Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Sunday, February 28, 2016

From Fan Fiction To Hot Gay Male Erotic Medical Thriller

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, her tuxedo cat, Lucky, and the two new feline additions Chloe and Breena. They are Lucky's new best friends. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page. 

I admit it. I have written fan fiction. Stop laughing!

The first fan fiction I wrote was when I was in college. I used to write Star Trek fan fiction with my cousin, who was five years younger than me. She lived in Iowa and I lived in Maryland, and we scorched the pages of letters to each other with this crap. My favorite characters were Spock and Scotty. Her favorites were McCoy and Kirk. We wrote long-winded and dreadful letters where we were the stars of our own fantasies and the Trek characters actions revolved around us.

Yes, we wrote Mary Sues. You're laughing again!

We were perfect in every way. We were beautiful, genius-level intelligent, vivacious, talented, knowledgeable in our fields (whatever the hell they were), and the entire Enterprise crew was in love with us. Of course, the bridge crew couldn't get enough of us. Typical Mary Sue. I had no idea the concept of the Mary Sue even existed, let alone we were splendid at it. We kept these letters going for over a year, and both of us were hooked on classic Trek.

I had a blast writing those letters. Sadly, I never saved them. I wish I had. I could laugh and cringe over them while downing a bottle of bubbly. I went another ten years before I wrote fan fiction again. In 1993, I became hooked on The X Files. I wished I could have worked on that show. I was in an AOL fan chat that show writer Glen Morgan used to stop in, and he gave me the contact information to send my resume. That was very nice of him. At the time I was working local crew in Maryland doing lighting, scenic art, and makeup (including prosthetics) for movies, TV, stage, and concerts. I worked on Die Hard With A Vengeance, Homicide: Life On The Street, and the movie 12 Monkeys. I loved my work. I had enough of a background to qualify for union work in Vancouver, British Columbia where the show was filmed at the time, and I was willing to move not only across the continent but to another country. I thought I could live in Vancouver, Washington in the U. S. and commute to British Columbia but that wasn't allowed. I'd have to move there and become a citizen. It was a long shot, but I wrote. Never heard back. But I tried. I loved that line of work and being in that fan chat.

Anyway, a couple of years later I attended a science fiction convention as a guest panelist and I met a guy who was helping to put together some anthologies. One was gay, one was lesbian, and one was TV fan fiction. None of the books were ever published to my knowledge. It was a good thing, too, because I didn't know at the time I could have been sued for publishing and getting paid for a short story based on The X Files without first getting the show's permission. I did start the story but didn't finish it. However, I saved my file. I also wrote a lesbian story for that other book and I saved that file as well.

Count about a decade into the future. I rewrote the lesbian story and submitted it to Torquere Press for their Vamps anthology, and it was accepted! I was delighted. I had worked on the X File for another half dozen years or so. I changed Mulder and Scully to two gay men working on an outbreak at a camp around a lake. I finally finished it a few weeks ago, and I submitted it to a Men At Work call I saw at – get this – The Erotic Readers And Writers Association's Submissions Web Page.  Funny how things come full circle. The story was accepted! I called it Roughing It, and it's due to come out in the spring. Although Jake and Lance are two scientists, you can hear Mulder and Scully in their conversations. The story is a cross between The X Files and The Andromeda Strain with a little sex thrown in. The sex works, too. It doesn't seem out of place. I like this story very much, and it's special to me since I have worked on it very hard for nearly 20 years. The story in the Vamps anthology is called Neighbors, and I took the two characters in it – Charlotte and Lina, who could pass for identical twins – and placed them in my work-in-progress Full Moon Fever. I hope to sell it to the same publisher that is publishing my novel Alex Craig Has A Threesome. Xcite Books is publishing that book late summer. If it sells well, I hope to pitch Full Moon Fever to them. I'll do what I can to make Alex Craig sell. I'm very happy to be with Xcite. Xcite has published four of my short stories in anthologies so I'm not a stranger. This is my first novel in several years and my first with Xcite. I need the boost. Keeping my fingers crossed.

I find it amusing I've written a story that originated as fan fiction, and the final result is getting published. Hey, if it worked for E. L. James, maybe it will work for me. Everyone knows those 50 Shades of Grey books started out as Twilight fan fiction. I can only dream of selling as well as she has.

I've also written Once Upon A Time fan fiction, but that's another post. At least I stuck to Belle and Rumpelstiltskin. No Mary Sue in those stories. I won't give links. I'm too embarrassed. LOL Look for Roughing It in April and Alex Craig Has A Threesome in late summer.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Politics of Obscurity

by Jean Roberta

I’ve been reading two related books about art in the cultural margins:

Memories of the Revolution: The First Ten Years of the WOW Café Theater, edited by Holly Hughes, Carmelita Tropicana, and Jill Dolan (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2015), a standard-sized paperback, and

The Only Way Home Is Through the Show: Performance Work of Lois Weaver
[one of the founders of WOW Café Theater], edited by Jen Harvie and Lois Weaver (published simultaneously in 2015 by Intellect Books in Bristol, UK, Live Art Development Agency, London, UK, and the University of Chicago Press). This is a large paperback coffee-table book, full of photos and illustrations.

I volunteered to review these books about the history of an amazing, grassroots women’s theater collective in New York City, which has survived despite the odds since 1980. I went to one of their performances in February 2003 when I was in New York for a reading from Best Women’s Erotica at Bluestockings Bookstore.

The WOW performance was topical and full of energy. (The official paranoia that followed the events of 9/11 was soundly ridiculed.) The performance space was not a conventional theater, but the intimate venue suited the subject-matter. I was able to find my way there alone because of the good directions provided by a local arts publication.

The acronym WOW originally stood for “Women One World,” and it stuck. There was clearly some overlap between the WOW collective and a more overtly political group formed in 1990s New York: the Lesbian Avengers. Kelly Cogswell, who wrote a book about the Avengers after the group’s demise, met and entered a long-term relationship with Cuban-born writer Ana Simo, who wrote a fairly structured, Checkovian play about painter Frida Kahlo and the assassination of Leon Trotsky in Mexico in 1940, which was performed by WOW. The versatile writer Sarah Schulman was also in both groups.

All these books about performance art with clear feminist and lesbian themes do a remarkable job of capturing something ephemeral: a zeitgeist, or the spirit of a particular time and place. Nonetheless, the women who were interviewed for the books claimed that their shows have rarely been reviewed in the Village Voice, let alone The New Yorker or The New York Times. Apparently, WOW stayed below the media radar for decades.

Both WOW and the Lesbian Avengers functioned as collectives with no government ties whatsoever. (This impresses me, as a Canadian.) The WOW women who were interviewed for the two books explained that they decided early on not to apply for government grants from funding bodies such as the National Endowment for the Arts because the application process would take up valuable time and energy, the applicants would probably be refused, and if they were accepted, they would have to conform to the funder’s rules. In other words, they would be forced to tone things down.

Can revolutionary art ever be accepted by the cultural mainstream? Much cultural history shows that this happens a lot, especially when the radical art is no longer cutting-edge (e.g. jazz, Impressionist paintings).

Here in Canada, every struggling writer/artist I know has applied for a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts (the Canadian equivalent of NEA). “Explorations” grants, in particular, seem intended for experimental art created by fledgling artists. (As a published writer, I’m not eligible for one of these.)

Is radical art more accepted in some countries than in others? There are mixed reports. The recent claim that African-American actors are not adequately represented in the list of Oscar Award winners raises the question of whether racism in Hollywood has persisted in subtler forms than in the era of Gone With the Wind. (Apart from the arts world, however, there is nothing subtle about unarmed civilians being gunned down by uniformed police officers, as documented by concerned bystanders with cellphone cameras.)

Here in Canada, the survival of the film industry is more overtly political, since Canadian filmmakers have traditionally relied on government support in various forms, including tax deductions. When the right-wing government of the province I live in abolished the Film Tax Credit here, the local film industry died.

Who becomes famous, where, and why? The claim has been made that lesbian fiction-writers are routinely ignored in the U.S. media, but not in England, where Sarah Waters and Jeanette Winterson are widely known, and where a lesbian poet, Carol Ann Duffy, was made Poet Laureate. Canadian culture, as distinct from U.S. culture, is rarely mentioned in these discussions, but I could point out that two lesbian novelists here, Ann-Marie MacDonald and Irish-born Emma Donoghue, currently seem as visible and well-reviewed as any of their straight male brothers in the field.

It would be interesting for someone to do a survey of “successful” writers (whom I would define as those who can live on their royalties) in various countries in terms of gender, race/ethnicity, and sexuality. Do gay-male writers (being men) have greater access to resources than do lesbian writers, all else being equal? If so, where?

Even if someone had the time, energy and funding to do this survey and publish the results, conservatives could object that talent has nothing to do with identity politics, and that artists without talent will always be rejected by the reading/viewing/listening public, or at least by the gatekeepers who represent the public’s best interests. Feh.

When I write my review of the books about WOW, I’ll be doing my part to alert readers to a performance-art scene that deserves to be better-known. But then, I'm probably below the radar myself.

Friday, February 26, 2016

To Be Posted

by Jean Roberta

Dear Readers,

Please forgive me for not posting anything on my assigned day. I have a post planned, and I'm hoping it won't be too discouraging, since it's about unrewarded writing (or writing which has to serve as its own reward).

Life intervened with mysterious insistence. This morning, the furnace in the basement of my house sounded like a buzz saw which could be heard from the second floor. I seriously wondered if it would explode while Spouse and I were at work. I considered cancelling my classes, then compromised by calling a plumbing & heating company and rushing home as soon as possible to meet the repairman at my door.

Repairman examined the furnace, which was quiet, and found nothing wrong. Nothing. The loudest thing in the house was our guard dog, a little Pomeranian who barks at strangers.

In due course, I was told, an invoice will be mailed to us for the repairman's visit. Since he left, the furnace has been as quiet as a cat burglar.

Then I had to meet my Teaching Assistant to go over some student assignments.

Then Spouse filled me in on an ongoing situation at her work.

As long as the sun rises as usual, and my roof doesn't cave in (fingers crossed), I will post something here on February 27.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Second Chapter

by Kathleen Bradean

If you're struggling with your writing, I feel ya. Family drama of ludicrous proportions has stolen my ability to write. (So much for the theory that one must suffer for art.)(Hey, that sounds like next month's blog entry. Hmmm.) Finally, I was able to drag a first chapter out of myself, but it kicked and screamed the entire way, digging it's claws into the ground. It's a mess, but at this point I've decided to leave it be and circle back to it when the rest of the piece is done.

Which leads me to the second chapter. First chapters are difficult, but second chapters have challenges. If you're writing multiple POVs, do you keep your reader in the same POV for one more chapter to acclimate them better to the world you've created for your characters, or do you switch to a "meanwhile, back at the ranch" scene? Do you stay with the same POV character or introduce new ones? I've read novels with both approaches. If I'm really invested in the first chapter, I get grumpy when I'm unceremoniously escorted out of a setting and given a bunch of yahoos to follow from then on.  I keep waiting for the writer to get back to the "real" story. Sometimes, they never do, and then I'm really angry. But should you care about reader expectations? Or should you just tell your story? That's a decision that's up to you. As a reader though, I'm asking you to give me something in the new setting or characters that's as or even more compelling than your opening chapter so I lose that grumpy feeling quickly.

If you're writing a linear story with a single POV, then your next move is to follow your character on their journey.   It sounds easy,  but even that presents a quandary. Do you help anchor your reader by starting them off in the setting you established in the first chapter, or do you heed the advice to start a scene in the middle of action and plunk your character into a new setting?

This is what I'm struggling with.  The first chapter was hard, and this second one isn't coming any easier. While I suspect that much of my fretting has to do with many things other than the story I'm trying to write, it's still effectively blocking me from moving on. I'm trying to convince myself that like the first chapter, I should simply throw whatever down to get on with it and take care of the mess when I'm done writing the first draft.

If chapter three is like this, I won't give up, but maybe instead of not writing because I can't seem to do it, maybe I'll not write because I think it's better to put it aside for a while.

Share your writer's block woes with me. You'll get tons of sympathy.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Muse versus Market

By Lisabet Sarai

A few nights ago I woke from a vivid dream with an idea for a new story. Consumed with excitement, I grabbed the notebook I keep on the shelf in my headboard and scribbled down a synopsis, in the dark. When the next day dawned, I was delighted to find that (a) I could actually read my notes, and (b) the story premise still struck me as really promising.

Having just released a novel, I’ve been wondering what project I should tackle next. This new concepta scifi tale that resonates with a lot of contemporary issues—really got my mental wheels turning. Though the dream was little more than a single scene, with hints of a back story, I could see how to expand it, and how to focus its harrowing emotional intensity. Tragically romantic—intellectually challenging—distinctly different—the idea really sank its claws into my psyche.

Then I realized that although what I’d envisioned was a love story, it definitely did not have a happy ending. So if I wrote and published it, I couldn’t sell it as romance. And at this point in my publishing carreer, romance is what I know how to promote. The readers on my 300-odd mailing list, the daily visitors to my blog, the people who enter all my giveaways, are readers of romance. They crave an ending where the characters ultimately get what they want, not a finale where the hero dies. Yet that’s the natural way my dream would play out, if I spun a story from it.

Could I make it into a romance with a HEA? Probably, though finding a believable solution to the hero’s impending demise would take significant creativity. As a romance, I suspect this would sell, at least among the readers who have come to appreciate my unconventional approach to romance tropes. Did I want to turn this notion into a happily ending tale, though? Wasn’t that a betrayal of my midnight vision?

I could always keep the original ending and market the book as erotica, of course. Although the thematic core of the tale is not primarily about sex, I expect it to contain a significant amount of carnal activity, since the hero is a prostitute. Even erotica readers tend to shy away from dark endings, though. They might not require the characters to make a commitment, but they like it when everyone ends up satisfied. Heartbreak, injustice, terror—these aren’t favorite topics in erotica.

In any case, I don’t know how to market erotica these days, at least not stuff that would probably be more literary than smutty. Blue Moon is gone. Cleis (and just about everyone else) wants romance. In the old days, Circlet would have been the perfect publisher for this tale. But even Circlet seems to have largely climbed on the romance bandwagon.

What about turning the dream into mainstream fiction? Tragic endings are always welcome in literature. Or genre science fiction? But then what would I do about the sex? Play it down? Leave it out? I’d probably need to create a new pseudonym, too, to avoid being tarred with the opprobrium of also writing “porn”. I’d be starting from scratch, in an environment about which I know very little, at least as an author.

Let me be clear. I don’t make my living from my writing. Heaven forbid. I don’t write primarily for the money. On the other hand, I have very limited time to write, so I try to produce books that I think people will actually read. That’s the payoff, for me—emails like the one I received a few weeks ago, from a guy who absolutely loved Rajasthani Moon, or gushing reviews like I’ve been getting for The Gazillionaire and the Virgin. I write to be read. So I don’t want to put effort into creating something that will go over like a lead balloon.

It’s a dilemma. Do I follow my muse down a barely-trodden path, or divert her onto a more well-traveled highway? I go back and forth about this. Is it principled or foolish to stick to my original notions? Or maybe a bit of both?

A lot of authors read this blog, so I’ll ask: what would you do? Which would you choose, the muse or the market?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Sexy Snippet Day for February

It's that time again! Time to share bite-sized nuggets of your steamiest stories. That's right. Today is Sexy Snippet 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.

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.


~ Lisabet

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Call for Submissions: For the Men


Editor:  Rose Caraway

Publisher: Stupid Fish ProductionsSubmission Deadline:   May 1st, 2016

Publication Date: Approximately July 2016 
Payment:  $50.00 USD for Non-Exclusive Rights

Stupid Fish Productions purchases accepted stories for $50 for inclusion in this anthology. Authors will retain the rights to their individual stories.

Authors will also receive: 1 E-book copy, 1 Audible download code of the audiobook upon publication. If the book goes to print, contributing authors will also receive 1 print copy.

For The Men”

Men love a good story. They communicate in story. Ask any man near you and he’ll have a tale to tell, about that one time when…
This “For The Men” erotic collection is intended for the fellas and the women who have an appetite for something other than “Romance”. These stories are for a heterosexual audience, but might contain elements of bisexuality, gay or lesbian characters, or ‘other’.

I am seeking stories with purposeful plot and developed characters. ALL FIVE SENSES should be engaged. Writers should focus on capturing action and emotion, transition and transformation. Their stories should revolve around 
expected/unexpected intense sexual encounters. Story movement is key. The where and when of your story should include detailed elements of that specific environment and your character’s mind. Show both, action and reaction.

Romance” isn’t the focal point. Characters should be affected and effective. Let them be strong, weak, smart, clumsy, egotistical or emotional. Play with power dynamics. Put your adventurous characters ‘anywhere’ or in ‘any time’ you want them, but remember that “happily ever after’s” aren’t required here. If “Romance” is a strong element in your story, show it. Give more than nuanced feeling descriptors. Show the behavior.
For inspiration, think:

Mad MenSopranosEx MachinaAvatarStar TrekThe AnchormanPain & GainThe ExorcistThe ShiningHouse of CardsRockyThe Wire, etc. You know, think adventure: crab fishermen, astronauts, professors, senators, aliens, gold miners, athletes, soldiers, drug dealing gangsters…you get the idea. All genres and ‘kinks’ are open.

Example Story Prompts:

A trucker finds the perfect road companions; damsels in distress. (multiple women)

Guaranteed pregnancy. A scientist develops the perfect fertility serum. (Seed for sale)

She entered the Harley Davidson bathing suit contest. What she won was more than a motorcycle. (vouyerism/lesbian) [Cliché is okay, if done well.]

A WWII soldier saves a new mother, but they have to stay out of sight for a few days and the nights are cold. (lactation)

He caught the smallest fish, but she promises not to tell if he agrees to ‘satisfy’ her boyfriend. (forced bi/glory hole/anonymity)

His boss just pulled into the driveway and, once again, he’s sneaking out of the wife’s upstairs window. (infidelity)

A senator needs her ego stroked. (power play)

A married couple goes camping and the couple in the next tent over are very friendly. (wife swap)

Astronauts discover a new, aggressive reptilian species. (alien breeding/world domination)

Rose Caraway will not accept stories featuring:

Scat-play or pedophilia.
How to Submit: (1 Story per author)

Early submission is strongly encouraged. Please send your submission to:

* Email: forthemenantho at gmail dot com

* Subject Line: Submission

Please format and submit your work as follows:

Word document with your name in the heading of each page and all pages numbered. (.doc or RTF) Do not paste your story in the body of your email.

Use double spaced, Times New Roman, 12 point, black font

Up to 4000 strict word count.

Indent the first line of each paragraph 1 inch

Do not add extra lines between paragraphs

Only submit the final version of your story (Beta Readers can be found at The Slush Pile)

Include your full contact information (legal name/pseudonym, web address, mailing address and phone number) and a bio of 100 words or less, written in the third person. Do not list your previous works, or any contact information in your bio, because that would be boring. Write something fun, about you.

 **If you are using a pseudonym, please make it clear which name you want to be credited as.

Please note that Publisher, (Stupid Fish Productions) has final right of refusal on all submissions. No simultaneous submissions. Please do not submit a story that is being considered elsewhere.
Authors will be notified of acceptance upon final approval of the manuscript from the publisher.

The Value of Voyeurism: Perusing Erotic Letters from the Past

By Donna George Storey

It’s a deliciously “dirty” job, but a writer of historical erotic fiction has to do it. As part of my ongoing research for my novel, I’ve been reading the romantic and erotic correspondence of couples whose private letters have been published due to their literary and/or historic value. Sometimes both sides of the correspondence have been preserved, but this is rare. Intimate letters tended to be destroyed by at least one of the partners; more often it is the man’s that survive. If the woman’s do, frequently the racier portions are missing, no doubt for modesty’s sake. Still, many fascinating examples of both lovers’ seductive words remain for our curious modern eyes to enjoy.

Napoleon and Josephine, Thomas Jefferson and Maria Cosgrove, Mabel Loomis Todd and Austin Dickinson, Michael Collins and Kitty Kiernan, Elizabeth Bowen and Charles Ritchie, Maud Hart and Delos Lovelace, my voyeur’s list may grow further still as I continue my research. But I doubt new examples will challenge my main conclusion: Romantic love and sexual passion are timeless human experiences. Of course there are references to split drawers and dressing gowns in these letters, but the words and emotions truly transcend any particular time and place.

Most of all these letters prove that people in olden times--even prominent, “respectable” people--did enjoy sex, as much as the guardians of moral order would like to erase such evidence.

On that note, I must mention one unwitting member of this immortal erotic letter-writing tribe, a man named Godfrey Lowell Cabot, who was mentioned in a number of works I’ve consulted on sexuality in nineteenth-century America including The Humble Little Condom: A History and Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America. Mr. Cabot was from a very distinguished Boston family and a member of that city’s Watch and Ward, a group of gentlemen who reviewed pornographic images and writings in order to censor them for the good of the community. While protecting the lower orders from lustful thoughts and deeds in his public role, Mr. Cabot himself was the author of a number of intense sexual fantasies written in letters to his wife, Minnie. These letters are certainly the most transgressive (not to say “sickest”) of my sample—“dreams” wherein Mr. Cabot urinated in his wife’s mouth or was swallowed whole by her, his entire body pleasurably lodged inside hers. Of course, he wrote these fantasies in German, so perhaps that made them less obscene by Mr. Cabot’s measure. One does wonder if Minnie, reportedly a social climbing snob who complained of her husband’s incessant sexual demands, bothered to get out the German dictionary or was fluent enough to understand the “dreams” without such an effort.

In any case, there are some who question whether modern readers should intrude on a private, intimate correspondence by an otherwise respected historical figure. Perhaps they worry that the dignity of the personage and of the very value system that elevates great men over the rest of us will be compromised. Mr. Cabot is an excellent argument for openness because it benefits us all to know how hypocritical the guardians of public morals can be.

But most of the time, reading sexy love letters from the past is just plain fun.

My favorite example of historical love and lust comes in the letters James Joyce wrote to his common-law wife Nora while he was away on a long business trip in Dublin. The letters date from December 1909 and only appeared in print in Richard Ellmann’s Selected Letters of James Joyce (1975). Thanks to the Internet, we can read some of the letters in one form or another. I think they’re well worth reading for the boyish, uninhibited pleasure the letters convey. Joyce is not editing himself for public consumption, he is revealing his fantasies and desires to the woman he loves. Many call them “dirty,” but I would characterize them as “sincere.” Occasionally Joyce worries his “fuckbird” will find his fantasies perverted, a nice touch of reality, but although her replies have not survived, it is obvious she was a passionate partner in the exchange and not just doing it to keep him away from Dublin’s brothels.

However, rather like the controversial tampon scene in Fifty Shades of Grey, James Joyce’s “dirty” letters draw disgust for one natural physiological aspect in particular--his obvious joy in his partner’s farts during intercourse.

“You had an arse full of farts that night, darling, and I fucked them out of you, big fat fellows, long windy ones, quick little merry cracks and a lot of tiny little naughty farties ending in a long gush from your hole. It is wonderful to fuck a farting woman when every fuck drives one out of her.” (Excerpted from December 8, 1909)

A goodly number of online commentators are really grossed out by this (they are less vocal about Joyce’s delight in the image of Nora masturbating while she defecates, but perhaps that one was too much to tackle in a public forum). Surely anyone who’s read Ulysses--and haven’t we all?--could have guessed that Joyce is a butt guy:

“He kissed the plump mellow yellow smellow melons of her rump, on each plump melonous hemisphere, in their mellow yellow furrow, with obscure prolonged provocative melonsmellonous osculation.” (“Ithaca” chapter, Ulysses)

And dare I suggest that anyone who has experienced heterosexual intercourse knows that the insertion of a rigid penis into the woman’s pelvic region results in the passing of gas on occasion? Joyce’s celebration of his lover’s farts during intimacy could be seen as endearing, an unconditional acceptance of her body and all of its qualities in the throes of passion.

In American Taboo: The Forbidden Words, Unspoken Rules, and Secret Morality of Popular Culture, Lauren Rosewarne contends that farts and fart jokes are allowable in low humor genres and as a way to portray male characters as unrefined and undisciplined. However farts invariably decrease the sexual attractiveness of women. Desirable women simply never fart, although they are supposed to endure with patience the farts of their male partners. Above all, one is never supposed to couple a towering god of twentieth-century literature such as James Joyce with something as crude as farting.

Now, if you find farts during sex disgusting and unspeakable, that’s fine. One should be no more judged for that reaction than the opposite preference. But I’d also suggest that this glimpse into other couples’ intimate lives does give us a chance to acknowledge how sex and the taboo are closely linked. Rather than recoiling in disgust, why not wonder at the variety of humanity’s sweet perversity? And be grateful to these lovers whose words show us we are all connected through time in our erotic desires?

Write on!

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 or

Monday, February 15, 2016

How Sex Scenes Are Like Show Tunes

I love musicals, have for most of my life. There’s this thing that people sometimes say when you talk about musicals, usually rather derisively: “I don’t understand why people just burst into song!” The folks who say this often don’t care for musicals much, and don’t know them very well. They assume the songs are inserted, are distractions, are pointless. They assume that the songs don’t do anything in the story, aren’t part of the movement of plot, make it less serious or important artistically, could easily just be taken out and everything would be much better. The songs make them uncomfortable. Embarrassed, even. They feel like they are too full of feelings, too unabashed, too much.

People say similar things about sex scenes. They assume that they are inserted, that they distract from the story, that they aren’t part of the movement of the plot, make the story less serious ahrt, could easily be taken out (and should be). They imagine story to be inherently better without explicit descriptions of sex, much like people assume theater to be inherently better without song and dance numbers. They are uncomfortable with fiction that integrates the reality of sexuality into the stories it tells about people’s lives and relationships; it feels too unabashed, too much, too intense.

So, as erotica and erotic romance writers, we have at least one thing in common with the folks who write show tunes: we experience a similar kind of derision. But I think we have more common ground than that. I think folks like us who write sex scenes could learn (or be reminded of) some important things about our craft from examining what makes a really good show tune.

One of the first things about show tunes is that you have to commit. In musical theater, the song won’t work unless the writer commits to it, unless the actor brings all their intensity and concentration to the performance of it. You must go all out. The writer and the actors can’t be tentative, can’t sit in the muck of insecurity or embarrassment, can’t just put a toe in. The writing will fall flat, will feel awkward. The audience will notice the actor’s unsureness and the breaks in performance, instead of being caught up and carried along.

Let’s watch an example of what I mean. The writer of “Quiet” from the musical Matilda really commits to the internal experience of the character, to showing that to you in the lyric and the music and pacing. There’s a bunch of risk taking in this song, of not holding back. The actress also deeply commits to her performance. They both go all out, and you get a song that is intense and powerful and full of rich characterization and movement.

It’s the same with writing an amazing sex scene. You have to commit. You can’t get caught up in nerves about language, or trepidation about being that kind of writer. You have to get over the lump in your throat and make your characters do and say the kinds of things that are needed for this sex scene. You have to be brave. You have to get dirty with your characters, be in the moment with them in their vulnerability and desire and fear and love and rage and whatever else they might be feeling as they fuck.

Another part of what makes for a really good show tune is when the writers let it get as big as it needs to be. When it really takes up space in the moment, is deeply embodied, is treated as important by the characters. When the music builds and grows and fills you as you listen to it. When the dancing is given real size and space and evocative movement and deep expression. Basically, when folks break into song in a musical it's a Go Big or Go Home moment.

For example, check out Jennifer Hudson’s performance of “I Am Changing” in Dreamgirls. This song takes up space. It’s an important turning point in the story, and it is a showstopper, a gorgeous blend of musical styles, a pivotal moment in the character arc where you really feel for Effie big time. It also really builds, emotionally, musically, and her performance takes that up several notches. The way she’s so deeply embodied and in the song, the way she owns its size and intensity and moves with it, makes me hold my breath when I watch.

I would argue that our sex scenes can only be improved by letting them get as big as they need to be. What do I mean by that? Letting them be intense. Letting them take up space in the story, both in word count and in actual importance to the characters and the narrative. Letting the sex scenes have big feelings and be deeply embodied in big sensations. Letting them build and build and take over the way really amazing sex takes up all your senses.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the deep misunderstandings of both musicals and erotica is the idea that show tunes and sex scenes are extraneous. In my favorite musicals, the songs are critically important, necessary to the movement of plot, the illumination of character, the setting of tone and scene, the creation of conflict.

In the musical In The Heights, the song “Breathe” is where we first really meet Nina, a central character. This song shows who she is, her concerns and fears and conflict. It illustrates the central tensions in her life and her character arc in the play. It’s an incredibly rich and layered song, both musically and emotionally. That helps us get to know her as a character, to see the ways she is struggling, and also sets a tone for the play as a whole, the layers of voices and musical styles and concerns that are central to this specific story, the raw truth that is right out there in this musical. This song makes the story move, gets us invested in her and what she’s dealing with, helps us connect and care about how she’s going to grow throughout the play.

I would argue that the best erotica and erotic romance does this as well. That our sex scenes need to be this necessary. That our stories are better when the sex moves the plot, makes us care about the characters, shows the reader some of the tensions and conflicts inherent in the story. Ideally, our sex scenes are not extraneous, cannot be excised without destroying the story. We do our best work when we make each moment count, make it show the reader something critically important about the characters or setting or plot or conflict, make the sex mean something, do something in our story.

One of the things that show tunes do really well is use repetition. They repeat musical themes, words, choruses, dance moves, and they do this with purpose. They build story through this repetition, moving the plot at each point so that the thing that repeats catches us in its net and drags us along. They build intensity through repetition, layering it on top of itself, each time gathering more tension, holding more emotion. They draw attention to important themes or metaphor through repetition, so you are prepared for the crisis, can hold the twists and turns of story because it makes more sense, feels right.

Take a look at the Deaf West production of Spring Awakening, and their performance of “Touch Me”, a crescendo moment in the play itself, where the sexual tension that has been building throughout the play releases in ensemble. There are so many layers of repetition in this performance, from the words “touch me” and the morphing of “where the figs lie” to “where the sins lie” to “where the winds sigh”, to the musical themes that build and repeat, to the way the dancing shifts and keeps evoking earlier moments in the song. The repetition helps to build and build through an orgasmic experience, and it is beautiful and intense and evocative and complete.

Erotica that uses repetition can create a similar kind of nuanced and evocative reading experience. There is a certain kind of satisfaction that comes with repetition, when used judiciously, that’s why it’s a favored tool for musicians and orators and poets. I’m personally quite fond of it, and I think it has made a real difference in my own erotica. I would argue that repetition can be used to help create hot and beautiful and emotional and intense sex scenes. That we can repeat and morph repeated phrasing to good effect. That we can illuminate important things about character and story by drawing attention to them through repetition. That we can build, and build, and build to orgasm, through repetition.

In musical theater, songs often hold tension, nuance and complexity. They have multiple layers, different elements working against each other to show the complexities and nuanced specificities of a particular situation. In particular, melody and tone can work in counterpoint to lyric and emotional valance, in ways that make a song gorgeous in its complexity.

I want to share two examples side by side, because I think they play with similar contrasts. “Ladies Who Lunch” from Company is classic Sondheim at his writing best, where the cheerful refined melody is deeply contrasted with a bitter rage that is numbed by alcohol and expressed through biting, self-deprecating humor. This performance of the song by Carol Burnett is deeply nuanced, illuminating the complex contrasts of emotion and tone. It’s a song that holds the emotional center of the musical itself, with all of its tensions and fears about marriage and respectability.

“Paradise” from the new musical Allegiance, has a similar counterpoint, between the upbeat cheerful tune and bitter rage at the oppression of Japanese American internment. The song holds so much complexity and irony in it. It shines with all of the tensions contained in the play and the ways that the characters survive the oppression they are experiencing. The bitter comedy, the way the dancing enhances the supposed cheer with an underlying rage at injustice…this song is deeply nuanced. These elements work in the song because they are interwoven; it makes it possible to hold all of it because of the ways these things play off each other.

Like a showtune, sex is better when it’s complicated, even if it appears simple on the surface. When our sex scenes can play with contrast and tension, hold many different emotional realities at the same time, or sink into the nuances of how our characters connect, they are better for it. We get to know the characters more, we have a richer palate to play with as we explore desire, and we have ample opportunities for humor, all of which can heighten sexual tension and create deeper more satisfying story.

You may have noticed that many of the examples I have given above are deeply rooted in setting and context. I firmly believe that this is one of the deepest strengths of musicals, the way they can be so culturally specific, so deeply contextualized, so grounded in a very specific time, place, and cultural context. Instead of aiming for generalities, these songs choose to illuminate deep specificity, rooting it very concretely in a particular context.

“Ring of Keys” from the musical Fun Home is another song that does just that: we connect with it as an audience because it is focused and specific and sets its roots deep in the actual childhood experience of Alison Bechdel, telling a detailed story about an intensely beautiful moment of connection. This is a deeply queer story about her seeing a butch for the first time in her life, the ways she recognized herself in this stranger, felt connected and held. It is gorgeous, and it works so well precisely because it is planted so very firmly in the cultural context of her particular upbringing. It is the details and the nuances that make the song.

When we write sex scenes that are rooted in a particular time, and place, and cultural context, they are richer, more complex, more beautiful because of it. The very specificity of them creates so much possibility of recognition and connection for our readers, makes things more clear and concrete, brings senses alive. Putting the sex we write in deep context can be incredibly powerful.

As a writer, I soak up influence and knowledge from so many sources, and other art forms feel like they contain so much to learn from. I talked show tunes here because I love them, but it is my firm belief that we as writers can learn so much from visual art, from all forms of music, from theater and dance, from other genres of writing, and that our work will be more layered and beautiful because of those influences. In summary, I recommend applying the following lessons from show tunes to writing sex scenes:

  1. Commit
  2. Go Big or Go Home
  3. Make it Count
  4. Repeat Yourself
  5. Hold the Complexity
  6. Put it In Context

*To access the songs I used as examples all in one place, you can check out my playlist.