Apr 102015
 
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by Suz deMello

For a while now—since the Fifty Shades trilogy attained prominence—there’s been a steady stream of online bloggers and critics dissing the books…and for good reason. They’re poorly written and edited. Fifty Shades is basically a Harlequin Presents with sugar kink.

Let’s look at the main characters, for example. Ana Steele is a perfect Harlequin heroine: still a virgin while about to graduate college. So immature that she seems to have some sort of disorder. Even though male after male in her life is attracted to her, she’s so sweet and modest that she’s unaware of her sexiness. And she’s immediately, deeply and irrevocably attracted to the “hero.” This is also a characteristic of the typical Harlequin heroine, even though artificial conflicts are created to provide some kind of story line. Otherwise the books would be over before they’ve properly started.

The “hero.” Ah, Christian Grey. Volumes have already been written about his abusive behavior. He stalks Ana, forces her to ditch her friends, especially her male buddies. He pressures her into a kinky relationship she is too emotionally immature to handle.

Skimming only two or three Harlequins will reveal the strong similarities between Grey and the basic Harlequin alpha male: the macho guy who’s really a broken child inside, but also fantastically wealthy at an absurdly young age—has anyone else noticed how mere millionaires are no longer acceptable romance heroes? Billionaires only in this club.

When I was writing for Harlequin/Silhouette, I would go through the books and highlight what appeared to be necessary character notes of the H&H. Her virginity and innocence. His contrasting wealth and sophistication. Her blushing confusion. His Rolex, limos and private plane. I’ve employed all these tropes.

Perfect ingredients of a classic BDSM power exchange? NOT. Those of us honestly involved in safe, sane and consensual BDSM avoid an unsophisticated partner until that innocent has been educated.

Setting aside the clichéd characters, the writing is poorly edited, if it was edited at all. Here’s a discussion of one craft aspect with an analysis from one of my writing manuals, Plotting and Planning:

For many, creating paragraphs in fiction—that is, dividing parts of a scene or interaction into manageable bits—is such an obvious process that it doesn’t need discussion. (Non-fiction is completely different and beyond the scope of this treatise). In Starting From Scratch, Rita Mae Brown doesn’t discuss paragraphs in fiction at all. I also had thought it was fairly easy until I encountered Fifty Shades of Grey, which contained selections like the following:

“Very well, Mr. Grey,” she mutters, then exits. He frowns, and turns his attention back to me.

“Where were we, Ms. Steele?”

Oh, we’re back to Ms. Steele now.

“Please, don’t let me keep you from anything.”

Normally, when we write interactions between people, the actions, words, and thoughts of each person are grouped in separate paragraphs. When we switch people, we create a new paragraph. So this selection should have been written thusly:

“Very well, Mr. Grey,” she mutters, then exits.

He frowns, and turns his attention back to me. “Where were we, Ms. Steele?”

Oh, we’re back to Ms. Steele now. “Please, don’t let me keep you from anything.”

What’s the reason behind this convention? So the reader can know who’s thinking and talking, we place the identifying dialog tag along with the dialog. Often we may not need a tag at all, when only two people are interacting. The convention makes this possible. Readers know that when a paragraph ends, the next paragraph belongs to another character.

The bloggers and critics who slam Fifty Shades are mostly romance and erotica authors. And more than a little of our resentment is that old bugaboo, professional jealousy.

And who can blame us? It’s hard to feel all warm and cuddly about E.L. James’ success when she so obviously does not deserve the millions she’s raking in. The writing is so bad that she clearly did not spend the years that most of us do developing our craft. We feel she doesn’t deserve her success, at least not based on the books. All of us have an early manuscript that should never see the light of day, let alone publication. E.L. James’ has, and it’s a massive bestseller. It’s galling.

I once wrote about professional jealousy that it has at its root cause an unhealthy interest in others. I still believe that. I know nothing about E.L. James. She is completely irrelevant to me. Her success does not equal my failure—in fact, the popularity of her books could increase the popularity of mine.

And she could be the happiest person in the world or one of the most miserable. I don’t know.

But what I do know is that I have been the target of resentment because of my “success.” Imagine that! A floundering midlist author the object of professional jealousy! Blew me away, too.

It happens that the time I noticed that resentment was also when my father was dying. I was stunned that anyone would be envious of me.

The lesson? The woman we resent for her success may be the most distressed and tortured human being walking this planet. We just don’t know—it’s our nature to put on a brave face while inside we’re screaming in pain. It’s also our nature to compete, but we must learn to maturely deal with the emotions that result from competition.

***

About the Author:

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written nineteen books in several genres, including nonfiction, memoir, erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms Totally Bound, Liquid Silver Books and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.

–Find her books at http://www.suzdemello.com

–For editing services, email her at suzdemello@gmail.com

–Befriend her on Facebook, and visit her group page.

–She tweets @Suzdemello

–and posts to Pinterest

–and Goodreads.

–Her current blog is TheVelvetLair.com

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Mar 182015
 
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by Nobilis Reed

It happens every so often. Some author somewhere will get called out for not including substantial female characters in their novels. It also happens with creators of comics, TV and movies. If there are women in the story, they fall into a few roles that generally don’t leave them much room for agency; the princess that needs to be rescued or the girlfriend who gets “fridged” in order to provide the hero with motivation. This sort of writing is the primary reason for the Bechdel Test. And too often, the author accused will respond with something like “Oh, I couldn’t presume to write deeply about female characters. I don’t understand them well enough.”

I have no doubt that this is utter bullshit.

I’ve been writing stories with well-developed female characters since the beginning. It never occurred to me that women might be mysterious creatures, beyond my capacity to understand or empathize with. They were always just people. People who may or may not have the same background, expectations, drives, desires, and ways of thinking as I do, but then most of my other characters don’t have the same thoughts and feelings either. I’ve never felt that my imagination and empathy were not up to the task.

Maybe I’m just a genius?

Maybe I’m this paragon of perspicacity, peering past the veils that obscure the feminine soul, teasing out Secrets Man Was Not Meant to Know. Maybe I’m a mutant, bitten by a radioactive woman, with amazing mental powers that I can call upon in times of crisis. Or maybe I’m actually trans, unbeknownst to my generally-male sense of identity up to this point, and my body is inhabited by a female mind.

Or maybe, just maybe, the whole idea that women, as a gender, are more complicated than any man can hope to understand is bullshit. Maybe it’s a pillar of sexism that gives men an easy out, an excuse for failing to empathize, for brushing off their failures to treat women like human beings. Maybe it’s a pass men give themselves to avoid having to examine their own thoughts and feelings about women deeply.

Because here’s the truth, which some may find disturbingly radical: Women are human beings. And as human beings, their thoughts, feelings, drives and ambitions are not that different from anyone else’s. An author with the capacity to write a character who isn’t one hundred percent identical to themselves must, therefore, have the capacity to write someone of a different gender. In fact, it’s easier to write deeply about someone of a different gender who shares the author’s basic cultural background than it is to write about someone from a radically different background. After all, dear male writers, women are all around you. All you have to do is watch, listen, pay attention. Just as you would with anyone else.

And here’s your story idea for the month, fresh from Poughkeepsie: A character arrives in your city from an alternate universe where there’s no sexism.

***

Stories that don’t stop at the bedroom door—or the castle gate—or the airlock.
http://www.nobiliserotica.com
Podcast: nobilis.libsyn.com
Twitter: @nobilis

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Mar 142015
 
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By billierosie

Slowly, slowly, the beacon fire smouldered. In 1897, Bram Stoker struck the first spark when he published his horror novel Dracula. The kindling had been stacked up for centuries, in the form of mythologies, rumours and stories; those creepy tales whispered about Vampires. Creatures of the night; the undead, seeking you out to sink their fangs into your tender jugular and drink your blood; draining you. The stories go back thousands of years. Now, in 2015, the beacons have crossed oceans; the fires flame fiercely, proclaiming that the old stories are still being told and new tales are being written.

Stoker could have had no idea that his short novel would precipitate a whole genre of writing that would hold sway on our collective imagination for decades.

Although Stoker did not invent the vampire, the novel’s influence on the popularity of vampires has been singularly responsible for many theatrical, film and television interpretations throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

From the beginning of history, vampire-like spirits and beings have been recorded. The Akhkharu were blood-sucking demons, written about back in the time of Sumer. We’re talking about 5,000 years BC. The ancient Chinese wrote about “hopping corpses” which would go around and consume a victim’s life essence (commonly known as chi). Even ancient Egyptian lore had a story where the goddess Sakhmet was consumed with bloodlust. From the earliest of times, vampire-like beings have been prominent in the folklore of several different cultures.

The most well-known versions of vampire myth are those of the Slavic and Romanian cultures, which, due to their proximity, are similar. And it is from Eastern Europe, that Stoker’s Count Dracula originates.

There are several reasons that a person may become a vampire, such as unnatural death, birth defects, or conception on certain days. Romanian legend gave rise to the belief that being bitten by a vampire would doom one to become a vampire after death. Both Slavic and Romanian myths hold the belief that, with the advent of a vampire, there would be deaths of livestock and family members of the vampire. The favoured way to kill a vampire in these two myths is by driving a stake through the heart, decapitation, and if necessary, dismemberment. Slavic and Romanian vampire myths have given rise to the most popular world-view of vampires.

But what’s the fascination? Why the endless retelling of this old story? Are we playing with danger from the safety of fiction? The horror of vampires is very real; I should know. I spent my adolescence terrified of them; especially Dracula. I invented bizarre little rituals to ward him off and keep me safe. Positioning on my left side as I lay in my bed, was paramount—as was a convoluted prayer; a mantra that I would recite over and over again. Sleep would be a long time coming.

The success of Dracula spawned a distinctive vampire genre. The vampire is such a dominant figure in the horror genre that literary historian Susan Sellers places the current vampire myth in the “comparative safety of nightmare fantasy”.

We relinquish control to the vampire. He swirls his cloak around his victim and bites. His teeth penetrate us. It’s a reconstructed image of the sexual act; in fact actual copulation seems tame compared with what the vampire can do. The victim has no control over his ghastly lover. The victim flirts with death.

Sex and death.

But it’s not just the Count we have to fear. He is scary, but his entourage of female vampires more so. Female vampires are predatory and take their pleasure where they will; they are women who take control of the sex act itself. Victorian men—beware! The ideal Victorian woman was chaste, innocent, a good mother. She definitely wasn’t a sexually aggressive huntress.

The three beautiful vampires which Jonathan Harker, Stoker’s narrator, encounters in Dracula’s castle, are both his dream and his nightmare; indeed, they embody both the dream and the nightmare of the Victorian male imagination in general. The sisters represent what the Victorian ideal stipulates women should not be; voluptuous and sexually aggressive—thus making their beauty both a promise of sexual fulfilment and a curse. These women offer Harker more sexual gratification in two paragraphs than his fiancée Mina does during the course of the entire novel. However, this sexual proficiency threatens to undermine the foundations of a male-dominated society by compromising men’s ability to reason and maintain control. For this reason, the sexually aggressive women in the novel must be destroyed.

In a passage highly charged with erotic symbolism, Jonathan Harker writes in his journal,

“I was afraid to raise my eyelids, but looked out and saw perfectly under the lashes. The girl went on her knees, and bent over me, simply gloating. There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck—she actually licked her lips like an animal, till I could see in the moonlight, the moisture shining on the scarlet lips and on the red tongue as it lapped the white sharp teeth. Lower and lower went her head as the lips went below the range of my mouth and chin and seemed to fasten on my throat. Then she paused, and I could hear the churning sound of her tongue as it licked her teeth and lips, and I could feel the hot breath on my neck. Then the skin of my throat began to tingle as one’s flesh does when the hand that is to tickle it approaches nearer, nearer. I could feel the soft, shivering touch of the lips on the super sensitive skin of my throat, and the hard dents of two sharp teeth, just touching and pausing there. I closed my eyes in languorous ecstasy and waited, waited with beating heart.”

The vampire lover is receptive erotica personified. You relinquish control; you do nothing, other than give yourself up to the seduction.

Janine Ashbless suggests; “We don’t fantasise about controlling vampires—we fantasise about how we have NO control over them. They are stand-ins for Death itself.”

Stoker’s narrator flirts with the promise of an intercourse so erotic that he will give up his life.

Later in the novel, Count Dracula has made his way to England, and sets about possessing the upper-middle class Lucy.

Once infected by Dracula, Lucy becomes sexually overt and aggressive, and is portrayed as a monster and a social outcast. She feeds on children making her the maternal antithesis as well as a child molester. In order to rectify Lucy’s condition she is sexually overpowered by her fiancée, Holmwood; the scene is witnessed by Jonathan Harker and Van Helsing. Holmwood penetrates her to death with a stake through the chest, a staking which is openly sexual in interpretation:

“The thing in the coffin writhed; and a hideous, blood-curdling screech came from the opened red lips. The body shook and quivered and twisted in wild contortions; the sharp white teeth champed together till the lips were cut, and the mouth was smeared with a crimson foam. He (Holmwood) looked like a figure of Thor as his untrembling arm rose and fell, driving deeper and deeper”

The killing of Lucy is a sort of legitimised gang rape, legitimised because the Victorian balance of sexual penetration from the female domain is back in its accepted station within the male domain.

The reasons for our fear of, and fascination with, vampires change with the times we live in. To Stoker’s contemporaries, Count Dracula posed many threats to Victorian social, moral and political values: he changes virtuous women into beasts with ravenous sexual appetites; he is a foreigner who invades England and threatens English superiority; he is the embodiment of evil that can only be destroyed by reasserting the beliefs of traditional Christianity in an increasingly skeptical and secular age; he represents the fear of regression, a reversal of evolution, a return to our more primal animal state.

Think of the wealth of literature, film and television dramas that we wouldn’t have if Bram Stoker hadn’t written Dracula.

Perhaps they leave you cold—I love them! I’m over my teenage angst about them. There’d be no exotic Lestat, from Ann Rice. No Hammer House of Horror. No vampires with a conscience; M.Christian wouldn’t have written his vampire novel, Running Dry. Neither would Janine Ashbless have written her short story, “The Blood of the Martyrs”. All wonderful stuff; my favourite writers digging around in my agonised psyche.

And then there’s those TV shows; Buffy, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries. A blood-letting, tinged with magic. I lose myself in a world, of exotic, erotic fantasy. A strange world of death and immortality. Stories that speak to us once again of an ancient, horrid rite and fear.

***

billierosie has been writing erotica for about three years. She has been published by Oysters and Chocolate, in The Wedding Dress. Logical Lust accepted her story “Retribution” for Best S&M 3. She has also been published by Sizzler, in Pirate Booty and in their Sherlock Holmes anthology, My Love of all that is Bizarre, as well as Hunger: A Feast of Sensual Tales of Sex and Gastronomy and Sex in London: Tales of Pleasure and Perversity in the English Capital. She also has a collection of short, erotic stories, Fetish Worship, as well as novellas Memoirs of a Sex Slave and Enslaving Eli, both published by Sizzler Editions in 2012 and available for purchase at Amazon.
billierosie can be found at Twitter, @jojojojude and at her blog.

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Mar 052015
 
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by Suz deMello

Anyone else notice a distinctly hostile environment toward sex and sexuality on the net?

I’m not talking about the porn sites. I’m talking about mainstream sites and providers censoring content.

I recently received the below from Google:

Dear Blogger User,

We’re writing to tell you about an upcoming change to the Blogger Content
Policy that may affect your account.

In the coming weeks, we’ll no longer allow blogs that contain sexually
explicit or graphic nude images or video. We’ll still allow nudity
presented in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts, or
where there are other substantial benefits to the public from not taking
action on the content.

And I’ve ranted before about Amazon’s policies in this blog and elsewhere.

Between them, Google and Amazon control quite a large proportion of what we see, hear, read and buy.

It’s often been noted that Americans are repressed sexually. This repression seems to create an unhealthy aversion to the naked human body. A person, regardless of gender, can sunbathe topless on most European beaches. Not so in the USA, where many view a woman’s breast as pornographically rather than naturally beautiful.

I can appreciate that Amazon and Google do not want to become porn purveyors. However, there’s a slippery slope on the way from literature to pornography, and erotica clings to that slope. Erotica writers are digging in our spiked heels and holding on for dear life with our cuffed hands.

Jaid Black, the founder of Ellora’s Cave, one of the biggest online purveyors of erotic and erotic romance novels, said she spends her time thinking about “new ways to create income for Ellora’s…that don’t involve Amazon.” According to an interview in New York magazine (2/23/15), EC’s Amazon-generated income plummeted in 2013 by more than $2 million and has never recovered.

It’s hard to pinpoint a culprit, though. Advances in technology have thrown self-publishing to the forefront. Many of the newbies are so desperate to be read that they’re giving away their work for free or for rock-bottom prices. Anthologies or boxed sets of romance and erotica are most commonly priced at 99 cents, a price point that makes it virtually impossible for a professional writer to earn a decent living.

Of course parents should be empowered to determine what their children are exposed to on the internet, but “protecting” the rest of us is condescending and outright offensive. Parents have tools they can use to block content they may deem harmful to their children, such as NetNanny or CYBERsitter.

What can be done to combat the forces of repression? Organizations such as the OpenNet Initiative exist solely to inform the public about web-based censorship and surveillance efforts. The ACLU, Reporters Without Borders, The Censorware Project and peacefire.org have similar missions. Checkout out and supporting these organizations is one venue.

Another is registering our concerns, not as writers, but as consumers. According to article after article, Amazon is all about the customer, not the content creator. “Former executives all have stories about Bezos’ obsessive focus on the customer.” (Jeff Bezos is the famously obsessive founder and CEO of Amazon). Bezos explains that his company’s success is due to his focus on the customer, not the competitor.

Thus, approaching Amazon with concerns as consumers will be more effective. Querying Amazon for the reason we can’t find our favorite authors’ books may be a more productive approach.

As for Google, their corporate approach is, “Focus on the user and all else will follow”.

We’re all users. Some of us want to use Google to find erotica.

Focus on our status as consumers rather than creators of content and all else will follow.

Those of us writing have generally spent years honing our craft. Depressing, isn’t it, to be so little respected?

***

About the Author:

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written nineteen books in several genres, including nonfiction, memoir, erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms Totally Bound, Liquid Silver Books and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.

–Find her books at http://www.suzdemello.com

–For editing services, email her at suzdemello@gmail.com

–Befriend her on Facebook, and visit her group page.

–She tweets @Suzdemello

–and posts to Pinterest

–and Goodreads.

–Her current blog is TheVelvetLair.com

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Feb 272015
 
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By M.Christian

“Dialogue can be tricky—”

“Whatcha mean ‘dialogue can be tricky’?  It’s just people talking, right?  How hard can it be?”

“You’d be surprised.  For instance, a lot of people think that dialogue should be … um … er … ah … accurate.  But if you wrote down how people actually talk it’s kind of … muddled … youknowwhatImean?”

“Okay, I getcha: you mean people should have distinctive voices, sound like human beings, but not cram those voices with the stuff real people actually say when they’re talking.”

“Bingo!  It’s also important to know some basic dialogue grammar and punctuat—”

“—like dashes for when someone gets interrupted—”

“—right!  Or when you…”

“Trail off, right?  What about ‘OK’?”

“Well, the jury is out on that one.  Personally I don’t like two huge caps in my dialogue.  I prefer the more natural ‘okay.’  The same with tags, some people think that you have to have at least one tag at the end of a line of dialogue, but others say you don’t need any as long as it’s clear who’s doing the speaking—especially if it’s just between two characters, like us.  Just be sure not to go too long without a tag as readers can sometime lose track of the characters.”

“I’m hip.  I heard someone say that you should know who’s doing the talking by their vocabulary or style, but not to be so obvious that it’s clumsy.”

“It’s tricky, to be sure, but it really helps bring a character to life.  Also, don’t hesitate to use typographic emphasis in dialogue, especially when it makes what a person is saying clear.  Just stay away from ALL CAPS—”

“Jeez, no need to shout.”

“Or too many exclamation points!!!!”

“Which just sounds weird.”

“It’s much better to use simple italics … just be sure and put them where they’re most needed and not just willy-nilly as, again, it comes off as … bizarre.”

“Right.  What also gets me is when characters talk all stilted-like.  I mean, come on: you can be loose and be hard to follow but too stiff and it’s like listening to two damned robots.”

“To be sure!  Try listening to your characters.  Pay attention to writers who do dialogue well, or to good movies or TV shows.  That’s how a writer learns, after all.  You can also use … what is it called?  Oh, yeah: grammar as a way of giving a character life like … pauses, like that.  Or (watch where you’re stepping, buddy) asides, like that, or [can you tell me the way to the train station], he said in French.  Stuff like that.  But, again, don’t try to be too clever ’cause it’ll just pull readers out of the story.”

“What about if you have someone who’s … what did Bob say? ‘Quoting from another character’?”

“Yeah, that can be tricky. Technically you just have to put a single quotation mark in there like you did, but I don’t like to have people directly quote another character.  It’s confusing, and unrealistic since we rarely remember what someone exactly said: kind of pulls the reader out of the dialogue.”

‘Then there’s the Brits—’

“Oh, yeah; that can be confusing: British copy editors often have single quotes for dialogue.”

“You know what ruffles my feathers?”

“Do tell.”

“When people think you have to have a whole new tag at the end of each line of dialogue, like repeating ‘said’ is some horrible rule to stay away from.  I mean, come on, it can get real silly real quick: people ‘said’ then ‘uttered’ then ‘proclaimed’ then ‘spouted’ … sheesh!”

“I hear ya.  The same goes fer people talkin’ way too much with whatcha might say is an accent.  Get with it, folks: if ya can’t understan’ it it ain’t gonna work—”

“Or when youse puts in whatcha think is ah poinsonal style a’ talkin’ and all da happens is it’s either confusin’ or insultin’—youse catcha my drift?”

“Oh, yeah!  Nothing worse that a character you can’t understand, or one who sounds like a poorly constructed stereotype.   I understand wanting to show off someone’s character through their dialogue, but ya gotta do yer research and keep it down to a dull roar.”

“Like with historical characters.  Oh, man, that gets my goat: when you got this Roman legionnaire saying, like, ‘okay’ or something like that.  Or a Victorian British character using 21st century terms.  Sure, too much accuracy is just as bad … ’cause I doubt anyone would ever understand a word they were saying … but that doesn’t mean throwing a bunch of anachronisms into a story, either.  So, what about sex?”

“Here?  Now?  With all these people watching?”

“Ha-ha, Mr. Comedian.  No, I mean what about dialogue with sex scenes?”

“Oh, that.  Well, stay the hell away from onomatopoeias—”

Gesundheit.”

Now who’s the comedian? Onomatopoeia: ‘the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named’, according to Webster’s.  In erotica it’s oooooh, aaaaah … stuff like that.  Sound effects, you could say.  Always horrible in erotica.  You can just write that someone laughed or moaned.”

“Oh, yeah, I know what you mean.  Like you said, too, I guess: make sure your characters use the right words for what they’re doing.”

“God, yes. And research is important but, again, don’t let it get in the way of being clear about what’s happening.  Back to the Victorians: they used a lot of slang for sex and body parts—so you can have fun there … just not too much or it can either get confusing or make you look like a show-off.”

“Okay, Mr. Expert: what advice can you give a writer about dialogue?”

“Well, for starters, feel your characters.  Listen to them.  Don’t worry about avoiding grammatical mistakes—you can always fix that later—just get their voices down on the page.  Use your own life: the way you and your friends talk … just don’t be too literal.  Try to push yourself: if you feel your dialogue could do with some work, read plays or listen to movies or shows with the picture off to get a feeling for how people talk.”

“Sounds good to me … but you forgot an important one.”

“Oh?  Enlighten me.”

“Write nothing but two people talking to each other.”

***

About M. Christian
Calling M.Christian versatile is a tremendous understatement. Extensively published in science fiction, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and even non-fiction, it is in erotica that M.Christian has become an acknowledged master, with more than 400 stories, 10 novels (including The Very Bloody Marys, Brushes and The Painted Doll). Nearly a dozen collections of his own work (Technorotica, In Control, Lambda nominee Dirty Words, The Bachelor Machine), more than two dozen anthologies (Best S/M Erotica series, My Love for All That is Bizarre: Sherlock Holmes Erotica, The Burning Pen, and with Maxim Jakubowksi The Mammoth Book of Tales from the Road).  His work is regularly selected for Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and others. His extensive knowledge of erotica as writer, editor, anthologist and publisher resulted in the bestselling guide How To Write And Sell Erotica.

In addition, he is a prolific and respected anthologist, having edited twenty five anthologies to date. He is also responsible for several non-fiction books, notably How to Write and Sell Erotica.

M.Christian is also the Associate Publisher for Renaissance eBooks, where he strives to be the publisher he’d want to have as a writer, and to help bring quality books (erotica, noir, science fiction, and more) and authors out into the world.

He can be found in a number of places online, not least of which is mchristian.com.

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Feb 212015
 
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By billierosie

My friend Ed likes to be dominated by a woman. For Ed it is his raison d’etre—his reason to live. I asked Ed to explain how it works. Here’s what Ed told me…

For the past 35 years or so, beginning long before I was old enough to act on my desires, I have been drawn to the mystery and magic of dominant women. There are millions of men just like me, though relatively few discuss it openly. In fact, many overcompensate with a macho pose that reminds me of teen boys who think smoking makes them look cool. You know the type: they pinch a cigarette with a pinky jutting out that has no other place to go at the moment. Holding a smoke in an inexperienced hand, the kid announces to the world his nervous foray into manhood, or at least an awkward semblance of it.

I have known other submissive men, and the Pose is a common theme among them. They talk about women as though they understand, appreciate and ultimately conquer them with a rakish style, a heady cologne and swagger. They fool some of their mates, but they don’t fool me. Never have. I have been submissive to exotic and commanding women since before many of these chintzy peacocks were born. And what have I discovered? Exactly this: any woman with a healthy dose of self-esteem and a cultivated air of authority will bring any heterosexual man—be he submissive, dominant, neither or both—to his knees whenever she pleases.

Even when being coyly submissive, such a woman is in control of herself, in control of the situation, and in control of the overheated male, blind to his own complicity in her plans for seduction. It probably has been like this forever. If there indeed was a Garden of Eden, it was Eve after all that wielded the apple, plunged Adam from his perch of grace and blamed it all on a lying snake. That she also was banished from Paradise only authenticates her humanity, else countless men would be tempted over and over again by her sweet, swaying sorcery. Heaven would never be rid of us.

Yet don’t we men clumsily forget that essential fact, her very powerful humanity, as applied to the domination of males throughout the ages? If Woman was Divine and not mortal, where would be the glory in her triumph? Goddesses at play are a provocative myth, but the power of Womanhood is tangibly real. In the fever swamp of lust, up to our eyes in desire, we men surrender our tenuous grip on independence—a maddeningly ephemeral quality even in daily life—and we fall to our knees and worship the source of our physical being. No price is too high or sacrifice so exorbitant that we can resist answering with a meek yes when She shouts Her stern, insistent warnings. And then we jump madly, all primally enchanted fools, into the ultimate trap, a honey-moistened delta of destruction awaiting our swollen egos.

And, clever in her erotic wickedness, She will have us begging for more. In the inescapable clutch of her talons, our pride bleeds away as our seed splashes into the void. Thus She encloses and conquers him, and the archetypal Femme Fatale is celebrated, adored and obeyed by the very victims that would greedily have held her for ransom had they been conceived with the pluck to outwit Mother Nature.

I do not know a man alive or dead (starting with myself!) who would not play out this eternal drama to infinity, Sisyphus grunting and pushing his damnable rock, so long as occasionally, as might satisfy our rulers, their gates of Heaven opened, however sparingly, admitting the unworthy—all of us simple, salty males—to enjoy, however fleetingly, the ecstasy of release, madly shooting spasms of our essence through her portal to the stars.

Men are proud beggars, an irony of hard muscle and weak will. Women who grasp this verity are fit to rule their men, from affairs of the boudoir to the politics of the planet. It is the next Great Awakening.

***

billierosie has been writing erotica for about three years. She has been published by Oysters and Chocolate, in The Wedding Dress. Logical Lust accepted her story “Retribution” for Best S&M 3. She has also been published by Sizzler, in Pirate Booty and in their Sherlock Holmes anthology, My Love of all that is Bizarre, as well as Hunger: A Feast of Sensual Tales of Sex and Gastronomy and Sex in London: Tales of Pleasure and Perversity in the English Capital. She also has a collection of short, erotic stories, Fetish Worship, as well as novellas Memoirs of a Sex Slave and Enslaving Eli, both published by Sizzler Editions in 2012 and available for purchase at Amazon.
billierosie can be found at Twitter, @jojojojude and at her blog.

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Feb 142015
 
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by Suz deMello

For many of us who write erotica, the paranormal sub-(sub-)genre is the most enticing one of all, with its many ways to increase sexual tension. World-building allows us to create our own erotic settings, invent sexier creatures than those who exist on our planet, traipse through time to find or lose lovers…we can bend reality any way we choose. We can invent supernatural beings both virtuous and villainous; we can invest the corners of our new world with quirks, setting up the thrills and spills that make a great read.

Really, though, the paranormal encompasses so many sub-sub-genres! These include, but are not limited to: futuristic, including science fiction; steampunk; time travel; fantasy, which encompasses “creature” stories with vampires, weres, the fae, dragons, zombies and the like, as well as magic and witchcraft. All of these can be mixed into any story brew you please.

Take the basic elements of any book and consider how they could be made paranormal, i.e., beyond the normal.

Characters and conflicts

There’s a natural tension in a romance between a paranormal entity and a human, and you can exploit this to your advantage and to the betterment of your book. Vampires are a great example. How can there be a “happily ever after” in a romance between an immortal, virtually invulnerable being and someone who will, inevitably, die? Would any sensible vampire dare to open his or her heart to a fragile human?

And how can a human trust in the love of an immortal? We who age must fear the loss of an immortal’s love.

Vampires, being denizens of the night, are intrinsically mysterious. As powerful predators, vamps step easily into villainous roles, but lately we’ve been reading about heroic vampires as well; with their extraordinary senses, vampires can make extraordinary heroes. The vampire lovers in my short story Blood is Thicker… are a case in point. One’s a detective and the other a private investigator.

There’s also natural tension in a relationship between different supernatural beings. Werewolves and vampires are both dominating creatures with their own alpha males and females figuring into many an erotic romance. What happens when territories overlap? Clashes are inevitable, and the sex is awesome.

Many writers have created supernatural beings whose abilities amplify each other’s. For example, Jayne Castle (Jayne Ann Krentz) created different types of psychics in what I call her flower trilogy (Amaryllis, Orchid, and Zinnia); their differing talents need each other in order to focus and operate powerfully. Thus, they have to work together in dyads to solve the mystery and trap the villain. Often (but not always) in a heterosexual pairing, the psychics experience sexual tension, emotional intimacy and conflict via this device with, say, one psychic wondering if the other loves her or if he’s simply invested in their complementary powers.

Other writers create creatures made for sex. Succubi and incubi, supernatural demons who use humans for sex and seed—these and so many others have all become quite popular. Some writers have invented aliens which can extrude body parts and insert them into their human subjects for pleasure and pain.

Setting

Setting is an often overlooked aspect of our novels. As an editor, I have read several stories with completely unspecified or only vaguely sketched-out settings. As a reader, I like to be grounded in a story. I like to know where and when the story’s taking place. As a writer, I let the reader know where and when the story’s taking place, even if the both are completely imaginary, e.g., “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

In a paranormal story, it is fatal to overlook setting. The more richness and depth you can impart to your story’s world within the constraints of wordcount, the better—in fact, some settings are so compelling that they will earn your book a spot on many a reader’s “keeper” shelf. Fans return again and again to the Harry Potter books and to Tolkien not only because of the intriguing characters, compelling conflicts and universal themes, but because they want to spend more time at Hogwarts or exploring Middle Earth. Orson Scott Card calls fiction dependent upon a particular setting milieu fiction, and gives Tolkien’s Ring Trilogy as an example.

Of course you may create any setting that compels you, but when you do so, consider how it will facilitate or block mystery and romance.

When world-building for a paranormal erotic romance, I like to include elements that will facilitate sexy situations. In Queen’s Quest, a paranormal erotic thriller, I postulated a planet with an extremely low birthrate. Babies were rare and prized. Thus, sex was encouraged—including public sex—which enabled me to include numerous erotic scenes, while the dearth of normal births encouraged the characters to find other reproductive methods. These added to the suspense subplot (I don’t want to say more without providing a spoiler alert) as well.

Settings need not be exotic and magic need not be arcane, invented from whole cloth. You can use what you already know. I drew upon my teenage interests in Tarot reading and Wicca to write Gypsy Witch, an erotic short story set in my hometown of Sacramento, California during the dog days of late summer. A character used witchcraft to bring to life the stone statues of knights set at the doorway of the downtown Masonic Temple, bringing magic to an otherwise mundane setting. The romantic conflict ended in a ménage—a different kind of magic.

Theme

Theme is also overlooked, and unfortunately so; it’s intrinsic to our stories, as much so as words themselves. Many paranormals feature the clash of good against evil, often employing mythical and/or religious figures such as goddesses and gods, angels, devils, demons and the like. They will inevitably dabble in moral questions that the author may or may not have intended to raise—but it’s no wonder they make their way into our books; these questions are older than Faust, older even than the Bible.

Coming of age stories are also common, and (if the characters are old enough to consent freely) can be particularly enthralling in an erotic context. In erotica, we often read the induction of a virgin into the pleasures of sex. One of my erotic short stories, First and Last, was about an arranged marriage on a lunar colony. Similarly, another popular theme is the BDSM newbie learning about the joy of kink.

The message? Erotica isn’t only about sex, and paranormal content is an exciting and infinitely fertile way to engage the reader. Write a good story and weave in explicit sex and you’ll have a really good story. Put it on another planet and you’ll have a great story.

***

About the Author:

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written nineteen books in several genres, including nonfiction, memoir, erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms Totally Bound, Liquid Silver Books and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.

–Find her books at http://www.suzdemello.com

–For editing services, email her at suzdemello@gmail.com

–Befriend her on Facebook, and visit her group page.

–She tweets @Suzdemello

–and posts to Pinterest

–and Goodreads.

–Her current blog is TheVelvetLair.com

 

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Feb 072015
 
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By Nobilis Reed

I just finished listening to the audiobook of Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá. It’s a nonfiction analysis of the science of how human sexuality evolved. Mainly, it takes aim at the evolutionary psychologists that have presented us with a competitive model of monogamy and cheating, where men evolved to try to impregnate as many women as possible without commitment, and women evolved to select only those mates who could be coerced into committing. They point, instead, to a tribal culture where sex was free and open, used not for a “pair bond” but rather as a bond for the entire tribal band. Competition, in their view, takes place at fertilization (i.e. whose sperm will fertilize the egg) rather than by restricted matings.

It’s a fascinating book, and so chock full of useful information I won’t bother to summarize all of it here. Instead, you should read it. Or listen to it, as I did. I think you’ll find it quite convincing.

The important takeaways for me as an erotica author are manifold. Among many other things, this book explains why more women read erotica than men. It explains why MFM menage is more popular than FMF.

Sperm competition is one of the most important ideas in this book. The basic idea is that a woman’s body is designed to make fertilization difficult, so that only the fittest sperm make it to the egg. Biochemistry, the woman’s immune system, even the shape of her cervix are all designed to weed out all but a tiny fraction of sperm. This means that in evolutionary terms, it is advantageous for her to have sex with as many men as possible, in order to make that competition as fierce as possible. That explains why a woman (generally) still wants sex after she’s had an orgasm, more than a typical man would. This would seem to me, to explain why MFM menage is so popular; it synchs up well with that fundamental drive.

Sperm competition also explains why women can stay aroused for long periods of time, in spite of orgasm. To me, this is related to the greater demand for longer erotic work like novellas and novels among women. For a long time I had thought that this was simply sexism, a greater tolerance for such interests in women than in men, but I can see now that view was flawed. The difference isn’t cultural, it’s biological. Or at least, it could be.

Another book that’s been on my mind is Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us by Jesse Bering. This one talks about the nature of sexual paraphilias and how they come about; it appears that your average male’s sexual preferences are set during early adolescence and persist strongly for the rest of his life, whereas your average female’s are more malleable. This is referred to briefly in Sex at Dawn, as well. Again, there’s a lot more going on in this book than I can summarize here; I recommend it to anyone interested in writing books that hook deep into the reader’s psyche.

To my mind, this causes the interests of male readers to become tightly focused; they want particular body types, activities, or themes presented, the same ones over and over. They discover an author or website that focuses on what they want, and they stick with it, as long as it keeps feeding their particular interests. Women, on the other hand, being more flexible, can find lots of things sexy; this explains why more women write erotica, and why there’s more variety in erotica marketed to them.

These influences may have been presenting some obstacles to my career, or at least my ignorance of these influences hasn’t been helping me any. I’ll be keeping this new information in mind as I go forward.

***

Stories that don’t stop at the bedroom door—or the castle gate—or the airlock.
http://www.nobiliserotica.com
Podcast: nobilis.libsyn.com
Twitter: @nobilis

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Jan 312015
 
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By Suz deMello

Amazon is known for its ruthless business practices—it doesn’t merely squeeze competition, it strangles it until it dies.

Amazon currently sells 40% of all new books sold in the USA. Their percentage of the market in ebooks is even larger—perhaps 66% according to the above-cited Salon.com article.

Amazon is not only a bookseller, but a publisher, and it favors its own imprints and minimizes the ability for readers to find its competitors. The most famous example is that of Hachette. Check out Stephen Colbert’s clips on the issue.

Well-known is Amazon’s dislike of sexy covers, adult-oriented books and erotica; it seems to especially target purveyors of steamy books. Though Amazon touts its independent publishing program as a boon for writers, many indie published authors, especially in erotic romance, complain that Amazon’s search engine has made it difficult if not impossible for readers to find their books. The Kindle Unlimited program has cut further into their book revenues. Ellora’s Cave, one of the most prominent publishers of steamy and erotic romance on the web, has downsized radically, citing a massive drop in Amazon sales of its books as the reason.

Well-known erotic romance author Selena Kitt had this to say (and a lot more):

If you’re an erotica writer, you know that Amazon has a double standard. If you publish a title and put it into the “erotica” category, there are certain things that aren’t allowed in the title or on blurb. But if you put that same title and blurb into the “romance” category, it’s fine. Half-naked couples in a hot, torrid embrace are just fine in romance, but strangely, in the erotica category, they’re often filtered and sometimes even blocked.

The loyalty of many customers to Amazon is misplaced. For example, Amazon often does not feature the best online price for a book or other item. A couple of cases in point:

On 30 Sept 14, the price of one of my shorties, Highland Vampire, on Amazon was $2.51. The price at Harlequin’s site was $2.39.

Being the daughter of Brits, I’m a tea drinker and lately have been into using loose teas (they really do make a better cuppa). Initially I had been purchasing from Amazon—isn’t that the place we’ve all become accustomed to checking first? Then I went to the Twinings Tea site and found that I’d been grotesquely overpaying.  My fave Darjeeling at Amazon costs $8.24 and it’s an “add-on item,” which is some sort of irritating practice at Amazon—I couldn’t get the tea without buying other stuff, and I couldn’t find a work-around for that bit of Amazonian weirdness.

The same tea is almost half the price—$4.49—at Twinings.

Like many, I have come to rely on Amazon for so much! I listen to music on my Amazon music player on both laptop and cellphone, and download music from Amazon as well. I’m an Amazon affiliate. I also buy books for my Kindle Paperwhite, which I love, from Amazon.

But maybe it’s time to cut the cord. Why should I fund an entity that seeks to exploit me, maybe even put me out of business?

I’ve taken down my Amazon affiliate ads—that won’t hurt, as they’ve never earned me a penny. I’ve changed my email signature line, which used to direct folks to my Amazon author pages, to instead include my website and blog. Other changes will be harder.

I’m an Ellora’s Cave author. I also have books placed with two other publishers that have disappointed me in myriad ways—see these links:

www.harlequinlawsuit.com  and scroll down to #9 at

absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=194729–scroll.

So I’m going indie. But Createspace and KDP are fabulous platforms for self-publishing. How ethical is it, given my concerns, to use those platforms?

And beyond my personal worries, there’s the greater problem. Amazon sells a huge number of books, films, music and other creative and factual works.

Should one entity control so much of what goes into our minds and thoughts?

Will Amazon destroy erotic literature with its changing algorithms and prejudices? Will Amazon make it impossible for some books to flourish?

Does Amazon threaten our freedom of speech and thought?

***

About the Author:

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written nineteen books in several genres, including nonfiction, memoir, erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms Totally Bound, Liquid Silver Books and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.

Find her books at http://www.suzdemello.com

–For editing services, email her at suzdemello@gmail.com

–Befriend her on Facebook, and visit her group page.

–She tweets @Suzdemello

–and posts to Pinterest

–and Goodreads.

–Her current blog is TheVelvetLair.com

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Jan 232015
 
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By billierosie

Most mornings I watch a television talk show called The Wright Stuff. It’s hosted by Matthew Wright, a journalist. It’s the usual sort of format; Matthew has three guests and they talk about various topical issues. Then, viewers are invited to phone in. To coincide with World Aids Day, the topic was HIV: Is Complacency Killing Us?

Here’s how Matthew introduced the issue.

Following a sharp rise in the number of men infected with HIV I’m asking if we’ve become too complacent for our good? Do we need more billboards warning us not to die of ignorance, as we had in the 80s? Or is the problem more complicated: maybe medical advances mean we no longer perceive HIV infection as a death sentence? Either way, is our complacency bad news?

Part of our complacency seems to arise from the treatments that are available in 2015. To be HIV positive is generally no longer a death sentence. Even with such a diagnosis, people with the virus can live well into their 70s. Thousands of men and women with HIV in the UK, US and across the world are heading into an old age they never expected to see.

There are record numbers of Gay men being diagnosed with HIV. Plus which, 1 in 4 men don’t even know they’ve got the virus. There are over 100,000 people in the UK with HIV.

Some cases were diagnosed years ago. Some people have been diagnosed late, having lived for years without knowing they were infected. And many people are now becoming infected later in life. So people are still being diagnosed as HIV Positive and not only the people in high risk groups.

“Laura is a white, heterosexual, divorced mother of two. At the age of 52 she started a new relationship and then suddenly became ill. Because her symptoms were similar to those of a friend who had been diagnosed with HIV, she took a test. When she was told it was positive, she felt numbness and shock, she said. She cannot believe, as a person who understood the guidelines of safer sex, that she stopped using condoms with her partner and allowed it to happen.”

And on The Wright Stuff show, Julie phoned in. She is a woman in her 40s, and some years previously, she had been date-raped. She started to experience illnesses—some severe, some not so problematic. Julie was misdiagnosed for 7 years, until finally, she was told that she was HIV Positive. Julie had many blood tests, but was never screened for HIV. She had passed the virus on to a previous male partner, who in turn has passed the virus on to a female partner. I believe that Julia has also infected her current partner. Julie says that ordinary doctors, GP’s in the UK, are clueless about HIV and need to be more aware. Had she been diagnosed earlier, her immune system would be stronger.

This point was picked up by Genevieve Edwards, who was in Matthew Wright’s audience representing the Terrence Higgins Trust.

“Every day someone dies because they didn’t get diagnosed early enough. Their immune systems are damaged and weakened. Their immune systems pull back but never fully recover.”

Genevieve says that we are missing opportunities. The young should be taught that safer sex isn’t just about pregnancy.

Penny Smith, a TV presenter and journalist, was on Matthew Wright’s panel, said:

“It is simply that men don’t like using condoms.”

Perhaps she has a point, but women have to take responsibility too. Presuming the situation is consensual to begin with, how about telling the guy “No, not without protection!” Difficult in the heady arousal of the moment, but it’s better than dying—isn’t it?

The figures quoted always seem to be about Gay and Bisexual men and some communities of color, the risk factors are the same for everyone regardless of whether you fall into those demographic profiles or not. No one is magically absolved from the need to have safer sex.

Genevieve Edwards, from Terrence Higgins, says that we all need to be more aware of what we are doing. Sound advice.

***

billierosie has been writing erotica for about three years. She has been published by Oysters and Chocolate, in The Wedding Dress. Logical Lust accepted her story “Retribution” for Best S&M 3. She has also been published by Sizzler, in Pirate Booty and in their Sherlock Holmes anthology, My Love of all that is Bizarre, as well as Hunger: A Feast of Sensual Tales of Sex and Gastronomy and Sex in London: Tales of Pleasure and Perversity in the English Capital. She also has a collection of short, erotic stories, Fetish Worship, as well as novellas Memoirs of a Sex Slave and Enslaving Eli, both published by Sizzler Editions in 2012 and available for purchase at Amazon.
billierosie can be found at Twitter, @jojojojude and at her blog.

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