Friday, September 30, 2016
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
I know I'm not the only one feeling this way about my writing. A fellow horror writer on Facebook just said pretty much the same thing about his own aspirations since it's harder for him to reach his goals now than when he was younger. One commenter pointed out that maybe when he was younger he set the bar for his goals too low. I wonder if that could be my problem. I used to be happy simply being published. Now, I want to be published by bigger, better houses, get lots of great reviews, get huge sales, and eventually win awards. Not only is a lot of that out of my hands, it's harder to achieve. I have accomplished the first of those goals for the most part but not the others. Not yet. Maybe I just need time. In the meantime, I have no desire to write at all.
In the meantime, I will continue to watch this video, which I can't watch and be unhappy at the same time. It's Cab Calloway and the Nicolas Brothers doing Jumpin' Jive. This is said to be the greatest dance number ever recorded, and I sure agree with that. Get those happy feet moving!
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
by Jean Roberta
Is erotica a genre unto itself, or does the term just refer to sex scenes that could appear in any work of fiction? Most book-length works of “erotica” can also be classified as something else, and since words that refer to sex can result in books being sold only in an on-line version of under-the-counter, all of us who write about sex have a motive to define our work as romance, or contemporary fiction, or paranormal suspense, or dark fantasy, or some other thing.
When I was invited to co-edit an annual anthology, Heiresses of Russ: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction, I wondered how much sex, if any, could be allowed in an anthology that was not designated as “erotica.” Steve Berman, publisher and co-editor, told me that sex was fine as long as the stories fit the mandate of the series (speculative and lesbian in some sense, which I interpreted to mean that female characters had to have primary relationships with other girls/women). Several of the stories were chosen from erotic anthologies, and the fantasy elements fit in well with the fantasy elements in the less-explicit stories.
While choosing stories, I realized once again that there is really no such thing as a completely non-erotic story. Any situation in which sentient beings interact is potentially erotic. Human beings (not to mention shapeshifters, strange hybrids, androids, and extraterrestrials) tend to have sexual feelings, and these often form a subtext or a kind of bass line under the melody of plot.
Some calls-for-submissions that don’t appear here on the Erotic Readers and Writers site include a paragraph stating that “gratuitous” sex and/or violence is not welcome, but explicit sex scenes are okay if they fit the context, help to show character and further the plot. Well, duh.
So the question a writer must consider is not whether sexual explicitness would be accepted by an editor and a publisher, but whether it would fit a particular story – which it could, depending on how it is approached. In a way, calls for “erotica” per se are easier to respond to, because they require plots on a particular theme (e.g. men in uniform, women in college dorms) in which sex is the goal and the climax.
I have sometimes surprised myself by passing up a chance to include a sex scene in order to focus on other aspects of the relationship, or of the social context. Back in the 1980s, when I was not yet writing “erotica,” I wrote a collection of lesbian stories, including one with the working title “Love and Death in the Canadian Novel.” (My better judgment led me to rename it “Winter Break.”) I was trying to show why two women are attracted to each other, yet too divided in various ways to spend their lives together. The story includes the steamiest scene I had ever written (literally – it is set in winter, when outdoor breath becomes steam). The sex is followed by mutual accusations based on misunderstandings, which lead the pair to realize that moving in together would not be a good plan. Ironically, this is their most serious agreement.
The one-woman publisher put the steamy scene on the back cover as a teaser, although there was no more where that came from. A friend of mine who read the book asked me why I didn’t “come to the point.” Clearly, the point she wanted to come to was not exactly the one I wanted to make.
Do I plan to rewrite that old story and try to resell it? No. It was based on an actual relationship that didn’t last long, and I could hardly give it a Happy-for-Now ending (let alone a Happy-Ever-After) without changing the characters to make them more compatible. I might as well write a new story.
More recently, I wrote a story set in the imaginary world of H.P. Lovecraft, in which the central character is a young woman attending normal school in the 1920s,and enjoying sex with her fiancé, who wants to speed up the wedding date so their pleasure can be legal, respectable, and reproductive. This relationship is also doomed, but I absolutely believed what both characters told me about how much they enjoy their hard-won privacy. I was tempted to spend a page on their joy, which is destined to end because she, newly privileged with income-earning skills and the right to vote, wants a more exciting future than marriage, children and church. He, as a man of his time, thinks she is like a skittish colt who needs to have her first baby in order to “settle down.”
Ultimately, though, I wanted to go somewhere else with the story, which needed to stay within a limited word-count. So although it includes a sexual relationship, it doesn’t really qualify as “erotica.” If anything, the heroine’s first away-from-home adventure is anti-erotic for her, although she recognizes the value of expanding her horizons and calmly respecting other beings whose strangeness terrifies her until she controls her fear.
Years ago in the ERWA lists, someone posted a discussion of percentages (percentage of sexual description vs. percentage of narration and dialogue) as a way of determining whether a piece of writing qualifies as “erotica.” I’m sure some of the best-known novels we think of that way would fail the test. Yearning and sensuality can be expressed even when no one is having “sex,” as it is generally understood. And sometimes a fuck isn’t what is needed most, at least in the moment.
Am I trying to escape from the erotic writers’ ghetto altogether, so as to get more respect? I can’t absolutely deny it, since the persistent myth that erotic writing is sub-literary tends to be hard on one’s Muse. Yet the pressure of a story that wants to be written – or the voice of the character who wants to tell it – feels sexual in a broad sense.
The amount of sexual description in a story or a novel ultimately has to conform to the nature of the story. Whose story is it, and what does the narrator want the reader to know? One good way of finding answers would be to write a story with passing references to sex, then to expand the sex scenes to see if they fit the general tone of the piece. Or conversely, a sex scene could be written first, and then the backstory and the logical aftermath could be added to see if they form a coherent whole. If not, something needs to change.
The best stories, of course, don’t come only from one’s conscious mind. The writing process is more visceral than that, and characters sometimes need to take over.
What do yours tell you?
Saturday, September 24, 2016
by Kathleen Bradean
When I think of Jane Austin writing the many drafts of Pride and Prejudice by hand, I get exhausted. She didn't even have the luxury of a self-inking pen. No wonder only the rich were authors back then. Who else had the time?
Waaay back in the 1980s, when dot matrix printers were almost unreadably light and the paper had those holes in the sides for the printer feed, I'd use a clunky word processor program to write my stories, print them out, then literally cut and paste sentences and paragraphs on a sheet of paper as if I were composing world's smuttiest ransom note. We had to do that because you could see so little of the page that it was easy to get lost moving paragraphs in the word processing program. Once I had what I wanted, I'd move things around in the word processor, make my other edits, print the latest version, and bring out the scissors to hone the story some more. All of that because I couldn't bear the thought of writing a story in longhand. You see, I'd lost so much time not being allowed to write through my teens and I had to make it up. I needed the speed computers gave me. Even though I was/am a crap typist, keeping up with the speed of my thoughts was easier on computer than writing longhand.
Almost three years ago, I lost a family member and the person-shaped wound left in our lives has become a black hole. Everything gets sucked into it. Nothing escapes that void. I wanted to write after his death, but couldn't. My creativity was gone. I tried so hard to put something down but until I was able to figure out the central conflict for the book, there was nothing to write. Normally, my imagination is hard to tamp down, but it was dead. No matter how much time I put into it, I couldn't imagine a conflict that would work. I made up a few, but knew they wouldn't support a book. They felt forced. Then writer Nan Andrews was visiting and I, as usual, was bemoaning my inability to write, and she said something that triggered a cascade of imagination. (This is why writers need to get together and talk. Most of us don't live with other writers, so what we do is so foreign to our families that they can't begin to know how to help us. Other writers do.)
Even though the ideas were suddenly flowing, I didn't sit down and try like mad to capture the deluge. I did what I hadn't done since before the time of computers. I picked up a notebook and a pen and began to write.
I wasn't writing the story yet. I was telling myself the story. Or, if you prefer, I was writing a synopsis/outline. When I was done, I waited a few days to mull it over, read it again, then picked up a pen and told myself the story again. I knew the weak parts because those are the sections I couldn't write as specific events. Those passages were more of a "Step twelve: a miracle occurs" comments that were huge red flags of plot weaknesses. The second time I wrote it down, those parts had more detail and were strong enough to support the following events. Soon, I may tell myself the story again. It can only become clearer with each step.
I've never been an outliner, at least not a written outline. I always sort of had one in mind as I wrote. But that was a nebulous thing, riding the currents of my imagination and libel to follow the stream of conscience anywhere it flowed. It was ethereal. This hand-written synopsis has a different feel. It's grounded, and I'm connected to it in a different and very real way. It is an idea, but it is physical, because it flowed from my mind through my hand onto paper. At this point in my writing life, I need this anchor to keep my creativity from falling into the black hole of loss again.
I don't know if I'll continue to write by hand, but for now, I like the connection it gives me to the words. I know I'll never write a whole novel by hand, but this may be my new process. Write a synopsis, write it by hand.
Do you write by hand? Do you get a different feel for the story when you do? Have you changed up your writing methods to adapt to changes in your life?
Posted by Kathleen Bradean at 12:00 AM
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
By Lisabet Sarai
Monday, September 19, 2016
Greetings to all erotic authors!
Today's the 19th of the month, and you know what that means, right? It's Sexy Snippet Day! I hope you've got a really sizzling snippet to share with us today.
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.