before the ebook revolution, you might not even have the manuscript in digital form.

Examined carefully, none of these arguments (excuses?) holds up to scrutiny.

First of all, though your book may be “old”, there are undoubtedly millions of potential readers who’ve never encountered it. Sure, your fans (whether you have five or fifty thousand) may have read your earlier work, but for lots of readers, your book will be a welcome discovery. If someone picks up an old book of yours and enjoys it, he or she is going to want more. You need to make sure you can give these people what they crave.

Out of the 200 or so people who completed my survey earlier this year (, 30% had never read one of my books, and another 25% weren’t sure. That’s over one hundred people for whom everything on my back list will be new and exciting. I want those readers!

Even for readers who know your work well, it’s important to keep your older stuff available. What if they want to reread one of their all-time favorites?

My brother’s birthday was yesterday, so last week I went to Amazon, looking for two books I readand loved—decades ago: Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin and Little Big by John Crowley. My copies of both books date from the eighties. They’re falling apart. I was delighted to discover new editions of both titles. I sent them off to my brother, and you know, I just might replace my tattered volumes with new ones.

Make sure that readers who love your work can do that, too.

You may be interested in re-releasing your out-of-print opus, but think publishers won’t want it. Think again. These days, especially, publishers who are trying to satisfy the market’s insatiable desire for fiction are more than willing to look at your back list titles. In fact, they may recognize that they’ll have to invest less time and effort in a previously released book because it will have already been through one or more rounds of editing.

My debut novel Raw Silk has been through three publishers. Ruby’s Rules (now retitled as Nasty Business) has had four, Incognito two, Exposure three. I’ve had publishers go bankrupt and others decide they didn’t want to publish erotica. In a few cases, I’ve reclaimed my rights because I wasn’t happy about my sales or the way the publisher was run. My goal has always been to keep all my novels available—whatever that required.

But I write short stories”, you may respond. “Nobody wants those.”

Not true. I recently published a 5K tale (a reprint) through an indie publisher who was actively seeking short fiction. You can also self-publish your stories, either individually or as a collection. In fact, since most anthologies ask for only one-time rights, you may be able to publish a short piece in multiple places.

If you really can’t find anyone to publish your tale, you can still make it available free, using it to introduce readers to your published work. That’s better than letting it languish in the dusty recesses of your computer memory!

And what if your book was published so long ago that you don’t have the source in electronic form? As long as you have a physical copy, you can subject it to Optical Character Recognition (OCR), a process that uses image analysis to recognize typescript and turn it into digital text. OCR may produce a significant number of errors, so you will need to carefully review and revise the output. However, this process will allow you to create both ebook and print versions of a book that was previously available only in hard copy form.

Once your older work is available, you should spend time promoting it, at least occasionally. Last Sunday I posted an excerpt from a book published back in 2010. One reader told me in a comment that after reading my blog, she’d gone out and bought herself a copy. Talk about encouragement—I felt totally energized. I immediately added 3K for my current WIP!

In short, there’s no reason why you can’t keep all (or most) of your back list in print and available to readers. The only real barriers are emotional. These days it’s sometimes hard to muster the motivation to do anything related to publishing or marketing. The obstacles seem insurmountable. Don’t allow yourself to become discouraged. There are legions of readers out there, searching for great fiction. Help them find yours!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sexy Snippets for November

Yikes! I forgot! It's Sexy Snippet Day! (Thanks to Ginger Segreti for jogging my memory!)

This is your chance to share the hottest mini-excerpts you can find from your published work. 

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 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. 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

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Who’s Destroying “Literature”—Agents, Readers or Writers Themselves?

by Donna George Storey

They say you have to have a provocative title to get eyeballs, but I couldn’t seem to come up with anything involving Fifty Shades of Grey this month and still keep my self-respect. Yet we all know there’s been a seismic shift in publishing over the past years, and few are certain where we’ll be when the rubble is cleared away.

Let’s face facts, “literature” and publishing are not what they used to be. Or at least not what I thought they were supposed to be as an undergraduate English major, dutifully paying homage to the Great Authors in my literature classes and paying somewhat more cynical, but nonetheless respectful, homage to the Possibly-Great Contemporary Authors who came down from New York to teach creative writing classes one afternoon a week.

Back in those golden days, being published meant your work was chosen by an eminent publishing house, carefully shaped by an expert editor, lovingly shepherded to market, and eventually taught to dewy-eyed undergraduates as a deathless example of the heights to which human creativity could climb.

I started publishing my more-or-less-literary work in 1997 when the vestiges of that old mirage were still quivering in the desert air, but I quickly learned that when your work is published, most (all?) authors, get a different view of the matter. Simply put, publishing is about making money, and any artistic value is secondary. Case in point: Fifty Shades of Grey.

Is anyone to “blame” for this turn from our higher nature toward the baser rewards of profit? Whether you see an impersonal historic force at work or prefer to find mustache-twirling villains, it’s always entertaining to point fingers. Onward to the first culprit.

Villain #1: The Agent

A literary agent is the traditional gatekeeper to elite publication. In the fantasy version, she or he selects talented new authors from the hopeful queries s/he receives, becomes best friends with said authors, and loyally supports their inevitable enshrinement in the literary canon.

In reality, of course, agents take a percentage of their clients’ earnings and thus, to make a living, need clients who actually earn something. A friend recently took a query-writing workshop from a relatively successful agent and came away with an interesting lesson. Agents care far less about the synopsis of your novel than your “platform,” or what you can contribute to profits through your established reputation, professional connections and marketing savvy. 

Agents are said to like “comparables”—that is a comparison to commercially successful works as in “My novel is a cross between the Bible and Fifty Shades of Grey” or “Harry Potter, Twilight and Pride and Prejudice.” This, of course, encourages a highly conservative approach to choosing clients. If everything must be comparable to a previous commercial success, where is the room for something different? Hollywood since Jaws gives us the answer... nowhere.

Still one can’t help but pity literary agents, whose jobs are clearly threatened by the Internet. Publishers Weekly recently posted an announcement from HarperCollins to the effect that they are starting a “digital-first” imprint to publish “new authors of visionary and transformational fiction” (like Fifty Shades of Grey?). This imprint, HarperLegend--a poignantly hopeful name--is open to unagented manuscripts, although the publishing house affirms it still deals mainly with the agented kind. But, really, why not hire more young college graduates to mind the slush pile and cut out the middlewoman?

Agents may deserve some blame for the death of the value of art over money, but like it or not, at least they’re going down with the ship.

Villain #2: The Reader

In my research for my historical novel, I’m learning about leisure pursuits before the advent of radio, television and the Internet. By 1890 or so, public entertainments—dance halls, amusement parks, and picture shows—were rapidly gaining in popularity, but most good clean fun was still had in the home where families sang around the piano and read aloud from edifying works while the ladies did their needlework by the kerosene lamp.

Writing short fiction for commercial magazines was still profitable enough to make F. Scott Fitzgerald a handsome income in the 1920s and as late as the 1970s, I remember that novels by Philip Roth, John Updike and Saul Bellow were must-reads for anyone who claimed the slightest cultivation.

Who reads now?

Sure, there’s free stuff on the internet, but what makes a reader shell out money to produce those profits the publishing houses require? Perhaps it was always so, but the main motivation seems to be “what’s in it for me?” Are we talking a self-help book that will assure instant, painless weight loss or immediate financial bounty? Did a celebrity write it? Is it already a bestseller all my friends are talking about that includes child abuse and tattoos? Did it win a literary prize and also come with the requisite child abuse and suicide? Can I make my own decision about what I want to read rather than rely on someone else’s opinion? (Nah, too much work. I rely on Amazon one-star reviews myself. If the pans are smart, I pass.)

Now the thoughtful reader has been a dying breed for quite some time. In her biography of Mary McCarthy, Carol Brightman writes of the critical response to The Group, a 1963 best-seller that frankly (for the time) explored the erotic lives of eight Vassar graduates:

“With reviews and parodies such as these, a new chapter in American literary life had begun, one in which the prominent reviewer wielded more power than the author, not because of the priestly functions of criticism but because fewer people took reading and writing seriously, and thus reviewers got the last word—especially when they were also famous authors, blocked, for the moment, from the ‘creative stuff.’ Dealing in reputations rather than texts put them in the cockpit of a world where reputation, meaning celebrity, was the common coin of the realm.” (Writing Dangerously: Mary McCarthy and Her World, p. 461)

Perhaps the thoughtful reader was never as abundant as we’d like to imagine, but we see that celebrity was certainly an important factor in publishing long before Rob Lowe took up his pen.

Villain #3: The First Fifty Pages

As those of you who have approached literary agents know, a fortunate query will be followed up by a request for the first fifty pages of the manuscript. If the agent believes these pages suggest a selling book, s/he will request the complete manuscript. Thus, it is very important to make sure the beginning of your book promises commercial success. The leisurely novel openings of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are a thing of the past. The reader must be hooked as quickly as possible.

I recently read that it is likely that surprisingly few publishing insiders actually read the entire book. Certainly don’t expect the marketers, promoters or critics to do so. Recently I realized that this focus on the early hook explains a lot about my dissatisfaction with many of the books I read, whether fiction or nonfiction. Far too often, the promising, lively opening chapters fall flat so that by the end I feel duped and resentful of the author for betraying his promise. From now on, I’m going to pay attention to the timing of this downward dip of art and interest. I wouldn’t be surprised to find the decline beginning somewhere around page 51.

Here’s where we writers need to take responsibility. Yes, we must polish up those first fifty pages to be noticed by the professionals in the industry, but the rest of the book should be worth reading, too. Worse still are successful authors who are cajoled into reprising their bestsellers with sequels that seldom live up to the original. This is the saddest con of the publishing business.

In the end, however, I would suggest that the greatest villain is a naive, idealized view of the publishing industry, a view to which I must plead guilty in my life before my work was published. Books may seem like friends, but they were born of the bottom line.

Thus, a solitary writer cannot control the market, the publishing procedures, agents, editors or readers. We can try to write for reasons other than profit, even as we must pay some mind to marketability so that our work has the chance to reach a broader readership. Each of us can, in our own individual way, try to rebuild the fine art of storytelling as a way to connect with our readers in the spirit of trust, not profit.

By the time the tremors of new technologies in communications have subsided, publishing may end up a very different business, or it may have more or less the same fundamental characteristics in new wrapping. Yet readers will always love and appreciate a good story well told. All we have to do is write it.

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

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Describing Pain in BDSM Erotica

In BDSM erotica and erotic romance, I often find very little description of pain, of what it feels like to experience it. Even in scenes that include descriptions of pain play, the writer often shifts focus to action and reaction instead of sensation, or to how things look or sound instead of how they feel. Or the writer reduces the experience to the phrase “pleasure/pain”.  I would rejoice if that particular phrase disappeared from erotica and erotic romance altogether. It is not only poor description that is vague at best, it is also there not to describe the pain at all but instead to say it’s ok there was pain, and that the pain didn’t really hurt. It is my experience that a good portion of pain play does actually hurt, and for some folks, that’s actually what they like about it.

So even when we write stories about playing with pain, many of us rarely describe how it feels. As it turns out, pain is famously difficult to describe. Virginia Woolf expressed the problem in terms of language running dry. In his book, Listening to Pain, David Biro builds on that concept, saying, 
“Despite it’s overwhelming presence, pain has the elusive quality of an absence, an absence not only of words to describe it (that is, a linguistic absence) but also of ways to think about it (a conceptual one).”
So, how do you describe the indescribable?

Taking a cue from Biro, the first place I suggest is not to start with finding language for the sensation, but to explore how you think about pain. My foundational concepts of pain come from a number of sources: my own experience as a top and a bottom, conversations with other folks who do pain play (including my own play partners), my own experiences with chronic pain, things I’ve read about pain, BDSM, trauma and psychobiology, and a substantial amount of kink education. When I write pain play, this is my core framework:

1. Pain is not automatically bad, and pain does not universally feel bad.

2. It’s ok to desire pain (both giving and receiving). It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. Desiring pain is not something that requires explanation in your story.

3. Wanting pain doesn’t mean that you experience pain as pleasure. There are lots of reasons folks may desire pain and choose to experience it.

4. Pain is not one-note. There is a whole symphony in there.

5. Pain doesn’t easily break into a dichotomy. People in BDSM communities often break down sensation into sting vs. thud. These are a start, but there’s a lot more variety to pain than that. Folks who do BDSM that also experience chronic pain outside of a kink context often talk about good pain vs. bad pain. That kind of differentiation is a start, but there’s more to it.

6. People experience sensation differently. There is no universal experience of a particular sensation, including different kinds of pain.

7. The perception of pain is particularly related to the rate of increase of sensation, more than other factors. (I learned this from Dr. Richard Sprott, in his lecture on the Psychobiology of SM)

8. Three factors important to how people perceive pain include: 1) the intensity at the peak moment of pain, 2) the intensity at the end of the scene, and 3) the emotional interpretation of the pain. (I also learned this from Dr. Sprott.)

9. Context is important for how you experience pain. Do you know the sensation, or is it new to you? Are you in public or private? What is the psychological context of the scene (is the pain punishment, reward, for pleasure, about service, something to endure, something to revel in)? Are you nervous or scared or excited or already turned on? Do you have a way to process the pain, or are you restricted in some way (movement, sound, being gagged)? Do you have access to all of your senses (or are you blindfolded or experiencing another kind of sensory deprivation)? Is the skin being played with sensitized in some way (from hormone cycles, previous play, constriction, touch)?

So that’s my foundation for thinking about pain. Let me offer you another. In her ethnography of an East Coast pansexual BDSM community, Playing on the Edge, Staci Newmahr discusses four different ways that people in that community framed and understood pain:

  • Transformed Pain: where pain is instantly and unconsciously transformed into pleasure. In other words, pain does not really hurt, it is converted to pleasure. Newmahr found this most common in folks who engage in mild to moderate pain play.
  • Sacrificial Pain: where pain is not transformed, and does hurt; bottoms suffer as a sacrifice for the benefit of or to fulfill the desire of the top. The bottom takes pain as punishment or as a gift to the top. Newmahr found this way of thinking most common in women who identified as submissives.
  • Investment Pain: where pain is unpleasant and is endured in the promise of a later reward. The pain is not the goal, it is a path to the goal, a challenge to the self, a means to a different end (an endorphin high, the emotional satisfaction from enduring it, a sexual reward from the top for taking it). Newmahr found this framework most common in men.
  • Autotelic Pain: where pain hurts and the hurt feels good. It isn’t converted to pleasure. The hurting is a good, valued and desired thing in and of itself. Newmahr found folks who used this framework to be marginalized within the BDSM community she studied.

Consider: What are the foundations of how you write pain? Where do they come from? Getting clear about your own thinking about pain is a great first step to expanding how you write pain play in BDSM erotica. One thing you can try is to read each of the bullets in my own framework and Newmahr’s research aloud, and see how they sound, how they feel in your mouth, what thoughts they spark. That may help you know more about your own frameworks.

Now let’s approach the other piece of this: finding language for sensation. One of the best ways to describe the indescribable is to get really specific. I’m going to share some starting questions about the sensations you are describing, along with examples from my recent collection, Show Yourself To Me, to illustrate how these details might play out in your descriptions of pain play.

  • Is the sensation more concentrated (like a single tail whip, a punch, a cane, or a pinch, where the sensation focuses on a small surface area of the skin) or more dispersed (like a large paddle, a slap or a flogger with many tails, where the sensation is spread out over a larger surface area)?

In this excerpt from “Please”, the bottom is experiencing concentrated pain in combination with sex and they wrap into each other:

He started teasing my nipples with his fingertips. They were so hard and cold that even that light silky touch hurt. Then he was twisting them, and the pain was electric and sharp. It felt so good, mixing up with the relentless fucking that led to this long glorious spasm. He started pinching them harder, and I couldn’t help it. I had to slam my hips back to meet him.

  • Does the sensation stay more on the surface of the skin (often described as sting, and associated with things like canes, biting, whips, wax play and slapping) or reach deeper beneath the skin (often described as thud, and associated with things like heavy floggers, batons, saps, and punching)?

In this excerpt from “The Tender Sweet Young Thing”, a bottom in a group scene is having difficulty tolerating claws and teeth. One of the tops in the scene shifts it to a different kind of sensation:

Jericho said, “All that surface sensation is just too much, isn’t it? You need something deeper to show you how tender you are. I can do that.”

How did Jericho know that? It was scary how right they were. Deeper was exactly what he needed. He nodded helplessly.

Jericho handed their boy a condom and some lube. They picked up Dax’s scissors, getting a nod from hir, and cut off Téo’s briefs before he even registered what was happening. By then, Jericho had almost finished unstrapping Téo’s cock. They gestured to Rusty and moved around Téo, unbuttoning his dress to bare his chest. Téo loved, and hated, being beaten there. It was about the only kind of touch that felt right in that area, and it was so damn intense because, really, when you’re binding so many hours a day, your skin gets fucking sensitive. 

Jericho had taken out their braided cat. Téo adored this toy, and was aching to get beaten with it again. Last time, it’d felt like light was bursting out the top of his head.

It was better than he remembered, probably because he needed deep sensation so much. He closed his eyes and let it drive into him. Sublime intensity concentrated where he needed to let go. Jericho was fucking magic. When Rusty slid into his front hole, it felt so easy and solid. Rusty was holding him steady with his cock, anchoring him here in this room so he didn’t float too far. 

  • How does the sensation move through the body? Does it radiate out from the place of the blow (like with a slap or a paddle)? Does it reach underneath the skin and bounce back out (like with a cane stroke)? Does it feel like it drives right through you (like with a punch or a heavy flogger)? Does it come on strong and then numb out and then jolt you at the end (like with clips and clamps)? Does it sear from the start and then build an ache behind it (like with biting)?

For some, thudding sensations can have all the movement of a deliciously rough hard fuck. The bottom in “It’s My Job” has that experience with a lead-filled sap:

He pulls out his leather sap and begins to pound it into my thighs like a sledgehammer, ramming lead into me. It pounds me hard, and my dick begins to throb. He’s hitting that spot where it starts to translate to sex. I am not a masochist, and there are very few intense sensations that feel like anything but pain. But this is pure sex. My lips part, and I start groaning. It is all I can do not to bend over and beg him to fuck me now. I take each blow into my cock, feeling it swell until it seems like it’s going to burst. 

  • How would you describe the pacing and rhythm of the sensation? Sporadic? Relentless? Methodical? Jarring? Pounding? Percussive/rhythmic? Deliberate? Surprising? Building up in intensity? Dancing around? Moving close to the edge and then stepping back, only to move toward the edge again?

Consider how rhythm shapes the same bottom’s sensory experience in this later excerpt from my story “It’s My Job”, describing a rather different kind of beating with a cat o’ nine tails:

It slams into my back, and I am utterly still: no breath, no movement. He begins to lay into me. The rhythm is hypnotic; fire dances along my skin as the cat drives into me. The cowhide is thin and braided, and the knotted tips feel like they are slicing me open. Waves of reddish-orange pain wash over my vision. My feet are planted. I will not move. I am helpless against the pain, lightning so strong it almost knocks me over. I am so small in the face of it. Nothing I can do will stop it. I stand still and take it, and it transforms me. I am taking it for Daddy. 

  • Does the sensation have a temperature or texture to it? Things like canes, wax, belts, and slapping can often feel like heat. Things that stimulate the nerves (like whartenberg wheels), slower sensations, and cooler materials (acrylic paddles, batons) sometimes feel cool. A slow rhythmic flogging with deerskin can feel smooth, where things that drag on the skin (like some kinds of pinching or braided leather) can feel rough. Some kinds of pain feel like they are slicing into skin (belts) or piercing it (singletails). 

I’m particularly partial to describing sharp stinging pain, and I often use language evoking the heat that comes with that sort of play. Here is an excerpt from my story “How He Likes It” describing how it feels for this bottom to get hurt with a belt.

I took him in, tasting like liquid metal in my throat, trembling with the intensity of his belt, and let the pain pour out of my eyes, stream out of my mouth, let my cunt drip with it as my ass clenched around it. I begged him for more even as I screamed, my hands fisting the blanket, safely held down by my Sir, feeling him smile proudly at me.

My thighs were on fire, and the flames took me over until I could feel my cunt burning with it, my chest hot, and I was begging to come for him, could I please show him how much I appreciated his cruelty, please, Sir.

He laughed and refused me, continuing to lay pain onto me as I writhed, moaning, sobbing with it, blazing. I begged him not to stop, to please keep hurting me, claiming me with his belt. Saying that I needed it, needed his marks on me. He was ruthless, and I shuddered with it, a conflagration of need taking me over. I was in that place where I felt like I could take all the pain in the world, eat it all, and spit the flames of it right back, a burning circle between us, for as long as he wanted, perhaps longer.

Once you have a sense of these things for what you are planning to describe, you can start building your vocabulary for this particular kind of play, and for pain in general.

It can help to gather information about the sensations you are going to describe. Try them yourself. Reflect on your experiences and memories of that sort of play. Talk to people who have experience with them. Watch people do that sort of play. Look at posts on Fetlife. Read about SM, fiction and non-fiction, especially books by people who do SM. (I’ve found essays by folks who do BDSM and experience chronic pain to be particularly useful resources.)

Years ago, I began a vocabulary list for myself, of words that captured what different kinds of pain felt like (searing, invasive, bursting, jagged, grinding, pounding), and words I could use to describe delivering pain (thrusting, ramming, ripping, lavishing, placing, menacing, blasting). I highly suggest you start your own lists. They can help tremendously when you are stuck describing SM. If you are looking for a place to start, try the McGill Pain Questionaire; it’s got some gorgeously specific language for describing pain.

David Biro suggests that pain “can only be described through metaphor.” Metaphor is one of my best tools for describing SM. There’s a way that it gets you places you can’t really go otherwise. When I decided to do an erotic retelling of the fairy tale of Tam Lin and Janet, one of the main reasons was the opportunity to push myself with metaphor. In the fairy tale, Janet has to hold on to Tam Lin as he transforms from a lizard to a bear to a mountain lion to a brand to a burning hot coal. I got so excited deciding what sort of play was the best to match with each transformation, how to build the arc of a scene that was so pre-determined by the fairy tale.  

Here is an excerpt from the lizard portion of the story:

Jan was so mesmerized by Tam’s cock that they were surprised by the first touch, their head yanked backward by the hair, face tilted up to meet Tam’s eyes. Jan took a slow shaky breath. This was real. The sensation was cold and quick. It went so fast that it was hard to hold on to. What was that? It darted over Jan’s skin, their eyes steady on Tam’s, no idea what was happening to their chest. Jan gasped when the sensation moved through their nipple, like a tongue flickering. They reached for the sensation, trying to catch it as it moved, lizard-like, along their nipples, gone before they could grasp it. Frightening and exciting all at once, it made Jan throb, breath in their throat, just trying to hold on to Tam. It didn’t matter what it was. It was Jan’s job to stay with it, stay connected.

And here is an excerpt from the burning hot coal portion of the story:

Tam began to punch Jan in the pecs. Slowly. In the same spot, repeatedly. A steadily increasing pounding, building heat in Jan’s chest from within, like a red-hot coal, slowly building, rough and demanding. Jan could feel it growing in their chest and was helpless to stop it, just held Tam’s determined eyes as tears started falling. Tam kept ramming hir fists into Jan, smiling so sweetly at the tears, wanting them to come. This was exactly what Tam needed, they realized, and they let go and sobbed. Tam just kept driving the tears out of them, telling them to just keep crying, their tears were gorgeous and hot and making Tam so hard. That if they kept crying like that, Tam was not going to be able to resist fucking them. Jan gripped Tam’s waist and bawled, tears washing over them both.

Whatever kind of description you choose, I urge you to get as specific as possible when describing pain. Your BDSM erotica will only be better for it. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Erotica Readers & Writers Association: Changing of the Guard

The Erotica Readers and Writers Association has been around since 1996. It pre-dates my foray into the erotica genre by ten years, and is coming up on its twentieth anniversary. Adrienne Benedicks has run it from the beginning, and I remember finding my very first publisher (Stardust, now defunct) on their Author Resources page. Adrienne is now retiring - and moving to greener pastures and a warmer climate! She felt it was time to pass the baton, and I was honored that she thought of me.
In recent years, as Amazon (and other retailers) have pushed back against erotica authors, I have seriously considered giving up on the genre altogether. But in the end, I simply can't walk away from something I've invested nearly ten years of my own time and energy into. Besides, I love erotica as a genre. And I love erotica authors. I have never met a more fun-loving, open-minded, good-hearted crowd of people. Erotica authors are the first line in the defenders of the freedom of expression. They go places others are often afraid to venture, and tackle topics that far too many shy away from.
I have some great ideas about how to develop the Erotica Readers and Writers Association into an even stronger community and resource for both readers and authors that I'm sure I will be implementing in the future, but truthfully, what's in place right now is a gold mine that, I'm afraid, too many people don't know about!
For instance, did you know that the Erotic Readers and Writers Association has a lively discussion list? In fact, they have several! The Parlor is a place where everyone can discuss whatever's on their mind, Storytime is where authors can offer their work for critique, and the Writers' List is a place where authors can network and talk about all things writing related. I've been a part of those discussion lists for the past year, and it's been a great experience to connect with new erotica authors and erotica lovers.
For readers, there's a huge library of erotic fiction available for free in the Treasure Chest! There's straight erotic fictionqueer fictionkinky eroticathe softer sidequickiesflashers, and even poetry. It's not just erotic books, either. There are a wide array of articles in the archives, plus adult moviessex toys, even suggestions for erotic music to set the mood. It's an erotica lovers dream!
You can also follow ERWA on Twitter, we have a brand new ERWA Facebook page, and you can sign up for the ERWA newsletter to keep up on what we're doing next.
For those who are already a part of the ERWA, I want to assure you that I have no intention of dismantling the site or bringing a bunch of new changes in too quickly. The site has grown and changed organically over the past twenty years, and I imagine it will continue to do so over the next twenty years.
Self-publishing and the rise of ebooks have given erotica a newfound freedom of expression that was unheard of twenty years ago. If I look into my crystal ball to see what the next twenty-years holds for erotica, I have to admit, it's a bit cloudy. But I do know one thing - as a genre, erotica isn't going anywhere. As long as there are humans, the expression human sexuality in all its forms will be explored by the most daring and adventurous of writers, and read by the most curious and open-minded readers. That much I do know.
My hope is that erotica's future is so bright, we'll all have to wear shades.
Portrait of sensual brunette woman in red hot lingerie.
But wherever the future of erotica as a genre may lead, I intend to be a part of that for a long time to come.
 Selena Kitt