Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Exposure


Today I’d like to talk about how exposed we writers are every time we put pen to paper, or fingers to
keyboard. Once a writer friend, who doesn’t write erotica or romance, ask if I would read her work in progress. The woman is a fabulous writer, so for me it was no hardship. I enjoyed the read so much that I had to remind myself I was supposed to be ‘being critical.’ Later, as we discussed the book, she surprised me by saying how relieved she was that I had liked the love scenes. She had been concerned, even paranoid, that perhaps they didn’t work. They did. Beautifully.

That got me thinking about just how neurotic I am as a writer, about every piece of fiction I write. I’m not so neurotic now about writing sex and romance, at least not as neurotic as I used to be. Lots of writers, however, claim they can’t write sex well or they simply don’t like to write it at all. That’s fair enough. I don’t like to write crime investigation scenes. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t do them well, so I don’t write crime. But unfortunately this sex and romance -phobia often leads to dismissing anything romantic or sexy as not worthy to be considered serious writing, therefore not worth writing and certainly not worth reading.

Writing fiction to share with anyone less indifferent than the cat is a bit like exposing oneself on High Street. As a writer, I never feel more vulnerable than when I’m offering up a nice, fat slice of my inner workings. And that’s exactly what happens when anyone attempts fiction. No matter how unconscious it may be, it’s all about me, Me MEEEE! It may not seem like me, I strive to make sure it doesn’t, and yet I’m still there on every single page. I’m not the story I tell, and I’m not my characters, but my unconscious is always there at the core, the driving force, not only, for the tale but for my own creative process as well.

Since I write, knowing it’s all about me, my neurotic little mind is racing, going wild, wondering just what conclusions readers will draw as to just HOW it’s all about me? I expect people to be bright enough to know that I’m not the secret agent, the lawyer, the prima ballerina, the space ship captain. Yet, why is it that if I write one sex scene peppered with a bit of romance, I suddenly fear everyone will believe K D really DOES steal vegetables for lewd purposes, or that K D really IS a member of some secret sex cult? And is that such a bad thing? People will believe what they believe, and I would be a very rich author, indeed, if I had a dime for every time someone has asked me, or my husband, if I actually did all the naughty things in my novels. I’d be willing to bet no one ever asks that of Thomas Harris. But when the fiction I write deals with the emotions that revolve around sex and love, I feel more vulnerable, more exposed, somehow more flawed.

One of my favourite quotes on the topic comes from a wonderful essay by Wallace Shaw on why he likes to write about sex. He writes, “If I'm unexpectedly reminded that my soul and body are capable of being totally swept up in a pursuit and an activity that pigs, flies, wolves, lions and tigers also engage in, my normal picture of myself is violently disrupted. In other words, consciously, I'm aware that I'm a product of evolution, and I'm part of nature. But my unconscious mind is still partially wandering in the early 19th century and doesn't know these things yet.”

Writing sex and romance is that unexpected reminder that we can be swept away in our animal passions just like all the rest of the animal kingdom. That implies a loss of control, an unfitness for civilized society. Banishment from the social group is an age-old punishment for what is considered improper behaviour in the tribe. Though we may no longer be sent into the wilderness to fend for ourselves with only a rusty knife, the archetypal fear of being ostracized still remains and, along with it, the neurotic idea that surely we must have something to feel guilty about. I suppose we might
chalk that up to two thousand plus years of introctrination on original sin.

A writing teacher told me once that the best stories, the ones with the most power to grip, are those that come from the place inside us that makes us the most uncomfortable. Nothing any teacher ever told me has stuck with me so powerfully, nor served me so well. The place that embarrasses us, that frightens us, the place where we have the least control, that’s the places where story begins. It’s the place where our characters come alive, the place where their love and sex and violence and fear and celebration compel the people to whom we’ve exposed ourselves  -- our readers -- to keep reading to the end. And, hopefully, if we’ve exposed just the right bits, those readers will eagerly come back for more.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Call for Submissions: Coming Together Under the Mistletoe

Coming Together: Under the Mistletoe 
Edited by Delilah Night

Deadline: September 1, 2016 

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow because we’ll be heating up this sexy December anthology.

I am looking for your best winter stories. Are your characters cuddled up inside while a blizzard rages, or are they snowbirds spending Christmas Day on the beach in the tropics? Who belongs on Santa’s Naughty List? Is your billionaire a Scrooge? Is this the year they come out to their family? Do they have a special someone to kiss when the ball drops?

While the theme is winter, you may also add in your favorite December holiday, but this is not mandatory. I’m looking for compelling stories with compelling characters and a rich plot as well as beautiful poetry.
Guidelines

  • Your story should be set between December 1 and December 31 whether explicitly or implicitly.
  • All orientations, ethnicities, pairings, and interpretations of “winter” are encouraged.
  • All sub-genres and time periods welcome (contemporary, historical, paranormal, sci-fi, steampunk, you name it).
  • All heat levels from sweet and romantic to down and dirty—as long as it is plot driven.
  • HEA/HFN preferred, but not required.
  • Stories up to 7,500 words
  • Poetry is welcomed and encouraged
  • No underage, no scat, no non-consent, no incest

Coming Together is a charity organization. You retain all rights to your stories, and previously published stories and poetry are welcomed (as long as you hold the rights).

Please use Times New Roman font, size 12, and double spaced with one inch margins. No extra lines between paragraphs. Set indentations to .5 – do not use tabs or spaces to indent. Use .docx, .doc .rtf formats only.

Submit your final, best version of the story by email to delilahnight@gmail.com. Use the subject line “Under the Mistletoe [your story title] [your penname]”

Do not send multiple versions of the same story. Up to two stories/three poems will be considered from each author. Include your legal name (and pseudonym if applicable and be clear which one is which), mailing address, and up to 250 word bio. Do not paste your story into the body of your message.

You will be notified as to the status of your story by no later than October 1, 2016.

Coming Together is a non-profit organization, and all Coming Together authors and editors have generously donated their talents to various causes. Compensation for inclusion in this work is a PDF contributor copy of the finished product and your name on Santa’s Nice List (or Naughty, if that’s your preference). You retain all rights to your story. All proceeds go to Project Linus, which provides home-made blankets and hats to children in crisis.

Questions? Email me at delilahnight@gmail.com

Life Hacks For Writers

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

Her new m/m erotic medical thriller Roughing It is out! This book is a sexy cross between The X Files and The Andromeda Strain. Buy it at Amazon!


You've seen those web articles about life hacks. Stuff like pouring iced tea into ice cube trays so your tea doesn't dilute. Punching holes in the lid of an orange juice container so that it may function as a water pitcher for plants. When freezing raw meat, flatten it out in the plastic baggie as much as possible to cut down on thawing time. You get my drift. Have you ever wondered what kinds of life hacks for writers exist? Look no further! Here are a few I dreamed up.

1. Turn your phone off. Get off the Internet. That means no Facebook or Twitter. The point is, cut off contact with the outside world so you aren't distracted. As the meme says, you should be writing.

2. Many writers like to drink while they write, whether it's wine, cocktails, coffee or tea. Or something else. Coffee is elixir of the gods though, according to nearly every writer I've ever spoken to. Keeping the brew hot is a major concern. I use a travel mug that keeps my drinks cool or hot. If you don't want to go that route, but you don't want your coffee getting cold on you, invest in a Mr. Coffee Mug Warmer. I picked up this handy little hint at Positive Writer.

3. Make up your mixed drinks ahead of time. I like Negronis, so my husband and I bought bottles of Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth. We mixed equal parts of each and poured them into a container we keep in the fridge. This way, by making your cocktails ahead of time, you don't waste writing time measuring, mixing, shaking and stirring and getting out of your groove. You pour your drink and BAM! Back to writing.

5. Invest in a water boiler. I use one by Zojirushi. You won't have to wait for your water to boil when you're making coffee or tea. It's in the boiler, ready for you. You can even use the boiler to make ramen. My husband and I take ours with us when we travel for fun or for conventions and retreats. We can have hot drinks 24/7 in our room without having to wander down to the hotel lobby, thanks to the boiler.

6. Collect music compilations that match the mood of what you are writing. When I write those smoldering sex scenes, I like to listen to Enigma and Lords of Acid. Both are incredibly hot. When I write horror and dark fiction, I listen to the Internet radio station Drone Zone. It's full of dark ambient and minimalistic electronic music.

7. If you need to get out of the house because you have a scorching case of cabin fever, go to a location that allows you to stay for a bit with your laptop but does not have wifi. That way, you won't be tempted to spend too much time answering Buzzfeed quizzes when you should be writing. Make sure you bring cash with you so you don't overspend your budget by using your debit card too much. Those coffee shops can be expensive. I also read about the cash idea at Positive Writer.

8. Get exercise balls for your feet so you don't cramp or tire while seated for long periods of time. Another possibility is to get a standing desk. I read about them at Write On Sisters.

These are only a few suggestions for things to do to make your writing life easier and more enjoyable. Do you have any writing hacks? Feel free to tell me about them in comments.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Gift of Time

by Jean Roberta

As I frantically grade student essays from my spring class, which has already ended aside from the exam, I look forward to my sabbatical from teaching, which will last from July 1, 2016 (Canada’s national holiday) until July 1, 2017.

I will have a year to write a book of non-fiction, but I’ll also have time to write new stories and revise older pieces that are unpublished or no longer under contract. I feel as if I have inherited a fortune, counted in hours rather than dollars.

Like most writers of a certain age, I have a large pile of old work. I am usually amazed by the voice of my younger self when I reread something I wrote many years before. When I was in high school, I wrote a surrealistic one-act play about three teenagers: two girls who are very different, the good-natured boy who doesn’t really understand either of them, and their competition for his attention.

When I reread this piece with the intention of bringing it up to date, I was aghast at the retro slang and technology from the 1960s: blackboard and chalk in a high-school classroom with a portable record-player that could be plugged into the room’s one electrical outlet. Rock-and-roll blaring forth from a vinyl record revolving under a scratchy needle. Manual typewriters, like the one on which I first typed this piece.

Hopeless, I thought. This play was written in an era which will never return, and it can’t be made “relevant” (such a sixties term) to Generation Z (or whatever they are called now).

During the recent LGBTgenderqueer/2-spirited Pride Week in the prairie city where I live, I was interviewed in the media as a local Elder of the queer community. This has happened before, and it always amuses me. I was just old enough to drink legally when the first “gay” organization was formed here, but I wasn’t “out” yet. I sometimes point out that I am not one of the first-wave pioneers, the small brave band who are still alive at my age or slightly older (including the few men that survived the AIDS crisis of the 1980s), but who “came out” when this could mean losing everything: parents, children, friends, job, religious affiliation, a place to live.

The search for “roots” in communities that were formerly more marginalized and persecuted than they are now looks to me like a healthy respect for historical truth, and many ordinary people have a piece of it. Youth, in itself, could be considered a disadvantaged and misrepresented life-stage. Someday, the experience of growing up in the early 21st century will be valuable to those who weren’t alive then.

So maybe my older work needs to be “updated” by being presented as historical fiction. (The awkward phrases, like rotting boards in a “character house,” could still be repaired or replaced.)

To give a sample description of the “temps perdu” in my life, here is the opening scene from my out-of-print novel, Prairie Gothic, completed in 1998 and available as an e-book from 2002 to 2006:

The ugly concrete building in the warehouse district looked deserted, and it wore no sign of any kind. If Kelly hadn't seen glimmers of light from between the shutters at the windows and heard the bass thump of recorded music, she would have thought the address in the newspaper was a misprint.

In her second year of university, the fresh-faced young woman was developing a taste for research. She was learning that you could find out whatever you wanted to know if you looked in the right places. On this breezy spring night, the place she wanted to check out was the Den, more often called the club or the bar by the regulars. It was the only gay bar in town.

As Kelly pulled open the heavy front door, a blast of music hit her in the face, carrying the smell of beer and cigarettes. A spasm of anxiety made her breathe faster, and she wondered again how smart it was for her to come here alone. Bars didn't attract her as a rule. Booze and guys usually lost their appeal for her by the end of an evening, and hanging out with a horde of increasingly drunk and loud fellow students seemed like a waste of time to her.

However, the girl craved adventure. She hoped that this bar would be more like a decadent jazz club in Berlin in the 1930s than any of the hangouts she knew. She believed that she could best explore this exotic milieu without the burden of anyone else's fears or desires.

Kelly noticed the huge area in the wall of the entranceway where the plaster had been kicked in during a famous fight. Two months later, it had been badly fixed by a hung-over dyke who claimed to be a drywaller by trade. Since she had donated her time and was currently dating a woman on the board that ran the bar, no one complained openly about the look of the wall.

A very tall, very thin young man asked Kelly for ID, but he looked friendly. Besides, she told herself, she could never be intimidated by a man wearing lipstick and mascara, even if he did apply them better than she could.

The interior of the bar was so dark and smoky that it took a minute for the young woman to notice the eyes watching her. A young man in tight leather pants turned from the cigarette machine to look over the newcomer. Once his cool gaze had skimmed over her breasts, his narrow hips swivelled back toward the faded jeans of a much older, heavy-set man who stood beside him like a guard dog protecting his turf. Both men radiated a sensuality that Kelly had rarely noticed in males, and she felt strangely miffed by their indifference to her. She remembered wishing that guys would leave her alone. In this place, she thought, they just might.

~~~~~~~~

So much has changed since this scene looked contemporary. Yet, considering the recent massacre in an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on “Latino Night,” no one can afford to be complacent.

What do other writers do with older work that expresses a bygone zeitgeist?

Friday, June 24, 2016

What Do You Need?

By Kathleen Bradean

As I was trying to figure out what to write about this month, my thoughts naturally turned to the question of what readers of this blog want to know. What advice or insights do they hope to glean from our entries? The answer depends on individual writers and where they are in their craft, or what they're stuck on right now. So what I'd like to know (and probably some of the other contributors here would also like to find out) is what topics would you like to see us delve in to? What do you need help with? From grammar to tales of how we got started, what is it that you'd most like us to talk about?

We're listening.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Life Without Sex?

By Lisabet Sarai



Back in the days when I was a sex goddess, a fair fraction of my life was devoted to the erotic. If I wasn’t involved in some sort of delightful sexual activity, I was replaying the last such experience, or anticipating the next one. It would be an exaggeration to say that sex was the most important thing in my life, but certainly the notion of life without sex was horrifyingunthinkable.

I remember a conversation with my mother around that time. She would have been in her fifties, past menopause I believe, but considerably younger than I am now. After a rough struggle with addiction, she had embraced religion. “I’m so glad,” she told me, “that I don’t have to worry about sex anymore.”

I was appalled. She had always been an extremely sexual person. Her nude drawings exuded sensuality. I’d acquired my taste for slinky clothes and flashy jewelry from her. That she would willingly give up sexit was inconceivable to me.

Now I understand that she always felt guilty about her sexuality. For her, a decision to forgo sex relieved the discomfort of those feelings (though I wonder whether she really succeeded in sublimating her libido as completely as she would have liked). At the time, however, I really could not imagine a life without sex.

Now, well into my sixth decade, I have a confession to make. I haven’t had sex in months. Even more astonishing, I’m neither totally miserable nor crazy with unsatisfied lust.

The sad truth is that my sex drive has declined as I’ve gotten older. This shouldn’t be surprising, but it surprised me. I guess I underestimated the importance of hormones. There’s also the fact that it’s more difficult to feel desirable as your body ages. I’m moderately well preserved, but still, I’m acutely aware of all the previously perky places that now sag, all the flexible parts that now feel rusty, all the hair that has migrated from attractive to unattractive locations.

Meanwhile, my husband is more than a decade older than I am. His libido has dwindled as well, much to his consternation. Fortunately we’re both intelligent enough (not to mention busy enough) not to dwell on the question to the point of misery, or to blame one another.

It’s not that I have lost interest in sex. I still become aroused when I’m writing, or reading, a steamy scene. And I still have intensely erotic dreams, in which I desire and am desired by both men and women. In fact, as I’ve become older, my dreams have become more explicit and more taboo.

It’s just that, more and more, my sex life takes place in my mind as opposed to in my body. This means I don’t have to deal with annoying physical issues like arthritic joints or a lack of vaginal lubrication. I can imagine myself back in my sex goddess years, or later, during the period when my husband and I were experimenting with swinging and polyamory. I can revel in dreams in which I’m a willing slave, offered by my master to a room of strangers, or a mature but not decrepit woman seducing a delicious young thing who’s drawn to my aura of experience.

Occasionally in my dreams I remember my age. Mostly, I’m still in my twenties, nubile and eager. 
 
As my physical sex life ebbs, my writing takes on a new importance. Writing erotica and erotic romance keeps the flame alive. I can summon the dangerous thrill of an anonymous encounter or the deeply fulfilling connection with a love-time lover. I can revisit my many adventures, reshaping them for my readers, or create new ones.

It’s all happening in my mind, but my body reacts, too. I’m not usually aware of my arousal while I am writing, but later I often find myself drenched. And fundamentally, that’s the mystery that keeps me coming back to erotic fictionthe near magical way that a story, a mere figment of my imagination, can trigger physical reactions.

So ultimately, I don’t have live without sex after all. And hopefully, I never will.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sexy Snippets for June



Happy Summer! It's time to turn up the heat with another round of 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.

Please post excerpts only from published work (or work that is free for download), not works in progress. The goal, after all, is to titillate your readers and seduce them into buying your books!

Feel free to share this with erotic author friends. It's an open invitation!

Of course I expect you to follow the rules. One snippet per author, please. If your excerpt is more than 200 words or includes more than one link, I'll remove your comment and prohibit you from participating in further Sexy Snippet days. I'll say no more!

After you've posted your snippet, feel free to share the post as a whole to Facebook, Twitter, or wherever else you think your readers hang out.

Enjoy!

~ Lisabet

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Long History Behind The Stanford Rape Case: Why Society Still Says Women Who’ve Been Raped Deserve It

By Donna George Storey

Stories make us writers. And within our stories, we know that each of our characters has her or his own story to tell. I’ve always had a particular fascination with “he said, she said” stories, perhaps because of the delightfully humorous “Watching” by J.P. Kansas in The Mammoth Book of International Erotica, one of the first literary erotica anthologies I ever read. There is something especially satisfying about experiencing the same situation through different eyes.

Unfortunately, we’ve all had to make sense of a profoundly troubling “he said, she said, and then he said only six months” story in the recent news when Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to a surprisingly light sentence in the county jail (three months with good behavior) for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster in January 2015. The victim’s eloquent statement has resonated with millions of people. In a neighborhood parents’ discussion group, a woman wrote in and said that after reading that statement, her stepdaughter revealed that she’d been on a date with a man who forced her to perform a sex act against her will a few months before. Reading the victim’s statement made her feel she was less alone in an experience that had filled her with a sense of violation and shame. The woman wanted to know how she could convince her stepdaughter to press charges. I haven’t seen the community’s replies yet, but I don’t have much faith that victim would get justice from our legal system in a “date rape” situation that did not involve injuries or underage sex.

It is always difficult to get a conviction in a rape case, in particular an “intent to rape,” as happened with Brock Turner. His victim had convincing evidence on her side, although she was still subject to the same humiliating cross-examination about her character and dress that all rape victims must face in the legal process (you know, just to be sure before she passed out she didn’t actually consent to an act which resulted in lacerations and pine needles in her vagina, but then whimsically changed her mind later). She suffered documented physical injury and the assault happened while she lay unconscious behind a dumpster--a dirty, uncomfortable, public place. Most importantly, two male graduate students saw Brock Turner humping the victim’s inert body and realized something was wrong because the woman on the ground was not moving at all. Because the victim was unconscious, there was very little “she said” to the story, but the male graduate students provided a powerful additional “he said” to her side.

As my loyal readers are aware, I am currently doing research for a historical novel set in the early twentieth century. To a researcher, all things come to seem relevant to her work, and indeed I realized that attitudes towards sex and women’s behavior in 1910 provide a clue as to why Aaron Persky could be so sympathetic to Brock Turner. If we hope to make a real change in the way rape is viewed and dealt with today, we need to examine how the prejudices and assumptions of one hundred years ago are still with us.

The main attitude toward rape was, and apparently still is, that a woman who claims rape deserves what she got, because she put herself in the position where sexual activity could happen. There may be a few exceptions—if a stranger breaks into her house, for example, or a soldier from a hostile army treats her as war booty. However, a "respectable" woman always made sure to stay in a safe place under the supervision of her family, especially male protectors, to avoid sexual violation. Whether or not she was an actual prostitute, a woman who acted like one was giving up the security of that male protector of us all--the Law.  Or in other words, if a woman was not respectable, a man could feel free not to respect her refusal or fear legal punishment when it came to having sexual relations with her.

In 1910, one slip on one occasion was enough for a woman’s swift demotion from the respectable to the available.

A woman was not respectable if she was under the influence of alcohol. Respectable women didn’t drink. Drinking alcohol in public was a sign of sexual availability.

A woman was not respectable if she wore make-up or dressed in a way that got attention. Prostitutes “painted” their faces and wore bright clothes as an advertisement of their business. Wearing make-up and dressing in a flashy way was a sign of sexual availability.

A woman was not respectable if she went out alone especially at night, if she agreed to go to a man’s room or retire to a place with him out of the sight of others. By placing herself in the company of men who were not her protectors, she was saying yes to anything they may care to do to her.

A woman was not respectable if she was African-American. All African-Americans were considered to be inherently immoral and African-American women were assumed to welcome sexual attention from anyone at any time. Not only during the period of slavery but well after, no white man was ever indicted for the rape of a black woman.

A woman was not respectable if she had sexual experience outside of marriage. And until recently, any sexual act initiated by her husband, no matter how violent or unwanted, was not legally defined as rape. As John Burnham writes in Bad Habits: Drinking, Smoking, Taking Drugs, Gambling, Sexual Misbehavior, and Swearing in American History:

“... Women were supposed to be pure or at least virgins until they married and men, who were still constrained to uphold conventional standards verbally in public, were presumed in actual behavior to be beasts who could not resist sexual temptation, who sowed wild oats when young and whose passions would impel them to commit adultery with any available woman on an occasion—with tacit community approval. As a YWCA spokesperson noted in 1899, ‘society excuses the sin in men; in the women never.’” (p. 179)

This is but a partial list of “she deserved it” behavior. If followed to the letter, any woman concerned for her safety must wear a gray sack and no make-up, never drink alcohol, never have sexual experience or desires outside of marriage, never go out in public without proper protection and never be alone behind closed doors with a man. These restrictions on an adult’s autonomy seem ridiculous today, but these same assumptions lie behind the questions Brock Turner’s lawyer asked the victim. Does the color of the cardigan she wore make a difference in determining whether or not she was raped? Indeed, such questions are designed to determine if a woman invited or otherwise "deserved" the rape according to the old-fashioned double standard of sexual morality. Were the clothes Brock Turner wore that night scrutinized as a key to deciding his guilt?

Because men controlled the law and moral discourse, and still control it to a degree that Aaron Persky well reveals, “he said, she said” always favors the “he.” A friend and I were discussing how traditionally a sexual encounter would only be termed “rape” if a male third party provided evidence or confirmation that the encounter did not appear consensual and/or the woman was verified to be too pure or high-status to say yes to sex with the accused. Screaming, resistance, and/or violence were necessary. A man doing sexual things to an unconscious woman would qualify as a violation for most observers as well, and it certainly helped her reputation if the woman was murdered during the encounter. If the woman was awake and suffered unwanted sexual advances quietly, consent was assumed. I wondered how things would be different if the opposite were true—what if every man required a woman eyewitness to confirm the encounter was consensual or it would be assumed he was a rapist? How would that change the nature of sexual encounters? And yet today most victims of rape face a similarly impossible bar of proof.

Aaron Persky’s sentence has ignited a passionate discussion on the internet—about drinking and sexual assault on campus, about the role of the legal system in victimizing the victim, about what can be done to change the status quo. Change will not be easy, but one positive step is talking more openly about sexual experiences, both good and bad, and challenging outdated assumptions that blind our judgment. Telling our stories honestly, as Brock Turner’s victim did, is the best place to start.

Donna George Storey is the author of Amorous Woman and a 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

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

When You Poke the Sex, What Comes Out?

One of my favorite erotica stories is by Patrick Califia. (No surprise there.) “No Mercy” (which can be found in his collection of the same title) centers Terry, who is in an abusive D/s relationship with Heather, and on the cusp of finding her way out of it. The story begins as they approach a piercing shop to finally get the genital piercing that Terry has wanted for a long time. Her body could not accept the piercing from Heather, she kept safewording as the moment was approaching, so they decide to go to a professional piercer. The first 8 or so pages are filled with the lead-in to the piercing. Heather thinks of the piercing as a last ditch effort to save the relationship, and Terry thinks of it as another step away from the relationship. The tension in the story builds until the piercing is done, and once it is complete, Terry bursts out with a flow of words. The piercer, a leatherdyke herself who becomes a key character in the rest of the story, explains, “Once you poke a hole in somebody, something frequently comes out.” The piercing, which is hot in and of itself and also incredibly satisfying, is also holding so many other things for all the characters involved. It is this transformational moment, this intensely loaded thing.

Sex and kink can hold so much in them, and Califia is one of those writers that deeply embraces this reality, and uses the sex and kink in his stories to nudge the reader to grapple with the things he cares about. He’s pretty upfront about it too. In his essay, “A Insistent and Indelicate Muse”, printed in M. Christian’s brilliant collection The Burning Pen: Sex Writers on Sex Writing, Califia says:
“I like to use the cover of eroticism to entice the reader and make them emotionally and psychologically vulnerable to new ideas or discomfiting information. I hold out the reward of dirty talking in exchange for the reader stretching their political muscles.”
Califia is upfront about wanting the reader to stretch, to see the things that sex is holding inside itself, to grapple with those things in reading his stories.

When I started writing erotica, it was about reaching for my desire, trying to envision it and make it real for myself. My early erotica is full of my fantasies about BDSM, but more than that, about my fantasies of being seen, witnessed, and met in the wholeness of who I am, particularly around gender. I wrote a story about being seen and desired as trans by cis gay men. I wrote about being witnessed and desired as a genderqueer femme by queer trans men. I wrote about being desired as a submissive boy by a trans man, and as a femme dyke by a butch dyke.

These stories, these fantasies, were as much about gender and queerness as they were about spanking, or pain play, or sucking cock in a bathroom or an alley. They were imagining a sexual universe where I was able to be in the fullness of myself, and be desired. Because I was worried about that, worried about whether I was desirable in my gender complexity. Worried about whether the kind of queer kink I wanted was possible.

I am not worried about those things as much now; I bring other needs to my writing. But they often are still rooted in that desire to be recognized, that desire to create moments of recognition for readers, that desire to open up space that allows us to be in the wholeness of ourselves during kink and sex.

Erotica has been a place where I play with the ways we can feel seen and met in our desires, honored for all of who we are, witnessed and held in our vulnerability, as we show ourselves to our partners. That’s been a common thread in my erotica over the last 15 years of writing, because I find it to be one of the most gloriously hot aspects of sex and kink. I titled my recent queer kink erotica collection Show Yourself To Me to evoke that aspect of my work, to draw attention to the ways it is rooted in that place of yearning and meeting, of holding and celebrating, of showing who you are and being shown in return.

In a recent round table discussion on sex writing, Larissa Pham, who writes one of my favorite sex columns, Cum Shots, said:
“With Cum Shots, people would text me (saying), ‘Oh my God, you broke my heart again.’ This isn’t happy writing a lot of the time. Sex is just a way to talk about other things. You poke sex and a bunch of stuff comes out: power comes out, abuse comes out, emotions come out, trauma comes out, race relations come out.”
For me, writing stories about sex and kink has been a way to write about other things that I care about. You poke the sex and kink in my stories and a bunch of other stuff comes out, including the very things that Pham names in the quote above. Sex and kink is the arena where all that stuff takes place, shows its face, gets grappled with and held. I use my stories to illuminate ways I have found to create safe enough containers within sex and kink that can hold the things that come out when you poke.

When you poke the sex you are writing, what comes out? How do you grapple with that as a writer? How do you create stories that can hold it? How do you decide what stuff your story can hold, and where you need to limit that? What do you use sex to talk about?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Call for Submission: A Special Charity GLBT Anthology



Hope for Pulse – Hate Will Never Win

From the ashes of tragedy, hope will survive. When faced with hate, love
will survive. The constant balance of positive and negative is something
that lives in all of us. Help us focus on the positive and not the
negative; put aside politics and focus on the people; give strength and
hope to those that remain.

Submissions should:

- All stories should all have hope and love as the focus of the story;
stories should be GLBT pairings

- Be a minimum of 5k, maximum of 10k – stories will be combined into a one
volume anthology

- Any subgenre is welcome and all prohibitive guidelines are observed

- Submissions should be sent to special_submissions@mlrpress.com

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: June 25, 2016, anthology will release July 22, 2016
and all proceeds will be donated to Equality Florida’s fund for the victims
and families of the Pulse Shooting

Any questions can be sent to Kris Jacen at KrisJacen@mlrpress.com

***Permission to forward***

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Feedback - Nits, Crits and Reviews...



By Ian Smith


One of the great features of being a contributor to the ERWA is the "storytime" mailing list, where we can post pieces of our work for constructive feedback. Of course, reading this can sometimes be disheartening, but I strongly believe that knowing what readers make of your work is a key step to becoming a better writer. Once I started offering feedback, I found it helped my own writing, particularly if I could mentally "step back" and be fairly objective about my work.

I'm sure every writer feels insecure and hopes for "wow, this is great". Realistically, the best we'll ever get is a variation on "this is good, hope I can help you make it even better".

So, if you want to give a writer some feedback, how can you be helpful?

The first thing is to remember that the writer doesn't have to agree with you. It is their work, after all!

The simplest form of feedback is to tell them what you thought or how you felt about the story as a whole. You don't have to write a lot. Simply knowing that it engaged and entertained a reader can make a big difference to the writer's confidence, especially if they're having a rough patch and doubting themselves. If you really liked something, maybe the characters, dialogue or "action" scenes, say so. 

And why not make it your feedback? All you have to do is use "I" rather than a generic "you" or "the reader".

If you want to give more detailed feedback, this is typically in the form of "nits" and "crits".

Nits are details like punctuation, grammar, spelling, misplaced name tags, confused descriptions of action and so on. These are things an editor would look out for in a submitted manuscript. Remember that UK and US English have differences in spelling, vocabulary and usage.

Ideally "crit" means a constructive critique, not criticism in the everyday sense - someone put time and effort into writing that piece and will feel anxious about how it's received. Critiques may be fairly general comments about how you found the style, plot, use of dialogue, or the way characters are described, or they can be more in-depth, such as suggestions on how to rephrase sections.

Reviews posted on book purchasing sites are what published writers want. Positive reviews encourage potential purchasers to buy. Amazon's system means a book is more likely to be suggested to customers once a certain number of reviews have been posted. Fake reviews can be purchased, but thankfully Amazon is taking steps to minimise this. I've seen claims that Amazon makes apparently arbitrary judgements about the reliability of some reviews, especially where they consider the author and reviewer to be "friends".

Any Amazon customer can post a review, and if they got the book from Amazon, they're shown as a "verified purchaser". Their system doesn't always share comments between the UK and US sites, so I have accounts with both and post the same review on each. If I bought the book from the UK site, I say so in the US review. If I was offered a free copy, I only accept it on the basis that I'll post my honest opinion, and I say so in the review.

I'm not a fan of structured reviews which summarise the story, as these can unwittingly include "spoilers". I try to say, in general terms, what I enjoyed about a book and acknowledge anything I didn't, basically what I'd say to a friend who asked me about the book. If I read a story to the end, I must have enjoyed it, so there are always things I can write about.


Now and again, we'll all come across a book we really don't like, either because it's not our sort of story or because we didn't like the way it was written. Do you post a bad (honest) review, or just not bother? I'll leave that to you.

Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker: The Hard Part By M.Christian



THE HARD PART

Thinking of a story isn't usually the hard part. Sometimes the plot doesn't work, or it's too much like everything else I've ever read or seen on the big or small screen.

But other times it just works. On those occasions, I can see the story and visualize it as a series of scenes. Parts of it are so clear they feel as though they were written right in the forefront of my mind. I know it's going to be good. That's wondrous.

Writing the story can be challenging, but it's not really hard. There are times when it's not what I've seen in my head, and it just falls apart: the words fail, the descriptions are tired, the great plot in my mind turns to crap on the page ... but then occasionally something else pops up, and something that was almost too small to notice in the original story flares up into a brilliance (if I do say so myself).

Don't ask me the secret, because I don't know it. Not everything I write is great and not everything is garbage. If there is a literary legerdemain, it might be that you just have to write ten pieces of crud to produce one priceless jewel. That's a lot of crud, but when you hold that jewel in your hand and know that you made it, the feeling is indescribable. That's why it's possible to keep writing, even when so many of the stories turn out to be awful: you know that if you keep working, one of them could be the special one. But that's not the hard part.

Polishing and re-writing can be a bitch, but that's not the hard part either. Sometimes it's quick and easy: my copy editor can't find any mistakes, my spell checker breezes through the thing without a beep or a hiccup, or maybe something better pops into my mind for a scene. Then there are times when I kick the tires and the engine falls out: I show it to a pal and that wonderful plot device bores him stiff. Beautiful writing suddenly reads clunky and overblown or just flat and lifeless. Sometimes I read it again and realize that what I thought was a jewel is a mud pie. But that's not the hard part, because I can put the story in a drawer and forget about it, or try again.

Finding a place to send a story can be hard, but it's not the most trying part of the job. There are times I work to spec: a call for submissions flashes across my attention, and—bang—the story gets written and sent out. Other times I work just because I want to. These are often great stories, but selling them can be a stone cold bitch. Maybe there's not enough sex, or maybe there's too much; maybe there's too much fantasy/science fiction/horror, or most often, not enough. So the story gets stuck in a drawer somewhere, and next time when one of those calls for submissions comes out, the story goes. Sometimes, they never find a home. Orphaned and unwanted, they sit in my various machines and gather digital dust. That's sad, but it's not terribly painful, because occasionally I take them out of their electronic sleep and fall in love with them all over again. Knowing they are there, and that I wrote them, somehow makes it all okay.

As for finding those places, I have a network of spies and friends who zap them to me, and I spend slow afternoons crawling the web. I look over publications that I think I might like to write a story for, or I might have a stored masterpiece that could work for them.

The hardest part happens after all the preceding come out just right: the idea gels, the writing flows, a perfect market opens up ... and then the rejection slip arrives. I say this often, and I really feel it's true: writing isn't for wimps. Unlike a lot of other hobbies or careers, writing is just you and your imagination alone in a little room. When that rejection slip comes you can't blame the back-up band, the guy who didn't deliver the package overnight, or even God. When that rejection slip comes it's your work, your imagination, on trial.

There is a commandment I try to follow: celebrate the story, not the sale. Relish the writing, and enjoy getting it right on the page. Focusing too much on publishing puts your happiness in someone else's hands. I try to put myself in the editor's place, but even when I recall some of my own decisions as an editor, and when I remind myself how completely subjective those acceptances can be, there's still that sting. They didn't like my story. I failed.

Sniffle.

There is a better solution. It really works, and it's not even all that complex. You will still feel pain when the rejection comes, but if you do this little procedure I can pretty much guarantee the pain will fade.

Keep On Working. Dab your eyes and start again. Think of a story, write it down, try to find a place to send it ... lather, rinse, repeat. Do this enough times and I can all but promise that one day you'll get a contract rather than a rejection. Work, and try to advance: not in paycheck or status, but in the delight you take in writing. Your stories might sit in drawers, they might take up hard drive space, and they might bounce time and time again from one publication to the next, but if you feel good about yourself and your work, then it'll all get easier and better.

If all you care about is the sale, your writing career will be nothing but a series of rejections broken by the occasional sale. If you stop, breathe, and enjoy the art of writing, then the only hard part will be finding enough time to tell your wonderful stories.