Sep 282013
 
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By Mykola Dementiuk

In many of my stories there is a character in some movie theater, watching a film and feverishly masturbating. At a certain point the character explodes in ejaculation and for all intents and purposes he actually is having sex, perhaps alone with himself—but sex out in the open and who the devil cares! Even (or especially) with the flickering lighted darkness surrounding him, he wants to be seen, as so many do. These men hover about in their anonymity, shielded with their overcoats, or simply ejaculate in their overheated pants and rush away afterwards. But I wanted to be seen. I’d just lower my pants and begin the heady manipulation that would take me away from reality. An entry into a Times Square/42nd Street movie theater was always just like that, someone jerking away as you were jerking away too. We were in the movie house for the same reason, wanting sex; if masturbating openly was the closest we got to it that night, that was fine.

Many of the tales in my books of short stories and novellas, particularly Times Square Queer, revolve around someone eventually masturbating, either in desperation to find someone to help the process along or satisfied to do it himself. And Times Square/42nd Street was ideal for that: the street was a total nirvana, sex permeated the sidewalks, you could sense the masturbating activity before you even entered the movie house—the rabidly horny sex, men with men, men with hookers or men simply masturbating. That’s why I loved the entire scene and for a few years I became a denizen of the movie house world and didn’t know of any other. Many of my stories, “The Wet Skirt”, “Eighteen Today”, “Trio at the Movies”, “The Masturbating Idiot” amongst many others, clutch the 42nd Street world the way you would hold on to your penis as you tried to ejaculate. The sensation was always that: Bliss! Peace! Perfection!

But it’s over now and a pity that 42nd Street and Times Square have been changed so much, their former atmosphere of hot steamy sex never to be reclaimed or recaptured again. It’s like watching some faded old Burlesk films, racy comedies of old Forty-Second Street lurching and speeding into prostitution, transvestitism, pornography, on and on, going headlong until it was slammed shut and disappeared from the scene, with only internet photographs to take its place. Now you can masturbate in the safety and privacy of your own little home through the comfort of computers. What rot! What a rip-off! But that’s what we have, just a Masturbating Idiot standing and doing it by himself in some imaginary movie house, stroking, stroking, stroking…

Gone are those days never to return. And I suppose that’s progress, but when in olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking…that’s when I feel my hardness growing stiffer and once again I’m back where I want to be, going Whump! Whump! Whump! huddled in some sleazy movie theatre with a slew of masturbating men surrounding me and each one fascinated and mesmerized by what they see on the screen, or what they imagine they see, as someone is looking and inching closer to a seat near them.

But when I write about that time, I recreate it in my head—and for the duration of the story I am back there. That is why, when I write, I often return to the lost era of Times Square’s queer culture of the 1970s–80s. In that sense, memories often inspire, infuse and set off my work. Does they ever do that for you? If not, next time you are stuck and don’t know how to get started, try recalling a magical, sexual moment in the past and see where the writing takes you.

 

Mick (Mykola) Dementiuk is a two-time winner of the Lambda Award, and his collection, Times Square Queer, was a finalist for the 2012 Bisexual Book Award. Visit him at http://mykoladementiuk.com/

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Sep 252013
 
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By Jean Roberta

During the Feminist Sex Wars of the 1980s, someone (I can’t remember who) claimed that for women, sex is more emotional than physical, implying that sex is an emotionless form of exercise for men. Regardless of whether you believe this, or which of your characters experience sex in what ways, actual sex is a physical activity for anyone who takes part in it.

At its best, sex is accompanied by intense physical sensations as well as a whole spectrum of emotions from ecstatic love to performance anxiety to ambivalence to relief to gratitude to pride to fear. Sex can actually express and elicit any emotion we can imagine. The one general statement anyone can make about whatever we call “sex” (and definitions vary), however, is that it is a physical activity. In effect, sex is a dance (and it doesn’t have to be horizontal. It can be done standing up, underwater or while flying through the air.)

Writing about any activity—as distinct from describing settings or characters, or outlining a character’s thoughts—carries its own set of challenges. Choreographing a sex scene is much like choreographing a swordfight or a joust in a historical novel, or a dance scene in any era. The interaction of two or more bodies requires a certain amount of strategy on the page, just as it usually does in real life.

Erotica and erotic romance are often considered so different from other genres of fiction that even we (writers of sex scenes) tend to forget that all fiction has certain elements in common. We all have to position our characters so that they move through space (their physical setting) and time (a period of hours, days, weeks or years). Likewise, a sexual encounter needs to begin with a first move (he kisses her, she reaches for his hand, they embrace, Person A deliberately presses against Person B) and progress to the next move, which will usually seem more intimate than the first move, both to the readers and the characters. From those initial moves to the end of the scene, the sexual activities you describe need to make enough sense that your readers can immerse themselves fully in the eroticism of the story.

I have sometimes flinched while rereading a first draft of a sex scene I’ve written. In the throes of writing, it’s sometimes too easy to slap down lines like this: “Their eyes locked from across the room, and they quickly pulled each other’s clothes off.” A reader is likely to wonder: how long were their arms? If the sequence of events is impossible to visualize without a loud guffaw, the reader is likely to be pulled out of the mood.

Other gaffes in unedited sex scenes can include a character who seems to have three arms (or three of anything that most folks only have two of), a sex toy that enters an orifice and never comes out (and even the horniest character is likely to want the dildo or the buttplug to be removed at some point), extreme floggings that leave no marks, bondage that defies the laws of physics and/or medical science, clothes that mysteriously vanish and then reappear on bodies, completely buttoned and zipped.

If you remember nothing else from this post, remember two things: one, that even the most elaborate orgy on Planet X must be plausible enough for the reader to imagine it, and two, that safe sex for a sex writer includes proofreading.

 

Jean Roberta writes in several genres. Approximately 100 of her erotic stories, including every orientation she can think of, have appeared in print anthologies, plus three single-author collections, including The Princess and the Outlaw: Tales of the Torrid Past (Lethe Press, 2013. ). www.jean-roberta.livejournal.com

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Sep 242013
 
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By Valerie Tibbs, Tibbs Design

When I get a request for a cover, I always go through and see what the author wants.  Sometimes the requests are just ridiculous, like “I need a zombie carrying a sword and going on a killing rampage”.  Uh… Sure.  About that…

So after I explain to the author the limitations of stock photos, they finally have a better understanding.  Sometimes however, I run into an author who’s adamant about a particular thing, and I can’t deliver.  I have to refer them to an illustrator or they’ll have to muddle through on their own.  It happens.

I had to realize I couldn’t make everyone happy every time.

But here’s part of my process that I wanted to show you.  I got a request for a hot guy (a Selkie to be exact, which I had to look up since I didn’t know what that was), coming out of the Northern Atlantic ocean at night.

Well, I thought to myself, that should be easy.  So here was my first draft:

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I showed this to a friend, and she went, “I don’t like the girl’s butt in my face.”  Eh.  Good point.  Not quite what the author wanted, either.

So here’s the next one that I showed her:

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Oh, he’s sexy.  But, um… he’s coming out of the ocean.  Shouldn’t he be wet?

Uh… oops!

So here’s the next version:

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Nice, huh?

Well, I forgot one thing.  It’s supposed to be the North Atlantic, not the Caribbean!  Wrong color water. Dang it.

Because we didn’t like the guy in the previous one we picked him instead:

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Here’s the next revision:

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Better, yes?

But, Valerie, it’s supposed to be night time!

Dang it…  One more revision:

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By George, I think she’s got it. YAY me! :)

And here is the final, with full resolution images and a tweak on the author name:

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And that is just a fraction of what goes on with creating a cover…  This is my process.  Every artist has their own way of doing things.  But I love it!  :)

 

VALERIE TIBBS

Valerie Tibbs is a graphic designer with over 20 years of experience, including hundreds of book covers and dozens of websites. Find her at www.tibbsdesign.com, and Twitter: @valerietibbs

 

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Sep 212013
 
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Does writer’s block actually exist?

For most authors the answer will be an emphatic yes, of course it does. For me…well, I’m not so sure it does. Now, having said that, I probably need to clarify what I mean by “writer’s block may not actually exist.” Yes, there have been times I haven’t written anything for months. There are also times I sit in front of my computer screen and stare at it, wondering what the next sentence should be and there are days when I throw my hands in the air because the words aren’t coming out the way I want them to. Do any of these things mean I’m blocked in some way, that my creativity or ability to write isn’t still hiding within me somewhere? No, it’s there and always will be because…I’m a writer.

I may procrastinate, I may not be in the mood to write, I may decide to do something else instead of writing—but when I choose to write, I can. I recently went through a tough experience and found it difficult to get back into the routine of writing. And yes, as boring and non-fanciful as that sounds, I firmly believe writing is a routine. As a result of my initial incident, and the lack of effective word count on the page day after day, month after month, I decided I must be suffering from writer’s block—so I set about discussing the topic with friends and other authors, as well as going online to research articles and ideas to overcome it. That raised more questions for me than I imagined it would. The final result of this research? I came to the conclusion that writers block is a fallacy, at least for me. It’s something we say to ourselves or others say to us during times of writing non-production. The non-writing times in our lives are more than likely a result of something else entirely, rather than a complete inability to write or being blocked for ideas.

I found a lot of really great quotes which I’ll share over the next few posts, but the one I want to share with you today, the one that made me jump out of my rut, was this one by author Warren Ellis:

“Writer’s block? I’ve heard of this. This is when a writer cannot write, yes? Then that person isn’t a writer anymore. I’m sorry, but the job is getting up in the fucking morning and writing for a living.” 

I looked at the quote, printed it out and stuck it on the wall near my desk. I decided Mr. Ellis would provide my motivation because lodged in his words is an underlying truth: I’m sorry, but the job is getting up in the fucking morning and writing for a living. Effectively, I’d taken almost a year off work to sit on my ass doing very little but wallowing in grief. That had to change.

…Which brings me back to writing as a routine. After so long, I was no longer in the practice of going to work. Before my husband’s passing I had a routine that I stuck to religiously: get out of bed, log on to social networks for a short period, answer messages, log out of everything by nine a.m. and work on writing for the rest of the day. It worked, and I was productive. The more I stuck to the routine, the more efficient at writing I became. I was determined to regain that momentum.

Now when I say I “worked on my writing for the rest of the day”, I don’t necessarily mean I spent the whole time writing a book; there are other activities I include in my work as a writer. I blogged, I plotted, I researched and a lot of the time I did actually put words on whichever pages I was working on at the time. The actual work of writing included things that stimulated my mind, fed my creativity and moved me closer to putting, or actually put, words on the page.

I knew I needed that routine back, or one similar to it, albeit a routine that now incorporated my new personal situation.  I can’t say it was easy and I can’t say I didn’t fall back into dark moments, but over the last six months I can honestly say I’m working again. I’m not suffering from any sort of writer’s block and I never actually was.

When I started to sort out my resources, I realized one thing: I had been working. I’d been doing some of the things mentioned above, including plotting quite a few new romances. I’d still been working at writing, just not as fluidly or consistently as before—and consistency is the key to most things.

So, each day I sat down at the computer and wrote. If I couldn’t get into the flow of one book, I’d move to something else entirely, or I’d start writing a scene or chapter from elsewhere in the story and then go back later and link the puzzle together. If I wrote 100 words or even less, that was good; if I wrote 2,000 words, that was great. The total didn’t really matter, as long as I was writing. If I read a chapter at a later date and decided I didn’t like what I’d produced, I’d discard or revise it—the point was, I’d still written it. Some parts of my latest book didn’t make the final draft that I recently submitted to my publisher, but that’s the way with most books and it didn’t matter, because…I am writing.

So, whether you want to overcome “writer’s block” or a “non-productive writing period”, the answer is simple:

Get up every day and just write.

 

—Jan Graham

 

Jan Graham is an author of erotic romance with eight titles to her credit, including the Sidney Cougar series and the Wylde Shore series, with more to come. You can find out more about Jan by visiting jangraham.com.au or jangraham.blogspot.com.

 

 

 

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Sep 152013
 
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By M. Christian

1. Fame?  Fortune?  Forget it.

Okay, that might appear a bit harsh, but it’s remarkable the number of people who first begin to write—anything, let alone erotica—thinking that Stephen King’s mansion or J. K. Rowling’s castle or [insert lavish lifestyle of famous and/or rich author here] is right around the corner. The fact is that, even with the fast-as-light modern world of writing and publishing, it can take quite a bit of time to, first, build an audience for your work, and second, make some cash.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t try … far from it: writing—erotica or any genre—is an amazing, special, and brave thing to do … let alone sending it out into an often harsh and/or uncaring world. The trick is not to think about the applause, the awards, or the cold hard cash but instead focus on just having fun. If you enjoy writing, take care of yourself emotionally, and keep working then—maybe—that mansion and that fortune will arrive … but if it doesn’t, you’ll still have a great time telling wonderful stories. There’s an old joke in ‘the biz’ about a writer who achieves incredible success: that they were an overnight sensation after working for ten years. Stick with it, yes, but try to do it because of the pleasure in writing—not with dollar signs or fancy (door) knockers dancing in your head.

2. Publishers Aren’t Evil

Okay, a few of them might be … but then, there are nasty people in every industry.  It seems like everywhere a writer looks these days there’s someone heralding the idea of self-publishing.  True, when you put out your own book you keep every dime as well as having total and complete control over the final product. But the problem with doing it yourself is that you have to learn everything about publishing from scratch. You’ll have to operate pretty much in the dark about what, for instance, makes a good cover, a good marketing plan, a good description, etc.—all of which a good publisher already knows. In the end, the time you’ll spend banging your head against trying to be a master of publishing, marketing, advertising, and every other nook and cranny of getting your book out into the world is time away from writing your next book. Sure, you keep all the money your book earns, but the cost in time/effort/energy means that you’ll be making less than if you’d just signed your book to someone who knows what you don’t.

Besides, if you don’t like your publisher, you can always find another.

3.  Erotica is What Turns the Reader On

Many newbie writers think that writing good erotica means writing about what turns them on—but even though your enjoyment of the writing process is essential, sticking to stories or books that hit your particular libido will seriously diminish your audience and short-shift your writing career. Think of it this way: if you only ever write, say, foot fetish stories or M/M romance or books about cougars or whatever specifically floats your boat, the only people who will be interested in your work are people with the same sexual inclinations. On the other hand, if you write about all kinds of erotic interests and escapades then your readership explodes outward in those directions as well.  There are also your creative “muscles” to consider: if you only write the same kind of erotica you’ll eventually get bored, disengaged and a little bit lazy. If you had your favorite kind of pizza for lunch every single day, would you keep enjoying it just as keenly or look forward to lunchtime with the same vigor after a year? Try new and different sexual flavors; if you don’t like one—or if you don’t feel comfortable writing it—then try another.  Who knows?  You may very well be the best [insert sexual activity] writer out there … but you won’t know until you try. So, try! Your writing will thank you and, more than likely, your expanded audience will as well.

 

M. CHRISTIAN is the author of How to Write and Sell Erotica.

 

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Sep 092013
 
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WriteSex has added publisher and anthology Calls for Submission, plus a page of Recommended Books about how to write hot, sexy fiction, as part of a new program to make the site more useful to authors of erotic romance and erotica.

In addition to those pages, we will soon add:

* An extensive list of sites reviewing ebook and paperback erotica and erotic romance;

* Listings of people providing key services for writers, such as freelance editing, cover design and more.

Check the Resources for Writers menu (on the righthand sidebar, just below the calendar) for these features, and keep an eye on it for similar ones in the future.

Lastly, as of September we will start publishing two new blog posts per week instead of one. Watch for an announcement introducing some of our new bloggers!

 

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Sep 092013
 
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Many writers ask friends to read their books and offer feedback—but often fail to make best use of this most valuable of resources. Above all, they ask the wrong question. How often have you said to friends, “Did you like the book?” What are your friends going to say to that? “No, I hated it!”? Of course not! You’ve unintentionally asked your friends to choose between honesty and support, and failed to inspire a useful array of specific feedback, with this overly broad question.

Instead, ask them what they don’t like about the book! That question will give your friends a green light to critique your work honestly, and will help you identify and fix any weaknesses. This approach is based on a principle every business person knows: the customer is always right. The reader is always right, too.

If a reader doesn’t understand something you wrote, or isn’t sure what your broader point is, or is confused, or is bored—they’re right. They ARE bored, confused, etc. by what you wrote. You can’t argue with that. But you can get your friends to stand in for the reader and tell you what they find confusing, boring, and poorly developed about your book. Then you can fix those spots yourself—before your book is published.

When you ask them to note when they didn’t understand something, when they grew restless, when characterization didn’t seem right or the plot seemed contradictory, or where something needed clarification, your friends are potentially your most valuable resource.

Of course, you should also ask them about your manuscript’s strong points, so you can try to capture more of those qualities in further revisions and in the books and stories you’ll be writing later.

The first time I heard about this system it was being used by John Creasey, one of the world’s bestselling authors and a popular reader favorite. He turned out one book a month, every month—twelve titles a year—and every one a critical and financial success. With a production schedule like that, Creasey obviously didn’t have time to troubleshoot his first drafts himself.  He also knew these drafts would have flaws which objective eyes could detect, and which he might miss. Creasey’s solution was to send every manuscript to a group of six friends, each of whom made comments about where they felt the book fell short and how it might be improved. Their efforts resulted in a series of bestselling books under half a dozen pen names in several different fields, and a reputation for quality and speed unequaled by any other modern writer.

You don’t even have to dream up questions to ask your friends. Below, you’ll find a list of over one dozen problems professional editors and authors look for when they troubleshoot a manuscript, and the abbreviations they commonly use to note them.

Your friends may not be professional editors—but if they use these guidelines while they read your manuscript, they’ll be able to give you professional-quality feedback.

Here’s what to do. Print out or send the following checklist to your friends along with your book—but before they start to read either of them, tell them to bear the following in mind:

1) They are not reading the book for grammar or punctuation; a copy editor can take care of that.

2) They should briefly review the list below, before delving into the manuscript, to familiarize themselves with the kinds of defects professional editors look for.

3) The abbreviations provided in the Guide are used to mark the manuscript where one of those defects shows up. A clear and consistent marking language will make it easier for you, the writer, to review their feedback and synthesize it with that of other friends.

4) As they read the book: if the manuscript is in hard copy, ask them to place the following Abbreviations in the left-hand margin at appropriate locations. If they’re reading an editable file on their computer or tablet, ask them to insert the abbreviations in brackets [like this] next to the text in question or use the comments functions found in most word-processing software.

EDITOR’S CHECKLIST

 = Put a checkmark beside any passage, idea or phrase that is particularly good or has strong emotional impact.
Awk = Awkwardly expressed, could be more smoothly written.
Bor = Bored me.
Char = Characterization feels weak or contradictory.
Con = Subject goes on too long and could benefit from being shortened or condensed.
Cut = This material feels as if it is too far off the point of the book and might well be easily deleted.
Dev = This is an important point that deserves greater development.
Earl = This material should show up earlier in the book where it would illuminate what you’ve been saying there, or because the main body of the material on this subject is in that spot. [Indicate where the material should be moved, if possible.]
Exp = Explaining this term, phrase or idea more fully would help make it clearer or give it greater impact.
I/L = I’m lost and either don’t see where the material is going or how it relates to the theme of the book or chapter.
Jar = Too jargonistic, filled with esoteric, inaccessible or unnecessarily in-group terminology.
N/C = Not clear to me, confusing or murky.
Pla = Material feels out of place here, doesn’t seem to be part of the main sequence of thought. (If you have an idea of where it actually belongs—earlier or later in a chapter, or in a different chapter, or perhaps with other material scattered throughout the book that deserves a section of its own—write “Move to [page or chapter you feel it belongs with].”)
P/E = Plot element feels weak or contradictory.
Tran = Some kind of transition is needed here—the switch of scenes or point of view was confusing and/or it’s unclear where we are now.
Weak = Weak material, feels as if it could be improved or made stronger.
WYM = The point of this material, or how it connects with the overall plot, isn’t clear—why are you telling me this?

Reviewing your friends’ feedback is, of course, the final step for you. Make whatever changes and improvements you feel are warranted; your friends can’t be right all the time and ultimately the final decisions are yours. But any time two or more friends make note of the same problem, you can be sure it’s a very real one that most of your readers will have as well. You will have to decide which comments are valid for yourself—but since you can’t replicate your friends’ perspective as readers, it’s wise to take their points of view—and advice—to heart as often as possible.

 

The Lazy Writer’s Guide to Getting Friends to Troubleshoot Your Books, copyright 1997-2013 Jean Marie Stine

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