Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Friday, November 21, 2014

What Was Lost

By Lisabet Sarai


A few days ago I finished reading The Sweetest Thing, a new short story collection by fellow ERWA member Julius Addlesee (and edited by another ERWA member, Nan Andrews). This isn’t a review – that will be coming at the beginning of next month, over at Erotica Revealed – but rather a reflection on the contrast between the sex in this book and the sex we tend to see today, both in the real world and in a lot of erotica.

The book is unabashedly vanilla. Although the characters and situations in The Sweetest Thing vary, all the tales focus on mutual heterosexual lust, seasoned by serendipity, affection, and, in many cases, lingerie. The stories feel a bit old-fashioned because the characters experience desire in such an enthusiastic, uncomplicated way. No one takes sexual pleasure for granted, but no one questions it, either – no guilt, no angst.

There’s an innocence about these stories. The narrators (all male) display a sense of wonder when confronted with the glory of women. The characters linger over foreplay, delighting in the tastes, smells, textures of their partners, who tend not to be model-thin or movie-star handsome but who are nevertheless almost unbearably desirable. Sex is special, a delicious mystery to decipher, a gift waiting to be opened.

I remember when sex was like that – powerful and intimate. To a heart-breaking extent, I feel like that kind of sex has been lost. When I was in my teens and twenties, stores hid magazines like Playboy and Penthouse under the counter. Porn movies arrived by mail in plain brown wrappers. A nude photo shoot like the one I did with the friend of a friend would be considered outrageous and daring. BDSM was shockingly perverse. To discover my own inclinations in that direction was a life-changing revelation.

In today’s mobile-obsessed, painfully public world, nude photos are commonplace. Teenagers broadcast them to their friends – kids who are not even their lovers. Porn is never more than click or two away. Sex is everywhere: in movies, in video games, in rock music, in advertising, in popular best sellers. I remember the thrill of reading James Bond in study hall, passing around a volume that marked the spot where the virile spy stroked his hand across the smooth, flat belly of his bikini clad partner. That was all – imagination filled in the rest – but oh, how that made me yearn!

What would Ian Fleming have thought of Fifty Shades of Gray?

I wouldn’t complain, if more sex meant better sex. However, I get the impression that many people find sexual satisfaction as elusive as ever – perhaps more. Casual sex has become more accepted and more available, but close, mutually enjoyable sex is another story. Divorce rates have soared. Rape occurs at least as frequently as when sex was rationed and forbidden, and my observations suggest that it is actually more likely to be tolerated in our sexually-desensitized world.

As I discussed in a previous post on this blog, an explosion of information on sexual technique has stolen the spontaneity from sexual encounters. When I was in my sexual prime, I never worried whether I was good in bed. All I knew was that being in bed with a lover felt good.

Even “deviant” behavior like BDSM has become ordinary and accepted rather than shocking. Fetishism influences popular culture. I can’t count the number of fashion ads I’ve seen where the model is wearing a leather corset and wielding a whip. These days everyone seems interested in kink. My master grumbles that everybody gets spanked now, or tied up. We’re not special anymore.

It’s not surprising that today’s erotica and erotic romance reflect the same trends. Authors include ever more extreme sexual activities in their tales, trying to get noticed. Voyeurism, exhibitionism, age play, infantilism, blood and water sports, body modification, bondage, threesomes, foursomes, orgies, gang bangs – you’ll find it all and more, not just in self-identified stroke fiction but also in anthologies released by publishers of “literary erotica”, and indeed, even in romance, once the bastion of coyness and traditionalism.

One of my readers complains that she can’t find any vanilla erotica anymore.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against outrageous sexual acts. I’ve written a few myself. My concern is that these acts have come to have no meaning. They don’t feel dangerous or brave or transgressive anymore. They scarcely influence my emotions or my physical reactions, unless they’re extremely well written. Meanwhile, warm, bawdy stories of straight sexual pleasure – like Julius’ tales – have become as rare as penny candy.

I know I sound like a curmudgeon – like my mother, railing against “the new generation” and praising the good old days. This change isn’t even generational, though. It encompasses a mere decade or so. When I wrote my first novel, the acts I portrayed were unusual, scary, and exciting. Now they’re ho hum.

You can’t stop time, nor control cultural change. You have to learn to live with the world as it is today, without pining for yesterday. I’m glad the market for erotica has expanded, offering more opportunities for us all. Still, I mourn the loss of sexual innocence, and the corresponding incandescence of sexual experience – in life and in fiction.

[The title for this post was stolen from a story by Robert Buckley, which features an aged bootlegger from 1920’s. Thanks, Bob! That tale is included in his charitable anthology, Coming Together Presents Robert Buckley, which I had the privilege of editing.]

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sexy Snippets for November



Whoa! Almost slipped by me, what with everything else I'm doing, but I realized last night that today is 19th of November, which means that it's Sexy Snippets Day!

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. 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.

Have fun!

~ Lisabet

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Pleasures of Trying Hard

By Donna George Storey

"Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve long been aware of the many derogatory terms used to describe people who enjoy intellectual pursuits. “Brain,” "egghead," "nerd" and "geek" come to mind. But in the past few years, my academically-oriented sons have mentioned another label they are sometimes given by peers because of their genuine interest in their classes—"try-hard."

I looked up "try-hard" in the Urban Dictionary and the official definition suggests a person who is trying to be something he or she is not. However, it seems to me that the high school version of the insult is less complicated. It merely refers to someone who makes an extra effort when she does something, someone who cares about the quality of the result rather than simply completing an assignment with as little investment as possible.

I can see an argument for doing as little as you need to do to get by when it comes to a required subject you don’t connect with on a deeper level. A lot of what we do in high school and even college involves pleasing the teacher and not necessarily ourselves. However, this put-down seems to be directed at any effort to excel. While this attitude might seem the height of cool in school, it can mean trouble later on, especially with a creative endeavor like writing erotica.

Perhaps because reading a well-written story is an effortless experience, too many people believe that writing it must be effortless, too. Those of us who actually write stories know better, of course, but there’s still a small part of me that buys the myth that true artists are beguiled into a trance by their muse and great art thus flows effortlessly from their souls. Or in other words, it is in-born talent, not hard work that makes a creative work soar.

This disdain for creative sweat reminds me of an Italian word, sprezzatura, that I stumbled upon back in my high school days when I was both a nerd and a try-hard who loved to read anything I could get my hands on about the Renaissance. Sprezzatura was described in Baldassare Castiglione’s sixteenth-century bestseller, The Book of the Courtier, as “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.” The perfect noble courtier should appear to dash off a brilliant sonnet on a whim or execute a high-stepping court dance without breaking a sweat. Of course to pull this off, he had to practice and ponder in private for hours on end. Thus, ironically, the perfect courtier’s sprezzatura made him a try-hard in the official sense of the word.

The movie montage might be another culprit in our lack of understanding of how much time and effort it takes to excel. How many movies have you seen where the protagonist aspires to a lofty goal, but for the sake of cinematic flow, months or even years of hard work must be condensed into a minute of brief scenes showing her transformation from raw novice to skilled expert? Intellectually we know it was supposed to take a year, but emotionally we internalize the sense that just by wanting something, we can get good enough to wow the world in sixty seconds.

Again, I know that anyone who’s actually tried—hard—to write a story knows how much musing and shaping and word-crafting and editing is involved. Anyone who’s written many stories knows that skill increases with experience, but it’s still hard to face that blank document and make magic on the page, harder still to draw something fresh from within. And I’d bet many of us wonder if this challenging task is easier for other writers, those who are more talented or lucky or truly touched by greatness as we must not be since we have to try so damned hard.

Sure, maybe there are demigods like that out there, but I’d suspect not. And the truth is, I don’t want to read a story that was dashed off with little thought or effort. I want sweat and doubt and endless revisions. Now and then a story might flower beautifully in an afternoon, but that can only because the seed of it was germinating for months, maybe years. As a reader I give an author my precious attention--minutes, hours, even days of my life I can never get back. The author had better deserve it! And because I deserve this effort as a reader, then I owe it to my readers to give them the same.

Besides, no matter what those high school kids say, sweating and striving and and learning and caring about our writing is one of the most profoundly pleasurable and deeply satisfying ways to spend our time on this earth.

Don’t you agree?

If so, then keep trying—hard!

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

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Call for Submissions

The First Line Literary Journal

We love the fact that writers around the world are inspired by our first lines, and we know that not every story will be sent to us. However, we ask that you do not submit stories starting with our first lines to other journals (or post them online on public sites) until we've notified you as to our decision (usually two to three weeks after the deadline). When the entire premise of the publication revolves around one sentence, we don't want it to look as if we stole that sentence from another writer. If you have questions, feel free to drop us a line.

One more thing while I've got you here: Writers compete against one another for magazine space, so, technically, every literary magazine is running a contest. There are, however, literary magazines that run traditional contests, where they charge entry fees and rank the winners. We do not - nor will we ever - charge a submission fee, nor do we rank our stories in order of importance. Occasionally, we run contests to help come up with new first lines, or we run fun, gimmicky competitions for free stuff, but the actual journal is not a contest in the traditional sense.

Submission details at:
http://www.erotica-readers.com/ERA/AR/The_First_Line.htm

Diction Plus Tone Equals Voice


I’m not a poet and I don’t even see myself that way, but I have the fundamental key I think to a poets nature.  I love words and language.  This applies to point of view. 

I’ve been studying a couple of craft books by Mary Oliver, a pulitzer prise winning poet.  She has several chapters which I need to read several times on the subject of voice.  In poetry it’s called “diction”, voice and tone.  Diction refers to your choice of words.  The overall effect of this choice of words is called “tone”.  The diction and tone together give rise to the “persona” of the person telling the poem or story.  In my opinion this “persona” is the key to your choice of point of view, and most especially if it’s the first person point of view.

Erotica more than other forms of genre fiction, except maybe horror, is a very physical and personal form of expression. I’m talking about literary erotica in particular.  I believe it should be written with some immediacy from the senses from the dark waters of the unconscious.  Some writers like Anais Nin can get cerebral about it and still make it work, but she’s an exception because of her ability to color it with the mysteries of a character’s inner quirks.  People should be able to feel what you’re describing physically and emotionally.  You do this partly by letting them fill in the blanks in your description, but also very often by speaking in the voice of experience of the deciding character.  The most common mistake I see in erotic writing, or at least the method I take issue with, is speaking  from the main character without giving them a specific personality in that voice.  That voice, when you get it right, can be the most fun part of reading the story.  A reader will forgive you for a lot if you can get that voice right.  And giving that voice a persona can really drive the story forward for you as a writer.  But it has to be a voice that matches the character.

In poetry, and I’d say also just as much in prose, the sound of the word, its accuracy and its meaning creates the atmosphere of a poem.  In old school horror writing like Lovecraft or Poe it seems like the story is 70 percent about atmosphere.  The author is making a slow hand build up to a final effect that rises from the gathered gloom.  In “Masque of the Red Death” the first half of the story is dedicated entirely to the description of the rooms in Prince Prospero’s castle, with almost no character description except to let you know he’s a selfish guy.  “The Cask of Amontillado” is a short expository blast about Montressor’s unexplained hatred of Fortunato and then therest of the story is his first person description of the cellar they’re going down too.  “The Tell Tale Heart” told from the first person is the obtuse and obsessive voice of a dangerous loon.  What is interesting about that voice is the immediate lack of self awareness in the speaker, his capacity for self delusion:

“ . . . TRUE! --nervous --very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses --not destroyed --not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily --how calmly I can tell you the whole story. . . .”

Poe was actually onto a great spiritual truth here about the nature of evil.  Evil does not know itself.  Evil is ego gone wild and refusing to see itself.  But what is also special about this voice is – it is a voice.  A distinct voice.  The voice of a dangerous loon.  You know this guys personality.  You know who he would vote for for president and why.   This is the carefully thought out effect of Diction + Tone = Voice.  You feel this man, wide eyed and self absorbed grab you by the collar, like The Ancient Mariner or a wino in an alley, and haul you away from what you were doing to make you listen to his story from beginning to end no matter what.  He’s your crazy Uncle at Thanksgiving dinner except this guy kills people and cuts out their heart.  This is ego gone boundless and is at the heart of true evil, the absence of empathy.

Here’s the First Person Present Tense voice of another evil maniac, very different from Poe’s:

“  . . . At the brownstone next to Evelyns a woman – high heels, great ass – leaves without locking her door.  Price follows her with his gaze and when he hears footsteps coming down the hallway toward us he turns around straightens his Versace tie ready to face whatever.  Courtney opens the door and she’s wearing a Krizia cream silk blouse, a Krizia rust tweed skirt and silk satin d’Orsay pumps from Manolo Blahnik. . . “
                        "American Psycho"  Brett Easton Ellis

Now wait – read that again.  He doesn’t just describe her clothes, he knows their brand, how much they cost probably and even what store they come from.  Throughout the book wall street master of the universe and human monster Patrick Bateman will do this with every person he meets, it will become his signature and an expression of his governing characteristic, a manic obsession with social status.  He kills a male friend with a fashionably expensive stainless steel ax  possibly for simply having a nicer business card than his.  This a great device.  The first time you read him doing that, you think its annoying.  The third time its really annoying.  After reading him do that every single time it begins to sink in for you - this guy is dangerously nuts.

And how about this distinctive voice, the narrator Mattie Ross from Charles Portis' great book "True Grit":


"  . . . People do not give it credence that a fourteen year old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father's blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen everyday. . . ."


The use of the outmoded word "credence" as a noun and the lack of contractions (did not) give it the 19th century parlor room formality of a daguerreotype.



Here are two of my voices, from stories (published) told from first person voices:

“ . . . The old prize fighters would bust your nose or your ribs.  A punch to the kidney that would make you piss blood for a couple days.  We sex fighters, we bust your will to live.  We take away your will to be free.  People look naked to us.  We see inside your mind.    You just think you know what you want, bitch.  I know what you really want, because that’s how I get you.  That’s how I take you down.  I look at you bitch - I know what you want way better than you do.  I know it even before you know it.  That’s because I see you.  I see you like God sees you. . . .”             
                            from “The Peanut Butter Shot”

Crude language.  Short punchy sentences like jabs to the face.  You don’t like this guy.  But you’re curious to find out what’s going to happen to him because you get a sense of what kind of a person he is.  Yeah, reader, that’s how I get you.  That’s how I take you down.


And then there is this paragraph (Sorry Lisabet, I know you’ve seen this paragraph about fifty times at least  by now, I just really like it) which begins one of my vampire stories

“ . . . . Blood has a range of taste, as scent has a range of aroma. Blood has a high level taste and an under taste. It is a blending of elements like music. This is also the way of scent. The under aroma will show you there is a trail and betrays to you the direction. If the scent becomes fresher you are following the creature that produced it, so you must use the under scent to know which direction is older and which is newer. It is as though the  air is filled with singing voices and you are picking out a single voice. The high scent
will tell you about the individual, the condition of the individual, if it is injured or sick, horny or filled with fear. It will tell you how to catch him, where he is likely to run to. To acquire the high scent the animal, or myself, must pause to commune with the air and pay attention. Close the eyes. Hold the nose still and just so. Let the night air speak. It is the same with the deep taste of blood, except that scent is on the move, and if you are tasting the blood – well. It is no longer on the move. . . . .” 
                         (Opening Paragraph “The Lady and the Unicorn”)




There is a lot going on in this paragraph.  There is a deliberate styling of Diction + Tone = Voice.  This is the voice of a sensitive young woman while at the same time being the voice of a practiced predator and hunter of humans.  An affection for the night, an ironic humor.  An absence of empathy.  She never says she's dangerous, she never boasts, but by the end of the paragraph she doesn't have to.

People write things their own way.  But in my case what I love is language and the sound of language.  Its why I want to see characters get a voice.  It's how I love them.






Friday, November 14, 2014

Call for Submissions

MM BDSM
Editor: Totally Bound Editorial Team
Publisher: Totally Bound Publishing
Deadline: Open Submission Call
Payment & Rights: Totally Bound Publishing is a royalty paying, full-service ePublisher. This means that we do not charge fees for the author at any time. We pay a royalty rate of 40% of the RRP for eBooks, 30% for audio, and 10% for print, based on our standard two year contract. Our contracts are for both electronic and print rights.

Daring Doms and seductive subs are the order of the day. Totally Bound Publishing are currently acquiring MM stories of any length in the BDSM genre, so get those characters scening and those whips whipping, ready for all your readers to become voyeurs and experience the life-changing journeys of your most passionate characters. Series or serials are also welcomed.

Submission details at:
http://www.erotica-readers.com/ERA/AR/MM_BDSM.htm