Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Space To Write – Having A Room Of One's Own

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 three cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.


Virginia Woolf famously wrote in her essay "A Room Of One's Own" that "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction". While that premise has been criticized most notably by Alice Walker for not recognizing class and women of color, it does provide much insight into the conditions that may be necessary for a woman to have the peace of mind to write in her own space.

When I was 24, I looked for my first apartment and I found one in Laurel, Maryland, equidistant between Baltimore and Washington, D. C. The layout of the apartment as well as the grounds in which it was situated were important to me. I ended up getting a third floor apartment with one bedroom and a den, which was not common in this complex. My balcony faced a lovely courtyard full of trees. I was also directly across from the swimming pool. After I moved in, I used to sit on the balcony after getting home from work at dusk to watch the bats fly around the courtyard. It was a great way to enjoy a glass of wine after a long day and relax in my surroundings.

That den was of vital importance to me because it became my writing room. It also faced the courtyard so I could see the trees from my window. Most mornings and at least for an hour every evening, I sat down at my Brother typewriter and retreated into my own world. I was in a writer's group so I always had something to prepare. I was the sole horror writer in a sea of romance writers, which is ironic considering today I write romances and erotic fiction as well as horror and dark fiction. I never published anything mainly since I had no idea where to send my stories. I merely enjoyed the art of writing and sharing with the group.

I took the lessons I learned from having my own room and money and applied them since. Today, I don't have a writing room but I do have space of my own and the means to write unencumbered because my husband is the primary breadwinner in our household. I'm aware many women do not have that luxury. I'm grateful that I do. Woolf might have underestimated the amount of money a woman needed to have the freedom to write, but I recognize that she's talking about having the freedom to write without having to endlessly worry about day to day troubles such as putting food on the table or paying the electric bill. It's hard to write when your children are going hungry. I’m also aware many women write under such conditions and do a wonderful job at it. I don't earn enough to support myself on my writing. I don't know many writers who do. They need to either have financial support from elsewhere like parents or a spouse or they hold day jobs.

My point is that women somehow need some sort of space where they can go to get in "the zone" to write. We're in the process of moving, and the apartments we're looking at will continue to give me the freedom to write. We live in Rockport, Massachusetts, which is on the Massachusetts coast. I'm a five minute drive to the beach. It's fairly expensive to live here, and I've been looking for a reasonably-priced place that isn't a summer rental that also accepts cats. We did find a gem that would be perfect for us, but it's in a city nearly a half hour away from here. The price and space were very hard to turn down, but we realized we'd give up far too much to move out of the small town we've lived in for 17 years. I'd have to give up my daily walks on the beach with my first mug of coffee for the day. I'd give up drives along the coast. My favorite beach chocolate and ice cream shop. Our favorite family-run eateries. The Fourth of July bonfire on the beach. The lighting of the Christmas tree downtown complete with free cups of hot cocoa. Santa Claus arriving in Rockport harbor on a lobster boat to greet the town for the holiday season. I might have had a room of my own in the house out of town, but I'd have been miserable. I can't write when I'm miserable.

I don't like where we now live. The entire apartment complex is run down and the apartment itself is in dire need of repair. This new place gives us hope. An example of it is pictured above. The grounds are lovely. I need a beautiful view. I would have difficulty feeling inspired with a view of a parking lot to the local supermarket. I can have an outdoor garden to grow my herbs, peppers, and flowers. We might even be able to have a smoker outside. During the warmer months, the patio or deck (depending on whether we get a ground or second floor apartment) will become another room where we will enjoy meals and drinks on lazy days. I can even get a laptop and write outside if I wish.

Having the peace of mind to write is as important as the stories I write. Although I hate where we live now, I am fortunate enough to be in a position to write without disturbance. While I don't have a room of my own, I do have headphones I put on to listen to music while writing. I go inside my head to find the inspiration I need. Once we move to a much nicer place, I will have more freedom and more ease to write. I need that since I've had a bad case of writer's block since January, when my mother and one of my cats died one day apart from each other. I can occasionally write, but not as frequently as I had before January. In fact, I just finished and handed in an erotic romance fantasy story for an anthology. So the drive is still there. It's just hard to come by.

Virginia Woolf was on the right track when she said women need money and a room of their own to write. I've found that room doesn't have to be a physically space for her alone. It can be a state of mind. Many women write while living in dire circumstances such as poverty or a bad marriage, but it is much more difficult for them than it is for a woman with enough money to live comfortably and with support from friends and family. I'm fortunate to have both, and I know that.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

In Search of That Golden Feeling

by Jean Roberta

I learned a new word recently, and that’s always a good thing for a writer.

While reading a list of available books for review that was sent to me by Dr. RS, long-term editor of The Gay & Lesbian Review (Massachusetts, formerly produced at Harvard University), I noticed this title:
Love’s Refraction: Jealousy and Compersion in Queer Women’s Polyamorous Relationships by Jillian Deri (University of Toronto Press, 2015).

I asked RS if I could have it for review. He said I could, but he suggested that a shorter review might be better than a longer one, even though another member of his posse of reviewers had advised him to devote a theme issue to polyamory. He suggested to me that any book with the word “compersion” in the title is probably too abstract and obscure for readers of a scholarly queer magazine.

He sent me the book anyway, and I soon learned that “compersion” means the opposite of jealousy: a feeling of shared joy that results when one’s lover acquires a new playmate or friend-with-benefits. The fact that “compersion” is less-well known than “jealousy” is a clear sign that in Western society, only monogamous couples are considered normal, and that jealousy (even when it inspires murder) is assumed to be the normal reaction to any violation of the monogamous bond.

Even for those who have been “out” as gay men, lesbians, bisexuals or transpeople for many years, the dominant model of sexual/romantic commitment has enormous gravitational pull. RS’s comments about the large, fascinating concept of polyamory showed what looks to me like a queer (inconsistent) streak of conservatism. Although we have been exchanging emails for years about books which may or may not have relevance for an educated LGBT audience, we haven’t had any direct philosophical debates about our personal moral codes for engaging in sexual/romantic relationships.

RS did tell me that he considers polyamory to be a largely imaginary condition, i.e. many more people think about it than put it into practise. This seemed to be his main quibble about running a theme issue: is there an actual polyamorous community? If so, where are these people? (When I mentioned the above book to a friend and colleague who grew up on the West Coast of Canada, he suggested that all the women who were interviewed for the book probably live on Commercial Drive in Vancouver.)

When I mentioned RS’s quibble to the local director of the campus LGBT center, s/he (born female, now identifying as male) laughed and said he could put me in touch with quite a few folks who identify as polyamorous, if I want to interview them for a theme issue of The Gay & Lesbian Review. Egad – I already have enough writing to do, even during my summer break from teaching, but what an intriguing research project. The journalist/researcher side of me wants to meet as many polyamorists as possible, and hear more about how compersion actually feels, since I’m fairly sure I haven’t felt it myself.

If there is a thriving community of practising polyamorists in the small city/large town where I live (population about 200,000, government seat of a Canadian prairie province and home of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police), there is probably a bigger tribe of them under RS’s nose in Massachusetts. Their reasons for keeping a low profile seem painfully obvious to me. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that divorce, the sex trade, and homosexuality couldn’t be mentioned on television.

One of the reasons suggested itself when my spouse (the woman with whom I’ve lived for 26 years) asked why I was reading that book, and why the topic interests me. Her anxiety was clear: was I suddenly planning to hook up with women, or men, or both? If so, was I simply going through a kind of post-menopausal frenzy, or was I planning to embrace a new lifestyle? If I was standing on the edge of a cliff, contemplating a leap onto a dozen mattresses already occupied by welcoming bodies, was I planning to discard her as an outworn First Wife?

I assured her that my interest is scholarly, more or less: as an erotic writer, I have already described polyamorous relationships that are intended to last for a lifetime, but I need more information about how such complex connections actually work, and why/when they don’t.

Lest my spouse sound more suspicious or insecure than I am, reading this book has reminded me of painful experiences in my dating past, when “I’d like to see other people” generally meant “We’re done, so get lost.” Women, in particular, are raised in most cultures to be polite and avoid scenes, which might be good training for humans in general, except when it prevents honest communication. The women I dated before the beginning of my current relationship in 1989 often tried to leave me behind by dropping hints and pulling away rather than by rejecting me directly. Their ambiguous behavior included “friends” who suddenly seemed to occupy so much of their time that they hardly had any left for me – but when I asked, they would assure me that we were still an item, and they certainly weren’t breaking up with me. I would rather march through a field of stinging nettles than go back into that swamp of doubt, dread, humiliation, and resentment.

Re the possibility of my spouse jumping off a cliff onto the mattresses below, I’m sure she could find welcoming bodies down there. In her sixties, she is still attractive, engaging, and a long-term community organizer who seems known to half the town. Years ago, when she made an unusual visit to the local queer bar by herself, she was apparently enticed by a male/female couple who regularly trolled the bar for individuals (usually female) to join them for threesomes. Apparently they assured Spouse that they would treat her well and that she had nothing to fear, but (according to her account the next day), she was turned off by their unvarnished lust, and said no. When I heard this story, my feelings were more mixed. Of course they found her appealing, which validated my taste. I knew who they were, and they had never approached me that way – was I less of a babe? What if she had said yes, and what if the couple had wanted to see her regularly, without me? Hookups that turn out to be peak experiences are not guaranteed to stay casual. I was relieved by her ironclad refusal to even consider it.

Reading a book seems safe enough. And I’m committed to the belief that knowledge, even when it’s painful, is usually better than ignorance, even when it's comforting. For the foreseeable future, I’m willing to continue down a path of asking questions and seeking answers. Comments welcome.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Exercise: Thinking Outside of the Box

by Lucy Felthouse

I don't really post exercises here, but I used this recently at a talk I did at the Romantic Novelists' Association conference in London, and it seemed to go down really well with attendees. So here goes... I hope you're inspired ;)

I’m going to give you a theme, and I’d like you to write something down that’s outside the box. You may or may not use it in future, but I think if it sparks your imagination, it can only be a good thing!

  • Uniforms
  • Curvy men or women
  • Christmas
  • Chocolate
  • Sex at work
  • Twenty-four hours in a city

The reason I included the twenty-four hours in a city example is because I’m Managing Editor for the City Nights series from Tirgearr Publishing. These are novella length (25 – 30k) contemporary erotic romance stories that take place within a twenty-four hour time period in a city somewhere in the world. They’re all completely standalone stories, and we’re releasing one per month, with a break in December. We’ve just released the thirteenth! So if this is something you’re interested in, the full submission guidelines are on their website. I'd love to see some more submissions!

Happy Writing!


Author Bio:

Lucy Felthouse is a very busy woman! She writes erotica and erotic romance in a variety of subgenres and pairings, and has over 100 publications to her name, with many more in the pipeline. These include several editions of Best Bondage Erotica, Best Women's Erotica 2013 and Best Erotic Romance 2014. Another string to her bow is editing, and she has edited and co-edited a number of anthologies, and also edits for a small publishing house. She owns Erotica For All, is book editor for Cliterati, and is one eighth of The Brit Babes. Find out more at Join her on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to her newsletter at:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Call for Submissions

Girls on Campus: Lesbian Erotica
Editor: Sandy Lowe and Stacia Seaman
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Deadline: September 15, 2015
Publication Date: Spring, 2016
Payment: $50 and 2 contributor copies
Theme: College setting lesbian erotica. Erotic romance also accepted.

College: four years when anything goes and rules are made to be broken; a time for freedom, experimentation, and guiltless pleasures. Come join the co-eds for a homecoming bash, crash a girls-only party and enjoy study hall where the topic is Eros. From roommates with benefits to sexy sorority initiations, hot professors demanding extra credit after class and summer vacation threesomes, this collection is required reading for anyone looking to earn an A in sex-ed.

Submission details at:

Call for Submissions

A Dose of Murder, Mystery and Mayhem
Editor: Nicole Gestalt
Publisher: House of Erotica
Deadline: October 31st 2015 (Early Submissions are preferred.)

Editor/ Author Nicole Gestalt is looking for stories with the theme of murder, mystery and mayhem. For years the mystery story has been king. With old classics such as Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple being read consistently as well as being regularly shown on TV. There has been a revival in the cosy mystery over the most recent years and Nicole would like to heat it all up with a good healthy dose of erotica. Who says you can't get all hot and bothered when dealing with a mystery?

Submission details at:

Summoning the Muse

Hesiod et la Muse by Gustave Moreau (1891)

By Lisabet Sarai

When I was younger, I was bound to Erato, the muse of erotic poetry —and occasionally Polyhymnia, who governs sacred verse. Producing poetry was as natural as breathing. Any powerful emotion could trigger the urge to set pen to paper and capture the moment, but most of my poems dealt with love and sex.

I didn’t think about them. I would simply sit down, and they happened. Here’s an example, from 1979:

Is is tides, stars?
This wordless urge
 timed to the night,
 cyclic surge
 like circadian clocks?
Ages old,
 pure and irrational—
 whiskers twitch,
 eyes widen,
 skin quivers,
  shadow caress
  out of telephone wires
 and strange desires
 over two thousand miles.
ancient, amoral,
 crazy chemicals 
 burning and blind,
 making me wild.
My mind 
The wires whisper
 “no choice”
and reasons whither,
 helpless, limp
 as I hurl myself
 from the Santa Cruz cliffs.

In general, these poems didn’t follow any rules. They had no formal structure, though they chime with alliteration and internal rhyme. They were pure expressions of the need, lust, confusion and joy that swirled inside me.

After I married, the flood of poems mostly dried up. I think this was largely due to a deficit of erotic angst. I was fulfilled, happy, busy with real world adventures. I had neither the leisure nor the motivation for poetic introspection.

In the last few years, though, I’ve started creating new poems, in response to Ashley Lister’s monthly writing exercise on this blog. In case you’re not aware of this feature, on the 6th of each month, Ash explains and gives examples of a different poetic form, then challenges readers to produce their own instances. Curious to see if I still had Erato’s attention, I’ve tried my hand.

Here’s a piece from 2013, a form called a quatern.

The Line

The line between delight and pain
you're teaching me to tread. Again
your leather licks along my spine,
your fingers in my hair entwine,

your blades their bloody trails incise;
the line between delight and pain
grows blurry as you kiss my eyes
and dive for pearls between my thighs,

splayed and shackled. Now your cane
paints ruddy stripes across my flesh,
the line between delight and pain:
ecstatic, luminous, insane.

With blood and tears, with spunk and sweat
you baptize me. Appalled and wet
I teeter on the edge again,
the line between delight and pain.

Very different, indeed, though I’m still dealing with the same themes. The experience of writing these new poems is radically different as well. This verse doesn’t well up naturally. It must be coaxed, massaged, manipulated. Craft dominates inspiration. And yet, the final results still surprise me with their ability to evoke emotion.

A similar transition has occurred in my prose. I’ve written in the past about losing my innocence as I gained experience as an author. Like many first erotic novels, my Raw Silk represented an outpouring of very personal fantasies. My characters’ passions closely mirrored my own. Blissfully unaware of genre constraints, I let my imagination flow uncensored onto the page. I wrote to arouse myself, first and foremost, not for an audience. Yet that novel remains my most popular, largely, I believe, because of its authenticity.

Certainly it’s not the writing that’s responsible for its five star reviews. I cringe a bit when I reread the book, noticing the excess adverbs, the overly long sentences, the repetition and the stilted dialogue. Nevertheless, readers respond (I believe) to the erotic energy in the tale, the confessional tone and the realistic emotions (realistic because they were my own).

Over the years (sixteen now!), my work has become less naive, more conscious, and more polished. Though it’s abundantly clear that most readers couldn’t care less about style and craft, I get personal satisfaction knowing that my recent books are far better written than my early ones. I’m still wistful, though, remembering the days when I wrote without thinking about markets, reader expectations and word count—when I wrote whatever turned me on, regardless of how raw or transgressive or over-the-top it might be. These days it’s nearly impossible for me muster that electric thrill that propelled me through 80K+ words in six months.

Perhaps in compensation for lost spontaneity, however, I’ve gained a measure of control. At this point in my career, I can decide when I start how I want a story to unfold, and much of the time, the results will closely match my intentions. I’m not waiting for the muse to tap me on the shoulder. Lately, I find I can often summon her at will. I can place my order with her—a story of roughly N words, with such-and-such a tone, aimed at a specific theme, with a desired level of sexual intensity—then let her take over.

Some of my favorite stories in recent years—“Fleshpot”, “The First Stone”, and “The Last Amanuensis” in particular come to mind—so perfectly fit the images I had for them before I began that it feels like magic. They are exactly the stories I wanted to write. And despite my comments above about writing being a more conscious and deliberate process now, I’m really not sure how that happened. Of course, that’s the nature of expertise; you internalize the skills until they are more or less automatic. You set yourself a goal, then let your inner knowledge move you in that direction.

With poetry or prose, I am no longer the mad, magic-inspired oracle I used to be. Perhaps, though, I am more of an artist.

Now I’m facing a fascinating dilemma. I’ve agreed to edit and expand Raw Silk for re-release. At last I’ll be able to fix all the awkwardness in the prose, all the overwriting. But in the process of editing, will I lose the spark? I’m not the same person I was when I wrote the novel. For better or worse, I’ve changed. Can I preserve the heat and authenticity, especially in the new chapters?

I’ll summon the muse to work with me. I expect to need all the help I can get.