Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Friday, May 30, 2014

Reading for Pleasure


It’s so easy for a novelist to get caught up in the work and the PR and the marketing that goes along with the writing. Sometimes it feels like weeks can pass before I raise my head and take a look around. It never all gets done and I wouldn’t want it to. There are books on my internal ‘to-be-written’ calendar that may not get written until 2050. There’s so much more than I ever have time to put on the page, and then there’s promoting and pimping what’s already out there. Days come and go. Seasons change, and sometimes I hardly notice.

But every once in a while, I look up from the laptop, raise my arms above my head and give a good stretch and there it is, an epiphany. I had such an epiphany just before Christmas. It shouldn’t have been a surprise because it’s something I’ve always known, something that I’d just pushed aside because there was no time, something that was too important NOT to make time for.

We were FINALLY taking a little bit of holiday – going to Rome, which is one of my favourite places on the planet. I was in between books, having just turned in my latest manuscript, and was as caught up on PR as I was ever likely to be, so I did something bold and decadent. I downloaded J R Ward’s Dark Lover, and read a novel strictly and totally for my own indulgent pleasure. I wasn’t looking for deeper meaning. I wasn’t aiming to see what’s going on in my genre. I wasn’t trying to learn a new skill or do research. I absolutely, 100% was looking to be entertained.

Frankly, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to focus, since I was still on the come-down from the manuscript I’d just sent off. Wow! Was I wrong! Starving woman … banquet … You get the picture. When I wasn’t wandering around Rome and the environs, drinking in the scenery, the history and the ambiance, I was reading. I read Late into the night; I read early in the morning, I read over breakfast and in the underground. Whenever I wasn’t playing tourist, I was reading –three novels. I was in heaven!  I’m not a fast reader, and okay these weren’t tomes by any means, but for me, it was epic! And it was a powerful reminder of why I read for pleasure, and how much I’d lost by not reading for pleasure.

Time! That’s always my biggest complaint. The bane of my existence is that THERE IS NEVER ENOUGH!!! Who the hell has time to read for pleasure? That was the question I’d been asking myself for the past few years as I worked at becoming a published novelist, as I worked at pimping what I’d written. It’s a complaint I hear often from other writers. It’s a complaint I hear from lots of people, actually.

Amazingly, what I discovered in that exquisite week in Rome is that I can’t afford not to take time to
read for my own pleasure. I seldom actually get an escape from what I do. What I do is never done, and I love that about being a writer. BUT that means I have to force the issue when it comes to feeding my creative self, when it comes to just resting. There’s very seldom a moment when I’m not thinking in one way or another about my work. Writing dominates my life in ways that are, no doubt, beyond neurotic. Reading for pleasure is the great escape – even if it’s just a little while before I go to sleep, or while I’m on the bus or while I’m eating my lunch. It’s that little bit of time when I’m outside the worlds I’m creating and in someone else’s story – strictly for the fun of it.

The Escape is always followed by the return. I go back to my own work more relaxed and more focused because the break I’ve had is a total break. The return is followed by the analysis. That takes place in the shower or while I’m cooking dinner or doing laundry.  The analysis is not hard work; it’s just reflecting on what makes the novel I’m reading work for me, or not. Were the characters endearing? Were they irritating? Did the plot move me? Can I predict what will happen next? Beyond the kind of analysis all writers do when they read something someone else has written is the idea that I’ve derived pleasure from what I’ve read. I’ve engaged in someone else’s story and immersed myself in it. That’s always a prompt for me, a little push to make me consider my own stories and my use of craft to immerse readers in the tale I have to tell. Immersion in my own story is, for me, a given. It’s what I’m most obsessed with. It’s what I have to do to make the story work, to make it a total immersion experience for my readers as well.


Yes, there’s a lot going on at a lot of levels, and reading could very easily become an exercise in improving my own work. No doubt it’s always that on some level, but the truth of it, plain and simple, is that reading gives me immense pleasure, and I’m very glad that it’s once again an integral part of my writing life

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Post-Partum Literary Depression

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.

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I read a Facebook post recently in which the person talked about Post-Partum Depression that results when you finish a project such as a story or painting. You've given birth to something you've created, and in the aftermath you feel down – PPD. He wrote that it's a feeling of emptiness. You don't know what to do. You don't want to watch TV. You don't want to start something new. All you feel is bored, restless, and even a little depressed.

Has it ever happened to you?

I recently went through a case of PPD when I recently finished writing "Full Moon Fever", my (so far) unpublished m/m werewolf erotic romance novel. At first, I was elated. I always celebrate finishing a project and getting an acceptance. My husband and I cracked open a bottle of champagne and made toasts. Granted, I drink champagne all the time, but this called for a new bottle. Delirious with glee, I spent the rest of the day getting tipsy and watching bad movies on TV.

About a day later, the depression hit. It was as if I had come down off a great high. Crashing describes it quite well. I missed my characters. I longed for the joy of seeing what kind of mischief they would get into. There were plenty of things for me to do, including writing a sequel but I felt so spent I couldn't work on anything, including my other works in progress.

I had to do something. Anything. This downer had to go.

After I wallowed in my misery for a day or two, I made a conscious decision to pull out of it. This kind of depression isn't like clinical depression in that I was able to pull myself out of it by distracting myself. What worked for me may not work for you, but here's what I did. First of all, I got away from the computer. For several days, I took a break from writing. I watched movies and my favorite TV shows. The kitchen got a workout because I baked. If it's sickeningly sweet, I'll bake it. This is the time I buy new plants for my container garden. If weather permits, I go for walks on the beach. I finished "Full Moon Fever" in the dead of winter so beach walks were out but scenic drives weren't.

For me, the key was getting out of my head. I needed time to recharge.

Everyone is different. Responses varied to that Facebook post. Some people didn't go through PPD – they celebrated. Others always had new projects in the works so they were working on something all the time. I've done that one myself, but not always. Some edit or sleep more. Others get out into the fresh air.


Do you suffer from Post-Partum Literary Depression? What do you do to alleviate it?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Plausibility

by Jean Roberta

My latest erotic story was written in response to a call for submissions, and it involves the kind of plot/situation that erotic editors often ask for: sex with a Bad Girl/vampire seductress/or Lone Wolf/outlaw dude. Exciting sex between a character with whom the (supposedly average) reader can identify and a mysterious, unsettling Other sounds like a marketable concept. Whether this plot is believable on any level depends on each reader’s level of skepticism.

Persuasive character development depends on convincing the reader that this character would actually do that thing. Some writers, especially those who write first-time erotica (innocent youngish character loses his/her virginity in some sense by doing some sexual thing for the first time) try to pre-empt the reader’s skepticism by putting extreme ambivalence into the character’s consciousness. (“OMG! Did I really just accept the handsome stranger’s invitation to let him take me to his chateau alone? I can’t believe I’m doing this!”) The virginal character’s attempts to hang onto a clean and cautious image of herself (and usually this character is a her) ring false after awhile. Either she will or she won’t go to the home of a strange man. While there, either she will or she won’t take off all her clothes for him and let him tie her up. If she goes “all the way” (as it used to be called) and has incredible orgasms, then clearly she is the “kind of girl” who does that kind of thing. She can no longer honestly claim to be a virgin. Of course, she could still be a good person who treats others as she would like to be treated (and who harms none), but in that case, she needs to reject a shallow definition of “goodness” as sexual ignorance.

Erotica is often about transformations and epiphanies. Doing new things involves acquiring new knowledge, especially knowledge about oneself. This is part of the reason why character-driven erotica is interesting to read. However, critics will criticize a change that looks unbelievably extreme, OR a series of sexual adventures that leave a central character absolutely unchanged on the inside.

Writing plausible erotica is harder than it looks, especially since different readers have different thresholds for the suspension of disbelief.

Crits and complaints in ERWA Storytime and elsewhere often focus on whether Character A would really be attracted to Character B, and what action, threat or proposition can or should be regarded as a deal-breaker. If Character B (the handsome stranger) says, “A pretty girl like you should be stripped naked and tied up,” and if Character A (the ingĂ©nue) then falls into his arms, some readers will complain that she is Too Stupid to Live, and others will say that in real life, she would rush out the door and resolve never to return to the bar – and for good measure, she would stop speaking to the mutual friend who introduced them.

Some readers will ask, “But why would Character A (law-abiding citizen) be attracted to Character B (rake, seductress, criminal, spy, visitor from another planet) when they are so different?” (Obviously, opposites never attract in the real world, even on the rare occasions when they cross paths.)

Sexual identity is actually a slippery thing, but some readers expect clarity: Lance is a gay-male porn star who was performing in the nude since birth. Bob is less flamboyant, but he knows he is attracted to men, and this is made clear to the reader from the outset, even if he won’t admit it aloud. Bob could possibly be seduced by Lance, but Bob wouldn’t make the first move. Bob couldn’t be married with children, and he could never enter Lance’s profession.

Some feminist critics have commented on the general acceptability of female/female sex scenes in sexually-explicit writing – but only if at least one of the characters finds Mr. Right or stays happily married, because she is not really a lesbian. (The real ones always wear labels, or strap-ons.)

During the period of suspense between sending a story to an editor and getting a response, I worry about all the possible reasons why the story might be rejected. A perceived lack of plausibility is high on the list, even if the call-for-submissions asked for vampires, werewolves, zombies, or a Romeo-and-Juliet romance between members of different supernatural species. (But would any self-respecting bloodsucker really . . . ?)

If and when I write my memoirs, I expect them to be rejected by the first 36 publishers on grounds that 1) the story lacks continuity, and 2) it lacks plausibility. For one thing, even if the author/narrator really lost her virginity in her teens, this can’t be stated in print without possible legal repercussions. And would she really have been attracted to the older brother of her Mormon friend? Why did the attraction not develop into a relationship? The plot trajectory needs editing.

I suspect that a certain incoherence is actually typical of real-life narratives, especially if written while the subject is still alive. A fictional version of the story is likely to be pared-down and simplified rather than expanded. Embarrassing, unlikely or seemingly irrelevant events and characters need to be weeded out to give a story the coherence which would give a comforting impression of logical cause-and-effect. I can imagine an editor’s comments on the complete, unexpurgated, five-volume version of my life-story to date: What is the theme here? Where are you going with this?

So I’m waiting to hear what an editor has to say about my story about a passionate encounter between mismatched acquaintances, one of whom needs to escape from the police as well as from a criminal gang, while the other wants to experience the “wild side” just for a night, without taking any big risks. A safe apartment, a safe job and a safe income look almost unbearably desirable to one who never had them, but the one who takes them for granted can’t see it.

What is realistic and what is not? The longer I live, the harder it seems to write fiction with the unmistakable flavour of life, especially if it is based on reality that is stranger than fiction.

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Is There a Man in the House?

By Spencer Dryden (Guest Blogger)

Why don't more men write erotic romance?



I'm very new to writing fiction. I'm also an old guy. I just turned 64. I was 16 when Paul McCartney immortalized that age. At 16 I though 64 was much older and decrepit than it has turned out to be. Nevertheless I am past the peak of my sexual prime and clearly headed into the sunset.


One immediate benefit of writing erotica is that I can make love to any woman I want. In fact, she craves my sexual attention and my wife could care less. How good is that? As my awareness of the field of writing has expanded I have wondered why more men don't write erotica, or more specifically M/F vanilla erotic romance. It's a blast.


It's fair to say, since I'm saying it about myself, that I have been subject to female allure since the first time I felt that stirring in my pants when I saw pictures of naked women. Yes, I am pussy whipped. I love women. I love female sexuality. I have been easily led by the nose (actually by my cock) anywhere any woman has wanted me to go. I have made disastrous choices because of it.


Luckily, I found a woman who has been my wife and soul mate for 25 years, but she too, can get me to do anything she wants. She's so goddamn smart. She knows that the secret to moving men is that we crave to have two things stroked, our egos and our cocks. If she wants anything, all she has to do is make me think its my idea, praise me for it and then reward me. It's like leading a lamb to the slaughter.


Guys, does your wife brag about you? Mine brags about me—not for the tremendous screaming orgasm I bring her (right)— it's the handyman work I do around the house. When my wife is bragging about me to friends, in guy code she is saying, 'my husband's dick is bigger than yours'.


So by now I'm sure your asking, 'what does all this nonsense have to do with men writing M/F erotica'. The answer is: EVERYTHING.


To answer my own question about men writing M/F erotica, my thesis is: It's not that men don't have sexual fantasies or that men aren't good writers, it's that the standard, acceptable expression of erotica is passed thought the lens of the female experience. So yes, guys, we are subject to a kind of deeply rooted discrimination. INCOMING!


When I say deeply rooted, I am talking about all the way back to the dawn of mankind. It was sex that brought us out of the trees. Something happened back when we were two feet tall that caused an explosion in our species almost like a virus. I believe that explosion was triggered by several changes that happened relatively quickly but proved very successful. One of the most important changes was the shift from seasonal estrus to monthly fertility—females became fertile and sexually available on a year round basis. The other was the anterior migration of the vagina—males and females could face each other during copulation.


Prior to the change in the fertility cycle, a female signaled availability by broadcasting pheromones. It drove all the males crazy, we wailed and beat on each other, bringing gifts, building stuff and generally making fools of ourselves for the chance of a little nookie. The big alpha male swept us all away and banged everyone. The pheromones died down and we all went back to living separate lives, eating grapes and picking ticks off each other. That strategy is still working successfully for the other primates we left behind.


Somewhere along the way females got the idea that if they were sexually available all year long, males would be constantly seeking their favor, bringing them stuff, building shit and so on. Then to break the alpha male thing, they realized that if they could face their partner, visual cues could replace pheromones and allow them to have more choice in the selection of mates. The great migration of the vagina began.


The strategy was ingenious. Guys had to keep bringing more and better stuff in order to get laid, but we all had a chance if we could just bring the right stuff. The phenomenon we call civilization was born. It's why I am pussy whipped. I keep bringing stuff and building stuff in order to get laid. (You didn't think I was going to get back to that, did you?)


The only place females fucked up was in selecting big hunky guys (think Romance) as mates, which promoted sexual dimorphism—males much larger and stronger than females. They should have selected more of us regular guys. The slaves they bred became their physical masters.


When the language thing came around, women proved much more facile with this tool. Guys stuck to expressing themselves with clubs and spears. Moreover since females harbored life, they had to develop much more internal sensory awareness than men who merely needed to sense when to eat, shit and fuck.


Then there was writing. At first we wouldn't let females learn this communication tool. When they did, they focused on internal sensory experience. Eventually, completely frustrated by the lack of emotional bonds with their mates, they invented Romance Novels as a means of escape from their dreary enslaved lives. They specified that the standard story trope must be one that focuses on internal sensory and emotional experiences and hold the more physical, visual male fantasy to be an invalid expression.


And that's why we don't have more men writing erotic romance.

About Spencer Dryden

Some men are born great, others strive for greatness; still others have greatness thrust upon them. Spencer Dryden is none of these men. In fact, he's so unimpressive he leaves no footprints on newly fallen snow. He was trained in fiction writing on the job with the many sales reports he produced for his managers, winning the coveted 'Keep Your Job Contest' three years running. His expense reports are still considered masterpieces of forgery by the bankruptcy trustee of his former employer. He lives an unremarkable life in a suburb of a northern city. His friends and family would drop dead in horror if they knew of his secret life as a writer of erotica. He hates the family cat, but still loves to pet his wife.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

There's a Reason It's In The Trunk



Some of our constant readers may remember my monthly contributions titled: Writing This Novel.

The idea was based on a quote by Poppy Z Brite that a writer doesn’t learn how to write novels. Instead, they learn how to write this novel as they’re writing it. My articles followed my thoughts and struggles while writing a novel of erotic horror titled The Night Kreatures. 

I completed the novel and submitted it to a publisher. They (rightly) didn’t care for the first two chapters and asked me to rewrite them. At the time, I was working on the second novel for a series (under a different pen name) and didn’t have time. I put it aside and figured I’d get back to it eventually.

Two years passed.

Several weeks ago, I submitted the third novel in that series to the publisher and was looking for something to work on when a friend mentioned that an agent would be interested in seeing my work. Ulp! I don’t have anything to show an agent! I haven’t written a short story in over a year. Aha! I thought, this is the time to grab out the trunk novel and fix it.

While reading through the completed third draft of the novel I wrote in 2012, I was grateful it wasn’t published yet. I still love the creepy story, but I hate where I started it (thus the problem with the first two chapters). The sequence of events through the middle third makes no sense, although I remember feeling it was vitally important to do things in that order as I wrote it in 2012.

*eye roll* Writers, right?

Why do we make those arbitrary decisions, and why do we get so stubborn about them? Those decisions often turn out great for me, which is why I’ll follow that instinct every time, but other times I mystify myself. Why would I struggle so hard to bend a story to an idea that clearly isn’t working? Every effort to force it showed so clearly on the page when I went back to read it. It was painful to slog through. 

Have you ever gone back to a novel and tried to fix it? Were you able to? Or did everything you tried only make it worse? Do you have a trunk novel you’d like to get back to? What’s stopping you?