Sunday, December 30, 2012
Friday, December 28, 2012
It's Christmastime, and the man knocking at your door is wearing warm, red clothes. He carries a walking stick. His long, white beard reaches his belt. He may even have horns. When you answer the door, you see a pulkka, which is a type of toboggan pulled by reindeer that can't fly. The man turns to you and asks "Onko täällä kilttejä lapsia?" (Are there (any) well-behaved children here?) You should invite him inside since he came all the way from the Korvantunturi mountains. He's had a long trip.
Monday, December 24, 2012
by Kathleen Bradean
Recently, I beta read a friend’s fantasy novel. It was good once I got into it, but it took a long time to finish the first chapter because he used what I call the Sound of Music opening. If you’ve seen the movie The Sound of Music, you probably don’t remember the very long opening sequence that flies you over the alps forever, swings toward Salzburg (are we there yet?) picks an alpine meadow to focus on (are we there yet?) slowly brings your eye down to a young woman sauntering through the lush grass, gets closer and closer until you can see her face, then she twirls, opens her mouth, and begins to sing. You probably only remember the twirl and the singing. And do you know why? Because it’s action. It’s interesting. That's the place where the networks tend to begin the movie broadcast because they don’t want you to flip channels after two minutes of snowcapped peaks. Similarly, my friend’s opening chapter started with the long shot view of the mountains, slowly bringing the focus down to a little village as it talked about the weather, the economy, the political structure of the area and the geography. That kind of opening sequence is bound to lose readers. The TV networks figured this out, so should writers. My friend fixed that in his rewrite and it made a huge difference.
Friday, December 21, 2012
By Lisabet Sarai
In fact, this might be considered a rational business decision, because they have very little to lose.
In the days of print, publishers had to bear the financial consequences of bad decisions regarding who to publish. This tended to make them at least somewhat selective. Now, from a publisher's perspective, selectivity has almost zero advantage. The more books they release, the more money they make, especially since readers' appetite for sexually-themed ebooks appears to be insatiable.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Recently I’ve been pondering the influence of celebrity culture on the life of an ordinary artist, in other words, the majority of us who have not “made it big,” but merely continue to create with more down-to-earth rewards like a publication in an anthology a few times a year. While our society has supposedly done away with hereditary aristocrats, we seem to have created glittering replacements whom we alternately worship and depose: actors, musicians, very rich businessmen, and the occasional throwback scion like Paris Hilton or John F. Kennedy, Jr. The perks and pitfalls of celebrity are of course most pertinent to the famous themselves, but I think the values and fantasies that support it affect us common people, too. Venture into the creative arts and you are immediately judged by the standards of national stardom. This was brought home to me when my novel was published back in 2008, and a good portion of the congratulations were spiked with questions such as “When will it be optioned for a movie?” “How is it selling?“ or “Are you rich yet?” In other words, instead of celebrating what I had done—actually finished and published a novel I was proud of--I was being reminded of the definition of “true success” that only comes to a tiny percentage of writers.
Back in 2008 I could argue that erotica was a ghettoized genre, and Big Money would go nowhere near such a frankly sexual story as mine. But now along comes E.L. James to prove that a lie and to rekindle questions as to why I’m not making as much money as she is when I know more about U.S. geography. Although Remittance Girl’s latest post here is chiefly a thought-provoking discussion of how erotica and erotic romance are binary opposites, due to my own recent musings, her opening sentence in particular lingered in my head:
“There are probably a number of outstanding erotica writers out there who have written delicious novels full of BDSM kinkiness wondering why their royalty checks don't look anything like those of E.L. James.”
There is, of course, the issue of popularity (meaning tons of money) versus quality of writing (what we’re told is important but often apparently is not), which is another column, but I’ve also heard/read many authors off-handedly remarking that they would certainly like to be raking in that kind of dough. But, surprisingly perhaps, I most definitely would not. I have a number of reasons for this, which I would like to share in the hope you may take heart and possibly use these arguments the next time a drunk at a party corners you and asks when you are going to dethrone the lady who wrote Fifty Shades of Grey.
Reason #1: Rich people have to buy nine houses.
I’m serious. Rich, famous people seem to be required to have residences all over the country, nay, the world. Once I tried to work out why anyone would need so many houses. Okay, so there’s the main residence, then the ski cabin and the beach cottage. Possibly an apartment in a city where you visit often for business. A castle in Ireland, that would be fun. But then what possible need would you have for the other four? I have trouble keeping my two-bedroom bungalow presentable as it is.
Reason #2: The kids of rich people are destined to be miserable.
I had my first taste of this phenomenon my freshman year at Princeton when I encountered the children of U.S. Senators and famous writers as well as the descendants of legendary industrialists. These kids had tasteful, expensive wardrobes and the habit of leaving dirty coffee cups around for weeks for the maid. They spent summers studying art in Florence or sunning in San Tropez instead of working as a secretary at the IRS like I did. But in spite of having everything they wanted, they seemed perpetually dissatisfied. Could it be that having less makes you appreciate what you have?
Reason #3: Rich people suddenly see distant relatives for the first time in forty years.
I once read that Oprah was constantly fending off relatives and old friends who tried to hit her up for “loans” once she had ascended to fame and fortune. I come from a large Catholic family with thirty cousins, all of whom have families. If I did my duty by them and their doubtless valid needs, the E.L. James-sized royalty checks would shrink to nothing as fast as you can say, “Nice to see you again, Cousin June... and Ben... and Jim...and Karen....” Better to keep the contact to Christmas cards once a year.
Reason #4: Contrary to what you think, rich people always have to worry about money.
Sure, you’d think those royalty checks would mean the end of money worries, but the problems are just beginning. Not only do you have to buy eight more houses, you have to pay folks to manage them, plus your twelve vintage cars and your yacht. (You don’t want to be a cheap-looking rich person, do you?) And that great agent who always returns your calls? Do you think that will continue if your future doesn’t look as lush as your past? You don’t want to be a one-hit wonder, nor do you want to make of fool of yourself like J.K. Rowling, naively attempting an adult novel with actual sex in it. Shudder. You’re famous now and you have a reputation to build higher and higher to the stars.
Reason #5: To keep those checks coming, you will have to let others define your success. Indefinitely.
In his memoir Who I Am, Pete Townshend ruefully described how every time he wanted to go off and do an independent project, his business advisers would try to convince him to involve the other Who members which would automatically make the endeavor a financial success. Sometimes he succumbed, other times he didn’t. He still made money solo, but not Big Money, enough to make those who skim off a percentage really, really happy. And remember, even if you try your best to give your audience what they want, not everyone responds with adoration. Very successful writers may have their time in the limelight when all the mean kids they knew in middle school will regret their bullying because said new celebrity obviously really was cool deep inside (and maybe old Donna will be good for a loan now that she's rolling in it?). But success always brings out the sharks and critics. Soon enough the insults will be hurled again.
I don’t know about you, but after all considering all of these rich people woes, I feel relieved I typically get $50 per story sale. Think of all the problems I don’t have! Instead I can love my little house, teach my kids the joy of economizing, and write what intrigues, amuses and inspires me. Some writers do make a living with words, albeit that very few of them are fiction writers, and I respect what they’ve achieved. I do have my own particular yearning—to connect with readers who “get” me. I’ve been lucky enough to meet some. But in the end, the greatest luxury is to travel to a space where money and “success” don’t mean nearly as much as creating new worlds and reveling in the beauty and power of words and ideas. Those royalties flow every time I sit down at my computer to work on a story, tax-free.
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, December 15, 2012
By: Craig J. Sorensen
In 1990, I started to write a book based on a fantasy world that had rattled around in my head since I was a kid. I finished over 100 pages, then the story became disjointed. I moved on to writing other things.
I finished my first book in 1994. It was a modern fantasy, based on an uptight businesswoman who enters into a series of dreams, each of which features a door where she can wish for something and will receive it. A sort of homage to the saying, “be careful what you wish for, or you will surely get it.” Actually, it was more about “be careful how you wish for it.” The dreams summarily invaded further and further into her real life, and vice versa.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
|Hans Bellmer, The Brick Cell|
You would think that genres which predominantly focus on the nasty things two or more people get up to in bed would be closely related. Superficially, and commercially, they look very similar, but readers know they are not. Underneath the hood, ideologically, they stand almost in opposition to each other, despite the subject matter they share.
Modern erotic romance novels conform to the mythic structure of a classical comedy described by Northrop Frye. People meet, they become lovers, chaos ensues, but social order is finally restored in the form of a wedding. Although most erotic romances no longer end with a wedding, the 'Happily Ever After' convention is maintained through the explicit culmination of the romance in some sort mutually agreed upon serious and long-term emotional commitment to each other. By the end of the story, we are left with a stable 'family-like' unit. We go from order to chaos to order.
Even when the pairings in an erotic romance are non-normative, i.e. gay, lesbian, bi or trans romances, they still ultimately pay obeisance to the prevailing cultural dominance of a 'normative' relationship structure: two people, together forever. Even when the story revolves around a menage, it either ends with a pair at the end, and the third party neutralized somehow, or an hermetically sealed threesome that, for all intents and purposes, results in a place of domestic order.
No amount of wild, kinky or transgressive sex in the middle can mitigate the final conservative outcome of a neat, socially recognizable and culturally settled bond. The outcome of all these stories is essentially a conservative one. One that supports and perpetuates the prevailing social order.
I cannot recall who said it, but one very famous murder mystery writer once said that her readers were people who had a very passionate love of justice. No matter how gruesome the murders or thrillingly evil the murderer, he or she is inevitably caught and made to answer for the crimes. The convention of the genre demands it. The readers expect it and are left disgruntled and unsatisfied when the implicit promise of the narrative is not delivered.
I would echo this by suggesting that, no matter how explicit, licentious or debauched the sex, erotic romances promise something similar. These two individual characters with their chaotic taste for erotic adventure find each other and this perfect matching up of desires neutralizes whatever destabilizing influences they might have on society. The inevitable pairing at the end guarantees the reader a return to emotional and sexual order. Erotic Romance lovers are essentially ideologically conservative in their appreciation of a restoration of the social order.
But, according to Georges Bataille (the French writer and thinker who spent more time considering eroticism that almost anyone else on the planet) this conservative social order and eroticism are almost mutually exclusive. Eroticism, said Bataille, is a uniquely human phenomenon that results from an excess of sexual energy. (Unlike almost all other animals, humans indulge in sex far more than the continuation of the species demands. Our instinct to have sex might be procreative, but our desire to have it far outstrips the needs of nature.) This excess, this eroticism, is a dangerous and destabilizing force, he said. Which is exactly why all cultures, in one way or another, have attempted to control the effects of this energy and why so many of our religions, taboos and customs are especially focused on matters of sexuality and violence. Foremost amongst the mechanisms used to control these desires is the institution of marriage and the promotion of monogamous, procreative relationships.
Bataille, Lacan, Zizek, Deleuze, and others have made interesting observations on how one of the most effective ways to control humans within society is through work. Work occupies us, distracts us, commits us to the social order. Spouses, mortgages, and 2.3 children turn out to be a very good way to keep us occupied, working to support them. So the myth of the romantic ideal of the permanent single partner whom we lust after in perpetuity and love eternally serves that hegemonic structure well. Perpetuating that myth through erotic romances encourages us to aspire to that myth in reality, make it our loftiest of all goals, and ultimately to internalize and validate that authority and its rules of social order with enthusiasm.
But the reality is that eroticism is a fleeting, liminal human experience. It does not - cannot - last long. And it would not be so attractive or precious to us if it could. Erotic heights are by their nature impermanent, chaotic, and fundamentally transgressive. Our greatest erotic experiences occur right at the edges of the limits imposed not only from without (in the form of prohibitions, taboos and religious interdictions) but more importantly, at our inner limits of the rules of behaviour we have internalized. Erotic ecstasy is the place where we lose ourselves, not just to another, but to the structured world. This, of course, cannot be sustained. Or rather, it can only be sustained in death.
A person who gives themselves permission to enter this state of erotic rebellion is an anathema to the fabric of social order, since none of the rewards that society can offer them have any value in that moment. They are in a state of revolution against the stable, against categorization, against limitation, against even language itself. And this is what lies at the heart of all the best erotica. This essentially transgressive, anarchic, unconstrained state of being.
It took me a fairly long time to fathom why I, as a writer and reader, had such a deep antipathy toward the narrative structure of erotic romance. What's wrong with me? Why don't I like a good love story? Why can't my characters end up blissfully happy and together forever? I have come to feel that the underlying text of the story-form of the erotic romance is a type of conservative social propaganda. Not 'unfeminist' as some feminists have claimed, but simply reflective and supportive of the status quo as regards all our positions as productive, functioning and controllable members of the current social structure.
I am, at heart, deeply anti-authoritarian. And although in my everyday life, I am a quite a law-abiding, acquiescent citizen, I am not interested in taking that part of my world into my fictional writing.
The eroticism that does interest me lies in the opposite direction: that place of impermanence, transgression, and dangerous erotic experience. Its very instability is what I find so blindingly beautiful, intriguing and exciting.
So it is really not so very surprising that, despite the veneer of transgressiveness, Fifty Shades of Grey has done so much better than well-written, more erotic, more informed pieces of erotic fiction. Because beneath all the surface naughtiness, E.L. James' 'global shocker' strongly reinforces a very stable and conservative social order. And, the truth is, most readers are far more comfortable with that.
(And before anyone jumps all over me, I would like to underscore that I've used the word 'conservative' to mean ideologically at home with the status quo and traditional social structures. I haven't accused anyone here of voting Republican.)
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Sunday, December 2, 2012
From the Erotica Readers & Writers Association
By Lisabet Sarai
Dear Festive Fetishists,
Since I'm certain every one of you has been very, very good throughout 2012, we're giving you an early holiday gift - a super-sized, super-sexy edition of the Erotica Readers & Writers Association website. Here at ERWA, naughty and nice go hand in hand (sometimes with other body parts involved). Follow me as I lead you on a quick trip through our wild winter wonderland, where you can sample some of the less traditional but unquestionably delightful joys of the season.
The Erotica Gallery is bulging like Santa's sack (no, that's NOT what I meant), piled high with literary treats to spice up your December. We welcome renowned GLBT mystery author Greg Herren as our special guest. Greg is sharing three of his steamy gay tales. Don't be confused by the different by-lines, which represent Greg in his various incarnations.
Four other guest authors, including yours truly, have contributed holiday stories in every shade of the rainbow. Then the Storytime crew takes over, stuffing your stocking with everything from festively filthy humor to hot, sweet holiday love. Don't miss the flashers; you'll be amazed by what our authors can do to you in a mere two hundred words!
Reading to ring your bells:
I'm sure you've all finished your seasonal gift-buying, but just in case I'm wrong, prance on over to the Books for Sensual Readers section for dozens of fabulous gift ideas. Like variety? Anthologies have something for everyone's taste. Check out the new collection DUTY AND DESIRE: MILITARY EROTIC ROMANCE, edited by Kristina Wright (a military spouse as well as a talented author and editor). Then there's Violet Blue's anthology of women's fantasies, LIPS LIKE SUGAR, or FANTASTIC EROTICA: THE BEST OF CIRCLET PRESS 2008 - 2012, edited by Cecilia Tan and Bethany Zaiatz. And who could resist the holiday-themed collection from Storm Moon Press, entitled MILK AND COOKIES AND HANDCUFFS?
Looking for something longer? Sample my unabashedly kinky (but romantic) erotic novel NASTY BUSINESS, or Blakely Bennet's D/s romance MY BODY - HIS, or Rupert James' edgy tale STEPSISTERS. The resurrected Black Lace Books has reprinted Eden Bradley's luscious tale of dominance and submission, THE DARK GARDEN. Sean Michaels' gay erotic romance BENT features some very twisted characters, and Ronica Black's THE MIDNIGHT ROOM offers a sensual peak into F/f BDSM.
Do you detect a theme here? You've got to make allowances for who's doing the choosing! Actually, we feature plenty of books that don't involve bondage, discipline, spanking or similar subject matter. Browse the various links in our sidebar to find anthologies, erotic romance, vintage erotica, classics, sexy self-help, gay and lesbian fiction, and lots more.
I'm sure I don't need to remind you to use our affiliate links to purchase the books you select. Anything you buy after clicking through to Amazon or Amazon UK benefits ERWA, not just erotic items - even that blender for your mom or the latest video game for your kids.
Stimulate your mind (and other parts of your anatomy):
And what if there's someone on your list who doesn't like to read? How about a hot Adult Movie or two? This month we feature John Stagliano's stunning opus "Voracious", an intense, transgressive work of erotic art. Your next door neighbors might enjoy "Voila", where a meeting with the brazen bisexual brunette of the title shakes the world of a young couple in love, or maybe the playful, sensual all-female flick "The Office Girls 3". For the more hard-core of your acquaintances, check our Dirty Smutty Porn category. I recommend "Job Swap", a set of sizzling vignettes sharing the premise of a surprise substitute for the regular personal trainer, pizza delivery guy, etc., etc...
Just the thing to get you moving after a big holiday dinner:
You're probably not going to buy a sex toy for anyone on your gift list (but then again, I might be wrong). But what about you? Don't you deserve a present or two? This month in the Sex Toy Playground we have entertaining, honest reviews from Mr. and Mrs. Toy and Kyra Saunders, as well as our regular Sex Toy Scuttlebutt column featuring the latest and greatest erotic implements. My eye was drawn to the Verspanken Male Masturbator (lovely colors!) - though I have to admit that I really can't figure out how it works! Might be fun to experiment, though...
Find yourself a plaything:
Inside the Erotic Mind, our members explore the ever-popular questions of what do men and women, respectively, want in a partner. You may be surprised by the answers (and their variety). To add your own opinions, just click on the Participate link. (The "men" and "women" topics are separate threads. You're welcome to contribute to both.)
Imagination knows no limits:
Authors, I haven't forgotten you. I know what you want for the holidays: a best-seller! Visit the ERWA Author Resources pages for help making that dream come true. This month Donna George Storey winds up her "Cooking Up a Storey" series with an exhortation - "Let's keep on changing the world - one dirty story at a time" - and a lavishly illustrated recipe for holiday cookie mice. (You've got to take a look, even if you don't bake!) My Naughty Bits series also concludes this month with a look at the scary future, my take on what future technology holds for authors and readers.
Meanwhile, for lots more articles on writing, marketing, craft and culture, visit the ERWA blog. Nearly a dozen renowned erotic authors serve as regular contributors. Bookmark the blog and visit it often.
The Calls for Submissions listings change almost daily. Recently added new items include Mitzi Szereto's call for zombie erotica, GLBT anthologies from Storm Moon Press, a call for gay time travel stories from Rob Rosen, and, believe it or not, a call for scholarly articles about the future of erotic romance post-Fifty-Shades from the Journal of Popular Romance Studies.
Find a home for your opus:
Our featured Web Gem this month is Stiff Rain Press. I know the talented folks behind this relatively new imprint, which offers a home for erotica featuring taboo subjects. Stiff Rain Press is a publisher of erotic literature written by adults, for adults, featuring adults. While some might not agree with the artistic merits of Erotica, we, like many before us, simply wish to present our art without censorship. Our authors work very hard to provide high-quality, well-written erotic literature that is both titillating and notable, and it is our sincerest pleasure to present these compelling stories that will leave our readers wanting more.
Please visit Stiff Rain Press for more information about our authors and their upcoming SRP releases.
Well, all good things must come to an end, including 2012 - and this newsletter. I wish you a holiday season full of wonder, joy and pleasure, and I look forward to seeing you all in February, with more arousing fiction, authorly advice, and groan-inducing double entendres.
Celebrate - however you please!
All's fair in lust and business
NASTY BUSINESS - BDSM erotica from Lisabet Sarai
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