Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sexy Snippets for September







Written anything sexy lately? Why do I ask? Today's the nineteenth of September, your chance to share your Sexy Snippets!


The ERWA blog is not primarily intended for author promotion. However, we've decided we should give our author/members an occasional opportunity to expose themselves (so to speak) to the reading public. Hence, we have declared the 19th of every month at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association blog Sexy Snippet Day.

On Sexy Snippet day, any author can post a tiny excerpt (200 words or less) in a comment on the day's post. Include the title from with the snippet was extracted, your name or pseudonym, and one buy link, if you'd like.

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


Please follow the rules. Last month we had one author who posted a much longer excerpt. She is now banned from posting - but I don't like being the one who dishes out the punishment...

Still, 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. So play nice!

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.

Have fun!

~ Lisabet

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Common Appetites: Erotica, Desire, and Celebrity Culture

By Donna George Storey

As I’ve continued my musings about celebrity culture over the last several months, I’ve noticed that a number of the comments I’ve received explicitly or implicitly question the relevance of celebrity culture to erotica writers. After all, with very few exceptions (E.L. James certainly, Zane maybe) erotica writers are not celebrated millionaires. We aren’t ushered to the best tables in chic restaurants, our clothes are not critiqued by Us magazine. For this let us all be grateful.

However, I think erotica and the fascination with celebrity do have some important elements in common in that they both satisfy a psychic need for a great many people. As I mentioned in my first column on this topic, I’ve always been mystified by why so many people would write to an actor who played a doctor on television for advice on their medical problems. And even people who are not that misguided seem to believe that these complete strangers are worth our time and attention to even the slightest degree.

Because of course, Angelina Jolie could not matter in any significant way to the majority of us beyond a few hours’ entertainment. And yet, judging by measure of the attention and resources devoted to reporting on her life, she clearly does matter.

Why?

Well, first I would argue that it is not Angelina or Dolly Parton any real person who matters, it is what she represents to us: a beautiful, glamorous (or powerful, invincible in the case of most male celebrities) being as the object of adoring attention. The celebrity is an idealized self, worshipped simply for existing in such desirable perfection. For that matter, Marcus Welby is the kind, caring, infallible doctor we all wish we had to care for us--and probably don't.

In my study of celebrity, several authors made the point that in the past people became famous because of something they did to affect history on a grand scale—Julius Caesar, Queen Elizabeth I, Napoleon, Madame Curie. But today the majority of celebrities are famous because they’re good at performing, especially pretending to be someone else on the screen. Not to dismiss the immense difficulty of being a good actor, but what this means is that we are admiring a fantasy, a fiction.

Again a part of me has long been bemused by the seductive falsehood of fame—that a fan can be in any way intimate with a “person” who is made up by PR. But I’ve finally come around to see that we want and need this idealized figure with its soul-satisfying life trajectory of an individual’s struggle to achieve notice then mass acclaim and love followed by a stint in drug rehab then a comeback or two. Celebrity culture thrives because so many people crave the fantasy of intimacy with this chosen creature, of knowing them through images and words. Knowing them—and even more speaking to or getting an autograph from them—gives us a moment in the spotlight by association.

Erotica may be hidden away in nightstand drawers, but it also relies for its power on a fictional intimacy created on the page. Compelling erotica makes us feel we know the characters, that we are with them in their most ecstatic moments. The arousal they feel is mirrored in our own bodies, their pleasure sizzles straight to our own erogenous zones. The encounter is of necessity idealized or at least streamlined in some way—there’s no quicker way to lose the magic than a blow-by-blow description. The story, too, follows a satisfying arc from attraction to consummation. I know there are exceptions, but most erotica does offer at least a spotlight on a secret sexual realm.

Again there are exceptions but most erotica offers us idealized sex, with satisfaction mutually achieved. Sex with no awkwardness, mess or disappointment. Sex as we wish it could be, technically and emotionally.

And while writers here might not need to worry about being mobbed for autographs at restaurants, I’m sure many of us have received a few fan emails from admirers who seek a connection with the creator of a fantasy that touched them. A connection of words and ideas only—although now and then a reader tries to push the boundary further to a personal level (always rebuffed politely and cheerfully in my own case). One might argue that these readers are merely grasping at phantoms, but beneath the “lies” I believe there is something real: a mutual desire in both creator and audience to transcend of the repression and limitations of ordinary life, to be seen as magical and beautiful and loved.

To borrow an insight from a friend of Michael David Gross (author of Starstruck: When a Fan Gets Close to Fame), this reaching out to celebrity represents an internal need, yearning to be seen and appreciated and known for the special person we hope we are.

Next month I’ll conclude my discussion of celebrity with some thoughts on combatting toxic assumptions about success.

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

Monday, September 15, 2014

Who Writes You?






















I’m standing in front of the shredder in the place where I work. I’m staring at the whirling blades the way a man might stare at a lawn mower after realizing some of his toes have disappeared.

Yesterday I had been going for a walk around a two mile track across the street from where I work. I had taken off my shoes and walked around the track barefoot carrying my shoes in my hands, enjoying the sand between my toes. I was thinking of the archaeological site of a Mayan ruin I had visited a long time ago. A poem came to me, the way a headache might come to me and I wrote most of it in my head as I walked. When I got back to the car, I didn’t even take time to put my shoes on before grabbing a some scraps of typing paper and scribbling it all out with a pencil. I looked it over. I liked it. I liked it very much.

I’m not a poet. But I liked this poem enough to want to be a poet, to take the notion seriously like child discovering crayons for the first time. I could do this. I had read once about how poets like T S Eliot kept works in progress handy in their pockets or desk drawers to work on them when stuff came floating by in the air that was worth snatching down and noodling over. I brought the poem to my desk. The desk became cluttered over the progress of the day. In a fit of indignation over my natural sloppiness I gathered up the papers.

And so now I’m staring at the shredder, realizing.

Hemingway once had a briefcase of short stories he’d written during his Paris days. His first and favorite wife had determined to bring it to him in a taxi cab. That turned out badly. He might have named his next novel “A Farewell to Briefcases”. A young Garrison Keillor left his fateful briefcase of manuscripts in a men’s bathroom when he was considering the idea of starting a variety radio show. He forgot the briefcase in the toilet but he stuck with the radio show.

At least you can’t stick a briefcase in a shredder.

Stephen King was luckier, he threw the rough draft of his first novel “Carrie” in the trash because he thought it was crap and that he was crap as a novice writer and should give up. But it was his wife who fished it out and talked him into giving it another shot, so maybe that doesn’t count. And don’t we all wish we had a wife like that.

But I still had this poem to rebuild.

In the afternoon I put my notebook in my pocket. Took off my shoes. And walked the track again in exactly the same way. I met the poem again along the way, gave it a hug and rebuilt it. As I was sure I would.

It wasn’t the poem I needed - it was the walk around the track. That very track. After all, you have to know where to look.

I write from the unconscious. The unconscious writes for me. We are a team when we’re working well and when we’re working well it shows.

I think what writers live for is being in “The Zone”. The Zone is that place where the machinery is humming, where the world recedes and you’re down in the story with the characters and on a good day the characters speak and you shut up and take dictation. Its the best place to be. Its the place to aspire to be. It’s the place I love.

There are as many schools of writing, as there are schools of painting. I come what might be the Zen school of writing, those who write best when they write from the unconscious. One of my literary heroes, Ray Bradbury, wrote distinctly from this school and had habits and rituals distinctive to that way of writing. This particular style of writing is well suited for erotica, because it emphasizes writing primitively from the senses alone. It is much like the act of love itself.

There are books that teach the craft of cultivating that relationship with the deeper depths and writing from them. Among these craft books you’d find Bradbury’s own book of aphorisms “Zen and the Art of Writing”, also Robert Olen Butler’s boot camp craft book “From Where You Dream”. The book that Ray Bradbury personally trained from, the book that inspired him to develop his unique style has been out of print for way too long but is still available on the Internet or Amazon if you look hard - “Becoming a Writer” by Dorothea Brande.

In the end you have to find where you write from. They say write from you know. That’s great, what if you don’t know much? I say write where you’re from. If you’re a cerebral person you might write from there. But don’t think about about writing erotica that way. Erotica is as primal as the turbulent Jungian waters of the unconscious and is best written from there.

Here’s how.

Although I’ve been doing this for awhile, I still consider myself an apprentice writer. This is a good place to keep yourself, because you are best served by what the Buddhist’s call a “Beginner’s Mind”. I’m always hungry to learn how other writers, especially the ones I admire do things. Ray Bradbury learned his apprenticeship by studying Dorothea Brande’s book as a young writer and following it seriously. He sometimes mentions her book in interviews. One of the things he adapted from her craft lessons is the habit of writing by appointment. Brande states that you should assign yourself a place to write and a specific time to write and promise yourself mentally that at this time and this place you will show up and write and do no other thing. If you’re with friends, you’ll excuse yourself. This time is for your muse and yourself. If you stick faithfully to this the day will come and days will follow when your unconscious will be waiting for you like a writing partner with something special to surprise you with.

Another thing Bradbury learned from Brande was what is sometimes called “free writing”. I still do this as a warm up. It’s very simple. You’re trying to experience and become practiced at being in The Zone. A pencil, a notebook. A timer. You decide that you will write for, say, ten minutes without stopping. It doesn’t have to be about anything, it can be pure babble, but you have to hunker down and write and not stop for so much as a sip of coffee. Ten minutes of constant word loading. Let the intuition speak. You’re not trying to be profound although something profound may emerge. You’re trying to let the unconscious speak and teach yourself to listen.

Bradbury also experimented with playing with words and the unconscious. His first published short story was a kind of ghost story about two kids called “The Lake”. Where did he get the idea for this story? He sat down at his typewriter, put in a clean piece of paper and typed the words “The Lake” at the top and began free writing about whatever the two words suggested to him. He didn’t stop. He let the image carry him. The unconscious doesn’t deal in language. It deals in images, like dreams. If you can find yourself a powerful image to deal with, one that speaks to you, you begin. The novella I’m working on “The Tortoise and the Eagle” began with a simple image. I was watching a German movie called “The White Ribbon” and there was a scene of a young boy doing a high wire act on the railing of a wooden bridge over some dangerous water. Later when someone demanded what in the hell he was thinking of he said “I wanted to give God a chance to kill me.” Now, that’s an image to conjure with.

Like courting a girl (do kids still do that?) to court the unconscious you have to first pay attention. One of the most basic ways to pay attention is keep a notebook by your bed and write down your dreams. Try to do this consistently. Your unconscious has its own vocabulary, its own language of images that will be unique to you. If it sees you trying, if it sees you paying attention, it definitely will speak to you over time. It will speak to you in images and images are always more compelling than cerebral ideas. Mary Shelley invented her novel “Frankenstein” over an image she received in a nightmare. We get images like this all the time. The difference is you have to be ready. Like a little kid on the field with the big kids, if somebody throws you ball you have to be ready to run with it when it finally happens. You have to prove your attitude.

The last thing I recommend, although I could go on, is to set a goal for yourself. In one of the rooms where he wrote, Hemingway wrote on the wall with a pencil how many words he wrote each day so “you don’t kid yourself.” I use a calender. If you do this, you’ll be amazed at how little writing you actually do compared to how much you think you do.

When I get writer’s block it doesn’t intimidate me. I know the cause is a weak imagination, caused by too little exercise, caused by not keeping my end of the deal. The unconscious has gone under ground and must be romanced back by paying attention.

1) Make a appointment for each day, a time and a place - and be there.
2) Free write for 10 minutes to warm up.
3) Make a goal, how many words you will bench press for that day - and do it. It doesn’t matter if the words are any good. The point is to show up and write them, practice your instrument. Musicians practice. Painters practice. Writers should practice too. If you keep your end of the deal the good words will come.

You have dozens, maybe hundreds of excellent compelling stories inside your head. Your problem is not that you don’t have any good stories in you. Your problem is that your hundreds of good stories are buried under thousands of bad ones. The only way to get under the pile of bad stories is to pay your dues. You have to shovel shit with a keyboard until you tunnel your way down to the gold. You have to have faith in the beginning. There is no other way.


















Saturday, September 13, 2014

Killing the Messenger

Last month, the BBC reported that Bettina Bunte who writes under the pen name Cass E. Ritter, was dismissed from her administrative position at a child care centre run by Kent Country Council. She was fired from her position after a number of parents (it's not clear how many and I'd personally love to know) complained that she had written an erotic novel. According to Ms Bunte: "She claims the council told her they could 'not be seen to promote this sort of thing' and that her book damaged the reputation of the children’s centre." (Staffing Industry). This is after Bunte asked for and received permission from her employers to speak to the media about her recently released novel.

Bunte is the first in a long line of people, mostly women, who have lost their jobs when it was found out they wrote erotic novels. But it doesn't happen exclusively to women, or to erotic writers. Recently Patrick McLaw, an African American middle school language teacher was put on administrative leave and forced to undergo 'emergency medical evaluation' after it was discovered he'd written two novels, set 900 years in the future, which involved a massacre at a school. When pressed on the issue, authorities reported that it was not just the novels that concerned them, but his state of mental health. (Atlantic Monthly). There was recently an incident of a UK male who was forced to step down from his position when it was discovered he wrote erotic stories. (DailyDot). Ironically, I have it second hand that the discovery was made when after the school organization contemplated raising funds by having an erotica reading night, his wife let it slip that he actually wrote some.  Judy Buranich (Judy Mays), Carol Ann Eastman (Deena Bright), Ayden K. Morgen, Deidre Dare...

It's usually women, it's usually erotica and the excuse for firing them often involves the protection of children.

Let me offer you a contrast:  Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness James of Holland Park, who has written some of detective fictions most celebrated novels under the pen name P.D. James. Her first novel, "Cover Her Face" was written in 1962. She has worked in the criminal section of the British Home Office, and served as a magistrate for years. No one ever thought she should be fired for setting her novels in environments she knew, or suggesting that she couldn't do her job right because she wrote about mentally unstable characters with murderous intent, or painted word pictures of gory murder scenes. She now has a seat in the House of Lords. Of course, there is one huge difference: she doesn't write about sex.
She claims the council told her they could “not be seen to promote this sort of thing” and that her book damaged the reputation of the children’s centre. - See more at: http://www.staffingindustry.com/eng../Research-Publications/Daily-News/UK-Agency-worker-sacked-for-penning-risque-novel-31286#sthash.mG477szd.dpufShe claims the council told her they could “not be seen to promote this sort of thing” and that her book damaged the reputation of the children’s centre.
She claims the council told her they could “not be seen to promote this sort of thing” and that her book damaged the reputation of the children’s centre. - See more at: http://www.staffingindustry.com/eng../Research-Publications/Daily-News/UK-Agency-worker-sacked-for-penning-risque-novel-31286#sthash.mG477szd.dpuf
She claims the council told her they could “not be seen to promote this sort of thing” and that her book damaged the reputation of the children’s centre. - See more at: http://www.staffingindustry.com/eng../Research-Publications/Daily-News/UK-Agency-worker-sacked-for-penning-risque-novel-31286#sthash.mG477szd.dpuf

It's not a wildly irresponsible to surmise that a number of the parents who demanded Cass E. Ritter's removal and at least some members of the Kent County Council who fired her have read Fifty Shades of Grey. I do have to wonder if they'd be quite so anxious about the effect this administrator might have on their kids, if Ritter had been E.L. James. Sorry to seem jaded, but I notice that people are much less worried their children's minds will be poisoned by millionaires. Similarly, why is it that the consumers of erotic or pornographic works aren't considered destabilizing but their creators are?

But more haunting still is the unwritten, unexpressed accusation that lurks beneath a lot of these firings. What risk do people really believe these women pose. Words like inappropriate and reputation are bandied about, but strip the rhetoric away, and what it comes down to is that these women are losing their jobs because of a vague unspoken fear that they would, in some way, sexualize children.

It is not the content of the written work that is suspect. It is the mind of the person who writes it.

No one actually accuses anyone of anything. Because this allows the accusers to infer risk, rather than having to prove wrongdoing.  In Western democracies, the accused have a right to hear the precise charges leveled against them, defend themselves against them, demand that those charges be proved.

But if we stick to vague, undefined mutterings about inappropriateness, any amount of injustice can be done. How many gay men and lesbians through the years have lost their jobs based on the baseless but oft-perpetuated fallacy that being homosexual immediately implied you were also a pedophile?

Looking back on the great censorship cases of the 20th Century, I am reminded why, for all its draconian influence, state censorship is preferable to economic persecution.

In the case of Lady Chatterley's Lover, the 1958 trial on charges of public obscenity didn't see D.H. Lawrence, the writer, in the dock, but Penguin, the publisher. The charge wasn't that the writer was dangerous or unfit for society, but that the book was obscene and should not be published. When the state censors in a modern democracy, the writer, the publisher and the reading public have some legal recourse.

Similarly, in the US, it was Grove Publishers who were charged and defended obscenity charges over Lady Chatterley's Lover, The Tropic of Cancer, and Naked Lunch. They notably won each case. But it is important to note that IT WAS THE TEXTS that were considered dangerous and drew down legal censorship, NOT THE AUTHORS. Moreover, even had it been the authors, a formal charge allows for the accusers to have to prove wrongdoing, prove risk, etc.

I suspect, at least in the West, that the supremacy of the marketplace, and fast-eroding protections for employees will mean that the persecution of writers will increase as it becomes clear that there are no mechanisms to stop it, save expensive civil trials that most erotica writers could never afford to conduct.

There are worthy efforts to highlight and ridicule the banning of certain books from schools and libraries, and I'm delighted to see this. But there is no movement to protect women who are economically punished for writing about sex.  We're not in a good place, as women, as creatives, as workers or as eroticists. And if you think that writing under a pen name will keep you safe, think again. It only takes one bitter intimate to ruin your career.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker: Confessions


My name is Chris – though my pseudonym is usually M.Christian – and I have a confession to make.

I’ve written – and write – a…what’s the technical term? Oh, yeah: shitload of erotica. Some 400 published stories, 12 or so collections, 7 novels. I’ve also edited around 25 anthologies. I even have the honor of being an Associate Publisher for Renaissance eBooks, whose Sizzler Editions erotica imprint has some 1,300 titles out there.

I’ve written sexually explicit gay stories, lesbian stories, trans stories, bisexual stories, BDSM stories, tales exploring just about every kind of fetish, you name it and I can all but guarantee that I’ve written about it. I like to joke that a friend of mine challenged me to write a story to a ridiculously particular specification: a queer vampire sport tale. My answer? “Casey, The Bat.” Which I actually did write…though I dropped the vampire part of it.

Don’t worry; I’m getting to the point. I can write just about anything for anyone – but here comes the confession:

I’ve never, ever written about what actually turns me – what turns Chris – on.

This kind of makes me a rather rare beast in the world of professional smut writing. In fact it’s pretty common for other erotica writers to – to be polite about it – look down their noses at the fact that I write about anything other than my own actual or desired sexual peccadilloes. Some have even been outright rude about it: claiming that I’m somehow insulting to their interests and/or orientations and shouldn’t write anything except what I am and what I like.

To be honest, in moments of self-doubt I have thought the very same thing. Am I profiting off the sexuality of other people? Am I a parasite, too cowardly to put my own kinks and passions out into the world? Am I short-changing myself as a writer by refusing to put myself out there?

For the record, I’m a hetero guy who – mostly – likes sexually dominant women. I also find my head turned pretty quickly when a large, curvy woman walks by. That said, I’ve had wonderful times with women of every size, shape, ethnicity, and interest.

So why do I find it so hard to say all that in my writing? The question has been bugging me for a while, so I put on my thinking cap. Part of the answer, I’ve come to understand, relates directly to chronic depression: it’s much less of an emotional gamble to hide behind a curtain of story than to risk getting my own intimate desires and passions stomped flat by a critical review or other negative reaction from readers. I can handle critical reviews of a story – that’s par for the course in professional writing – but it’s a good question as to whether I could handle critical reviews of my life.
But then I had an eye-opening revelation. As I said, I’ve written – and write – stories about all kinds of interests, inclinations, passions, orientations, genders, ethnicities, ages, cultures…okay, I won’t belabor it. But the point is that I’ve also been extremely blessed to have sold everything I’ve ever written. Not only that, but I’ve had beautiful compliments from people saying my work has touched them and that they never, ever, would have realized that the desires of the story’s narrator and those of the writer weren’t one and the same.

Which, in a nice little turn-around, leads me to say that my name is Chris – though my pseudonym is usually M.Christian – and I have yet another confession to make.

Yes, I don’t get sexually excited when I write. Yes, I have never written about what turns me on. Yes, I always write under a name that’s not my legal one.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel when I write. Far from it: absolutely, I have no idea what actual gay sex is like for the participants; positively, I have not an inkling of what many fetishes feel like inside the minds of those who have them; definitely, I have no clue what it’s like to have sex as a woman…
I do, however, know what sex is like. The mechanics, yeah, but more importantly I work very hard to understand the emotions of sex and sexuality through the raw examination of my own life: the heart-racing nerves, the whispering self-doubts, the pulse-pounding tremors of hope, the bittersweetness of it, the bliss, the sorrows and the warmth of it, the dreams and memories…

I’m working on a story right now, part of a new collection. It’s erotic – duh – but it’s also about hope, redemption, change, and acceptance. I have no experience with the kind of physical sex that takes place in this story but every time I close its file after a few hours of work, tears are burning my cheeks. In part, this emotional investment is about trying to recapture the transcendent joy I’ve felt reading the work of writers I admire.

When I read manuscripts as an anthology editor, or as an Associate Publisher, a common mistake I see in them is a dedication to technical accuracy favored over emotion. These stories are correct down to the smallest detail – either because they were written from life or from an exactingly fact-checked sexual imagination – but at the end, I as the reader feel…nothing.

I’m not perfect – far from it – but while I may lack direct experience in a lot of what I write, I do work very, very hard to put real human depth into whatever I do. I may not take the superficial risk of putting the mechanics of my sexuality into stories and books but I take a greater chance by using the full range of my emotional life in everything I create.

I freely admit that I don’t write about my own sexual interests and experiences. That may – in some people’s minds – disqualify me from being what they consider an “honest” erotica writer, but after much work and introspection I contest that while I may keep my sex life to myself, I work very hard to bring as much of my own, deeply personal, self to bear upon each story as I can.

They say that confession is good for the soul. But I humbly wish to add to that while confession is fine and dandy, trying to touch people – beyond their sex organs – is ever better…for your own soul as well as the souls of anyone reading your work.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Writing Exercise - The Fibonacci Poem

 by Ashley Lister

 I’ve never liked mathematics. When I was at school, pocket calculators had just been invented. For me that seemed to make the concept of mathematics redundant. Why did I need to learn algebra and equations when I could get a pocket calculator to do that stuff for me? Nowadays, when I possess a smartphone that’s capable of doing advanced mathematics with very little input from me, my need to know how to manipulate numbers has become almost obsolete.

However, I think it’s important to know about Fibonacci numbers. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, this is the number series that goes 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21… As you will have noticed each number is the sum of the previous pair of numbers.

This can be applied to poetry, specifically with the syllabic form of the Fibonacci Poem:

You
Me
Us two
Together
Naked and awkward
Until you do that special thing
And I respond with a kiss that never seems to end

The length of the Fibonacci Poem is your choice. The one I’ve penned above goes up to a 13 syllable line, the one below only goes as far as the eight syllable line.

Spank!
Ouch!
Buttocks
Warm and red
Deserving much more
Spank spank, spank, spank, spank, spank, spank, spank.

Whatever length you decide to work with, it would be fun to see your Fibonacci Poems in the comments box below.


Ash