Oct 292013
 
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By Nobilis

Writers can be very protective of their ideas, especially when they’re new. And why not? When we get an idea, a really good idea, we get excited. A really juicy, really original idea makes us feel special, makes us feel smart, makes us feel like writing! And that’s an awesome feeling. And a valuable one.

And writers can end up doing some mighty silly things to protect that idea, like refusing to show it to anyone. How is anyone supposed to evaluate a book if they don’t know what the big idea is? Agents, editors, publishers, beta readers, all of those people need to hear about the idea if they’re going to work with a writer. Writers also tend to get upset if another book (or movie, or TV show, or whatever) gets published that uses that idea, or something close to it.

Here’s the secret that veteran writers quickly learn, but sometimes forget: Ideas really aren’t that special. We get them all the time. Once you’ve figured out how to get the idea engine started, it cranks them out much faster than anyone can write them! What’s valuable about a book is the same ratio of qualities to which Edison attributed genius: 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration. It’s the work we put into a story that makes it special, not the idea that inspired it.

One of my favorite writers, Mur Lafferty, had a blog for a while called News from Poughkeepsie. On this blog, she posted story ideas that were cool, but which she simply didn’t have time to develop. She invited writers to use those ideas any way they saw fit, just throwing them out there for anyone to use. After a time, another author, Jared Axelrod, took up the banner and started posting his own ideas as well.

The thing is, though, the lesson of News from Poughkeepsie is learned pretty quickly. “I get it!” the readers say, “Lots of ideas. Lots of great things to write about. But I want my OWN ideas.”

I understand.

In future blog entries, I’ll share some of my tools and techniques for priming the creative pump and getting my ideas flowing. I’ll talk about places where I find inspiration, methods I use for picking worthwhile ideas and leaving others aside, and how to get from an idea to actual written work. After all…that’s where the real value is.

And because the ideas are piling up around here, I’ll hand you one of the juicier ones:

BDSM stories often assume that people come in particular types: dominant or submissive, sadist or masochist, straight or gay or bi, etc. and that the trick for finding true sexual fulfillment is to find the person that fits perfectly with one’s existing sexual makeup. But people aren’t that rigid. Many people are perfectly capable of adapting, learning, growing, changing in response to circumstances. What if a dominant—one who has only ever been attracted to submissives, has only ever wanted to dominate them sexually—finds himself inspired to submission by another dominant? This may sound like a familiar story, but this particular dominant isn’t a switch; he’s not discovering a previously unrecognized desire and finally letting it loose. He’s changing. And that change comes about as a result of the trust and respect he has uniquely for her. He’s still just as much of a dominant as ever with anyone else, but with her, it’s different. Wouldn’t that be pretty damn hot?

—Nobilis

Website: www.nobiliserotica.com
Podcast: nobilis.libsyn.com
Twitter: @nobilis

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Oct 282013
 
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By Zander Vyne

Everyone wants to know how they can get their work published. It’s the first thing people ask me when they find out how many publications I’ve been in. There’s no big secret (sorry to disappoint anyone hoping there was)—but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do that will set your work above 85% of other writer’s submissions.

Here’s the quick and dirty run-down:

1. Find a good source for “Calls for Submissions” so you’re not wasting time hunting for current calls. My favorite is the Erotica Readers and Writers Association. You can get on their list here. They’ll email you current editor’s calls for submission and guidelines. (There are also a couple of similar listings here on WriteSex; see “Resources for Writers” in the sidebar. —admin) And, that brings me to the next tip…

2. Read and follow calls for submissions like a boss. Every editor will tell you exactly what they’re looking for in a story and exactly how they want your work formatted and submitted. Follow the rules. This is not the time to step outside the box. Editors I work with tell me that 85% of submissions are tossed in the trash simply because the writer didn’t follow the submission guidelines.

3. If you have a story that’s perfect for a call, submit it (following the specs, and reformatting if necessary). If you’re off on word count by a lot, trim the story if you can. If you can’t cut your story, but you still think it’s perfect for the call, read on to #4.

4. If you have a story that’s almost perfect, but you have a question, write the editor and tell them what your issue is. Let them invite you to submit, or tell you no up front. Trust me; they appreciate being asked (especially when you’re in doubt because of content or word count). Even if the answer is no, you’ll look like a professional.

5. If you are writing a story from scratch to submit for a call for submission, start by making a list of the type of story-lines you’d expect other writers to submit. For one of these to be accepted, it had better be AMAZING. You have a much better shot at selling a story that’s unexpected. Make another list. On this list, come up with ideas that fit the call, but come at the editor’s wish-list from a different angle.

6. Have others (not your mom or friends) critique your work. You can join a critiquing group online (the Erotica Readers and Writers Association—see link above—has an excellent online group specializing in critiquing erotica), or join a group like the one I run on Facebook, The Slush Pile.

7. Edit that stuff like a pro. Spellcheck doesn’t cut it when you’re submitting professionally. Try Grammarly’s free software or pay for the pro version. Read The Chicago Manual of Style. Educate yourself on proofreading and editing, or hire a professional to do it for you. It’s worth the money. Nothing turns off an editor more than a work full of bad writing mistakes.

I hope this helps you in your quest to write and sell your work. I’ll expand upon some of these in future posts. In the meantime, if you would like more information, or have a specific question, don’t hesitate to ask me. Besides reading fantastic stories, there’s nothing I like more than helping other writers.

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Oct 242013
 
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by billierosie

So let’s talk about Fetish. Particularly sexual Fetish. We all know what that means, don’t we? Right away I think of feet. Strange, elderly men in Victorian brothels, sniffing ladies’ feet; sucking ladies’ toes.

Before I started, first reading, then writing Erotica, that was the limit of my knowledge about Fetish. It was an image from a BBC costume drama that had impressed me a long, long time ago. A Parisienne brothel, a skinny elderly gentleman—obviously wealthy from his sumptuous attire of soft, pale blue velvet and scarlet brocade—inhales deeply, sniffing the musky, savoury fragrance of sweat from a prostitute’s worn out shoe. The prostitute herself is unnecessary to the proceedings. It is the shoe that is sexualised, the woman is not. She watches, sprawled on a bed, she is discarded, but no doubt thinking of how much she’ll be paid. Or maybe she is not discarded—maybe having a voyeur is a part of the Fetish.

Let’s elaborate further; the prostitute is sucking the customer’s skinny cock, while he sniffs her shoe.

See what I mean? Within your fantasy scenario, a Fetish is as creative as you want to make it.

Half a lifetime later I started reading Erotica.

And I realised, pretty quickly, that anything can be a sexual Fetish. Anything. It isn’t about what the Fetishist wants to do, although that obviously comes into it; at the heart of it, is the very definite sexual arousal a person feels from a physical object or from a specific situation.

A guy might have a fantasy about being in a hospital bed. A lovely nurse cares for him; she has been ordered to give him an enema. So the Fetish for enema play, or anal play, becomes part of a wider scenario.

Feet, shoes, breasts, nipples, cruel clover nipple clamps, butts, corsets, panties, Victorian costume, school girls’ uniforms, poop, pee, an amputee’s stump, nurses. Make up your own list; focus on a favourite fantasy and search the internet. You’ll find that someone, somewhere, has a Fetish about it.

Shoes, silken shoes. Sexy Victorian leather lace up boots; kinky boots and those shoes with killer heels that cripple women to walk in, but which we still persist in wearing.

 

I wrote a short story; it’s in my collection, Fetish Worship; “Feet”. I wanted to document how a Fetish develops. It makes a satisfying, coherent story…but it isn’t true; I made it up. In actual fact, no one actually knows how, or why, a Fetish develops and some very clever people have tried to find out.

Fetish may be inspired by an incident in childhood. Perhaps we were tied up in a game and it excited us. We want that feeling again.

When I was a child I used to hide under my bed; I liked that feeling of seclusion. Being contained. The feeling still excites me.

And people can be Fetishised too. How we love our Master and Mistress and their submissives’ tales. Strong men tied up; muscles defined, straining and gleaming in the flickering torchlight, completely at their Dominant’s mercy. A beautiful naked women bound at her wrists; swaying, hanging from an oak beam, nipple clamps biting her tender breasts, toes wriggling, desperately struggling to find some purchase on a hard planked wooden floor. Her arms almost literally being pulled from their sockets. Her mouth gaping wide in an agonising scream.

Are these the Dominant’s Fetish or the submissive’s?

What is being Fetishised? The screams? The image? Being completely in control or completely controlled? Anticipation of sex? Does it even have to be sexualised?

How about the entire situation as a Fetish.

A male lurks in the darkness, flashing his dick at wary women. A woman masturbates secretly on a train or bus journey. Is the risk of discovery a necessary part of the Fetish; she might be found out or is it that nobody in the world knows what she is doing? The image she presents is that of, perhaps, a respectable business woman, or maybe a school teacher; her secret is precarious. Maybe it is the fact that her cover could be blown at any minute; maybe that’s what makes it so exciting.

Perhaps a Fetish is all of the above—or maybe the acting out of the Fetish—the play itself satisfies sexual desires.

Which is, I guess, is the definition of fetishism.

 

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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Oct 212013
 
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By Elizabeth Coldwell

That’s it—you’ve finished your story, you’ve given it a final read to root out any inconsistencies in the plot and you’ve checked for typos (you have checked for typos, haven’t you? If not, go back and do so now).

Basking in the satisfaction that comes from completing any piece of fiction, you immediately set about firing it off to any and every publisher you’ve ever heard of, whether or not you’ve read their guidelines. “I don’t need to waste my time with guidelines,” you may say. “Once they’ve read my story, they’ll be falling over themselves to take it on.”

Except that’s not quite how it works. All publishers of erotica have their own vision of who they are, what they’re about, who they’re marketing to and how their books are presented as a whole. Do they concentrate on niche genres such as male/male or BSDM fiction? Will they offer stories with a range of heat ratings from sweet to all-but-taboo or just concentrate on hotter stories? Will they class a novel as a book if it comes in at over 30,000 words, or over 50,000? These things might not matter to those writing a piece of fiction, but they certainly do to those selling and reading them.

As an editor of erotica and romantic erotica for a major publisher, one of my pet hates is receiving a submission from someone who clearly hasn’t read the publisher’s guidelines. Impossible as it seems, I regularly receive books for consideration which contain no erotic or romantic elements whatsoever, from sub-Dan-Brown thrillers to treatises on spiritual well-being and world peace.

I edit for an imprint which, at the moment, is not taking on any short stories—a fact which is stated clearly on its website’s Calls for Submissions page—yet at least once a week I have to explain this as I regretfully return a short story to an author. I’ve even received cover emails addressed by name to an editor at another imprint!

Reading guidelines, and submitting to whatever seems the most appropriate outlet for your work, prevents you wasting your own time—and that of whoever has to read the submissions (and most e-publishers don’t have the luxury of farming out their ‘slush pile’ to willing, paid readers).

Formatting is another step in the preparation-and-submission process where it’s crucial to check publishers’ websites for their specific guidelines and follow them to the letter. Most are happy to receive a manuscript printed in a clear, legible font such as 12 point Times New Roman or Calibri, but depending on where you’re submitting, you may have to adhere to US or UK spelling, single or double quotes around speech, and removal of tab characters or extra returns between paragraphs. As an author, this may not seem like a big deal—after all, it’s a matter of minutes to find and replace the offending items—but it can prejudice an editor against you and mark you as difficult to work with. If you can’t be bothered to follow those simple instructions, it can suggest you’re not prepared to put any time or effort into your work. After all, there are an awful lot of other writers out there, all trying to land that elusive spot in an anthology or two-book novel deal, and most of those will happily dispose of tabs before sending if required.

Along with general guidelines, many publishers also put out specific or seasonal calls for stories to fill anthologies (many of these can be found here at WriteSex, at the excellent Erotica Readers’ and Writers Association site or at the “paying markets” forum at Absolute Write). Having a narrow brief to fulfill—such as writing about bears on holiday for a gay anthology, or combining food play with erotic submission for a publisher of BDSM fiction—can be an excellent way of honing your plotting skills, or provide a new outlet for your creativity if you’ve become blocked on another story. Needless to say, pay attention to the details of these Calls and don’t submit unrelated, or only marginally related, work to them.

Somewhere out there, the perfect publisher for you is waiting to receive your book or story. You will find that publisher a lot sooner if you study and heed all posted guidelines and match your work to the publisher’s needs.

 

Elizabeth Coldwell is Editor-in-chief at Xcite Books, where the titles she has edited  include the National Leather Award-winning anthology, Lipstick Lovers. As an author, she has 25 years’ experience in the field of erotica, having been published by Black Lace, Cleis Press, Sizzler Editions, Total-e-bound and Xcite Books among many others. She can be found blogging at The (Really) Naughty Corner – elizabethcoldwell.wordpress.com.

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Oct 192013
 
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By Remittance Girl

When most people discuss punctuation within the erotica-writing field, they usually send out desperate pleas for it to be correct. I’d like to underscore that; good punctuation makes meaning clear. Bad punctuation compels the reader to stop, reread, and puzzle out the intended meaning before going on. This kicks them out of the storyspace; suddenly they’re no longer in the story, but trying to figure out why that sentence was so difficult to parse.

This emphasis on clarity and precision, however, only addresses one of the two distinct functions punctuation serves. Yes, correct punctuation will help you organize thoughts, group them, indicate associations between them, and so on. But, along with the sound of words and their syllabic beat, it will also drive the rhythm of the text, the cadence of the way the reader consumes the words. I think erotic fiction has more in common with literary fiction and poetry than with other genres of writing precisely because the poetics of writing matter so much to a good sex scene.

If you’ve been taught writing in the past 20 years, you’ve probably been told to keep your sentences short and snappy. You’ve probably also been told to eschew too much descriptive writing, or imagery in the form of similes or metaphors, and to show instead of tell. It’s all good advice for journalists. Excellent if you’re a postmodern author who believes that all readers read critically, with one mental foot firmly rooted in reality, and the other judging the work in the context of the author’s past oeuvre.

My own feelings are that this imaginary pedant of a reader is a mythical creature dreamed up by jaded academics and snark-sodden literary critics. When I read, I want to be swept away. I might return to the book later and think critically about it, but if I start doing that on the first reading, I’m not enjoying myself—I’m working. Fiction reading should be, at the very least, a pleasure—and, as the venerable Roland Barthes said, at best it should be bliss.

This is particularly true of erotica. A good sex scene should take you outside the social boundaries, outside time or space or the confines of your chair. It should take you into the bed, the sand, the pool, or up against the brick wall where the action is happening—and if it doesn’t do that, it’s not a really well-written sex scene.

There are a lot of things that can spoil a fictive sex scene. As writers on this blog have mentioned before, impossible physical positions are one. Disorienting points of view are another. Comic euphemisms never fail to screw things up. Ridiculous asides that pull the reader’s focus to a distance also disrupt the experience. But one of the subtlest, least discussed elements—one that can either strengthen a sex scene or turn it into nothing more than a pile of explicit descriptions—is the sound of language and the flow of the writing.

There’s nothing wrong with short sentences if you’re writing a hard, fast, nasty sex scene. In fact, they can be very effective in that abrupt, jack-hammerish way that put one in mind of a dirty quickie. But if that’s all you’re offering your reader in a multi-scene story or novel, it can become unsatisfying—much like that boyfriend who never seemed able to last past getting his pants down and his cock inside. Too many sex scenes written in short sentences feel, to the reader, like desperate serial adolescent date-sex: it’s cute but not much of a meal.

To take readers down into the luxurious depths of erotic physicality for a longer period of time, you really need to think about using longer sentences. This is tricky. The reason writing teachers don’t like long sentences is because there are so many ways to fuck them up: readers can lose track of their object and subject; they can be disorienting if you hamfistedly tack on too many clauses; complex sentences can get mid-level editors riled up—they usually stick to what they know and cumulative syntax is unfamiliar, so they can freak. However, bear with me. As long as they aren’t confusing, long sentences can be wonderfully immersive, and they’re perfect for a hot, progressively built, sexy scene.

The technique for constructing good, long, flowing sentences is, as I mentioned above, called ‘cumulative syntax.’ Basically, this entails starting out with a root sentence and adding modifying phrases that help to build in more information, set up a rhythmic cadence, and strengthen your voice as a writer. Those modifying phrases can be tacked on before or after their root sentence, but readers tend to get a little lost with ‘left-handed’ modifying phrases (where the clause is put before the root). That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them, but that you should use them more carefully. It’s amazing how lush a sentence you can build with the careful application of either type, or both:

Paul cupped her ass. (root phrase)

Tugging up her skirt, Paul cupped her ass. (Left-handed)

Paul cupped her ass, his fingers digging into her fleshy cheek. (Right-handed)

Tugging up her skirt, Paul cupped her ass, his fingers digging into her fleshy cheek. (building up a little snowball of lust here)

Tugging up her skirt, Paul cupped her ass, his fingers digging into her fleshy cheek, his hips grinding into hers. (Now we’re getting somewhere.)

You can see how, if we tacked on too many more left-handed clauses, the reader could get lost as to what the subject was—but as long as you build this sort of sentence with a critical eye, asking yourself whether the root phrase is still clear, you can really go to town.

Frustrated, desperate, tugging up her skirt, Paul cupped her ass, his fingers digging cruelly into her fleshy cheek, his hips grinding brutally into hers.

Yeah, I know. There are adverbs in there and some editors don’t like the present continuous either. Fuck ‘em. True, I could use the word ‘gouging’ instead of ‘digging’ for his fingers, but I think that would be overkill, so an adverb is appropriate here. Same with ‘grinding brutally.’ I could use a more violent verb, but I don’t want my reader to think Paul’s performing an autopsy.

Frustrated, desperate for visceral contact, Paul tugged up her skirt and cupped her ass, his fingers digging cruelly into her fleshy cheek, his hips grinding brutally into hers, like a man at the edge of a precipice.

Here you can see that cumulative phrases no longer simply modify the root phrase, but drift a little. We’ve gone from his hand on her ass, to his hips, but the reader gets it. Like the final phrase, they refer to the totality of the act in the root phrase. That’s fine. As long as it doesn’t get confusing as to what is going on, feel free to break some grammatical rules here.

Of course, I could cut this up into a series of shorter sentences, but commas are a way of inviting the reader onwards. Periods tend to make them stop and think. At this point in the narrative, the last thing I want is for the reader to step back and gain distance. I’m seducing them. My characters are about to get down and dirty. I want to build the sexual desire, the tension, the need, the drive. I don’t want to give my reader—just like Paul doesn’t want to give the woman he’s seducing—too much time to think about it. I want them to succumb, just like she will.

Next time we meet, I’d like to talk about why the sounds of words and poetics matter when it comes to sex scenes.

 

Remittance Girl has been writing and publishing erotica for over ten years. She teaches creative writing and multimedia design. At present, she is pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing, focusing on the possibility of eroticism in a postmodern society.
You can read some of her work on her site at remittancegirl.com.

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Oct 122013
 
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by Margie Church

His fingers trailed down my back…

…sending shivers up and down my spine like electric shockwaves. Breath held, I waited for what seemed an eternity.

His eyes glimmered with passion before moving across my bare shoulder.

I wondered if I could stand still long enough to endure his tantalizing foreplay.

His voice commanded my attention once more. “Don’t move until I tell you.”

May I breathe?

Every square inch of my body became aroused when his fingers unfastened my bra. My brain pleaded with him to hurry.

With the garment dangling from his fingertips, he stepped back, scrutinizing me as though determining my worth.

Even though he hadn’t given me permission, my legs moved apart. I stood proudly in front of my Master, knowing I could meet his every need if given a chance.

 

Let’s give Sir a moment to collect his fingers, voice, and eyes while I get my brain and legs back where they belong.

Your eyes should have been rolling in your head as you read those poorly crafted, but really common writing mistakes. Hopefully you’re not making this many wrong choices in a scene, but I bet that, just like me, you’ve made them all at one time or another.

Editors call them dislocated body parts. In the spirit of Halloween, I thought I’d use my virgin post at WriteSex to point out that body parts only run at will in a zombie tale.

I find these errors mostly in my love scenes when the couple is heating up the pages. I’m having so much fun writing that I forget he has to move his hand, or I must watch him gaze along the curve of my shoulder. My brain cannot plead, but my mind can. He must use words or the tone of his voice to command my attention. Otherwise, I haven’t got a clue how I’ll get his voice back inside him. If my legs are moving apart on their own, there’d better be some sort of physical force causing that, like an earthquake, a shove, or a rocking boat. Otherwise, I have to do it the old fashioned way – I must move them myself. Damn. So boring.

Think of it this way…do you really want Thing from the Addams Family creeping down your spine?

Remember, whenever there is body movement, the part moving must be moved by the whole being. You can also reflect the movement in the correct POV: I can feel his warm fingertips trailing up my thigh. I can shiver under the heat of his gaze.

Invite Thing to your zombie thriller, but never anywhere else.

 

Before I leave, I have to say how honored I am to be asked to be a guest author at WriteSex. When I was getting started a few years ago, Sascha Illyvich had just opened this blog. I’ve read it religiously and learned so many important writing and editing tips from the man who has been a mentor, editor, and friend to me. I can never fill Sascha’s shoes or take his place. I hope that I can make him proud of the student I was and still am. I remain his favorite pain in the ass.

 

Margie Church writes erotic romance novels with a strong suspense element. She tackles subjects and conflicts that aren’t typical in romances. Among her books are The Razor Trilogy and Hard as Teak, which was named 2011 GLBT Book of the Year at LRC. Find her at Romance with SASS and authormargiechurch.wordpress.com.

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Oct 102013
 
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By Amy Marsh, EdD, DHS

Let’s say it’s a weekend morning and you’re hungry. Your lover is hungry, too. The refrigerator is bare, and you’ve only got a box of stale granola in the cupboard. A lavish romantic breakfast sounds great, and you’ve more than a few pennies to spend. So—where to go? Usually you have no problem recalling and listing off the better local eateries, but…there…are…no sounds…coming out of your mouth. The sheets suddenly feel clammy. Your lover sits up and blinks at you. Someone’s stomach growls. Your mind is utterly blank. The more you try to think of a place to eat, the more flummoxed you feel. Maybe stale granola won’t be so bad after all…

Writer’s block can feel like that. You have an urgent desire to write, and you know you have a slew of ideas and resources somewhere about. Trouble is—you can’t access them because something (a deadline) or someone (possibly you yourself) has put you on the spot and your autonomic nervous system has flipped you over to the sympathetic response of “fight, fright, or freeze.” And so all you’ve got left is the literary equivalent of stale granola.

Writer’s block is an extreme example of the effects of stress on creativity—but every day we all face some impediment to creative or professional expression. The effects might stop us in our tracks for for an hour, or a day, or even longer. If it’s too long, our nimble confidence can erode as a result. And then we worry, and the worry then makes it worse.

I’m a clinical sexologist and a hypnotist. I’m also a writer. In the first two roles, I help clients who are too stuck, worried, embarrassed, or shamed to access their libido, enjoy themselves, or even function adequately. Sometimes there isn’t even the sexological equivalent of stale granola in their psychic cupboard. With others, there might be a hoarder’s hell of old “stuff” in the way. Usually the first thing I need to provide for my clients is a way to self-calm their worry and fright. After that, we can get on to the good stuff.

As a writer, I’m aware of similar perils to creative juice and inspiration. I know about “performance anxiety” and I know what it is to go blank. I’ve learned to become aware of my own signs of stress, so I can remember to do something about them. I use the same stuff that I teach to my clients.

The following techniques can help you cut through the effects of stress and flip your nervous system back to the parasympathetic mode, sometimes called “rest and digest” or “feed and breed.” If your goal is literary inspiration and production rather than sexual arousal, you can refer to the parasympathetic as “write, not flight.”

1) Basic Calming Breath

Sit with your feet flat on the ground and your arms hanging loosely by your side.
Breathe in slowly and deeply, noticing the rise of your abdomen rather than your chest, for the count of three.
When your lungs are full, breathe out slowly but not forcibly. Exhale as much air as possible, pushing it out of your lungs—almost like rolling up a tube of toothpaste from the bottom. Count to four while doing this.
Repeat this exercise five times, you should not hold your breath. It should be a slow smooth process. Use the counts to keep the rhythm.

2) Affirmation Breath

Take a nice, deep, slow belly breath. On the inhale, say your full name to yourself.
On the exhale, say a phrase that describes your desired feeling, positive change, personality trait, writing goals, etc.
Repeat often, as needed.

3) Four Count Breath

Inhale, 4 counts. Hold, 4 counts. Exhale, 4 counts. This simple technique is rapid and effective as a calming breath. Flips the switch back to “write, not flight.”

4) Power Posing

This technique is based on research by Amy Cuddy. Google her and listen to her TED Talk video. It’s phenomenal. “Power Posing” is a simple way to reduce stress in two minutes. Stand with your legs apart, hands on hips or above your head, back straight, chin up, chest out—like a superhero! Or sit with your arms behind your head, and your legs on a desk or table. Take up as much space as you can, like a powerful executive or a superhero. Do this for two minutes. Do it before, during, and after sitting down to write.
According to Amy Cuddy’s research, in two minutes your cortisol (stress hormone) levels will drop and, whether or not you have testicles, your testosterone levels will increase. For the purposes of getting your creative energy flowing again, this is a good thing!

5) Emotional Freedom Technique, or “Tapping”

This technique consists of light taps on certain key acupressure points on the body. You can use EFT to calm yourself, energize yourself, or transform feelings of sadness. You can even use it to boost your immune response when you’re coming down with a cold. Go to emofree.com and access their instructions. While I don’t think EFT is a “cure-all,” I do consider it a “cool tool.” I’ve seen it used to quickly calm a person in the middle of a severe post-traumatic stress reaction. This was enough to convince me to give it a try.

These techniques are easy to learn and do. The hardest part is remembering to use them, especially during a stress reaction, or when you have simply gone blank. However if you practice with them and use them several times a day, they will come more easily or more often to your mind during when you’re under duress.

I’m a big fan of breathing through the perineum too, but let’s leave that for a future blog.

 

—Amy Marsh

Amy Marsh, EdD, DHS, CH, CI, is a clinical sexologist and AASECT certified sex counselor, certified hypnotist and hypnosis instructor, and an associate professor of human sexuality at the world’s most radical sex school. She is a former Carnal Nation columnist. Learn more at dramymarshsexologist.com or follow @AmyMarshSexDr on Twitter.

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Oct 072013
 
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By Blake C. Aarens

I got sent to the office a lot in 3rd grade.  I’d finish assignments ahead of time and then start talking to (and distracting) the other students. Eventually my teacher figured out that I wasn’t a bad kid, I was a bored kid. And so she, in her infinite wisdom, gave me—one at a time—her leather-bound volumes of Shakespeare’s plays.

Most of what I read I didn’t understand.  At that stage it wasn’t about understanding. What my teacher was trying to do was expand my mind. It worked. I stopped getting sent to the principal’s office. Once I finished a task in class, instead of harassing the other kids, I read every one of those plays. And every time I came across a word I didn’t understand, I went to the big dictionary that the teacher kept on a stand with a magnifying glass. In my stumbling through the plays and searches through the gold-edged pages of the dictionary, what developed in me was a love for the crazy, wild, unruly and alive beast that is the English language in all its accents and dialects.

On my writing desk, I have four miniature photos representing my personal holy quadrinity of writers. They are: (left to right  & back to front) Jeanette Winterson, in a square burgundy frame, Toni Morrison in a purple oval frame with pink jewels at the four points, Octavia Butler in a gilt pewter frame with 12 crystals on the edges and at the corners, and in a copper frame with floral accents at the upper right and lower left corners, is a picture of the man reputed to be William Shakespeare.

I have learned a lot from Shakespeare in my 45 years of writing, and so can you. To illustrate my point, I’m going to suggest 5 writing lessons that will help you in the crafting of your erotic romance.

 

LESSON ONE — Plot Construction

Shakespeare wrote his plays in a five-act structure.
1. Exposition – This is where you introduce your main character and principal themes, and where you establish your world and its particular conflicts.
2. Rising Action – Here you bring in secondary conflicts and obstacles that start your character working for her happy ending.
3. Climax – This is the bulk of the drama or action in your story.
4. Falling Action – Your protagonist and antagonist come to a head.
5. Resolution – This is the emotional release of the resolution of the conflict.

Of course you can use this structure to craft any piece of writing, from flash fiction to a quintet of novels. But what I want you to key in on is how closely the five-act structure parallels the four-stage Human Sexual Response Cycle first proposed by Masters & Johnson in their 1966 book, Human Sexual Response. The phases are: Excitement Phase, Plateau Phase, Orgasmic Phase, and Resolution Phase.

The only thing missing is the exposition. Take your characters through these motions. You may not end up using every single one of the acts or phases in the final piece, but your writing will be better for having done the experiment. Pay particular attention to this structure when you are writing the erotic encounters that take place in your work and you will write scenes that flow with realism and give weight to your story.

 

LESSON TWO — Dialogue

Let your characters tease each other and play with each other’s words as much as, or even more than, they play with each other’s naughty bits. Example: The Taming of the Shrew (Act Two; Scene One)—playful banter about cunnilingus.

Petruchio
Come, come, you wasp, i’faith you are too angry.

Katherine
If I be wasp-ish, best beware my sting.

Petruchio
My remedy is then, to pluck it out.

Katherine
Ay, if the fool could find it where it lies.

Petruchio
Who knows not where wasp doth wear his sting? In his tail.

Katherine
In his tongue.

Petruchio
Whose tongue?

Katherine
Yours, if you talk of tales; and so farewell.

Petruchio
What, with my tongue in your tail?

 

LESSON THREE — Language

Shakespeare describes the sunrise in an infinite number of scenes, playing with language and matching the imagery to suit the speaker and the circumstances.

Hamlet (Act One; Scene Five):
Ghost
The glowworm shows he matin to be near, and ‘gins to pale his uneffectual fire
Matin – the first of the of the 7 canonical hours and/or the service for it which sometimes begins at daybreak.
(This spoken by the ghost of a king, murdered without benefit of Last Rites.)

Romeo and Juliet (Act Two; Scene Three)
Friar Lawrence
The gray-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night, chequering the eastern clouds with streaks of light; and flecked darkness like a drunkard reels, from forth day’s path and Titan’s fiery wheels
(Spoken by Romeo and Juliet’s confidant after the disastrous events of the previous night)

Titus Andronicus (Act Two; Scene One)
Aaron
As when the golden sun salutes the morn, and having gilt the ocean with his beams, gallops the zodiac in his glistening coach, and overlooks the highest-peering hills
(Aaron says these lines in a soliloquy while contemplating his secret lover’s rise to power and his hopes of benefiting from the connection)

Be fearless when it comes to finding the words to say it. Language is a flexible thing; bend it to the circumstances of your plot and the people who inhabit it. Let your experience guide you as you wrestle with the words to make them work for you.

 

LESSON FOUR — Characterization

The following exchange in King Lear (Act One; Scene One) between the Earl of Kent and the Earl of Gloucester opens the play. Gloucester is speaking about his children with one of his children present in the room. What does this tell you about the man? How can you use language to show the content of a person’s character in your own work?

Kent
Is not this your son, my Lord?
Gloucester
His breeding, sir, have been at my charge: I have so often blushed to it knowledge him that now I am brazed to it.
Kent
I cannot conceive you.
Gloucester
Sir, this young fellow’s mother could: whereupon she grew round-wombed, and had indeed, sir, a son for her cradle ere she had a husband for her bed. Do you smell a fault?
Kent
I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so proper.
Gloucester
But I have a son, sir, by order of law, some year elder than this, who yet is no dearer in my account: though this knave came something saucily into the world before he was sent for, yet was his mother fair; there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson and must be acknowledged.

 

LESSON FIVE — Settings

In Richard III (Act One; Scene Two), Richard, Duke of Gloucester woos Lady Anne over the body of her husband whose death Richard is responsible for. And he succeeds! This is a call to action for all writers of erotic romance.  Go and read that scene for how Richard uses every tactic he can think of to get the girl. And then I challenge you to come up with the least erotic setting you can imagine—not gross or horrific, necessarily, just not particularly conducive to romance—and write a wooing scene that makes your characters have to work hard for what they want.

I hope these lessons will free up new space in your writer’s mind that will result in more words on the page!

 

Live fully, keep reading, and don’t stop pressing those keys!

BCA

 

Learn more about, and keep up with, Blake C. Aarens on Twitter as @BCAarens, and at her Amazon Author Page.

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Oct 042013
 
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By Colin

Last month that hot new publisher you’ve been dying to publish with put out a submissions call for an erotic steampunk anthology. So, you sat down and spent the next three weekends pounding your keyboard, crafting a story you were sure would blow the editors away.

And you succeeded…to a point. The alternate Victorian world you created was richly imagined and meticulously researched. You came up with several plot angles that nobody had ever thought of in the whole history of steampunk, and you googled keywords to make sure. You even incorporated some amusing, but suitably cryptic, references as names for minor characters.

But the sex scene between the two main characters…it just didn’t pop, somehow. It was imaginative and tasteful and believable, every nibble and gasp carefully choreographed on the page. But upon rereading it, you couldn’t help feeling that it was…well, kinda bland. Boring, actually. Almost like you had just plugged in the scene at the last minute because you had to, not because it was in any way organic to the setting or the story.

The problem, of course, is that that was exactly what you did.

See, you read a call for submissions for an erotic steampunk anthology, but you seized on “steampunk” rather than “erotic”. You focused on worldbuilding rather than the sexual interactions between the people in that world. That in itself is not terrible. You want solid worldbuilding in your stories. But a focus on genre conventions instead of eroticism can make for rather dull erotica.

So how do you deal with this in future projects?

First, be aware from the getgo that your story has a specific length and density, which will affect how much of anything you can put in it. You are facing limits; learn to work with them. When the scene you’re writing involves exposition or exploration of the world you’ve created, get used to taking a break at key points and asking: can I (and sometimes, should I) bring the focus back to sexuality here? If you’re writing a story aimed at a specific fetish, this will be even more important. Femdom readers might appreciate expository information more if it’s through the POV of a well-dressed mistress whose musings on New London’s suspiciously alien-friendly architecture are mixed with memories of the morning’s session with her favorite submissive.

Sounds a little contrived? Listen, real people fantasize—a lot, and often with no rhyme or reason. They entertain themselves at any available moment by remembering experiences and past lovers. They speculate on attractive passersby. How would that stern-looking fellow respond if he were suddenly stripped naked and tightly bound? What if you could simply walk up to that distracted-looking woman and kiss her? There’s no reason your characters shouldn’t engage in the same kind of erotic woolgathering, to powerful effect.

Then there’s the patterning of language to convey eroticism. This is really too broad a topic to do anything more than hint at here, but certain rhythms can soothe and lull the reader—and others can excite them. Long sentences with multi-syllabic words can be like foreplay. They get you “in the mood”, and if they’re followed up by a sequence of shorter, plainer sentences with a staccato rhythm…like a jackhammer pounding away…well. What does that remind you of? Remember that your job is not just to entertain but to seduce.

Finally, perhaps the most effective tool in an erotic writer’s arsenal is his or her own sexual fantasy life. Remember what I said about people fantasizing? I’ll bet you do it all the time, you dirty thing. Your work as a writer is a wonderful excuse to indulge this tendency and use it. Try this: pick a genre. Any genre. It can be as well-worn or as edgy as you like. Let’s say you picked hardboiled crime fiction. Now pretend you’re crafting such a story for a new erotica anthology.

Now…instead of asking yourself how you would make a crime story work, look to your fantasies. Flip through them, scanning for one that seems to have some relevance to your genre. Most of them probably won’t seem at all suitable. Fantasies, after all, are often just single images or situations, not actual narratives. That’s okay. You’re using it to fuel your story, not to tell the story. Sooner or later you’ll hit something that sets off a bell in your subconscious.

Say the fantasy involves a person being bound by a mysterious figure—their gender and appearance of both the prisoner and the captor I’ll leave to you. The prisoner is unable to get away from this person despite repeated efforts, and the person finds those efforts terribly amusing. The prisoner is humiliated, yet also terribly excited by the situation…and that’s all you’ve got.

Again, that’s okay.  Sooner or later you’ll find the necessary connections to the story you want to tell. Something in your subconscious already found a connection—that’s why the bell sounded. So…is the prisoner your viewpoint character? Is he/she excited out of sheer perversity…or is a love of being helpless a key part of who they are?  Maybe something else is at work? Hypnosis? A behavior-modification program installed in their subconscious which is now being exploited by the captor? Why does the captor have them at his/her mercy? What’s their relationship to this person? Were they lovers, or is this the first time they’ve met? The questions will go on and on, but my guess is that you’ll find the process of answering them not just exciting, but inspiring.

…And that will lead to a story that will not just be inspired, but exciting. Not just genre, but an erotic example of that genre. And you might just end up with a sale.

 

Colin is a fetish writer and the single most prolific professional author of tickling erotica working today, with dozens of books to his credit. www.gigglegasm.com and www.ticklingforum.com.

 

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Oct 022013
 
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By M. Christian

For new writers, the temptation is obvious: after all, if you don’t know something, shouldn’t you seek out a way to learn about it? The question of how to educate yourself as a writer is a necessary and important one, of course, but an often-invisible second question follows: how do you sift through the piles of would-be writing coaches, teachers and other purveyors of advice to find the ones who will lead you toward genuinely better writing? The problem isn’t that there are over-eager teachers galore, but that far too many of them are preaching from ignorance—or just dully quoting what others have already said.

This is particularly true of erotic romance. Now, I have to admit I’ve been more than a bit spoiled by other genres, where you can write about whatever you want without much of a chance—beyond clumsy writing—of getting rejected for not toeing the line, so approaching erotic romance has been a bit more of a challenge. Romance authors, after all, have been told time and time again that there is a very precise, almost exacting, Way of Doing Things … and if you don’t, then bye-bye book deal.

But times have changed, and while a few stubborn publishers still want erotic romantic fiction that follows established formulas, the quantum leap of digital publishing has totally shaken up by-the-numbers approaches to romance writing. Without going too much into it (maybe in another column…), because ebooks are so much easier to produce, publishers can take wonderful risks on new authors and concepts, meaning that they don’t have to wring their hands in fright that the new title they greenlit will go bust and possibly take the whole company with it.

Because of this freedom, erotic romance can be so much more than it ever was: experimental, innovative, unique, challenging, etc. These are no longer the Words of Death when it comes to putting together a book.

One of the great, underlying tasks of teaching—one I love, but with some reverence and an occasional pang of dread—is challenging the boring, formulaic, way that so many talk about writing (which is also to say that a huge part of the reason I love to teach is that it’s a weird form of revenge against all the bad writing teachers I’ve had over the years). There are, however, far too many writing teachers who relentlessly parrot that erotic romance has to follow a strict formula to be successful. They spell out this formula in stomach-cramping detail: what has to happen to each and every character, in each and every chapter, in each and every book.

This is not to say that new authors should put their hands over their ears any time someone offers up advice on romance writing; there is, after all, a huge difference between a teacher who inspires from experience and one who is just a conduit between you and a textbook. A publisher, for instance, who looks at their catalogue and can see what is selling for the moment—they’re worth listening to. On the other hand, one who sets down unbending rules on what Not To Do and What To Do, regardless of the changing interests of readers or the innovations of writers, is only mumbling at you through the sand in which their head is lodged. Case in point: I once had a erotic romance novel rejected by a major publisher not because of the writing, the plot, the characters, or the setting but because it was about a painter and, according to this publisher, “books about painters don’t sell.”  Needless to say, I didn’t let this feedback stop me from sending the book to a different publisher—where it sold quite well.

The A-to-B-to-C form of teaching writing is likened to cutting up a frog: certainly an efficient way of finding out (ewwwww) the contents of an amphibian … but totally useless as a way of creating your own.  A good test of a writing instructor, by the way, is how you feel at the end of the class or how-to book: if you’re shaking like a leaf that you might have made—or will make—some kind of horrible erotic-romance-writing mistake, then the lesson was a bad one … but if you leave feeling elated, inspired, confident and ready to build your story into something powerful then, you guessed it, the class was good.

Folks have come to me with questions like “Can I start my story with an email?” “Can I start with the weather?” “Can my setting be in a foreign country?” “Can I write about an artist?”  I think you can guess what my answer always is: just write! One, you can always change it later and, two (most importantly) write what you want to read: don’t suffocate your creativity with formulas, set-in-stone rules, mandatory character arcs and Hero’s Journeys, or any standardized thing that isn’t relevant to what’s really happening in your story. Instead, think of writing—especially erotic romance—as creation. Sure, you’re going to make some mistakes, but everyone does. That’s what learning is all about. Taking class after class after class doesn’t write books: you do! Taking class after class after class doesn’t even make you a better writer: you do!

Sure, you should seek out some teachers—especially when you are ready to step into the completely terrifying world of publishing—but don’t think that there is a guru out there who has all the answers, who is the Sacred Keeper of the Great Romance Writing Secret. If they were, wouldn’t they be sitting on their yacht sipping immaculately prepared daiquiris?

The best advice, the best lesson that anyone can give a writer, is the simplest: write.  Create stories and books and on and on and on until it begins to flow and the words aren’t words anymore but just notes in a composition, until plot and character and setting and dialogue aren’t separate things but part of a greater, beautiful, whole. Once you can hold what you wrote in your hand—or on the screen—and say to yourself that what you have created is good, then you can study the lessons of how to put it out into the world.

But, until then, do everything you can to keep yourself inspired, enthusiastic, creative, thrilled, and excited about writing—by staying away from the tired idea of formulas … and keep that frog intact.

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