Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Monday, April 28, 2014
A good hook makes the reader want to know more. What is it about Hill House that frightens one so? Who or what haunts it? Riley is addicted to sexy lingerie. Well, hello there. :) Humor always provides a good opening, as is evidence with several of the hooks named above.
On their first date he’d asked how much she thought Edgar Allan Poe’s toe nails would sell for on eBay, and on their second he paid for subway fair with nickels he fished out of a fountain, but he was otherwise charming and she thought that they could have a perfectly tolerable life together. — Jessica Sashihara, Martinsville, NJ
Leave out the parts readers tend to skip.
Saturday, April 26, 2014
by Jean Roberta
Once in awhile, I read a book of non-fiction that pulls me in like a vivid story about desire, frustration, and ecstasy.
Recently I agreed to review Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger by Kelly Cogswell,* a history/memoir by a former member of an inventive group of women in New York City in the early 1990s. They performed public actions (including a circus act they learned, “eating fire”) to make lesbians visible, and to draw attention to homophobic and anti-woman violence. Mostly, the group existed to bring lesbians into the general cultural consciousness. For a short time, they seemed wildly successful, and spinoff groups of “Avengers” sprang up in numerous other cities and towns in the U.S. and Canada.
As they became publicly visible, however, the Avengers were seriously criticized, not only by conservatives, but by “allies” and fellow-members. The core group, a marvellously multicultural blend of New Yorkers with chutzpah, began to splinter. Discomfort with the in-fighting drove members away, and the group fell apart.
OMG. Although in some ways, Kelly Cogswell’s story seems characteristic of radical New York on the eve of the new millennium, parallel events were happening at the same time in places very far from there.
Hindsight provides a certain perspective, but it doesn’t erase the discomfort of yesteryear.
In the small city where I live on the Canadian prairies, I was pulled into two locally-famous conflicts involving “women of colour” in 1992-95. One woman had been hired to edit the journal of a federally-funded feminist organization, of which I was a board member. The other case involved a woman who had been fired from a research/writing position with a Canadian government department misleadingly named Secretary of State (usually called “secstate”).
As a supervisor (or part of a supervisory collective) of the editor, I learned almost immediately that any suggestion I could make about her work could be interpreted as an attack, and not only by the editor herself. Over a period of about two years, approximately thirty board members left the organization because of the tension caused by the editor’s ungrammatical writing, her apparent lack of an editorial policy or an understanding of the goals of the organization, and her refusal to accept direction.
I circulated an open letter to the rest of the board, explaining my conception of the editor’s job and asking for feedback from fellow board-members. None of them responded, but a representative of the union to which the editor belonged served me with a grievance claiming that I was attacking the editor’s competence by suggesting that she was “not a feminist.” (I had done no such thing. I had asked fellow board-members – not the editor, our employee – to respond to my own working definition of the term “feminist editor.” I wanted to know if we were all on the same page, so to speak.)
The editor then circulated her own letter to the board, in which she accused me of being the ringleader of a conspiracy to force her out of her job. Instead, I was forced off the board on grounds that my “personal” feud with the editor was harming the organization.
Meanwhile, the woman who had been fired from “secstate” had a growing number of supporters who pressured the government to re-examine her case. I was completely in favour of this. I hadn’t seen her work, so I had no opinion of its quality, but I thought there would be no harm in getting it reconsidered by someone other than her former supervisor.
I wasn’t willing to say that the firing had been unfair, or motivated by racism. I just didn’t know.
(Postscript: the woman who had been fired won her case, but she passed away from cancer in 1995. “Secstate” was dissolved by the Canadian government.)
Looking back, I can see what troubled me most about claims made by the supporters of both these women. Even before I was targeted as a racist, elitist, oppressive anti-sister, I was told that it didn’t matter whether two women who were employed as writers could write well or not.
Apparently, writing ability was not the issue. Or worse, eloquence on paper was a sign of bourgeois privilege.
Since then, I have heard numerous variations on this theme. By now, I have taught mandatory first-year English classes at the local university for a quarter-century, and many of my students speak English as a second or third language. When I dare to complain to anyone outside a small circle of my peers that too many of my students (including some who were locally-raised) are unprepared to write essays in clear English, I am usually told that this must be very hard for anyone who didn’t grow up speaking it, and even for some who did, and therefore I should give all my students a break – which seems to mean a passing grade. I’ve been told not to be judgmental, even though evaluating student assignments is part of my job.
We live in an age when culture is largely transmitted in written words. The spread of computers hasn’t counteracted this trend. On the contrary. Written words can now be exchanged faster than ever before, throughout the world. The accuracy of written language damn well matters.
At the same time, no language is universal – except, possibly, the “language” of science or math. Written words evolve out of specific cultures. No writer or teacher of literature and/or composition can really avoid being ethnocentric.
Why am I saying all this? Because writers need to be aware that all writing is controversial, even aside from its content. (When it includes explicit sex scenes, it attracts a whole extra gang of howling critics.)
Skillful writing can transport the reader out of her current time and place, and Kelly Cogswell did that for me. An inarticulate witness could not have described the complexity of a movement for social change in a way that would resound so well with someone who never lived at Ground Zero.
Erotic writers have a reason to be social activists too, especially if they are any shade of queer. Freedom to tell the truth about feelings and lifestyles can’t be completely separated from freedom to live honestly. In some ways, however, writing is exactly opposite from social action. Writing is usually done best alone, in a quiet room. Public displays of protest or solidarity require groups that grow into crowds. Filling the streets in support of an idea is a statement in itself.
There is so much to do, and so little time to do it. Sometimes I feel as if I have missed a chance to be successful at any activity, public or private. I’m sure I’m not the only one who sometimes feels perverse in the worst sense, doomed to be politically incorrect from every angle in every situation.
But then a book comes into my hands that shows me that others have felt the same way. That’s the strength of the written word.
The poet Percy Shelley claimed that poets are the uncrowned legislators of the world. I would say that writers are revolutionaries, even when no one recognizes this fact. May all the writers who read this take heart.
*This book was published by University of Minnesota Press. You can also find it on Amazon.
Friday, April 25, 2014
By Big Ed Magusson (Guest Blogger)
I found Temptations.
It was an appropriate name for a strip club and for what it offered. For a few dollars, I could sit quietly in the dark and have beautiful naked women pay attention to me. I had the cash. I had free afternoons. And after a while, I had more.
Solace. Comfort. Escape.
And then, over time, a life that narrowed to my trips to the club.
My story The Fix (on my site here and also in the ERWA Treasure Chest here) captures this slice of my past. There's a pleasure that only the obsessed can understand—that pleasure of final attainment. At the same time, the obsession itself is an inward knife's blade—constant stabs of nerves and fears and self-loathing.
There's a saying in the twelve step world: the addiction is not the problem. The addiction is the crappy solution to the problem. Fix the underlying problems as I did (or become more mature), and the addiction either disappears or drops back to a manageable craving. There’s even some scientific backing to this (here).
But try explaining that to people.
All too often, our culture forces a black or white model onto addiction. On the one hand, addicts are terrible people with destroyed lives. On the other, we celebrate the overindulgence of addictive acts—"we were so wasted" describes a good time on too many college campuses.
This is particularly true in erotica and porn. One of Marilyn Chambers' big hits was Insatiable, about a nymphomaniac; an archetype regularly celebrated in male-oriented porn. Scores of erotica conventions and tropes draw on the power of sex and the human attraction toward it. We've "gotta have it." Mainstream literary fiction is left to dwell on the question of whether that's truly a good thing, even though mainstream fiction all too often portrays sex negatively or unerotically, as Remittance Girl discusses here.
There’s only one way I know to find out—write the stories and see. It promises to be an interesting experiment.
Thursday, April 24, 2014
It seems like a simple thing. You make up a story. You write it. People read it.
Except that none of those are simple. Each is a painful task. We concentrate on the middle one here.
You Write It.
We talk about characters and technique and style, grammar, method, the senses. Each of these are important, but as Lucy Felthouse mentioned in her post, when you're writing (first draft, I'll assume she means), you have to let go of all that and just write. In the first draft, give your story good bones. Flesh it out from there. But even when you've written a technically fine piece, it may still lack that spark that makes a story live.
I'm rewriting the third book in a series. I thought I had it done, so I sent it out to beta readers. By a third novel, you'd think I'd be past the need for them, but I'm not. Two of my beta readers had some interesting things to say, things I needed to hear, things I already knew deep down but didn't want to admit because I wanted to be done. And while Nan and Ali didn't say this in so many words, what I was hearing - through my special filter that lets me hear things people never intended to say - was 'What are you afraid of?' Because both called me out, in their very polite ways, for backing off writing two scenes I found difficult to write. My characters talked about those events happening, but I couldn't bring myself to show it to the reader. And here's the part that makes me roll my eyes at myself - I knew that.
But enough about me. What about you?
Erotica is difficult to write. Everyone seems to think it's so easy, but it's incredibly hard (go ahead and giggle. I'll wait). The first few times, you might be embarrassed to write those words, or to envision a sex scene in detail then rewind your mental movie of it and watch it all over again in slow motion many, many times until you've got every moment down. Having made that leap into the transgressive side of the street - as Remittance Girl might call it - you'd think we'd be able to boldly explore, to peel layers back and examine what lies beneath, to be frank and unapologetic. But I find it isn't so. Nothing physical daunts me, but raw emotion is the stuff of my writing nightmares and I will perform all sorts of literary tricks to get around it.
What is the hardest thing for you to write? What would it take to make you face it?
Posted by Kathleen Bradean at 3:00 AM
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
By Lucy Felthouse
As you know, lots of the other regular contributors to this blog pen some fabulous posts about the technicalities of writing, how to do it, how to improve, how to get inspired, and so on. A couple of recent examples being Three Workouts for Erotic Writers and Writing exercise - the canzonetta.
I don't tend to write posts like that. I'm not one for the technicalities. Yes, I've got a degree in Creative Writing, I know how to write, I know how to spell and I know how to use an apostrophe (though I still occasionally wrestle with them). As long as I get to the end of a story, a novella or a full-length book and it's correct and I'm happy with it, I don't worry about anything else. That's not because I don't care. It's because I've gotten to the stage where I have to trust myself, trust my ability to write. If I get bogged down in the technicalities, the many, many tiny elements that make up a piece of writing, I'm at risk of sinking into that bog and never finishing anything.
So I write what comes into my head, or from an outline I've sketched out, and I let the words flow naturally. Let my characters and the situation dictate what is said or done next. I put my backside in the chair, my fingers to the keyboard, and hope that what arrives on the screen isn't a load of crap. And when it's finished, I edit, tweak, polish and improve until it's the best I can possibly make it. Then I hope like hell that someone will accept it.
So, what do you think? As long I've done my very best work, is it okay not to be worried about... everything?
Monday, April 21, 2014
By Lisabet Sarai
“Score” is one of his more light-hearted offerings. Jack and Elvira are a sophisticated, swinging couple who compete in their seductions. They set their sights on Eddie and Betsy, a pair of apparently innocent newlyweds. However, this is swinging with a twist. Elvira lays her snares to attract and corrupt angelic-looking Betsy, while Jack is determined to fulfill Eddie's barely-suppressed homoerotic fantasies.
Saturday, April 19, 2014
It's the 19th of April - the wettest month of the year in many locations. Today's your chance to add to the general soaked state of the world by posting your Sexy Snippets!
The ERWA blog is not primarily intended for author promotion. However, we've decided we should give our author/members an occasional opportunity to expose themselves (so to speak) to the reading public. Hence, we have declared the 19th of every month at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association blog Sexy Snippet Day.
On Sexy Snippet day, any author can post a tiny excerpt (200 words or less) in a comment on the day's post. Include the title from with the snippet was extracted, your name or pseudonym, and one buy link, if you'd like.
Friday, April 18, 2014
A few weeks ago a friend sent me a link to an article entitled: “Why Is It So Hard for Women to Write About Sex?” by Claire Dederer (The Atlantic Monthly, February 19, 2014). I clicked the link expecting something along the lines of an article I read at the end of the last century when I first started writing dirty stories, this one by Jane Smiley, who confessed that she was writing a new book with explicit sex scenes and found herself blushing as she wrote. After all, ladies aren’t supposed to descend to explicit descriptions of sex that might arouse, even while they touch upon topics like incest for the sake of literature.
However, to my surprise, The Atlantic article contained a new twist on the reason good girls feel shame when they write about sex. You see, Dederer is writing a memoir about sex, “specifically about having an awful lot of it awfully young—too young—as a teenager in the 1980s.” So far so good, in terms of a surefire hook for the publisher’s sales department. Yet Dederer’s difficulty with the writing process reportedly lies in the fact that she was and is ambivalent about sex, an experience of “doubt braided tightly with the desire.” More than that, apparently she actually thinks during sex and somehow got the message this is bad and she shouldn’t let anyone know that she does this. (I got that message, too, but have mostly moved beyond, thanks to erotica!)
Without going into a detailed summary of the article, what struck me most is that while Dederer acknowledges that female sexuality is seen as normal and real in our times, she worries that her attempts to express ambivalence, complexity or anything other than the sentiment that sex-is-awesome-give-me-more will make her “seem anti-woman, or anti-sex, or anti-sexual-woman (or just a downer).”
Moreover, according to Dederer, men don’t have this problem because their desire is visible in the uncomplicated form of an erection. Which, gentlemen, I hope you will agree, is a brutal simplification of the male experience of sex in our culture. Surely you feel ambivalence, know complexity, suffer pressure to speak of sex in certain accepted ways rather than challenge the cliches with honesty?
I’m not sure which bothers me more, the dehumanizing assertion that male sexuality is uncomplicated because we can see boners or the assumption that women are now allowed to write about sex but are only allowed to do so in positive and uncomplicated terms in order to affirm that women feel desire? As erotica writers, we are all aware of the restrictions of genre upon our writing, but I hadn’t realized it was this bad over in Literary Land. No wonder Dederer finds it hard to write about sex.
But for Dederer the landscape is not totally bleak. She has discovered a few female literary models that give her inspiration when she sits down to write about “giving a blow job to that creepy hippie Malcolm in the patchouli-smelling van in 1984.” One writer in particular, Lidia Yuknavitch, intrigued me enough to place a request for her novel, The Chronology of Water, through interlibrary loan. I liked the scene Dederer quoted from competitive swimmer Yuknavitch’s memoir about ogling the older female swimmers when she was a girl. At first she claimed to be horrified and disgusted, but in a humorous twist in the very next paragraph she confessed to being enthralled and aroused by their strong, hairy bodies.
Alas for the foes of sexual shame, The Chronology of Water yielded but another means to silence a writer taking tentative steps toward honest sexual expression. Allow me to share an extended passage from the introduction to Yuknavitch’s memoir written by her fellow writing group member, Chelsea Cain, the author of numerous best-selling thrillers.
“Chuck Palahniuk brought up the idea of inviting her. ‘She writes this literary prose,’ he told us. ‘But she’s this big-breasted blond from Texas, and she used to be a stripper and she’s done heroin.’ Needless to say, we were impressed.
I already wanted her to sit by me.
There was more. Chuck told us that some really famous edgy writer—I didn’t recognize her name, but I pretended that I did—had given a talk at a conference about the State of Sex Scenes in Literature and she’d said that all sex scenes were shit, except for the sex written by Lidia Yuknavitch. Maybe Chuck didn’t tell us that. But someone in the group did. I don’t remember. I think I was still thinking about the stripper thing. A real-life ex-stripper in our writing group! So glamorous.
Yes, we said, invite her. Please.
She showed up a few weeks later, wearing a long black coat. I couldn’t see her breasts. She was quiet. She didn’t make eye contact. She did not sound like she was from Texas.
Frankly, I was a little disappointed.
Where was the big hair, the Lucite platform heels? The track marks?
Had Chuck made the whole thing up? (He does that sometimes.)
How was he describing me to people?”
Wait, the great Chuck Palahniuk sponsored Yuknavitch for his writing group (even if he does stretch the truth a bit in introducing her)? Does it get cooler than that? But alas, I’m sure ERWA writers are all too familiar with Cain’s preconceptions about women who write about sex or have experience as sex workers or even have large breasts—we’re slutty exhibitionists who provide great material for characters in thrillers, never people with demure wardrobes and complex or even introverted personalities.
The most notable part of this excerpt, however, is the proclamation by the unnamed but famously edgy writer that Lidia Yuknavitch is the only writer on the face of the earth who can write good sex scenes. That’s right, folks, there’s only room for one voice to speak to us about sex in The Right Way!
Before we dismiss the unnamed famous writer’s opinion as a theatrical gesture—or a paid endorsement—might I point out that holding up some legendary stud or beguiling courtesan as a model against which ordinary mortals fall short is a time-honored way to shame people about their real sexuality. Allowing only a small elite of sexual superstars permission to express their experiences is another effective way of silencing the rest of us. Clearly the only thing worse than having ordinary sex is writing about sex in a way that doesn’t crown you as the bestest, coolest sex writer ever.
But remember, this only works if we feel shame about our sexuality and our ability to express it. It probably sells a lot of books, too, this idea that one gifted individual has a special knowledge and skill in sex writing that no one else can match. We eagerly reach for enlightenment from without and, for me at least, always come away unsatisfied.
Given that the literati seem to buy that there are but a very few acceptable ways to write about sex mere decades after respectable people were finally given permission to write about it at all, a question bears asking—how much progress have we really made when it comes to the opportunity to express sexual experience with honesty, whether that be joyful, dark, or a combination of the two? In my opinion, ERWA writers consistently and generously illustrate how well this can be done, even if The Atlantic isn’t giving us equal time to talk about how fun and easy it is. At the same time, we do live in a sex-phobic culture that is very adept at twisting old weapons into new ones to keep too many people scared they'll do it wrong.
Here is the dirty secret beneath all of this judgment and angst—if you want to write your truth about sex, you can’t do it wrong. There is room for many voices and many experiences, the more the better. Each of us can make up his or her own mind about what touches, amuses, arouses, angers or even shames us.
Start there and writing about sex becomes much easier.
And so I send my best wishes to all courageous writers who speak their erotic truth in spite of the cultural forces aligned against us. May you all, woman or man, find writing about sex inspiring, soul-expanding and challenging in the best of ways.
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, April 15, 2014
- Write down an erotic fantasy about a sexual experience you would have in a minute if it were offered to you, no questions asked. It should be about something you would have no reservations or conditions about doing in real life.
- Write down an erotic fantasy about a sexual experience you would have only under certain conditions. You could give yourself up whole heartedly under these conditions, but otherwise not at all.
- Write down an erotic fantasy that is completely satisfying to you in your imagination but that you could not do either because it is physically impossible or something you could never bring yourself to do in real life. But in your imagination it is completely fulfilling.
- Uncle Tony
- Yoko Ono
- Brad Pitt
- Justin Bieber
- Ernest Hemingway
- Count Dracula
- Eating Breakfast
- Walking the dog
- Waiting in a line
- Paying bills
Posted by Garceus at 12:30 AM