Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Medusa and the Empty Nest

By K D Grace

It’s that time again. The nest is temporarily empty. I’ve just finished my third novel in The Mount Series. To Rome with Lust is now out the door and in the gentle but firm hands my editor. And as always, I feel a bit bereft.

Has there been a celebration? Weeell, not exactly. That is unless you call more writing 'celebrating.' It occurred to me as I sent Rome out into the big wide world with a flutter in my heart and a lump in my throat that I really don’t know what to do with myself when I’m not writing. Since the tender farewell, there have been blog posts, there has been planning and scheming and plenty of PR to catch up on. But all of that is close enough to writing to keep me from getting too twitchy.

Sunday, during a long walk on the Downs, I found myself flirting with Medusa again. That woman and I have a real thing going on, and she often rears her serpentine locks when I’m in between stories. But it seems that every time she starts getting up close and personal, I have to put a hold on our relationship. I’ve got another project I have to finish first, but after that, I’m promising her my full attention. Not that I’m complaining about another project. I get to be Grace Marshall this time and since I already know what the plan of action is, I’ve very adroitly managed to stave off serious Empty Nest Syndrome once again. High five! I walked back home with the weather threatening rain, all the while Medusa kept whispered her story seductively in my ear. Oh that woman is persistent! But she’ll have to wait at least a little while.

It’s hard to believe that I once wrote a post about emptying the brain from the busy-ness to make room for the imagination. These days the imagination takes no prisoners and demands way more space in the brainbox than I originally and neatly allotted. Or maybe it’s just that I’m allowing all those wild exciting possibilities to run amuck because I’m too scared NOT to write.

I should probably take some time to bask in the afterglow, maybe go out for dinner and a movie with hubby, but try to tell that to Medusa. I won’t lie, there are times when I wonder if I’m all right. There are times when I wonder if maybe it’s just not normal to spend so many happy afternoons and evenings … and mornings with people who only exist in my imagination. Is there something wrong with me that I’m always longing to write more words, longing to spend more quality time with my imaginary friends? And anyway, even if I do go out, Medusa and sex in the park with a hot genius nerd and more adventures on the Fells in the Lake District with ghosts and witches -- they all come along for the ride, crowding around the dinner table and shouting in my ear during the film.

All of this makes me wonder what would actually happen to me if I took a break from writing -- I mean really took a break. It gives me a headache to think about it. Okay, there is reading, and I really love quality time with a good book. But I can’t possibly read and not think about how the book was written, and what inspired the author. And then there are all the ideas with which that book inspires me. You get the picture.

I can’t really count walking as something to do when I’m not writing, because there are always the ghosts in the hedgerows and the couple going at it in the back of the stables and then there’s Medusa, of course. As for gardening, well, gardening by its very nature begs rude stories. And there’s something about compost and growing things that just can’t keep from inspiring creativity.

Come to think of it, it really doesn’t matter what I do. In my head, I’m still writing, always writing. When I bang on the piano … well, there’s this romance I’ve partly written down that involves a pianist and an astronomer. No, seriously! Even when I’m ironing or doing the washing up stories are pouring into my head. Sometimes even when I’m asleep and dreaming.

Don’t get me wrong, my life is rich and full of new and wonderful experiences and, generally speaking, I’m a happy camper. But I view my life – all of my life, every experience, every emotion, every challenge, through the jaundiced eyes of a writer. Every breath, every nuance is filtered through the writer’s lens, and every experience is mined for its possibilities in story.

Now that I think of it, maybe writing IS my celebration for finishing To Rome with Lust. It always has been. That works for me, and Medusa’s happy with it, even if I do have to put her on hold. And my long-suffering husband learned ages ago that I’m scary when I don’t write. Writing keeps me happy and keeps me from being an evil bitch. It’s a win for both of us. So maybe I’ll just skip the break from writing and go straight for the sexy nerd genius. Yup! That’s a plan. Whew! I feel better already.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Author Behavior And Its Effect On Readers

Elizabeth Black writes erotica, erotic romance, dark fiction, and horror. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four cats.


Have you ever quit reading an author because of the way that author acted on social media?

This question was posed on Facebook by several authors. I saw it on author Rachel Thompson's timeline, and I wanted to know if my readers and other authors had ever done it. I had read about allegations of child sexual abuse against Marion Zimmer Bradley and I was already familiar with charges of homophobia against Orson Scott Card. As I saw on Facebook and elsewhere, the news turned off many readers as well as writers. After all, writers are readers, too.

I asked the same question on m Facebook timeline and I received some fascinating answers.

In many cases, yes, an author's behavior may affect a person's desire to get to know their works. Diana Perrine noted that it's "sometimes it is hard to separate the Art from the Artist. Actors, Musicians, Authors, Painters and Poets. If I like the art, but if I find the artist to be particularly loathsome, I may not patronize him/her." Tess MacKall found certain criminal acts a deal-breaker. "If an author has committed a crime---and I'm not talking about income tax evasion or getting caught with a prostitute---but a real crime such as sexual abuse, murder, rape, etc., I'm never going to read anything by that author again." She said. "And I don't care how talented the author is. I will not put money in the pockets of a person like that." Darren Madigan brought up the career damage misbehavior can cause for an author or celebrity: "If you're really offended by some kind of behavior, then it will doubtless make you not want to have anything to do with the person associated with the behavior….  which is why celebrities lose endorsement deals when they get caught misbehaving. " He said. "It's normal and natural for people to feel alienated from everything they associate with a person when that person behaves in a way that offends them."

Some authors named specific writers. Karen Pokras Toz pointed out a fellow author had forwarded to her an interview by Nicholas Sparks where he puts down women authors. She said "Buh-bye." I've never read Sparks either, and now I definitely won't touch his books since I feel insulted. Jeanne Evans has never read, and will never read, anything by L. Ron Hubbard.

Not everyone agrees with these assessments, however, and these disagreements make some authors controversial. Still, It is helpful to separate the artist from his or her work. Devon Marshall said, "For me it's a case of don't confuse the house with the inhabitant. What an author (or an actor, director, or any creative person) does is create a fiction, whether within a novel or a role or a painting, or whatever. What they do with their creative fiction is not always who they are in reality. Liking a person's work doesn't obligate me to like that person in reality. And vice versa, I can like a person but dislike their work! It should also be borne in mind that what we read about people on social media (be they celebrities or not) may not always be either the whole story or even the truth."

Raye Roeske has had personal experience with poorly-acting or speaking authors. She said, "It's mostly been authors/artists/whatever who have personally been dickish to me or one of my loved ones." More personal experience from a reader: "I had an author follow me on twitter, then not long after they chatted/commented on tweets, even gave me a snippet of their book and once I said I'd bought the book they un followed me (keeping up their follower vs followed numbers) it irritated me so unfollowed them." Xenia Smith said. "They then commented on the fact I'd unfollowed them. Not really the way to keep new readers.

This distaste isn't isolated to authors. Dave Gammon said he was "very turned off a specific director that shall remain anonymous. This individual seems to relish in correcting other people who are simply stating their opinions and impressions and retaliating with his own opinions as abstract as they are as facts. I think its a sign of emotional insecurity to have to railroad someone else's opinion because it differs from their own. I think this individual has definitely tarnished my enthusiasm of seeing anymore of their films."

James Gummer was enjoying one particular author's works, but was turned off later. "I bought all of his books and listened regularly to his podcast," he said. "He acts and talks like he wants to interact with people. But he never responded to any of my emails or tweets when I had questions I wanted to ask." Authors really do need to keep up with their readers. It may be hard, but it's necessary. One key to success is friendly interaction.

One of the worst examples of author behavior I've ever seen was described by John Hancock, who pointed out a possible explanation for some of this behavior. He said: "I think the thing is that SOME authors are very solitary, lacking in social skills, so when they enter social media, they either think they can control or retaliate against fans or readers whose reviews they don't appreciate, or they simply come off as obnoxious jerks.
" He described a rather horrific personal experience: "I once wrote a negative review, in which I pointed out the misogynistic parts of the book I found repulsive (threats of cutting off a woman's breasts, and making her eat them, for example). The author, and a group of his friends hounded me and down voted all my reviews (even those for products unrelated to books) and bragged about targeting me. Eventually I told him enough, I'd remove the review if they'd stop harassing me. Simply not worth it. The sad thing is, everyone once in a while, due to his robo social media campaign, I get requests to follow him on Facebook or twitter. I would never read another book from this person. I wouldn't anyways, due to his repugnant attitudes towards women, but also because he's a bully to bad reviewers. God only knows how many bad reviews he forced to retract, like mine."

Some aren't affected by an author's actions or statements. "I feel missing a good book or movie because of that would just mean I can't keep my thoughts separated and distinct in my head," John Paradiso said. The opposite side would be readers who have picked up an author's books because of their pleasant social media personas. I doubt I would have read Trent Zelazny, Douglas Clegg, KD Grace, or Tom Piccirilli if I hadn't been exposed to them on Facebook. I'd never heard of them before social media, and due to my exposure to them and liking them as people, I discovered their works. John Ross Barnes said much the same thing: "I have bought quite a few books by authors I have discovered to be nice people on social media, and will continue to do so."

Some authors were exposed to new writers via different formats. Christine Morgan said, "I've picked up books I might not have otherwise just because the author seemed cool on a talk show or at a con or something, yes. And I've avoided books for the reverse reason." I recall about several decades ago hearing a show on NPR in which Donald Westlake discussed his new book "The Ax". Westlake was such a delight and the book sounded like such great fun that I soon after went to a bookstore and bought it. I later devoured his Dortmunder books with great delight. Some aren't greatly influenced by what they read online or hear elsewhere. Jenifer Baldwin Stubbs may "try an author because of social media...either I saw something I liked or someone I like recommends, but I don't let news, reviews or public behaviour really influence my reading or watching.

Author radio interviews, book reviews, and author profiles in newspapers and magazines are designed to sell books, but they bring the author into your living room in a very comfortable and easy-going way. You feel as if you're right there with the author. If the book sounds good, you're more likely to buy it if you get a feel for the author.

And finally, Shar Azade made the best point of all: "A lot of the authors I like are dead. So if they suddenly got active on social media ... I'd be a little weirded out, yes."


Here's where to find me on the web:

Elizabeth Black - Facebook

Elizabeth Black - Twitter

Elizabeth Black - Amazon Author Page

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rites of the Savage Tribe

by Jean Roberta

As an erotic writer, I’m always interested to learn about sexual cultures: what a particular demographic considers sexually acceptable, and what is taboo. As an instructor of first-year university courses, I’m interested in the culture of the age-group of my students (approximately 18-22, with some exceptions), as well as the high-school culture that most of them have just emerged from.

Very soon, I will be facing classrooms full of young adults. I will give them stories, poems, novels and essays to read, and I hope they find the printed words meaningful. I strongly suspect that literature written before the twenty-first century will seem outdated to most of them because they won’t recognize the persistence of certain social patterns.

One social event among today’s young that has been acknowledged in the media is the Teenage Sex Party: a group of high school students get together to drink, and (in many cases) indulge in other mind-bending substances. A gang-bang happens, either spontaneously (it seems like a good idea at the time), or pre-planned. In most cases that I’ve heard of, the event is largely spontaneous, though it often starts with one boy and one girl. The rest of the crowd piles on. (If there are same-sex Teenage Sex Parties, they don’t seem widely known.)

I suspect that this event happens much more often than many adults choose to believe. It’s easy enough to legislate a minimum age for drinking, driving, and consensual sex. It’s not really possible to legislate lust, curiosity, or recklessness, and teenagers of all genders have these qualities in abundance.

Note that I’m not expressing approval of the Teenage Sex Party. I’m just saying that it doesn’t freak me out. Many years ago, I was a teenage girl. Less long ago, I was the mother of a teenage girl.

Now here is the catalyst that propels a local event into the stratosphere of public discussion: someone has a recording device and takes pictures, or makes a little porn-movie of the event. Someone posts this on YouTube or some other social-media platform. The images go viral. The girl or girls in the Sex Party (who are usually outnumbered by boys) become targets of a lynch-mob of their peers.

In some cases, the girl who has become known as the Scarlet Whore of Whoville (or whatever town it is) changes schools to avoid the stigma, and finds that her reputation has preceded her. If she reads her email, she finds fresh insults and threats every day. She can’t concentrate in class, and wants to drop out of school. She can’t sleep. Her only support comes from her parents, who would like her to recover in a well-guarded facility. In a worst-case scenario, the girl commits suicide.

At this point, there is much hand-wringing in the media. The girl’s red-eyed parents ask why the police have not prosecuted the “rapists” who did this to their daughter. Various experts point out that vulnerable young women need to be better-protected from sexual exploitation. Some form of house arrest is often recommended, along with more old-fashioned parental “discipline.”


The frequent aftermath of the Teenage Sex Party, in which a girl is deprived of human status because of her perceived sexual behaviour, is parallel to the disfiguring, flogging, or murder of “fallen women” in cultures that practise fundamentalist religion in its most medieval forms. There is nothing especially modern or high-tech about any of this; it took place in the time of Christ, as recorded in the Bible. (Christ was against it.)

Let’s reconsider the party itself. In a case that was recently discussed on a daytime television talk show, the girl who was the centre of attention explained that she went to the party with the intention of having sex with one boy (presumably her boyfriend at the time). Another boy entered the room, and both boys persuaded her to let them take turns. By this time, everyone involved was highly intoxicated and higher than a kite, so it was hard for the girl to remember everything clearly. At some point, she became aware that the fourth guy had been replaced by a fifth guy. She couldn’t identify him, but she knew he hadn’t asked her permission.

The talk show host asked Scarlet (as I’ll call her) her if she knew the difference between sexual attention and sexual exploitation. He made it very clear that there was only one right answer to this question. She said yes, and agreed that what was done to her had crossed the line. The host then assured the girl’s anxious parents that the local police were wrong when they said the boys couldn’t be charged. The host promised to look into the case himself.

Are you uncomfortable yet?

Scarlet was clearly disturbed by the host’s promise to her parents that oh yes, those five boys could and should be punished. She said she didn’t think they should get criminal records. She seemed admirably loyal to the truth: the event had not been a clear-cut assault, and she had not been simply a victim of unwanted sex. She was still a victim of something that began right after the sex-party.

It’s incredibly hard for a teenage girl to maintain her integrity by telling the truth about her sexuality in the face of social pressure. In my day, there was rarely any objective evidence, but rumours abounded. When numerous classmates asked me whether it was true that I had “done it” with the boy who was bragging about this, I denied it. Admitting it would have opened up an abyss of shame in which I was afraid of being trapped for the rest of my life. Then, when boys asked me why most girls lie so much about what they really want and what they’ve really done, I cringed. I didn’t want to be a liar or a hypocrite, but I didn’t see any viable alternative.

Let’s think about sexual hypocrisy with regard to Scarlet and the boys from the party. Did the boys acquire terrible reputations at school because they were recognizable from the video on YouTube? Did anyone propose that the person who recorded the event without Scarlet’s consent (and who might not have been a participant) should be convicted of a crime?

I would like to see a talk show with a different focus on the Teenage Sex-Party and its aftermath. Who were the ringleaders of the smear campaign against Scarlet, and why was no one talking about appropriate penalties for them? Where were the parents of these underage thugs? How many of them will grow up to become sexual bullies at work? Will any of them become police officers who use their power to abuse or even kill innocent civilians?

Something is definitely rotten in Denmark, so to speak. And it’s not a loss of sexual purity among young women.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

I Have Only Myelf to Blame


If Only My Mind Would Shut Up And Let Me Write

by Kathleen Bradean

In the past two years, I can’t remember having written a short story. A couple weeks ago I got the urge to dive back in, probably because my erotic horror novel is once again on ice and my fantasy novel (under a different pen name) was just released so I have writing time. It didn’t hurt that I had a vision or flash of inspiration or whatever you want to call it that gave me a story to write. Or, at least, a starting point.

The smart thing to do would have been simply to write the little bit I saw in my vision and run with it, but of course I had to ruin things by thinking about it. Instead of pondering why these people were there doing that sexy thing together, I obsessed over *that* point in a story, the one where the sex begins.

Even if I were to begin a story with lovers stumbling into a room, groping and kissing frantically before they decide the bed is way the hell over there, so why don’t they just do it against a wall (something that looks super hot on film but in real life demands the flexibility of a contortionist or freakishly misplaced sexual organs, which I’m sure happens, but not, alas, to me), that’s not where the sex began. It started before the door slammed open and this couple stumbled into the darkened hotel room even if technically that’s where the physical act began. The point I’m looking for is when sex began on the mental plane, which was much further back in the time line.

Say my two characters meet in a hotel bar. Both are enjoying a hot jazz trio before toddling off the bed after a long day of being whatever high powered job erotica characters have now. Is being a billionaire a profession? Anyway, they lock gazes across the room. Suddenly, they’re thinking about sex. Mutual attraction isn’t enough though. I can close my eyes and inhale deeply in the bakery without tasting their donuts, after all. It’s movement in the right direction, but thinking that the guy across the way has a great butt and pretty eyes too doesn’t mean you’re going to let him finger you in the glass elevator on the way up to your hotel room. (or maybe it does. I don’t judge)

Now my characters interact. The seduction begins, maybe with a drink sent over, or maybe she takes the bar stool next to his. You may approach it differently, but this is where sex starts in my stories. It may happen off page, before the opening lines of my tale, but it happens. Even when my characters know each other, I think it’s sexy as hell to think of them flirting with each other and appreciating that even in a long term relationship, sex isn’t always a given. I have to know my characters went to the trouble to woo their partners, or the sex against the wall won’t hold my interest.

I’m not saying the seduction needs to be drawn out, or the conversation has to be sexual. What I want to see—what I want to write—is that point where sex goes from a possibility to a certainty. And yes, it’s erotica, so it’s expected that sex will happen, but I’d like for readers to feel that it isn’t a given until that magical turn of mind occurs. But seeing as it is sort of a magical thing, I have to mull it over for a long while before I write my story.  I’m trying to grasp an elusive thing.  Deep down, I know there’s no formula to getting it right on the page, but that never stops me from dissecting stories that work to try to figure out why.  It’s a curse.