Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Thursday, May 30, 2013

In Praise of the One-Handed Read

I'm a bit like a kid at Christmas when May rolls around. Why’s that, you ask. It’s National Masturbation month, that’s why! I can't tell you how happy it makes me to see something as healthy, life-affirming, and down-right fun as masturbation get a little much-needed positive press. So I decided that, as National Masturbation month draws to a close (not that the fun is ending, just the month) that I'd write a few words in praise of the much-maligned one-handed read.

Doesn’t it seem strange and more than a little sad that some of the world’s best, most celebrated writers find themselves on the not-so-coveted short-list for the Bad Sex Awards? Is there some misguided, unwritten rule that states a story is only 'worthy' if it doesn’t make the reader squirm deliciously in her seat, if it doesn’t makes her need to engage one hand in areas far south of the novel in her grip? And where the hell did we get the idea that just that one act, in fact the most crucial act of the human condition, sex, should not be treated with the same weight, or the same tongue-in cheek irreverence or the same heart pounding delight or wonder or horror as any other part of the human condition?

If a writer gets the sex right, I mean gets it really right, then what other response should there be but for our bodies to tingle and our hands to stray?

Which leads me to another reason why a one-handed read should be praised and sought after by readers and writers alike. A well-written one-handed read engages the reader on a physical level that no other type of read can. A one-handed read takes the reader a level deeper than the voyeuristic experience that reading tends to be. A one-handed read allows and demands reader participation in solidarity with the characters, and, indeed, with the writer. The story suddenly becomes interactive in a literal sense. And even more than that, the story suddenly becomes a sexy ménage between the reader, the characters and the writer.

I've always felt that just because a writer strives to give the reader a well-rounded literary experience with a story that's gripping (no pun intended), pacey, thought-provoking and satisfying on some level; just because a writer tries to offer the reader a well-written, stonking good story doesn't mean that  stonking good story can't involve a little one-handed pleasure mixed in. Why the hell shouldn't it?

Okay, maybe it’s that feeling of exposure; maybe it’s that fear of being caught in the act, so to speak, that frightens writers away from making the sex hot and squirmy. But it’s a lesson straight from the pages of creative writing 101 that the place we most fear, the place we feel the most vulnerable is the place where the most powerful writing happens. Embrace the wank!

Those of us who love to read love a story we can be pulled into. I love a good adrenalin rush, a good heart stopper, a good brain teaser, a good tear jerker, a good happy ending, so why wouldn't I like a good wank all in the spirit of a sexy story? Why do we think that good writing is negated if our stories make people want to go rub one out?

I've been involved in the world of erotica for enough years now to have seen the quality of writing go through the roof, enough years to have been gripped by heart-stopping, tear jerking, brain-teasing stories that STILL have fabulous, seamlessly-written, deliciously sensual one-handed scenes. Why can't a good book be both a page turner and a one-handed read? We now connect with story on so many more levels than ever before. We read eBooks, we listen to audio books, we curl up with a good old fashion trade paper-back and a glass of wine. But really, was there ever a time when reading a good book wasn't intended to be a sensual experience, wasn't meant to make us FEEL things in our body that we wouldn’t otherwise feel, wasn't meant to scratch an itch that nothing else could quite scratch? So why, oh why, should we exclude that best of, most intimate of -- that even better than a nice glass of wine sensual experience of the one-handed read?

Oh no doubt there’ll always be a need for sexy snippets just long enough and hot enough to get the rocks off, and I like those just fine too. But why should one-handed reads be reserved for just such works? Why shouldn’t the sex scenes in any type of novel or story be well-written enough, steamy enough, raunchy enough to send one hand straying? It seems to me that if a sex scene is well written, then we should at least feel something down in the genital direction. I’m not saying that everything written about sex should be a turn-on, but I am saying it should affect us in some way because sex affects us. It affects us powerfully, uncomfortably, sometimes disturbingly, and it often affects us the most because we don’t want it to and we don’t understand why it does, nor do we understand its power over us. But it most definitely DOES have power over us. It’s supposed to have, so to try to write sex that excludes and banishes the one-handed read seems absurd.

Without getting all mystical and goose-pimply and bringing on the sex magic; doing my best to keep it real and genuine, I have to ask; when is there a time that a writer doesn’t want a reader to feel her work, to experience her story as so much more than words on a page? Why should our sexual responses not be fully included in the experience of story? So I’ll say it again: let’s hear it for the one-handed read!

Happy Masturbation Month! I wish you all gripping, touching, deliciously squirmy reading. And writing!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

May - National Short Story Month

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four cats.

I hope you spent May reading as many short stories as possible, since National Short Story Month is coming to a close. According to "Good Fit For Today's Little Screens: Short Stories", the short story is experiencing a resurgence in popularity primarily due to ebook releases of anthologies in all genres.

While I enjoy reading and writing novels, there is a special place in my heart for short stories. I have loved short stories since I was a child since they were like potato chips - I could devour them quickly, and I couldn't stop at just one. I liked Edgar Allan Poe and O. Henry. I cut my teeth on ghost legends when I was a pre-teen. I could never get enough of Hans Holzer and Elliott O'Donnell's tales of hauntings. To this day, I'm a sucker for a good ghost story. I'm a huge dark fiction fan. Toss a Gothic romance on top of a thrilling, spooky tale and I'm in literary Heaven.

I'm on several "open call" groups on Facebook that announce submission calls for short stories in science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I also keep tabs on the ERWA web site, various Facebook pages, and Duotrope for erotic anthology submission calls. Amazon created its Kindle Singles program in 2011 to take advantage of this craze. While the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America defines a short story as being no more than 7,500 words, most short story lengths I've seen in submission calls are approximately 5,000 words.

I believe a short story is harder to write than a novella or novel because every little word counts. Short story writing is a skill that requires practice. While it may be tempting to wax eloquent with exposition, such meandering takes up valuable space in a short story that may be put to better use. You can get away with lengthy, vivid descriptions and running off on tangents in novels that you can't pull off in a short story. Therefore, the short story makes for an excellent writing exercise. You must focus on the main point you wish to convey, and stick with it to write a solid and interesting short story.

Here are some short story writing tips:

1. Work your way backwards. Know your ending before you begin. That way you won't find yourself writing a lengthy introduction that leaves little room for the meat of your story.

2. Write whatever comes to mind. You can prune later. This tip applies to all writing, but it is especially pertinent to short story writing. Pruning may become essential. You may find that as you write, your story really doesn't get moving until several pages in. You'll know you need to prune quite of bit of what falls before that point.

3. Keep track of anthology calls, and have several short stories going at once. Keep them in circulation until they find a publisher. Publish as many short stories as you can each year to keep your name out there.

4. Take risks. Write a character study. Write the same story several times, but from the point of view of different characters. Try different writing styles and different genres. Move outside your comfort zone, and see if you can pull it off. Think outside the box!

5. Read lots of short stories. There are many wonderful collections out there waiting for your hot little hands to hold them. Try the Mammoth Books of Best Erotica, Asimov's, Xcite Books short story collections, Clarkesworld, Cleis Press short story collections. Read modern erotica and classics. Enjoy all sort of different styles of short stories, and learn from them at the same time.


Why are short stories so appealing? Here are some reasons:

* They're a quick nibble for busy people who don't want to take the time to read a lengthy novel. Most short stories can be read within two hours.

* Instant gratification.

* Anthologies give you many short stories to choose from.

* You may discover a new author with a short story.

* Authors may test-run unfamiliar publishers by publishing a short story with them.

* Individual short story prices in ebook form are less expensive than the price of a novel.

* They are easy to read on small screens.

* New writers may build their reputations on short stories, which take much less time to write than novels.

* Releasing a short story several times per year helps readers keep up to date with writers they enjoy without having to wait several years in between novels. In other words, publishing short stories keep writers relevant and in the spotlight.

* Writing short stories help writers become concise and clear. Every word counts, so the writer must eliminate mistakes writers may make such as too much exposition and not sticking to the main point of the story without getting lost in unrelated tangents.


Some Erotic Short Story Anthologies

Women's Best Erotica series (This is the link to 2010)

Mammoth Book Of Best New Erotica series (This is the link to #11, 2013 edition)

Best Lesbian Erotica series (This is the link to 2013)

Numerous short stories in "The Decameron" by Boccaccio (Sexy Short Stories Of Love, Lust, Adventure, and Misfortune)



Elizabeth Black writes erotica, erotic romance, speculative fiction, fantasy, and dark fiction. She also enjoys writing erotic retellings of classic fairy tales. Born and bred in Baltimore, she grew up under the influence of Edgar Allan Poe. Her erotic fiction has been published by Xcite Books (U. K.), Circlet Press, Ravenous Romance, Scarlet Magazine (U. K.), and other publishers. Her dark fiction has appeared in "Kizuna: Fiction For Japan", "Stupefying Stories", "Midnight Movie Creature Feature 2", "Zippered Flesh 2: More Tales Of Body Enhancements Gone Bad", and "Mirages: Tales From Authors Of The Macabre". An accomplished essayist, she was the sex columnist for the pop culture e-zine nuts4chic (also U. K.) until it folded in 2008. Her articles about sex, erotica, and relationships have appeared in Seduced Sex Toys, Good Vibrations Magazine, Alternet, CarnalNation, the Ms. Magazine Blog, Sexis Magazine, On The Issues, Sexy Mama Magazine, and Circlet blog. She also writes sex toys reviews for several sex toys companies.

In addition to writing, she has also worked as a gaffer (lighting), scenic artist, and make-up artist (including prosthetics) for movies, television, stage, and concerts. She worked as a gaffer for "Die Hard With A Vengeance" and "12 Monkeys". She did make-up, including prosthetics, for "Homicide: Life On The Street". She is especially proud of the gunshot wound to the head she had created with makeup for that particular episode. She also worked as a prosthetic makeup artist specializing in cyanotic blue, bruises, and buckets of blood for a test of Maryland's fire departments at the Baltimore/Washington International Airport plane crash simulation test. Yes, her jobs are fun.  ;)

She lives in Lovecraft country on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four cats. The ocean calls her every day, and she always listens. She has yet to run into Cthulhu.

Visit her web site at
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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Raw Material

by Jean Roberta

“You’re a writer. You’ll write about this some day. The more experience you get, the more you have to write about.”

This is the consoling remark I get from someone close to me every time I fall into a hole in the road. One of the worst aspects of disappointment, of course, is that it is always at least partly one’s own fault. I won’t accept the diagnosis that I was completely responsible for the trainwreck of my first marriage (there were two people in that relationship), but in hindsight, I could see numerous warning signs that I ignored at the time because I didn’t want to see them.

At the time this post appears on the Erotic Readers and Writers blog, I am supposed to be in New Orleans, attending the annual Saints and Sinners literary conference for gay/lesbian/bi/trans/queer/questioning/not-entirely-straight writers. The last time I went to S&S was in 2007, shortly after Hurricane Katrina. In 2013, I intended to bring my female spouse along to show her the sights, and to stay in the same picturesque inn in the French Quarter where I stayed last time, which has been renovated since then. (I was afraid of that. In 2007, I assumed the hole in the bathroom wall was part of what kept the price low. I didn’t mind, since the plumbing, the TV, and the air conditioning all worked.)

For several weeks, I planned our trip. I made up a budget and printed out the conference program with my name on it to bring to the office of the Dean of Arts in the university where I teach, so I could get pre-approval for reimbursement of my expenses after my return. (I would have to submit receipts.) Spouse got us a good deal on air fare through a site named The Flight Hub.

Then I thought about checking my Canadian passport. It was expired. (At one time, I also had a U.S. passport which I allowed to lapse for reasons I won’t go into here.) I phoned several Canadian and U.S. government agencies, including Homeland Security in the U.S. As though this body had been expecting my call, I was forwarded to a recorded message that said that Canadian citizens with expired passports are not allowed on U.S. soil. Crossing the “undefended border” was never like this before.

I was relieved to find out that I could (theoretically) get an “emergency passport” in less than a day. On the day we were to board a plane, I told Spouse I had to go to the passport office. She tried to explain that we didn’t have time for that since we had a plane to catch. I pointed out that I would have to miss that plane, but she could travel without me. (Her Canadian passport is up to date.) She said no.

At the passport office, I was aghast at how much ID I had to provide besides my expired passport. Since I had a Canadian passport in my hands, I argued, why couldn’t I just get it renewed like a library card? Apparently this is not how bureaucracy works. When the official who was “helping” me learned that I was a naturalized Canadian citizen (born in the U.S.A. – oh the irony), I was told to provide the certificate (a small laminated card) that was given to me when I got my Canadian citizenship in 1974. “Surely you jest,” I said. “I’m not even sure where that is.”

“You have to show it to us,” said the official. Spouse and I rushed home in a car with our suitcases in the back seat. By a miracle, I found that card in the same bureau drawer where I kept my expired passport. We rushed back to the passport office.

Then I was told that I had to provide documentation to support my request for an emergency passport. I would have to reschedule our flights, since the flight I had just missed no longer counted. I rushed home and phoned The Flight Hub. Someone there told me that Spouse and I were “no shows” for our original flight, therefore we would have to start over, and pay for new flights. I explained my situation. I was told to phone the airline (United), which I did. A helpful woman there actually found new flights for us, but then she said unfortunately, I would have to call The Flight Hub to get the original price. There I spoke to the evening supervisor, Natasha as I’ll call her (with an accent from somewhere in eastern Europe). Natasha seemed able to work miracles. She said she would arrange for our new flights at no extra charge.

Natasha put me on hold while she contacted United, where she was put on hold. At some point, Natasha was so concerned about me that she asked me if I was hearing music on my end of the phone line. I said yes, I’m hearing old Broadway show tunes from the 1940s. She seemed glad, and asked me to be patient and not hang up. I hung on.

Natasha sounded delighted when she told me that everything was arranged: Spouse and I had new flights. She sent the information to Spouse’s email. Spouse was out with her son, shopping for a car. With Natasha on the line, I called Spouse on her cell phone to ask for the new password for her email addy. She gave it to me.

I found the email with our flight information, thanked Natasha, printed out the itinerary, then called a taxi to rush me to the passport office. While I waited, I called the taxi office again and was told I would just have to wait. I wondered if I could get to the office faster on foot, but realized that I would then miss the taxi. At length, I got to the passport office just in time to find the door locked. “No!” I said to a woman who was waiting on a chair in the hallway.

“There are people inside,” she said. “Knock on the door and they might let you in.”

I knocked, then knocked again. The door was opened by a grey-haired woman in a uniform who looked like a retired military officer. (These are often employed as civil servants in Canada.) “The office is closed,” she said.

While Officer No-Go kept trying to close the door, I held it open so I could explain my situation. “You’ll have to come back in the morning,” she said. My new flight was to leave at 6:50 a.m., before regular business hours.

Spouse and her son picked me up. Son was exhilarated because he had just signed a lease for his first car. I was distracted.

At home, I phoned every Canadian government phone number that might possibly have a live person on the other end. No luck.

Spouse and I missed our rescheduled flight. Bob (as I'll call him), the day supervisor from Flight Hub, phoned to ask why we were “no shows” for the second time. (Note that this was the same guy who originally told me I would have to start over and pay for new flights.) I explained. This time, Bob sounded sympathetic. I told him I was giving up. I didn’t want to repeat the process of the day before.

In that case, said Bob, Spouse and I could get reimbursement from our travel insurance. I told him I had spoken to them already, and we were not covered for this type of emergency (expired passport). Bob assured me that I only had to tell the folks at the Royal Bank of Canada (providers of travel insurance) that I had to cancel our flights for "personal reasons" not involving my "passport story." I would have to provide documentation. I didn't see any point in arguing with Bob.

While I was speaking to him, someone from the passport office phoned me to say that I could have my emergency passport in an hour to ninety minutes, but only if I had proof of an upcoming flight.

I said I no longer had an emergency. I had missed the conference, and I would wait the usual two weeks for a passport.

I sent email messages to everyone who needed to know that I would not be attending Saints and Sinners this year.

So now you know why I am not posting this from New Orleans. Today I co-signed for Stepson’s new car while he reminded me several times that I should have renewed my passport weeks ago. (“Smug” could be defined as the attitude of a grown child who has a reason to lecture a parent about responsibility.)

Stepson also reminded me that I could write about all this. All life experience can be considered a blessing for a writer. Be that as it may, next time I need to rush to a government office or an airport, I expect Stepson to give me a ride.