Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Power of The One By K D Grace



Like most writers, I spend a lot of time analysing what makes a story work. Why does one story grip me when another doesn't? Why do the characters in one tale make me want to curl myself around them and never let them go while others feel more like they’re only people waiting at the bus stop with me, people who barely register in my mind.

How much of what makes a story work is plot and how much is character? Sometimes nothing happens in a story, and I'm enthralled. At other times everything happens in a story, and I don't care. Am I just picky? I wonder if in the age of free Kindle downloads, being spoiled for choice hasn’t jaded us so much as it has left us frantically searching for The One. And the stories that really do work for me are the stories in which I most fully experience the power of The One.

It seems to me that the power of The One is more evident in erotica and romance than it is in any other genre. I suppose that sounds really obvious in a Cinderella and Prince Charming, or best fuck ever sort of way. At the risk of over-simplifying, it's all about being The One, finding The One, enticing The One, seducing or being seduced by The One. Happily ever aftering with The One.

In our need to connect, in our need for intimacy, it seems to me that the power of The One draws us more than any other element of story. It isn't so much the need for a knight on a white horse as it is the need for a kindred spirit, as it is the need for someone who groks us, someone who gets us on the deepest level of our quirkiness, our flaws, our potential, our Oneness. The archetypal story is that The One goes on a journey that no one else can go on, and on that danger fraught journey, The One finds The Other One, the only Other One who really gets him/her, who is the flint to The One's steel. And the resulting fire is what propels the story, what takes the reader in and entices her into her own place of Oneness. Hearts and flowers – maybe. Best fuck ever – could be. Magnetic connection – bound to be.

The thing is, not everyone's fire is fueled the same way. One person's One is another person’s bloke at the bus stop. The story of The One can be a game of substitution in which our minds edit out the hero/heroine and insert ourselves making the story about us. WE become The One. Or the story of The One can be more of a voyeuristic menage in which we find ourselves happily inserted into the relationship, experiencing a bit of the hero, a bit of the heroine, and basking in the chemistry that happens in the space between, when two Ones collide. I find this to be more of a 3D way to experience The One. In a lot of ways that space in between, that joining place where the rough edges rub up against each other is the real One. The joining place is the space in which the two become a different kind of One.

Beyond romance and erotica, the power of The One is what so much of story is about. The One who catches the serial killer. The One who is the serial killer. The One who wins the battle, The One who pulls the Sword from the stone, The One whose face launches a thousand ships. The One who can wear the glass slipper.

The tale of The One is the mathematics of story. The One plus the Other One equals One, and that One is the Whole, the plurality of One.

The tale of The One is the physics of story. When the One fuses with the Other One, when they join together to form THE ONE. That fusing results in a release of energy, energy that feeds the reader, energy that drives the story.

When The One reader finds The One story, the energy released can change the reader’s internal landscape. The constant search for The One story by the reader is a treasure hunt that can change everything. Every reader has experienced that post coital bliss of indulging in The One story. It’s chemistry, it’s fire, it’s magic! It doesn’t happen often, but every time it does, it’s enough. It’s enough to drive us on in search of the next One. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Taking Risks

By Lisabet Sarai

What would it take to get some respect for erotic fiction? To transform erotica from its current scorned status as pornography with a fancy vocabulary into a legitimate branch of literature? Earlier this month, Remittance Girl addressed this issue, suggesting that “critical engagement” might help. In critiquing and reviewing erotica, we need to consider the non-sexual aspects of the erotic fiction we read, focusing on premise, plot, pacing, characterization, thematic depth and language instead of, or at least in addition to, whether the story gets us hot and bothered.

I wholeheartedly agree with her thesis, which she expanded into a fantastic treatise on appropriate objectives and approaches for critiques and reviews. I'd like to offer another, complementary suggestion. To convince readers (and critics) to take our genre seriously, we need to take risks.

What do I mean by that? Am I talking about moving beyond portrayals of vanilla sex to incorporate edgier and more controversial sexual practices? That's one kind of risk, certainly; there's some likelihood we'll alienate or “squick” some segment of our readership. However, the risk to which I'm referring is more fundamental. To have our work considered as something more than gussied-up stroke stories, we need to risk breaking the rules of the genre.
Of course, erotica already tends to be less formulaic than genres such as mystery or romance. Nevertheless, readers have some unspoken expectations:


  • An erotic story will include physical sex acts, with some expectation that the more explicit and varied the sex acts, the better.
  • Characters in erotic stories will experience at least one orgasm (each).
  • Characters in erotic stories will experience physical pleasure on the way to orgasm.
  • Characters in erotic stories tend to be at least somewhat attractive.
  • The story will end happily, in the sense that the participants get what they want (sexual release).

These expectations are not equally strong. In particular, the “happy ending” rule can be waived, in so called “dark erotica”. However, as erotic romance becomes an increasingly powerful force in the market, it has become more difficult to publish erotic stories with tragic or otherwise negative conclusions.

Stories that satisfy the expectations above are likely to sell well. To some extent, readers are lazy (we all are) and want experiences that offer familiar satisfactions, as opposed to experiences that challenge them to think or feel something different. If we write according to expectations, delivering what readers are buying now, we'll likely increase the size of our monthly royalty checks. However, we may be undermining the reputation of the genre as a whole.

I've been writing, publishing, reading and reviewing erotica for more than a decade. Lately, the majority of the stories I read have a depressing sameness. Even more alarming, I find that I myself am reluctant to write stories that violate popular expectations. I know that choosing to write an ugly or nasty character, or to include only a minimal amount of actual sex, or to leave a character frustrated, may interfere with my selling the story - to publishers and to readers.

Great fiction takes risks. It stands out from the crowd. The books and stories that most impress me tend to be original, surprising, outrageous, even disturbing. If I aspire to more than hack status, I must be willing to risk following my intuitions instead of the rules.

At the moment, I'm working on an erotic vampire story for the charitable anthology I'm editing, Coming Together: In Vein. In my initial notions about the conclusion, the main character does not get what he wants. He's desperate to be taken by the vampires, to be ravished, used, drained dry. He wants to sacrifice himself to them, because he loves them so deeply. However, his master and mistress refuse to grant his wish. Instead, he's left in the same state of unrelieved desire as when the story opens.

As I considered this, I found myself thinking, “Oh-oh. Readers won't like that. They want everyone to get off. They crave satisfaction. Maybe I'd better change the ending.” I was tempted to transform the tale into a more familiar model, to hew more closely to the unspoken rules.

All at once, I realized I was subverting my own creativity in order to be “safe”. I decided to stick with my original concept. Of course, I don't need to worry about whether this story will be accepted, since I know the editor well. The experience made me realize, though, how often I do choose the well-trodden path, opting for sales and money as opposed to originality.

I'm fascinated by the idea of purely psychological dominance in D/s. I have another story concept stewing at the back of my mind, a BDSM novel in which the master is a quadriplegic. He cannot directly exert any power over the submissive. Instead, he relies on surrogates and on the sub's willingness to surrender and obey. In particular, I have a scene in mind where he completely immobilizes the sub so that she'll have some understanding of his personal experience.

This story premise breaks most of the genre rules. Still, because this scenario intrigues me personally, I suspect that I could make the tale erotic. However, I'll probably never write it, because I'm convinced that no publisher would accept it (and I don't have the time or energy to take the self-publishing route). I'm basically holding back from taking the risks that might produce something of serious literary merit.

How many of us are falling into the same trap?

On the other hand, the most exquisite prose, the most amazing literary insights, mean nothing if they're unread. If our fantastically creative erotic books never see the light of day, we will accomplish nothing.

I continue to ponder this conundrum, trying to decide if there's a way to create outstanding erotic fiction that takes risks and still gets read.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Uppity Vaginas and Educational Porn

By Donna George Storey

When you write erotica, some very interesting topics can make people think of you.  For example, a friend recently forwarded me two articles, one The New Yorker's review of Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: A New Biography, the other a Sunday New York Times article on Cindy Gallop’s new YouTube for the “erotically unabashed,” MakeLoveNotPorn.tv.  Both articles are indeed relevant to my work in terms of the nominal topic, but I found the journalists’ assumptions and overall tone surprisingly revealing of the deeply-rooted negative attitudes towards sexuality in our mainstream culture.   As erotica writers, we are still coping with these attitudes from “serious” publishers, editors, and reviewers every day.

Let’s start with the more obviously relevant piece about a woman who wants to change the world by presenting positive, honest depictions of sex.  Cara Buckley’s article “Spreading the Word (and Pictures) on ‘Real’ Sex” profiles a 52-year-old businesswoman’s journey from advertising executive to creator of a website where real people can upload vetted videos of themselves having “non-performance” sex for $5, and viewers can pay $5 to watch (50% of proceeds go the contributor—which would be quite favorable terms from an e-book publisher).   The creator of this enterprise, Cindy Gallop, got her idea when she put a profile on a dating website and discovered that younger men were eager to get it on with an older, successful woman who was interested in fun, not commitment.  But she couldn’t help but notice that many of her lovers acted like porn stars in bed, and not in a good way.  (Which reminds me of a joke where a man making love to a woman stops mid-thrust every minute or so, waits a few seconds, then begins to thrust again.  “What are you doing?” she asks him.  “Buffering,” he replies).

In order to help other women who felt “trapped in someone else’s pornographic fantasy,” Gallop decided to offer an appealing alternative to porn by inviting real people to share playful, honest sexual encounters.  Buckley writes that “compared with the harsh lens of mainstream pornography, the videos come across as sweet, earnest, languid, playful, and deeply human.”

Which is exactly how I’d describe well-written erotica, which has been available for quite some time in print and online.  And which is why, perhaps, erotica is where many women turn to satisfy their sexual curiosity in a society where female erotic desire is still cause for surprise and scandal.   Indeed, Gallop does not escape the age-old media attempt to portray a sexually aware woman as exceptional.  Her penchant for leather bustiers and younger men invoke the figure of the prostitute-turned-madam, and we learn far too much about her exotic, expensively appointed bachelorette lair in Chelsea.  Yet as an older woman who is very much committed to celebrating the truth of the female sexual experience myself—even if I prefer blue brocade corsets with shoulder straps--I wish Ms. Gallop the best in translating the female vision of eros to the computer screen.  The more we tell our side of the story, beyond cliche, in every medium, the happier both sexes will all be in life and in bed.

Unfortunately, Ariel Levy’s view of Naomi Wolf’s new book was not quite as uplifting.   For me, Wolf’s The Beauty Myth is right up there beside Susan Faludi’s Backlash as an important book in the ongoing feminist dialogue with conservative cultural forces in the late twentieth century, so I was expecting an intriguing preview of Vagina: A New Biography.  However, Levy’s review goes straight for a common strategy that “serious” culture uses to keep sexuality in its place:  ridicule.  Throughout the essay, she mocks Wolf’s efforts to equate the vagina with the female brain and soul, the gateway to a woman’s creativity.  Admittedly, the quotes she chooses from the book do sound pretty silly, but I also found the reviewer’s perspective equally problematic.  Levy insists that her own vagina doesn’t know or care how it’s treated--genitalia as the quintessence of stupidity.  And she is unmoved by Wolf’s contention that verbally insulting a woman’s vagina is a form of physical violence.  Why?  Because the scientific study that shows rats’ vaginas exhibit changes under stressful conditions is not proof since the experimenters were not shouting “Rat pussy!” at their subjects.

Yes, it’s a funny line, but let’s remember what else is going on here.  According to Levy, Wolf’s attempts to “conjur[e] a fevered, enchanted world where female consciousness is situated not between the ears but between the legs” is a “kind of pornography” along the lines of Fifty Shades of Grey.  Trashy smut, that is.  Because if we don’t keep the pure mind separate from the filthy, base, animalistic urges, then civilization will fall and with it, most tragically no doubt, The New Yorker.

Of course, a good New Yorker review must be about more than just a single book, and Levy delivers with a discussion of the feminist battle over the reduction of the female to her body—in particular through pornography.  First she presents the efforts of the Andrea Dworkin, Catharine McKinnon, and Susan Brownmiller “faction” to make pornography a civil rights’ violation.  Then, in a classic “fair and balanced” dualistic journalistic approach, we have our competing faction, the pro-sex feminists.  Levy gives no names for this group (Erica Jong?  Susie Bright?  Marcy Sheiner?  Violet Blue?  Cindy Gallop?) but these females surprised the radical feminists by being turned on by porn and wanting neither men nor women to define and control their sexuality.  Of course, those who support free speech can easily see the drawbacks of the anti-pornography activists’ efforts, but the fair and balanced approach must give us the con side of pro-sex as follows:

“...There were problems with the pro-sex position, too—things could get a little zipless and g-spotty.  Like their cohorts in the sexual revolution, many of the pro-sex feminists fell prey to the alluring but dubious conflation of fornication and emancipation.  Orgasms are swell, but they are not the remedy to every injustice.”

I’ll admit up front, I find this description of the failings of pro-sex feminism so vague, it almost defies dispute.  “Zipless” doubtless refers to Jong's Fear of Flying, but what the hell does “g-spotty” mean, especially as a criticism of advocacy for freedom of erotic expression?  As both a pro-sex feminist and erotica writer, I’m not even sure what the problem is here (except maybe the fact that the clitoris and vulva are not given their say).  Specific examples attributed to individual activists would surely help more than a string of fifty-cent words like “the dubious conflation of fornication and emancipation.”  In case you don’t remember, “fornication” is an old-fashioned word for sex between people who aren’t married to each other.  Is Levy suggesting that pro-sex feminists are pushing sexual exploration outside of marriage (including the time in our lives before that sacred ceremony) to the detriment of female equality?  More to the point, I don’t know of a single pro-sex feminist who has claimed that [female?] orgasms are a remedy to every injustice.  However, the understanding of what pleases women sexually and equal satisfaction for all partners is extremely important to redressing injustice in the particular context of a sexual encounter.

Like the uproar surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey, I’m finding the way Vagina is discussed far more educational than the book itself could ever be.  Other reviewers have called Vaginautter drivel” and “almost too boring to review.”  They also revel in the chance to make snide remarks about Wolf’s orgasms and her squeamishness about “dirty talk,” thus casting her as embarrassingly open and ridiculously prudish all at once.  Okay, so maybe the book is not ground-breaking in terms of science, philosophy or revolutionary sexual discovery.  So it doesn’t “represent feminism.”  How many books out there accomplish any of these things?  If Wolf’s fame, photogenic face, and an editorial penchant for titillating controversy have made her an undeserving focus of attention, then the workings of the system that forced the assignment on so many annoyed reviewers might be worth some scrutiny as well.  But somehow everyone’s culprit is sex, specifically Wolf's vagina, which is clearly getting above her station and, we are assured, has nothing new or interesting to say.

I suppose some might argue we’ve come a long way towards a frank, intelligent discussion of sexuality if our greatest mouthpieces of the cultural elite see fit to discuss a businesswoman’s effort to change the image of sex and an extended personal consideration of a female reproductive organ.  But discussions are as much about tone as topic.  The tittering ridicule of Naomi Wolf’s latest book in the media reveals that those of us who respect eroticism have much more to take on than the ghost of Andrea Dworkin.




Donna George Storey is the author of Amorous Woman (recently released as an ebook) 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

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Dramatic Pivot Point


By: Craig Sorensen

“We’re you just going to leave without saying goodbye?”



“I just haven’t had time, it’s been crazy trying to get this cross-country move this together.”

“Yeah, I know, but I gotta bust on you.”

Yes, he did.  He had for over a quarter of a century.  He busted on me about work, busted on me about home, delivered digs with a serious face, but once I got to know him, I learned to read his eyes.  He was a curmudgeon, even when we first met and we were young men.

Truth was, in a way, he remained young, despite his hair, graying and receding as it did over the years.  He was in amazing shape, even on this day when I was loading crap into the POD for the cross-country move, and he rode up on his trusty bicycle.

He complained about things, but he worked his ass off as hard as anyone I knew.  When another member of his team trashed an important disk drive on a Friday and brought the system I supported to its knees, G was in all weekend working to recovering the lost data.  It was not an easy job, and for a time it looked like I’d have to work my ass off to rebuild from scratch.  My stomach was in my throat at the thought.

But he got the job done.  Come Monday, you wouldn’t have known the near catastrophe that befell our system.

He called me once from Colorado during one of his biking trips to check on a problem that had occurred.  He was on vacation, but he wanted to be sure everything was okay, and he’d found a small pocket of cell reception in his cross country ride.  I told him we had it in hand.   “Okay, call me if you need me.  I’ll be checking in.”

He was always there for people.  He was always checking in.  Give you the shirt off his back.  He'd say things like "I don't give a shit."  But he always did, when it came down to it.  He had a great sense of humor.  His smiles were usually small and wry, occasionally opening briefly into a wicked apex.  His eyes had a constant gleam in them, even in the worst of times.

I didn’t know a person who knew G that didn’t like him.

Monday, he wrote me an email.  My former employer, his present one, was having a problem with a set of files I used to maintain, and no one could figure it out.  Often, when that happened, they'd turn to G.  “I don’t have a clue,” he wrote.  I explained about the files and what had been done to fix them in the past.

“Thanks,” he wrote back simply.

Tuesday, at lunch, he went to work out.  They say he passed out, and they could not revive him.  Later that afternoon, a second heart attack and G was gone.



Some might say it was ironic that he worked out pretty much every day of his life, and he died so suddenly, working out.  But I know that the only way he would rather have gone would have been on the back of his bike, somewhere between there and here, taking pictures of dead skunks on the road which he would use as wallpaper on his PC at work, or perhaps running into the ice cold ocean in January with a group of crazies, only to emerge with one of those twisted smiles, and have his picture taken with his arm around an attractive young woman he didn't know know, but just asked if she’d pose with him.

She was grinning too.

It is now 2500 miles between me and where he died, and it was all so sudden.  I could not make it to the service, but I asked a friend to tell me how it went.  “Craig, it was more like a block party than a memorial.  There were people lined up outside on the sidewalk.”

And that was how it should be.

G was a good man, a good friend, a good coworker, and he left this plane far too soon for my taste.

Less than 24 hours before his death, his last word to me in an email:  “Thanks.”

I wish I’d had a chance to thank him.

G was the sort of man a fiction writer wishes they could craft.  The gold-standard of character.  Funny as hell, smart as a whip, determined, vital and vibrant and alive every day he was on this earth, and complaining all the way.  Did I say good man?  No, he was great.

Truly great.

I had started a story about a week before I got word of his passing, and central to the plot was dealing with death.  Perhaps there is some significance to this timing, I've found that life and fiction have a way of merging.  But fiction is always fiction, and life is always life.  Finding a center ground is where the magic happens, methinks.  That short story I started has since expanded to be a novella.  I continue to work on it, with love, and with passion.

My contribution to this blog is about pivot points, and there are no greater ones than how life begins, and how it ends.

Well, maybe I’m wrong about that one.  There is this big-assed middle part to tend to, and I suppose that is what makes those beginnings and ends so significant.

That is where character is formed and proofed.

I miss you, G.   Thank you for living, and for inspiring me in so many ways.  Thank you for sharing your bigger-than-life character.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dishing It Out and Sucking It Up: Critique and Reviews

There is a general perception that our genre is an embattled one, unfairly ostracized and intellectually snubbed for the explicitness of what we write and the sexual arousal that our texts seek to invoke in the reader.

But it is not entirely fair to lay the cause for all the derision layered upon the genre at that door alone.  Nor is it useful, since you and I are not going to stop writing erotic literature, and the Western world is (GOP convention aside) becoming more and more inured to the shock of sexual explicitness.  We have a generation of teenagers growing to adulthood who've been watching porn on the net for years.  I've just finished the first season of Spartacus, which has, I'm convinced, set off a new craze for fucking up against walls.

A serious and completely resolvable part of why we're looked down upon has to do with the quality of writing pervading the genre.  Remember that a huge number of readers meet their first erotica on blogs and listserves and other places where no editorial oversight takes place.  The quality of much of our published work is certainly no worse than a lot of bestselling thrillers, which is neither a boast nor a criticism. But then, the thriller genre doesn't have the added challenge of overcoming social stigma as well.

One of the best ways we can hope to raise the standard of writing in this genre is by critical engagement with the work. As givers and receivers of clear, fair, constructive criticism.

Most people fear criticism. They have a very hard time separating themselves from their work. This is especially true for erotica where much of the subject matter may be partially autobiographical or may hint at the writer's own sexual tastes.  I don't have any pat solutions for this. I think only time and acclimatization take away the sting of a rough crit or review.

But I'd like to ask you to think of it another way.  Wholly positive and laudatory crits or reviews of your work will never make you a better writer. They may make you a more confident human being, but that shouldn't be the business we are in here. We should be in the business of improving our craft and the genre as a whole, not nurturing the egos of our fellow writers.

Critiques and reviews are two different things, and I'd like to make those differences clear. A critique is done upon an unpublished work where changes can be made to the text before publication. A review is a response to an already published work, which will not, usually, be subject to change.

Critiques

Critiques are a cooperative process embarked upon with a view to making the work stronger. The target audience for a critique is primarily the writer, and sometimes other writers who read it and identify mistakes that they also make.  Finally, critiques are a strong learning tool for the critiquer, because you can often see the flaws in the writing of others that you find hard to see in your own.  But the process teaches you how to look for those flaws in your writing later.

Critiques should point out both the weaknesses and strengths in the writing.  They can be as practical as finding spelling, typing and grammar errors, address issues of voice, style, POV, characterization, motivation, plot structure, poetics, believability and realism, and, to some extent, intended meaning.

Subject matter is not the purview of a critique. What I mean by that is, if heavy BDSM generally offends you and you feel that you cannot see past that to read the work with a modicum of objectivity, you have no business critting it.  On the other hand, if you find the subject matter so arousing that you cannot overcome your wholly positive feelings, then, again, you're probably not the right person to give the piece a strong critique.

In any case, it is always polite to start a crit by owning any factors that might cause your criticism to be overly subjective. "I loved this story and found it so erotic, I'm not sure if I was able to give it the critical eye it deserves," or "I'm afraid that I've always found watersports profoundly disturbing, so what I have to offer might be coloured by that limitation."

There is no such thing as a wholly objective criticism, but we have a framework of solid aspects of good story structure and good writing practice to help us be as objective as possible.

In giving a crit, you are entering into a partnership with the writer, where the shared goal is to make the work the best it can be. It isn't a kindness to overlook errors with a view to nurturing a new writer.  It gives them a false sense of security that will, inevitably, be blow apart at a later date, to their dismay and you won't be there to take part of the pain. It's not nice to set someone up for an ambush, which is exactly what you're doing.

Finally, offering solutions to problems in the work can be problematic. For beginners, it can be very helpful because they don't yet have the craft to figure out how to fix the problem themselves. For more advanced writers, an offer of a solution can sometimes seem like an offer to re-write their work and appropriate their story.  On the other hand, I always like them, and will sometimes ask for them. There are multiple was to solve a problem and the more I know, the wider my options are.

Taking criticism is as much an art as giving it. There are a number of things it is good to keep in your mind: the person giving you the crit is doing you a service that is entirely voluntary and aimed at allowing you to produce a better piece.  Even if you disagree entirely with their critique and implement none of the changes suggested, you need to acknowledge that this person is a reader. Their reaction is a reaction to your text. So if they have 'misread', you need to acknowledge that other readers might, too.  Yes, of course, all texts can have multiple readings, but if your critiquer's reading strays too far from your intended meaning, then there is a problem you need to fix.

Yes, all critiques are subjective, but so is your writing, and so is a reader's reading. We are in the very business of eliciting subjective reactions in readers, so not all subjectivity makes a criticism invalid.  And positive subjective readings can be - in fact, usually are - far more misleading than negative ones. Positive feedback is wonderful, but it doesn't actually improve your work. And that's what you've gone into the process to do, isn't it?

Ultimately, the writer is responsible for their work.  It comes out under their name. So the choice to take and implement any given criticism is yours. It is very hard for another writer not to want to read something the way they would have written it.  It's just the nature of the beast.  As a receiver of a critique, you need to decide what to keep, what to change, based upon a voice that is true to you.

Reviews

Reviews should not be aimed at the author. The target audience is potential readers of the work, or readers who have already read it and want to compare their reading experience with the review.  Both are equally rich interactions with the work.

There are a lot of shoddy reviews out there, and I'm not particularly skilled at them myself.  But the basic aim of a review is to contextualize the published work for a reader, give them some options for how to approach it, highlight elements that the reader might miss. The point of it is to enrich the reading experience, not to ruin it.

Often good reviews will survey a particular author's work in the context the author's entire oeuvre, or they may address it the context of other works within the genre.  Rarely does a review address the novel in its entirety. Once past the short synopsis, reviewers will pick out and discuss the dominant themes in the novel. But I've seen amazing reviews that only addressed the writer's use of poetics, or archetypal characters.  A review of a book doesn't need to be everything to everyone

Any review that starts with "I hate BDSM and I hated this BDSM novel" is not really a review at all.  Similarly, "I don't usually read m/m romances and now I know why," is a sign that the reviewer did not approach the novel with an open mind.  One of the reasons why many of the recent literary reviews of Fifty Shades of Grey are so illegitimate is because they off by stating that they don't think explicit sex has any place in a novel.

If you've never written a review of erotica, I urge you to consider doing it.  The rise in the phenomenon of the user-review and its varied implications is a topic too long for this already huge post.

However, before you give your writer-friend five stars and a glowing review because she's your friend and you love her and she wants to sell her books, please consider the cumulative consequences of doing so. It does not serve our genre, and doesn't encourage excellence in writing.  There is no such thing as a perfect book, and so there should be no such thing as a perfect review.

Solid critical reviews are a tremendous compliment to the author. Someone has taken the time to truly care about your work and deep-read it. No author should be upset that someone has pointed out the flaws in their book. Every book has flaws. And having a reader know what they are in advance will often lessen the impact of them. "Well, the character of the husband is weak, but I knew that was going to be the case. Read on."

Our genre desperately needs us to take it more seriously.  We need solid criticism and robust reviews. We need to believe that we are strong enough to take them, and to stop thinking that every negative criticism is going to imperil our existence. It won't.

But, most of all, we need to believe we are worthy of being treated as equals within the larger literary community.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker: What's Erotic?



It's one of the most common questions I get asked – by budding writers via email or in person during one of my (ahem) Sex Sells: Erotica Writing classes: what makes an erotic story ... erotic?

But before I answer [insert suspenseful music here] a bit of exposition is in order: there is a huge difference in writing for yourself, such as when you are first dipping your ... toes into erotica writing, and when you've made the very brave decision to throw your work out into the professional world.

If you are writing for yourself then you really don't need to be thinking about sex (or the amount of it) at all: you're writing for your pleasure, or just as practice.

But if you do decide to send your work out you really do need to be pay close attention to where you're submitting: when a publisher or editor puts out a call for submissions they are often – or should be – quite clear about the amount of sexuality they need or want from a writer.  If you're sending a story, say, to a site, anthology or whatever it's always a good idea to scope out the territory, so to speak: read what the editor has accepted before, take a gander at the site ... and so forth.  That, at least, should give you a ballpark feeling of what (and how much) they are looking for.

But [insert dramatic drum roll] as far as the right, perfect, ideal, amount of sex for a story that isn't just for your own pleasure, or a very specific market, goes ... well, what's sex?

Far too often beginning (or even seasoned pros) have the idea that there's a required amount of sex, of detail, of activity, that makes a story erotic: they occassionally even have a percentage guide – or a shopping list of required activities (oral followed by penetration culminated by mutual orgasm, etc). 

There's also the belief that unless a story arouses them – or a publisher, editor, random reader, whoever – then it isn't sufficiently erotic ... and so needs more sex.

But both of these views are, frankly, wrong.  Erotica can be a remarkably flexible genre: it can be about anything to do with sex, sensuality, eroticism, whatever ... there isn't a set rule of amount or variety of sex that has to take place. 

I've sold (as a writer) and bought (as both an anthology editor as well as a book publisher), work that has a wide range of both quantity as well as assortment of sex and sensuality – though, once again, unless the project is upfront about requiring a certain kind, or amount, of sexuality.

And as for turning anyone on, I always remind people that there is absolutely no way to know what will turn anyone on – so it’s impossible to judge the amount of sex in a story by anyone's (not to be sexist) Peter Meter.  Once again, as a writer I've sold, and as an editor and publisher I've bought, many stories that I personally wasn't aroused by – and many writers and editors feel the same way.

So ... sex.  What I meant by what's sex is that sex can be a lot of things to a lot of people.  The erotic content in a story or book can be page after page of bumpy-grindy or lyrically sensual where actual penetrative sex (of any kind) never actually takes place.  Sex can be fantasy, without any reality.  It can be sense memory.  It can be masturbation.  It can be pleasure from extreme sensation.  It can even be bittersweet, disturbing, or even sad. 

Sex, in short, can be anything.  Speaking as a writer, I love to play with what sex can be about – often trying to really push the literary envelope.  Speaking as a publisher, I love it when a book or story crosses my path that says something – that really plays with the idea of what sex can be in a new and surprising way.

Erotica, to wrap it up, can be anything (caveats for specialized markets, of course).  There is no magic formula for amount or activity, arousal is no judge of quality or quantity: your erotic writing playground is as vast as your imagination–

–as vast as sex itself.  

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Standing Room Only for D.L. King

The Erachat room was packed last night for guest host D.L. King, author and publisher of dozens of erotic short stories and editor of several anthologies.

A huge "THANK YOU" to D.L. King for being a powerhouse guest, Karen, our moderator and Erachat hostess with the mostess, and everyone who showed up to make this one of the most exciting events ever.  I'm still catching my breath.

If you weren't there, you missed a lively, fast-paced, information-packed discussion on everything from baseball erotica and vampires, who feast on music, to zombies, LGBTQ erotica, word counts, what anthology editors seek, and the best places to submit your paranormal erotica.  It was a whirlwind 90 minutes full to brimming with a breathtaking volume of wit, wisdom and excellent advice.  [Read the chat log at Erotic Fantasy Chat with D.L. King]

Again, thank you to all who participated in this awesome -- and I don't use that word lightly -- event.

You get a second golden opportunity this month to participate in another Erachat event that promises to be equally informative and energizing:  On Saturday, September 15th, at 3:00 p.m., don't miss your chance to chat with much-published author, Janine Ashbless, who has a reputation for writing erotic fantasy and paranormal stories and novels, and for putting her own twist on fairy tales, mythology and folklore..  To find out more, visit
http://erotica-readers.com/ERA/AR/Erotica_Authors_Resources.htm

See you there.

Rose ;-)
ERWA Storytime Editor & Event Manager.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Writing Exercise - Kyrielle


 By Ashley Lister 

 You suggested we try new positions
You could tell that thought got me perplexed
You ordered some manuals from Amazon
I wonder just what we’ll do next?

The kyrielle is a French form of poetry written in quatrains. Each quatrain concludes with a repeated line or phrase that works as a refrain for the poem.

The first book we opened had pictures
It’s title was The Joy of Sex
We followed the instructions on Monday
I wonder just what we’ll do next?

The kyrielle has a meter usually composed of eight syllables per line but it can be varied. There is no limit to the number of stanzas but three is really the minimum.

On Tuesday we read marriage manuals
On Wednesday it got more complex
On Thursday and Friday you filmed us
I wonder just what we’ll do next?

The normal structure of the kyrielle is a/a/b/B, c/c/b/B, d/d/b/B. with B being the repeated line. A varied structure could be a/b/a/B, c/b/c/B, d/b/d/B. etc. or even a second line that didn’t rhyme.

Now we’ve gone through the whole the Kama Sutra
We’ve explored every page of that text
But now we must look to the future
I wonder just what we’ll do next?

As always, if you fancy writing a kyrielle and sharing it in the comments box below, we all look forward here to reading your work.

Ash

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Erotic Lure Newsletter: September 2012

From the Erotica Readers & Writers Association
By Lisabet Sarai
_______

Dear Insatiable Individualists,

I have to beg your pardon for the tardiness of this newsletter. (And no, it's not just that I like being on my knees...!) No excuses - that's what my Master always says - but really, there was nothing I could do. First of all, my work life got complicated at a particularly inconvenient time. More important, though, was the fact that I got hung up in the September Galleries. I told myself I didn't have to read every single one of the fabulous stories, flashers and poems featured this month in order to write the Lure, but I couldn't help myself. And honestly, the tales this month are so incredible, I'm willing to bet you'll lose yourself in them the same way I did.

Craig Sorensen is our September featured author. He's sharing three inspired and sexy stories as well as a fascinating bio. If you don't know Craig's writing - well, you should, because he has tremendous talent and insight (and also writes luscious posts for the ERWA blog on the 15th of every month).

Then we have seven full length tales from members of the Storytime list, in every mood from silly to soulful, as well as seven outrageous flashers. How can you resist an offering entitled "Ass Potato"?

That's not all, though. Check out the supersized collection of bawdy limericks (including a multiple stanza ballad) and our more serious page of erotic poetry, lines that will make you yearn and burn.

I can almost guarantee you'll be late for work.

Immerse yourself in our erotic visions:
http://erotica-readers.com/GD/S/Erotic_Fiction.htm

You might wonder how the Gallery authors got to be so good. Our Authors Resources section may be part of the reason. This month, Donna George Storey discusses the mysteries of inspiration and reveals her technique for stimulating the flow of ideas - and one of her favorite cookie recipes. In my guise as the Erotogeek, I try to explain how social networks work and how you can utilize the principles of connection-based marketing even if (like me) you just don't "get" Facebook. You can also peruse our Writers Resources links and archives of past articles for a wealth of information and inspiration.

For more tips from the pros, join our live chats with authors who know the ropes. This month, we're focusing on fantasy erotica. Ask questions, get suggestions, throw out your ideas for comments - all live! On September 6th, award-winning author and editor D.L. King hosts the chat room, while fantasy expert Janine Ashbless takes the virtual mike on the 15th. Details are on the Author Resources page as well as on the ERWA blog.

ERWA offers more than just advice and support for authors. We have the largest list of erotic publishing opportunities on the web, too. This month's calls for submissions includes "Geek Love: Full Frontal Nerdity", an anthology of nerd-themed erotica edited by the incomparable Shanna Germain (with a deadline that's coming up fast!). We feature two new epublishers, Go Deeper Press and Captive Unicorn Publications. And maybe you'll want to enter the Uber Erotic Writing Contest, to be judged by the legendary Laura Antoniou.

With all our listings, you have no excuse not to submit.

Learn how to seduce your readers:
http://erotica-readers.com/ERA/AR/Erotica_Authors_Resources.htm

Speaking of readers, let's hop over to the Books section for a quick look at some of the recent releases we've assembled for your reading pleasure. Mitzi Szereto has a new anthology inspired by the popular "Game of Thrones" series. THRONES OF DESIRE features erotic tales full of swords, mist, and fire. Lynne Connolly's STRIPPED BARE follows the twisted relationship between a young woman and her sexual mentor through a dark and dangerous world of blackmail and passion. HOSTILE TAKEOVER by Joey W. Hill is going on my wish list. I've heard her insight into the dynamics of BDSM widely praised, and this title, about a dominant reluctant to take on a committed sub, sounds just like my cup of tea. In the gay erotica section, check out WILD BOYS, a treasury of guys who like to defy the rules, edited by Richard Labonte. And for lesbian erotica, my September pick is DAUGHTERS OF ARTEMIS, an anthology of tales that explore a female werewolf mythos.

You've got all these arousing books, and thousands more, at your fingertips. Just follow our affiliate links and shop until you're satisfied. Okay, so you're insatiable... Anyway, when you use our links, every penny you spend at Amazon or Barnes & Noble helps support best free erotica site on the web.

Help combat illiteracy; read a dirty book!
http://erotica-readers.com/ERA/EB/Erotic_Books.htm

Inside the Erotic Mind this month, we feature a lively discussion about using strap-ons. I personally love the frankness people bring to our Erotic Mind discussions. You can add your two cents; just click on the Participate link. If you want some expert advice on pegging your partner, slide on over to the Sex Toy Playground, where the knowledgeable folks from Good Vibrations have an excellent article on the topic. (Their bottom line recommendation? Practice!)

The Playground also includes our traditional Sex Toy Scuttlebutt column, a monthly selection of the coolest and hottest erotic implements. I want a bNaughty Wireless Bullet Vibe, complete with a backlit LCD screen on the remote control. I know my Master would love it; he's such a gadget hound! Now, how can I get him to buy one? Maybe I'll tell him he can get a hefty discount by using the special codes offered by our affiliates: Good Vibrations, Eden Fantasys, and Adam & Eve.

But I digress.

Check your inhibitions at the door when you enter the erotic mind:
http://erotica-readers.com/ERA/ITEM/Inside_The_Erotic_Mind.htm

It's the fact that we use tools that distinguishes us from lower animals:
http://erotica-readers.com/ERA/ST/Sex_Toy_Playground.htm

Over in the Adult Films section, we have lots more erotic goodness (or badness, depending on your perspective). "Cooking with Kayden Cross" sounds like fun. Kayden shows off her real world culinary expertise as she tries everything (sexual) in her power to save her TV cooking show. In "Love in Black and White", director Lee Roy Myers uses black and white cinematography to highlight the intensity of couples' explicit encounters, with a stark, moody, sensual feel that suggests the 40's and 50's. Then there's "Allie Haze: I Love Sex". When I look at the sultry brunette star, I know exactly what she means!

Lights, camera, and plenty of action:
http://erotica-readers.com/ERA/AM/Adult_Movies.htm

Of course, my monthly tour of the ERWA site is anything but exhaustive. I just try to hit the hightlights, but there's much, much more for you to explore, if you have the time. And if we really can't satisfy you (as unlikely as that seems), click over to our portfolio of links, where we can direct you to erotic art and photo sites, story sites, animation sites, porn portals, whatever you're looking for.

Well, all good (or should I say bad?) things must come to an end, and so I'll bid you adieu for this month. Next month brings us October and Halloween, my absolute favorite holiday. I'm already dreaming about the naughty costume I'll wear this year. Maybe I'll keep it simple and wear nothing but a gray necktie...

Till then, I remain

Insatiably yours,
Lisabet


Visit Lisabet Sarai's Fantasy Factory
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Write, learn, and play on ERWA. Details at:
erotica-readers.com/PRIVATE/index.html