Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Things that Go Bump in the Night (Why Paranormal is Sexy)


Once, in a blog interview about my paranormal Lakeland Heatwave trilogy, I was asked if I believed that sex magic is real. My answer was something along the lines that I believe sex is the only kind of magic, and certainly the only kind of magic we all have access to. But the question itself got me thinking about why the paranormal and the erotic work so well together.

Writing always exposes us, though that exposure is sometimes more obvious than others. As I thought about the question, I realized that the choices I’d made when I wrote the Lakeland trilogy were very much my psyche’s way of doing the full Monte. I’ve written lots of blog posts about the magic of sex, about what happens when we cross that final barrier and get inside the skin of another person, about what happens when we make ourselves vulnerable. Though it certainly wasn’t a conscious part of my decision, choosing to make the witches of the Elemental Coven practitioners of sex magic speaks very powerfully of my writing credo and of my own psyche and what I believe is important.
    
I started writing erotica mostly to see if I could, and because I had always enjoyed writing sex scenes. But it was the magic of sex that kept me writing. It was what the act of sex revealed about my characters and how it exposed them, all of them, in one way or another to the magic of sex that kept me writing. Somehow sex brought them closer to their humanity while at the same time increasing the chance they would experience their own divinity, and that of their beloved. And, with any luck, my readers would experience the same, vicariously. There’s something exciting in knowing that the very act of sex between two people can completely change the course of a novel. All of these elements of sex kept me writing erotica. And all of these elements are the reason I believe sex is magic.

There are few parts of our human nature we struggle more fiercely to control than sexuality. How miserably we fail in that struggle is a testament to the biological drive and even more importantly the archetypal power of sex. And that’s a whole other area, the place within the sex act that borders on the mystical, the magical. That’s why paranormal tales partner so beautifully with the erotic. Once that boundary between the magical and the sexual is breached anything can happen.

Ultimately, sex makes people uncomfortable, and anything that makes people uncomfortable is a fabulous tool for fiction. On some level sex is all about biological urges, experiences of a much more visceral nature than the sanitized, well defined, well ordered way we like our world to be. But the power of sex reaches way beyond the procreative. I know of no other act that can connect us to our animal nature while at the same time lifting us outside ourselves to the realm of the gods. I also know of no other act in which we become physically one with another human being, in which we literally get inside the skin of another human being, in which there is the possibility of literally creating new life. The human sex act is about as close to magic as we can get, and we’re not all that comfortable with anything we can’t explain away and dress up for polite company.

Sex is that one little sliver of our life in which real magic happens. It’s the place where our boundaries are most permeable. So it’s not surprising that we like to team up the erotic with things that go bump in the night, things we can safely experience on the written page, where those things are free to scare us and titillate us and take away our human control thus allowing demons and vampires, ghosts and witches, werewolves and succubae to dance the tango with our libidos while we all perform our own personal versions of sex magic.


Whether you celebrate Halloween, Samhain, Day of the Dead, All Saints, or whether you just like to enjoy the season, I wish you much sexy magic! 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Censorship - A Tsunami Of Filth

Elizabeth Black lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four cats. You may find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/elizabethablack and on her web site at http://elizabethablack.blogspot.com.

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Censorship of erotic fiction is rearing its ugly head again. Early in October, 2013, Kobo removed some (but not all) erotic titles from its catalogue. The books targeted were either self-published or published by small, indie presses.

How did this latest firestorm start? A tech site called The Kernel discovered "daddy porn" as if it were something new. The Kernel uncovered these books by searching for terms like "Daddy" on the book distributor's web sites, and it discovered what it called a "tsunami of filth". Titles like "Raped By Daddy" and "Taking My Drunk Daughter" were being published and sold by many distributors such as Kobo, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Erotic author Cassandre Dayne has been directly affected by this latest censorship as has many writers. She has plenty to say about it. "There was an issue recently involving a complaint made in the UK about some highly questionable books that were supposedly on a site. The genres include books that we call in the industry 'daddy porn'." She said. "This includes levels of incest, bestiality and others, which are strictly prohibited by the majority of publishers. The bulk of these were supposedly written by independent authors who self-published. This directly affected KOBO, a relatively new distribution site and all books by self published authors, small publishing houses and the middle man type companies like Draft 2 Digital, a firm designed to help small pubs and self publishers distribute with one click to several leading distributers, to do a knee jerk reaction. They yanked every single title without regard to whether or not they were even in the erotic category."

So, the theory goes if a child searched for the term "Daddy" on Kobo, that child would find daddy porn books. When the BBC and The Kernel pointed out these keyword search problems and the books those searches uncovered, most notably WHSmith in the UK and Kobo took immediate action. They removed every single erotic book from their catalogues - even books that did not violate the terms of service agreement and were clearly meant for adults.

Erotic content isn't only under fire. So are book covers, according to Dayne. "Amazon did much the same thing using self published and what they considered risque covers to yanks books without question, forethought or in my opinion common sense. Amazon is using a keyword computer generated random search. Really? Are we truly turning into the moral majority?" Dayne said. "Of course all of my books provided by Draft 2 Digital as well as the small publisher Bitten Press were removed. Trust me, I have no questionable material. Am I furious? You bet. While these big box folks certainly can sell what they would like, they need to understand this is a clear form of censorship."

Curious, I ran a search and discovered what I suspected to be true was true after all, and my discovery reinforced Dayne's statements. Not all erotic books are created equal in the eyes of censors. The following books remain available for purchase at Kobo and WHSmith:

50 Shades of Grey (the entire series)
Boccaccio's Decameron
The Story Of O
The Autobiography Of A Flea
Fanny Hill
Emmanuelle

Why are these works of erotica available yet best-selling modern books outside 50 Shades of Grey have been given the scorched earth treatment? I believe there are several reasons. One, books like 50 Shades of Grey are cash cows. It would be foolish to eliminate them from the catalogues. However, that doesn't make much sense since erotic fiction (esp. erotic romance) is a top moneymaker in the book world. These censored books make lots of money for their authors and the distributors. Two, these books may be considered classics that are in no way allegedly sullied by the likes of bondage and ménage stories written by more modern and independent authors. Three, those books are published by the likes of Pocketbook and Simon and Schuster - behemoths who can't be bullied or ignored like indie publishers and self-published writers. These major publishers have armies of lawyers small press pubs and indie writers can only dream of having. It may be matter of picking on the smaller kids who have less ability to defend themselves.

Granted, daddy porn and similar books have some serious problems. The acts described are illegal and should not be encouraged. The problem is that in removing these books, erotica that does not violate any guidelines has been caught up in the frenzy. Even the search terms have resulted in problems like books found with the search term "breast" that were removed for being titillating also removed books about breast cancer, something that is not titillating in the least. The same happened when searching for the term "rape" - books about surviving rape were yanked along with the books glorifying the act. In its zeal to clean up the bookshelves, these distributors threw the baby out with the bathwater. Another problem lies in the nature of the removal itself. Just because a book is deemed offensive to some is no reason to yank it. If you do, you're getting into slippery slope territory. Who decides what's offensive and what isn't? Who decides what books are worthy of being read and others aren't? It's not a good idea to make Fahrenheit 451 a true, modern horror story.

The Kernel also acted as if this is an entirely new phenomenon when nothing could be further from the truth. The last time online book sellers and indie writers were censored was back in February, 2012. According to Selena Kitt in an article she wrote at the time, "First, Amazon started banning books from their site. They backed down on their anti-censorship stance and removed the Ped0phile Guide. Then they went after books that contained incest, bestiality and rape. After the dust settled, it was clear that, while biological incest was a no-no, Amazon would, however, allow sex between of-age adults who were related to one another in a non-biological manner–step-relations or adopted relations. Suddenly the top 100 in the Erotica category on Amazon exploded with “pseudo-incest” titles. And the covers were far more revealing than anything the category had previously carried." Those explicit titles like "Daddy Licks My Pussy" become commonplace. As Kitt said, the fine line between the erotic and porn had blurred even further.

At first, the distributors were targeting books depicting illegal acts but that later devolved to books depicting acts that were merely "morally objectionable". Pseudo-incest (relations between stepparent - stepchild, unrelated adopted siblings, look-alikes who could be mistaken for twins, etc.), while morally objectionable, was not illegal. Kitt pointed out Woody Allen as a case in point. She also wondered why books about serial killers had not been targeted. No, it was only erotic books, not books depicting gory and vividly described torture murders.

I was one of the writers caught up in that mess. So was Cassandre Dayne. At the time, Paypal had complained about the daddy porn books that permeated the distributors. Bookstrand and AllRomanceEbooks removed these books as well as numerous other erotic books that didn't meet that criteria. One of my publishers, New Dawning Bookfair, saw its entire catalogue eliminated overnight. One of my short stories, an erotic short version of Puss In Boots entitled Purr, had been eliminated at Bookstrand and AllRomance. While my publisher dealt with the problem I took advantage of it by loudly stating my book had been banned, but it was still available at Amazon for those who wanted to read it. My book sales soared. Sadly, I lost money from sales I would have made from Bookstrand and AllRomance that I will never get back. Purr is now available at Bookstrand and AllRomance as it should have always been. Once the uproar settled down, erotic books were once again published on all these sites and eventually the daddy porn books found their way back into circulation on them. Today, however, you will still find no small press or self-published erotic books on WHSmith.

Dayne also saw books reinstated, but she will never recoup the lost revenues. "The piece entitled Enslaved, written by my pseudo DH Black, was subsequently reinstated but it took a couple of months." Dayne said. "I'm a little extra sensitive to the concept of censorship. In addition, When will this procedure stop? Who is to say that horror books depicting extreme violence or even inspirational books won't be next? How do they determine the monies lost to authors who scrape by at best? There must be some intelligence behind this process. Put your thinking cap on big boys cause this isn't working."

It's very hypocritical of distributors such as Amazon and Kobo to criticize the publication and creation of erotic books when it has clearly benefited greatly from their sales. Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Bookstrand, AllRomance, and other distributors make scads of money from these books. Amazon, for instance, makes huge revenues from these books that are often written by self-published authors. To single them out once or twice per year to get a great big spanking is the height of hypocrisy.

If you'd like to protest this latest round of censorship, go to change.org and sign this petition: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, KOBO: Drop the clause of removing Erotica and self-published Indie authors. Writers need to protect themselves any way they can, be it by signing petitions, banding together to form censorship protesting networks before books are censored (again), and writing to local and national media.






Saturday, October 26, 2013

That Elusive Thrill



by Jean Roberta

Synchronicity (defined as “the coincidence of events that seem related, but are not obviously caused one by the other”) usually seems to be at work in my life. Lately, I’ve noticed that several bloggers have written about the factors that change writing (especially sex-writing) from a thrill into a chore or a duty.

Once a writer has managed to fight off the inner censor for long enough to write a few sexually-explicit stories or even a novel, this work is usually posted in a public place where readers can comment on it. When the writing goes public, the writer is advised to promote herself/himself as well as the work, to write something new, to follow current trends in order to find and expand an audience. The advice (or the pressure) never ends. If zombie romances are currently fashionable, why doesn’t the writer pose in full zombie drag, including fake oozing wounds, and post their portrait on Youtube, with links on Twitter and Facebook? Why doesn’t the writer write a series of zombie romances? Doesn’t s/he want to be successful?

As a reviewer as well as a writer, I can see a difference between erotica which seems commercial (written for a specific market) and erotica which seems like amateur work in the original sense: written for the love of it. Some commercial stuff is written with great skill, and so is some amateur work. The difference in tone doesn’t necessarily have to do with sloppy grammar or unbelievable sexual gymnastics.

To give an example of commercial erotica, I have reviewed several anthologies from Cleis Press and have been proud to see my own stories in several others. There is nothing wrong with Cleis productions; au contraire. The paperbacks always have slick covers with eye-catching, tasteful photographs on them. The stories inside all seem carefully copy-edited. By now, there are dozens of these books, usually on specific themes. As a reviewer, I know I will always enjoy most of the stories in a Cleis antho, especially if they are written by contributors I recognize. These writers are professionals. When I see the name of Erotic Writer X in the umpteenth Cleis anthology in the past five years, I hope that s/he is not approaching burnout.

Some of the novels and anthologies I have reviewed have been put together by on-line groups that first gathered as amateurs, lovers of the genre and the craft. After much on-line discussion and mutual critiquing, the group decided to produce a book for the wider world to read. Sapphic Planet, an anthology of lesbian stories self-published in 2012 by a writers’ group of the same name, is a case in point. As a contributor, I couldn’t review this book myself, but I loved several of the stories by my fellow-contributors when I first saw them. Several of these writers are fairly prolific; they could be defined as both amateur and professional in different contexts.

An example of amateur work which I could and did review is the anthology Literotica (2002), a gathering of stories from the website of the same name. Both the group and the anthology have been dismissed as rank amateurs, but IMO, this is exactly why some of the stories in this book are unusual, intense, quirky and brilliant. I was taken aback by a few of the pen names in this volume and the 2009 sequel, Literotica 2 (“Dirty Old Man” “Whiff,” “KillerMuffin,” “jfinn”) and I can only hope these writers went on to write under more professional names, for lack of a clearer term.

Here in the Erotic Readers and Writers Association, probably the best-known amateur member (in the best sense) is Remittance Girl, who has openly stated that her goal is not to make a profit from her writing. Her invulnerability to market forces is exactly what gives her work a certain integrity which seems rare in any genre.

And of course, ERWA itself gave rise to an anthology, Cream, edited by Lisabet Sarai and published by Running Press in 2006.

Here are some questions I have been chewing on for some time: how is it possible for a writer to keep the enthusiasm and the recklessness of an amateur even after crossing over into the ranks of professionals? And where is the boundary between amateurs and professionals? (For instance, I have at least 100 stories in anthologies, not including two out-of-print single-author collections and one that just came out on September 1. However, my writing time still has to be stolen from the time I spend on my teaching job in a university as well as the “free time” I have to spend with family and friends. Does this mean I am a writer who teaches on the side or a teacher with a writing hobby?)

Judging from current laments, becoming a published writer often begins a long slide into conformity, numbness, distraction, and eventual writing burnout. I really don’t want to get there, and I am alarmed when fellow-writers I admire send distress signals from a place further down that road. Writing about sex, in particular, seems to require a certain continuing amateurism to retain its authenticity.

My own way of trying to recover the thrill of the sport is to withdraw temporarily from the world of published work, including the latest on-line piracy and the latest decision by a major book distributor to “disappear” any title that might be defined as “obscene” according to deliberately-vague legal standards. For a limited time, I don’t care about any of that.

For a few precious minutes in “the zone,” I care only about the characters who show up in my mind when I clear some space for them and ask them what they want. Inevitably, they want pleasure in some form. In most cases, their feelings about each other are complex and ambivalent. Their feelings are a catalyst that suggests the beginning of a plot. Will the characters (at least the one who speaks to me the loudest) get what they want? I need to find out.

The rest of the world can wait.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The More I Write, The Harder it Gets

Writing isn't like driving or cooking. Not for me. It seems to only get harder as the years pass. I don't mean making up stories to tell, I mean the craft side of it.

I'm trying to tell a story.

A story is a plot, a series of events.

It should be simple enough to write it, but it isn't. Not anymore. Maybe the problem is having too many options, or perhaps it's an excuse not to write. But what I'm learning is that there's no such thing as simply telling a story. I have to know how to tell it.

My first mistake, it seems, was picking the wrong main character. Events are facts, but those facts are seen from a certain viewpoint.  Originally, my main character was the murderer, but how can the events be a murder mystery to the killer? They know who dun it. Not a lot of mystery there.

So I got a better main character. But I'm still working on their compelling reason to figure out who the real murderer is. I hope that will come out as I write and I can fix it in the rewrite. For now, it's a bit nebulous and nebulous leads to weak writing, so I'm not happy with that.

My second mistake is my always mistake, meaning I make this same mistake every time so you'd think I'd know better by now but apparently I don't. And that mistake is: I start way too far back and take a long lope toward the inciting incident. I'm trying to put that inciting incident closer to the beginning, like in the first chapter.

It used to be that I could just sit down and write. I miss those days, although I suspect I'm a much better writer now. But why is it that every other craft seems to get easier with practice while writing just gets more difficult? It's my inner critic, I know. I want to write well. I can't figure out how to balance that painstaking and time-consuming drive with the pressure to spin out work as fast as I can.

I have no answers here. What is like for you? Is it getting harder?


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LATE ADDITION that has nothing to do with my post, but have you seen this visual associative thesaurus? So cool!





Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I Think I May Be Crazy...

By Lucy Felthouse

Eek, I've only gone and signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)! I had no intention of doing it, until I saw someone post about it. Then curiosity led me to their website, and before I knew it, I'd signed up. And now I've signed up, of course, I've got to give it my best shot.

50,000 words in a month is probably not a lot for some people, and probably tons for others, but I'm somewhere in the middle. I don't write full-time, but I do run my own business working from home, so I can juggle my schedule around writing when necessary. And I think in November, it's definitely going to be necessary. I don't work weekends, so my 50k will have to be done on weekdays. It's still doable at 2.5k a day. In fact, on really good days I've written well in excess of that. But to do it every weekday for a whole month... well, let's just see how I get on, shall I?

I'm currently in the process of finishing up other projects and also planning for the novel I'm going to write for NaNo. I've been researching it for the past couple of months, so I figure NaNo will give me the push I need to get a good chunk of it written while the research is still fresh in my mind. And who knows, by the end of December, perhaps I'll have something ready to send to a publisher. Watch this space.

And, in the meantime, if anyone needs me, I'll be the one hiding in the corner, panicking.

Are you NaNo-ing, too? Here's my profile - come friend me: http://nanowrimo.org/participants/creativewriter1985

*****

Lucy Felthouse is a very busy woman! She writes erotica and erotic romance in a variety of subgenres and pairings, and has over eighty publications to her name, with many more in the pipeline. These include Best Bondage Erotica 2012, 2013 and 2014 and Best Women's Erotica 2013. Another string to her bow is editing, and she has edited and co-edited a number of anthologies. She owns Erotica For All, and is book editor for Cliterati. Find out more at http://www.lucyfelthouse.co.uk. Join her on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to her newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/gMQb9

Monday, October 21, 2013

Art and Play

By Lisabet Sarai


I discovered buried treasure today.

There's a box in our storage closet labeled “L's Writing”. I hadn't examined it in quite a while. I knew it held my old journals, my poetry notebooks, various term papers, theses and other academic artifacts. I couldn't recall, though, how much I'd kept of my very early schoolwork and writing. After all, my life journey has taken me through five decades and halfway around the world since I was in junior high school. Maybe I'd jettisoned some of my childish output – or maybe it had disintegrated, the paper drying out and crumbling away after half a century.

In particular, I was looking for a set of science reports I remembered from eighth grade. Each week the teacher would perform a demonstration and ask us a set of questions. In our reports, we were supposed to diagram the experiment, then answer the questions and draw conclusions. I liked to draw and I liked my teacher. So instead of simple scientific figures, I created a series of cartoons, some of them harboring private jokes. I had great fun concocting those reports. I'm sure it took me far longer than if I'd merely followed the instructions, but I didn't care. I was happy putting in the effort, expressing myself. It was homework but it was also a kind of play.

Imagine my delight when I found a tattered manila envelope crammed with documents going back to elementary school – some as fragile as I'd feared, but many in decent condition. My book reports and my compositions from French class . My high school honors thesis about the Great Chain of Being in Tolkein's Middle Earth. My plays about the Beatles, about the jealous gods of Olympus, about the 1964 presidential election. My ghost and science fiction stories. And, just as I'd hoped, the full set (as far as I can tell) of said science reports.


You might ask what all this has to do with writing erotica.

I've been pondering the way we look at our writing as work. Many of the posts here at the ERWA blog discuss technical aspects of the writing process. We discuss conflict and pacing, the theory of the short story, the exterior and interior elements of character, techniques for evoking sensory experience in our scenes, strategies for self-editing. We wrestle with revisions. We “kill our darlings”. We train ourselves to view everything we write with a critical eye.

I don't mean to minimize the importance of self-analysis or craft. However, I sometimes worry that we're too analytical, too focused, too left-brained, about our writing. Or maybe I should say “I” as opposed to “we”. I'm so concerned with markets and word count, sentence structure and word repetition, that I forget why I started doing this in the first place. I've lost my sense of play.

Nobody taught me how to write creatively. I've been doing for as long as I remember, and from the very first, I did it for fun. I played with words, and back when I was a kid, I played with images too, as can be seen from my eighth grade efforts. (I was always a better wordsmith than visual artist, though.) I was, in psychological jargon, intrinsically motivated, writing, drawing, painting and rhyming simply because I enjoyed doing so.

And that's what's often missing now. The product is what counts, from the perspective of readers and publishers. They're waiting for my next book. I try to ignore the pressure, but I'm never entirely successful. The limited time I have available for writing adds to the sense of stress. I only have this day, these few hours – what if I can't get the words out?

Art cannot be compelled. You have to simply open yourself and let it flow. I know there's a theory that all great artists must suffer. I don't know if I buy that, but in any case, I'm not aspiring to greatness. No, I just want to enjoy my writing the way I did when I was younger. I want to play.


I managed this, to some extent, with my last novel Rajasthani Moon. I undertook this project solely for my own amusement, as a challenge to myself: how many sub-genres could I combine in a single book? In a sense, I was thumbing my nose at the erotic romance establishment, which so loves to slice and dice, categorize and label, every story. So I let my imagination run free, and I didn't censor myself to please my publisher. I even included some F/F interaction, generally considered to be the marketing kiss-of-death in traditional erotic romance. If it turned me on, I put it in and damn the markets.

When the book was done, I knew it was no work of enduring literary significance – but it's lively, entertaining, and pretty hot. Most important, I had a fabulous time writing it.

I want to do that again.

I'm willing to put in the effort it takes to write well – but not without the payoff of having fun. Not anymore.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Validation, Desire and Other Reasons to Write

By Donna George Storey

I haven’t written a new story in almost six months. Not that I haven’t had a few fallow periods since I first started writing fiction seriously sixteen years ago, but the break in the flow this time around has inspired me to listen to an inner voice that is usually drowned out by the word-rush of my latest story project.

Who am I writing for?

(Yes, I know, it should be “For whom am I writing?” but my inner voice is not particularly interested in proper grammar!)

“For my audience, the bigger the better”—that’s the first simple answer that comes to mind. Or “for myself,” which feels fleetingly self-empowering and bravely feminist, but doesn’t ring totally true. To be honest, although no work I’ve ever done has felt so personally expressive and revealing as fiction writing, from the beginning the driving force has been my desire for validation through publication. While an audience is implied, the images of success that come to mind are acceptance letters, contracts, books or journals to hold in my hands. Oddly no readers are in sight.

I publish, therefore I am a writer. That was my creed. Always an eager student, I immersed myself in how-to-get-published books of all kinds, scribbling notes on how to write a cover letter, how to hook an editor, sure-fire techniques of the selling writer (throw a lovable character into trouble, then deeper trouble to keep the pages turning). I’m not sure if any of this advice actually affected the stories I wrote, but it did reinforce my sense that ultimately I wrote to please an editor and, stretching endlessly beyond her, a faultlessly wise literary establishment.

Over the years, I eventually did get published—with over 160 credits to my name right now. Damn, even my cruelly judgmental inner voice has to admit that’s some form of validation. Yet, what inspired me to write before now seems a barrier. Perhaps it’s because I know too well what publication, after the first rush of pleasure and pride, means. Promoting your work is an endless, soul-draining task. Nor do the writing experts allow for resting on your laurels. Everyone knows a truly successful writer must produce a constant stream of novels to establish her brand and a deep backlist for new fans to explore. At this level, success is, of course, married to profit rather than a mere byline. But in order to make cartloads of cash in the gold rush of self-publishing, you must above all be savvy about what sells.

Trapped as I am in an attitude that has apparently given me what I wanted, when I think about writing another novel, I feel bored rather than inspired. Experience (or rather, feedback from editors over the years) tells me every chapter has to have a sex scene. The story or vocabulary can’t be too complex. My book has to fit into a well-oiled slot in the store (none of this genre-busting nonsense) and it has to be excitingly fresh, yet reassuringly the same as every other best-selling erotic novel out there. This is what “they” want from me. I ignore their desires at my peril.

But at long last, what I’d like to call the “real” writer inside me is saying enough. Enough of reading the market and second-guessing editors and thinking these skills are enough to satisfy my heart, mind and spirit. Write what fascinates you, she tells me. Write sex scenes only where they belong in the story and only at the level of explicitness that feels right, because sometimes suggestion is far sexier than a blow-by-blow. Write only for yourself at least once in your life. At the very least, the experience will teach you lessons you will never learn if you’re always looking to others for your reward.

It all sounds pretty sweet right now.

I can’t guarantee myself I’ll have the courage to do this, but after months of indifference, I’m finally getting excited about writing again.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What If #1 Random Thoughts About How Venus Flytraps Experience Time

Saturday morning.  Sitting in the backyard with a little espresso.  A notepad.  A pencil.  A pack of Biscoff cookies.  Thinking.  The grass needs cutting, I’m thinking.  I had that lucid dream again, I’m thinking.  It was the dream about the old house that needs fixing but also the old house is haunted.  It isn’t my house, but it may be the inside of my head.  And there was that room and the room was filled with old shoes I’ve worn at different times in my life, even baby shoes.  Shoes.  What do they mean, shoes?

The thing is I woke up inside the dream and could have had dream sex with someone and it would have been okay that way and I didn’t.  The hell’s wrong with me?

A sip of coffee.  A notebook.  A pencil.  Thinking.

A glance to the right, my little collection of carnivorous plants in their pots in the sunshine, enjoying the morning.  At night they grow.  At night the insects come out.  The fly traps are beginning to go dormant.  The tropical pitcher plants have grown pitchers the size of beer bottles that are catching roaches now.  They sink to the bottom and ferment in a nasty soup for the plant’s nourishment.

How does the plant know there are roaches?

I don’t know if God exists.  I don’t know what happens when we die.  But when I look at a pitcher plant and the hapless roaches drowned in its wells, I wonder.  How does it know?  How does it know there are roaches to be eaten and that roaches are good to eat?

It knows.

Plants know about the world they live in.  How do they know?  Is it all random selection, pure luck?  They don’t have brains or nervous systems like we do, they don’t experience the world in the same way we do, but a dandelion knows the wind blows.  They all know the sun shines and for how long in a day.  They know when the days get shorter and winter is coming.  They know there are animals that want to eat them and they have each taken a position towards that reality.  They stab them and poison them.  They cut deals with them.  There are fruit vines with thorns that have packed tiny indigestible seeds in sugary fruit.  “Here,” says the plant, "don’t eat me, eat this instead.  Take my berry, package my seeds in your shit and drop them where they’ll grow far away.  This is better for both of us.”  Pollen.  There are plants that offer you these bribes – exchanging sex for food.  The oldest and most universal bargain there is, man, beast and vegetable.  Feed me and you can fuck me.   I give you food.  You give me a place to put my dick.  Everybody has what they want.  Nobody has to die.

Random elements.

These random elements. 

Sex and death are God’s great tough love creations to drive diversity and make sure life survives against asteroids and mega-volcanoes and every other goddamnedist  thing the universe does to our planet.  I believe in science, I believe in natural selection.  But there is this other mystery I can’t get around.
Carnivorous Plants.  How do they know?

I think the plants, especially the hungry ones, have taught me about God.  I don’t believe in God the way I once did – but there’s something huge underneath all this that knows.  Plants know. How do they know?  Is it all by accident?  A flytrap’s trap leaves don’t snap closed in the way people think; they don’t move together the way a bear trap does.  The leaves of the plant are actually warped and suspended in an open concave shape.  The plant shoots water hydro dynamically into the leaves to counter-warp the shape into a convex form which instantly closes the space between them.  It doesn’t use movement – it uses geometry.  Geometry!  Geometry is much faster than movement. 

But a flytrap has a technical problem – how can it tell the difference between a raindrop and an animal?  Well, it knows animals move around.  Raindrops don’t.  Somehow it knows that.  So it invented a motion detector.  How?

Arithmetic.

A Venus Flytrap can count to three.  One, two, three.  Snap.

A fly trap has three tiny spines standing up inside its trap leaves.  When an animal touches one spine, the plant feels it, the plant watches, but it waits.  When something touches two spines, it knows.  When an animal touches three spines – one, two, three then snap - water fills the leaves, the leaves change their shape.   Geometry! Then they squeeze.  They squeeze until they’re airtight.  You can’t open them until the plant does.

Random elements.  Random elements.

To be in the center of the universe you have to be where the random elements are mixing.

Sex and death.  I don’t know if God is a god of love or not, when you look at nature it doesn’t really look like it.  It looks as though God is more about turnover.  Life survives because of the mixing of random elements into an infinite variety of new forms and no matter what happens to the world some of those forms are set up ahead of the game to survive the new world they’re in.  That means everybody and everything has to fuck, mix their genes and have orgasms and feel wonderful.  If there is a god out there the only thing you can be really sure of is God wants you to get laid.

And then you have to die.  Everybody has to die.  You have to clear your ass out of the way so the next generation with the new random mix of genes can come marching through, get laid and die. 

What if . . . .?
. . .  what if – there is only one fly trap? 

What if there has only ever been one fly trap in the history of the world, divided and spread out over generations?  But its all the same one fly trap, making these decisions as it goes along?  Maybe a plant doesn’t experience time the same way we do.  Maybe . . .

. . .  what if –
. . .  what if a venus flytrap is one vast colonial organism spread out laterally over space-time?  It looks like a lot of little plants, but it really isn’t?  What if Time is one block, one dimension.  Not an arrow.  What if – for a plant – time exists like a loaf of bread?  You can slice into it, experience different moments, but all those same moments exist at the same time?  For a plant?  There is only one fly trap, exisiting multidimensionally in all moments simultaneously?  Could humans exist like that?  Like brain cells scattered across the ages?

The Dalai Lama is what’s known in Tibetan Buddhism as a “tulku”.  A tulku is an individual soul, usually a great teacher, who, after death, chooses to return to incarnation in order to continue his work teaching others.  They just reincarnate over and over, their previous students search them out and raise them and continue.  Theoretically the current Fourteenth Dalai Lama is the same guy as the first Dalai Lama.  The same guy has returned fourteen times so far and picked up right where he left off before he died.  That’s a tulku.  Death doesn’t even represent a career change.  

What if a fly trap, or any plant, what if they’re all one tulku spread out over infinite time?

What if  . . .
. . . .what if – human beings, all of us, are one Tulku spread out over time, like flytraps?  What if we are all one soul, the same soul, co-existing incarnationally, over 6 billion life times but all here simultaneously?  Because we experience time as individuals, instead of being spread out, experience it as an arrow instead of a loaf of bread?  Maybe nobody else in nature does that. 

What if you reading this are really me, but in a different incarnation?  Maybe incarnated as a woman?

But what if . . . .
. . . .  but what if someone found this out?  What would sex be like for that person?

What if that person woke up, as though waking up inside of a lucid dream, and realized that every person he met was actually himself/herself in a different incarnation, spread out, traveling side by side with him?  What would that be like?

I pick up my notepad and pencil, wash down a cookie with a long swig of cold coffee.  And begin.


           On the subway to Battery Park, the woman in the black raincoat snuggled over and nudged Ron gently but assertively in the ribs.  He lowered his New York Times and looked at her.

           “Excuse me, sir,” she said.  “Listen, if I should start screaming?  Just wake me up.”

C. Sanchez-Garcia





Sunday, October 13, 2013

Immersive Proximity and the Luxury of Space: POVs in Erotic Fiction

Justine by de Sade, the first two editions were in 1st person,
the final version in 3rd.
I took a quick poll last night on my twitter stream to find out which point of view was the preferred one for both readers and writers of erotica.  As you might imagine, no one behaved themselves and I didn't get a definitive answer. 

Now, you're asking yourself why this question might not pertain to other genres equally. Of course, POV is always significant to the reader's experience of the narrative.  But there are both historical and cognitive reasons why it is of greater interest to erotica writers than it would be, say, to murder mystery writers. 

Before the 20th Century, much erotic writing was written in first person and often presented to the reader as a candid confessional.  The choice of this voice is significant because it was, in literary terms, the equivalent of the money shot. First person was felt to convey veracity and solicit reader empathy.
Narrative theorists, novel critics, and reading specialists have already singled out a small set of narrative techniques--such as the use of first person narration and the interior representation of characters' consciousness and emotional states--as devices supporting character identification, contributing to empathetic experiences, opening readers' minds to others, changing attitudes, and even predisposing readers to altruism" Suzanne Keen writes, leading to narrative empathy. (1)
Certainly confessional memoires like 'My Secret Life," by Walter, strove to create the effect of a confidence being shared between 'men of the world' about the forbidden landscape of sexual experience.
The firmness of her flesh impressed me, whether I put my finger between the cheeks of her arse or between her thighs I could with difficulty get it away; she could have cracked a nut between either.  (2)
This approach survives to this day, with the same strategy to convey genuineness and confidentiality to the reader in letters to the Penthouse Forum.
She started out by telling me that she loved me, then asked, "Honey, what would you say if I told you that I wanted to have sex with some other guy?"

I was thrilled with the thought, but needing to act like I was maybe too macho for that, I asked, 'Where did you ever get an idea like that?'"  (3)

But before you start to think that first person erotica just results in downmarket pseudo porn, it's worth remembering that Henry Miller wrote "The Tropic of Cancer" in first person:
At any rate, I had not yet come to the end of my rope. I was only flirting with disaster. ... I understood then why it is that Paris attracts the tortured, the hallucinated, the great maniacs of love.  (4)
Interestingly, de Sade's two first versions of Justine were written in first person, but for the final publication, La Nouvelle Justine, he changed it all into third person.  (5)  Considering how long it is, this must have been quite task. It should tell you something about how important he felt the POV was to the way he wanted the story read.

In an interesting meta-strategy, although the stories in Anais Nin's "Delta of Venus" are in third person, the collection starts off with an intensely first person narrative prologue in which she talks of how the stories came about and how she wrote them, which cleverly assures the reader of the author's personal erotic investment in the work, while presenting the stories as her own intensely narrative sexual fantasies set at a distance to allow the reader into her lascivious world.

She was a very, very clever writer. She gains the confidence of the reader in the same way that first person narratives do, but her use of the third person POV in the actual stories works an interesting magic. First person erotic narratives work very well when the reader finds it easy to empathize with the narrator.  Walter, de Sade and, I would hazard a guess, Miller, all assumed their readers would be men. Men like them. 

Nin not only set out to write beyond her lived and (perhaps) autobiographical experience, but take the reader into erotic fantasy and position both she  - the writer - and you - the reader - as voyeur. Third person narratives allow the reader enough distance so as not to be put off by the gap between fiction, the fictional characters, the erotic fantasy and the reader's sense of self.  Moreover, the third person narration makes it possible to present male protagonists without jarring the reader with the reality that the writer is female.
"Now the Baron, like many men, always awakened with a peculiarly sensitive condition of the penis. In fact, he was in a most vulnerable state."  (6)
Some erotic writers find themselves compelled to tell a story and it presents itself with a voice in which to be told and they remain faithful always to allow the story, in essence, to 'tell itself.'

However, after I'd been writing a while and I began to get stalled on stories that didn't seem to slither off my fingertips with the fluidity I had hoped for, I began to take more notice of POV. I realized that sometimes a story wasn't working because it wasn't being told by the right character. This is what really prompted me to think deeply about POV.

I realized that sometimes my stories didn't have the level of conflict I wanted because I had started out writing the story in the POV of the character who was least conflicted. This gave me a more reliable narrator, but a less exciting story.

When I began to venture into writing male protagonists, I stuck to third person for the same reason Nin did. I wanted to acknowledge my unmaleness as a writer, and underscore the fictionality of the story.  But more recently, in stories where I felt I really could truly empathize at a deep level with the male protagonist, I have attempted first person.

It is often said that 'literary' works are usually written in third person and, if you take a look at the literary canon, a large portion of them are, but by no means all of them.

I think one of the reasons for the perpetuation of this myth is a legitimate one. Literary fiction attempts to ask the reader to, in a way, be conscious of the writing while reading. It asks the reader to split themselves in two - immersing in the narrative but also always remaining a little distant in order to afford the reader the opportunity to read critically at the same time.

You might think this has no relevance in erotic fiction, but I would argue that there are times when it can be very effective.  Say, for instance, you are writing a story involving a paraphilia or fetish that the vast majority of your prospective readers might not share. You want to tempt them to glimpse in at the eroticism of it, but you don't want to assume their compliance, from a literary perspective. Third person affords readers the space and distance to intellectually acknowledge the eroticism of something they might not want to do in real life but might be aroused by in fiction. So, if you want to write a watersports story that is not aimed at readers who you know will get off on it instantly, third person is a great way to afford them wiggle room and allow them to indulge in the erotic descriptions of it without feeling like they're living it personally.

On the other hand, I have at times wanted to intentionally disorient the reader, to prompt that fine line between disgust and lust, and a first person narrative can be much more immediate and immersive for this, forcing them into the world and the scene for narrative effect. In a way, intentionally violating their comfort zone.

Most people who have been writing a long time make POV decisions very consciously. They're well aware of the pros and cons of each voice.  If you haven't tried to go against the grain of your instincts yet, give it a try.  Even if, after a few attempts, you decide to return to your favourite POV, at least you will have had the experience of wielding the power that the decision of POV can offer you.

____________________


 1. Keen, Suzanne. "A Theory of Narrative Empathy." Narrative. 14.3 (2006): 207-236. Web. 13 Oct. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/narrative/v014/14.3keen.html>.

 2. Walter. My Secret Life. 1. Amsterdam: Privately Published, 1888. Web. <http://www.horntip.com/html/books_&_MSS/1880s/1888_my_secret_life/vol_01/index.htm>.

 3.  T.P. "A Fucking Good Time." Penthouse Forum Online. GMCI Internet Operations Inc., 28 Apr 2013. Web. 13 Oct 2013. <http://penthouseforum.com/2013/04/a-fuckin-good-time/>.

 4. Miller, Henry. The Tropic of Cancer. New York: Grove Press, 1961. Print.

 5. "Justine (Sade)." Wikipedia. N.p., 18 Jul 2013. Web. 13 Oct 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justine_(Sade)>.

6. Nin, Anais. Delta of Venus. OCR. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977. Web. <http://optimisinglife.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/nin-anais-delta-of-venus.pdf>

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker: Writing Coaches and Teachers



(thanks to WriteSex, where this article originally appeared)

For new writers, the temptation is obvious: after all, if you don’t know something, shouldn’t you seek out a way to learn about it? The question of how to educate yourself as a writer is a necessary and important one, of course, but an often-invisible second question follows: how do you sift through the piles of would-be writing coaches, teachers and other purveyors of advice to find the ones who will lead you toward genuinely better writing? The problem isn’t that there are over-eager teachers galore, but that far too many of them are preaching from ignorance—or just dully quoting what others have already said.

This is particularly true of erotic romance. Now, I have to admit I’ve been more than a bit spoiled by other genres, where you can write about whatever you want without much of a chance—beyond clumsy writing—of getting rejected for not toeing the line, so approaching erotic romance has been a bit more of a challenge. Romance authors, after all, have been told time and time again that there is a very precise, almost exacting, Way of Doing Things … and if you don’t, then bye-bye book deal.

But times have changed, and while a few stubborn publishers still want erotic romantic fiction that follows established formulas, the quantum leap of digital publishing has totally shaken up by-the-numbers approaches to romance writing. Without going too much into it (maybe in another column…), because ebooks are so much easier to produce, publishers can take wonderful risks on new authors and concepts, meaning that they don’t have to wring their hands in fright that the new title they greenlit will go bust and possibly take the whole company with it.

Because of this freedom, erotic romance can be so much more than it ever was: experimental, innovative, unique, challenging, etc. These are no longer the Words of Death when it comes to putting together a book.

One of the great, underlying tasks of teaching—one I love, but with some reverence and an occasional pang of dread—is challenging the boring, formulaic, way that so many talk about writing (which is also to say that a huge part of the reason I love to teach is that it’s a weird form of revenge against all the bad writing teachers I’ve had over the years). There are, however, far too many writing teachers who relentlessly parrot that erotic romance has to follow a strict formula to be successful. They spell out this formula in stomach-cramping detail: what has to happen to each and every character, in each and every chapter, in each and every book.

This is not to say that new authors should put their hands over their ears any time someone offers up advice on romance writing; there is, after all, a huge difference between a teacher who inspires from experience and one who is just a conduit between you and a textbook. A publisher, for instance, who looks at their catalogue and can see what is selling for the moment—they’re worth listening to. On the other hand, one who sets down unbending rules on what Not To Do and What To Do, regardless of the changing interests of readers or the innovations of writers, is only mumbling at you through the sand in which their head is lodged. Case in point: I once had a erotic romance novel rejected by a major publisher not because of the writing, the plot, the characters, or the setting but because it was about a painter and, according to this publisher, “books about painters don’t sell.” Needless to say, I didn’t let this feedback stop me from sending the book to a different publisher—where it sold quite well.

The A-to-B-to-C form of teaching writing is likened to cutting up a frog: certainly an efficient way of finding out (ewwwww) the contents of an amphibian … but totally useless as a way of creating your own. A good test of a writing instructor, by the way, is how you feel at the end of the class or how-to book: if you’re shaking like a leaf that you might have made—or will make—some kind of horrible erotic-romance-writing mistake, then the lesson was a bad one … but if you leave feeling elated, inspired, confident and ready to build your story into something powerful then, you guessed it, the class was good.

Folks have come to me with questions like “Can I start my story with an email?” “Can I start with the weather?” “Can my setting be in a foreign country?” “Can I write about an artist?” I think you can guess what my answer always is: just write! One, you can always change it later and, two (most importantly) write what you want to read: don’t suffocate your creativity with formulas, set-in-stone rules, mandatory character arcs and Hero’s Journeys, or any standardized thing that isn’t relevant to what’s really happening in your story. Instead, think of writing—especially erotic romance—as creation. Sure, you’re going to make some mistakes, but everyone does. That’s what learning is all about. Taking class after class after class doesn’t write books: you do! Taking class after class after class doesn’t even make you a better writer: you do!

Sure, you should seek out some teachers—especially when you are ready to step into the completely terrifying world of publishing—but don’t think that there is a guru out there who has all the answers, who is the Sacred Keeper of the Great Romance Writing Secret. If they were, wouldn’t they be sitting on their yacht sipping immaculately prepared daiquiris?

The best advice, the best lesson that anyone can give a writer, is the simplest: write. Create stories and books and on and on and on until it begins to flow and the words aren’t words anymore but just notes in a composition, until plot and character and setting and dialogue aren’t separate things but part of a greater, beautiful, whole. Once you can hold what you wrote in your hand—or on the screen—and say to yourself that what you have created is good, then you can study the lessons of how to put it out into the world.

But, until then, do everything you can to keep yourself inspired, enthusiastic, creative, thrilled, and excited about writing—by staying away from the tired idea of formulas … and keep that frog intact.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Writing Exercise - The Rhyme Royal

James I of Scotland

 By Ashley Lister

 The rhyme royal (sometimes called the rime royale by those who prefer to spell things incorrectly) is a fairly straightforward poetic form.

It refers to a stanza of seven lines, each line containing ten syllables, and the whole poem following a rhyming pattern of a b a b b c c. The form, according to the Poetry Foundation, was popularized by Geoffrey Chaucer and termed “royal” because his imitator, James I of Scotland, employed this structure in his own verse.

Here’s an example of one I wrote earlier.


We talk about our plans for this evening
Things we’d love to do when at our leisure
I long to give your sexual bells a ring:
Thrill you with a night you’ll always treasure.
In return you give a choice of pleasure
But I care not if you swallow or spit
I’m happy if you put your mouth round it.

Note that there are ten syllables per line. This isn’t iambic pentameter. This is merely ten syllables per line. Writing in iambs might make for something more profound but, as regular readers of these exercises will be aware, I am an exceptionally superficial poet.

One of the many fun things about this form is that the stanzas can be used to form verses in a longer poem. This is the way Chaucer used it in his work and we can see examples of this in Wyatt, Auden and many others.

I pluck your pubes from twixt my teeth and smile
The taste of you still lingers on my lips
Your scent’s a mem’ry that’s made to beguile
I yearn to squirm beneath your fingertips
And play with toys like canes and crops and whips
And savour pleasures borne beyond belief
Then pluck more pubes from in between my teeth

As always, please feel free to share your rhyme royals in the comments box below.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Erotic Lure Newsletter: October 2013

From Erotica Readers & Writers Association
By Ashley Lister
_______


 There once was a man who wrote verse
He rhymed stuff so bad some would curse
His friend Lisabet (uh)
Asked him to write a newsletter
And then things went from bad to worse



Greetings,

My name is Ashley Lister. I’m covering the Erotic Lure newsletter for Lisabet this month whilst she goes gallivanting on her nefarious travels. I’m hoping she updates us all with pictures, streaming video or at least salacious tales of her incredible adventures.

This month here at ERWA we doff our caps to Halloween, as evidenced by the supernatural bent in the exemplary stories found in this month’s gallery.  Or, to say that in verse:
If you like to read sexy sweet shorts
Tales of friction in fiction so fraught
Visit the gallery
And there you will see
The theme this month’s ‘La Petite Mort’


Books you say? What about Books for sensual readers? What a timely question! I’m so glad you asked.

As always, there are plenty to choose from. Purchasing those books through the Amazon links on these pages helps ERWA to provide a consistently superlative service to readers and writers alike.

We’ve read books aimed at everyone’s kinks
From cool cougars to maddening minx
If you want these pages
To help with our wages
Buy your books through our Amazon links

Have you written something? Or do you fancy joining the glamorous world of the published authors? Then check out our calls for submission this month and see if there’s a niche you might be able to fill. (NB – Ashley, insert a joke here about filling a niche, use a clever double entendre).

If you’ve written a one-handed read
And you typed till your fingers did bleed
You have our permission
To view the calls for submission
You’ll find everything there you might need.

As a writer I’ve always considered “Inside the Erotic Mind” to be an invaluable resource.  Being able to glean honest insights into how others approach sex, sexual reactions and sexual responsiveness is extremely helpful and interesting. Or, saying that in limerick form:

Our writers are terribly kind
And here, on these pages, you’ll find
There’s words of wisdom
About how best to come
Click into our erotic mind

INSIDE THE EROTIC MIND

Describe Your Orgasm: How Does it Feel? Don't be Shy...
http://erotica-readers.com/ERA/ITEM/Inside_The_Erotic_Mind.htm


Words are good. Stories can be entertaining. But sometimes we just need a plastic companion.  Now I’ve written a couple of narrative poems in this milieu but I won’t bore you with those details here. Instead, I’ll say this:

In all of my travels I’ve found
That there’s people I like being around
But when they’re away
And I’m wanting to pay
I must visit the Sex Toy Playground



What about films? ERWA is about all things erotic, whether that’s words, toys or films. On a cautionary note, here’s a verse about erotic films and why it’s important to watch them on Blu-Ray, DVD or at least a streaming download.

The saucy things we like to see
Are best watched from a DVD
Cos’ the multiplex staff
Will just point and laugh
At least, that was what happened to me

Right, tidying up loose ends here. As always, thanks to all those hard at work behind the scenes at ERWA who have made this resource possible. I was saying to a colleague last week that it would be hard to imagine a world without ERWA. It really is unlike any other writing resource in the world. I could name names here and discuss the hard work invested by each member of the group, but I’d likely mess up and miss out on someone important. Instead, I’ll be glib and end with a poem.

Thank you for reading this, member
There’s one more thing you should remember
Whilst I loved writing these poems
I’m now going ho-em
Lisabet will be back in November

Ashley Lister
____________

Ashley Lister is a writer, poet and columnist and the author of How to Write Erotic Fiction and Sex Scenes. Aside from being behind more than thirty pseudonymous erotic novels, Ashley also teaches creative writing. Read Ashley's Writing Exercise right here on ERWA  blog.

Write, learn, and play on ERWA . Details at:
http://erotica-readers.com/PRIVATE/index.html