Sep 232014
 
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By billierosie

My friend Jonathan is in a heterosexual relationship; but it’s a heterosexual relationship with kinks—massive kinks. Jonathan is a dominant; his partner, Susie, is his submissive. I asked Jonathan to tell me about his and Susie’s life together. How do they organise things and deal with household pragmatics? Is their relationship typical of the lifestyle of dominant and submissive? Is there such a thing as a typical dominant/submissive lifestyle? Here’s what Jonathan told me…

“I should start by saying that it’s one of those questions where different people will undoubtedly have different answers. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ type of dominant, and I’m not even going to try to create a typology. Even the terminology is flexible: dominant/submissive isn’t quite the same relationship as top/bottom, with the conventional understanding being that the former is more about power exchange and the latter about the administration and receiving of pain and pleasure.

“I would say, though, that the essence of domination and submission is about having a sexual relationship—or indeed several sexual relationships—that include a particular dynamic. The nature of that dynamic is that my play partner is seeking excitement and gratification through being controlled, and I’m seeking those things through exercising that control.

“What that means for me is that I need to think in a very precise way about what my submissive is seeking. Do they want the experience of being taken back to some point in their life, perhaps a point in childhood, where they were controlled and perhaps punished by a father figure? Do they want to experience a type of control (and reward) that one might use with a family pet such as a dog? Do they want an experience they can fight against and yet be forced against their will, as in an interrogation scene? Do they seek a more spiritual and meditative experience, the kind that’s common with rope bondage?

“There’s a sense in which being a dominant isn’t about being bossy and bullying—or if it is, that’s because the submissive feels the need to experience those things. It’s about recognising what your submissive needs and being, as I’ve sometimes put it, the vehicle through which the submissive can express and explore their desires. My gratification as a dominant is about being successful at doing that. That’s not to deny the gratifications of hearing the thwap of a flogger hitting flesh and the soft shriek of shock and pain, seeing the way skin colours up when it’s been tortured, and smelling the sex in the air. Those are all great turn-ons. But the key thing for me is taking the trust of the submissive and proving to them they were right to trust that I can deliver the fantasy-into-reality they were seeking. That’s the thing that gives me a crazy smile on my face for days after an intensive play session.

“Being dominant can be demanding. It requires me to think about what I’m doing at every point: planning what I’m going to do, doing it, being alert to issues that arise during play, and following up afterwards. For example: will it be feasible to tie someone up in a certain way given their known health condition and the way rope constriction can affect muscles? If the sub has, for example, asthma that means they need their inhaler available at all times, is it to hand? Does a particular fantasy—for example being treated as a non-person through the use of a hood—trigger something bad in the sub when it happens for real, so the scene needs to stop? And how do they feel after the whole experience when they’ve had time to reflect on it?

“I’ve sometimes wondered, incidentally, how dominants manage in dom/sub relationships that are 24/7 because frankly, I don’t think I could keep up that level of attention all the time. I’d assume those relationships are more like master or mistress and slave, because they surely can’t exist on the basis of being permanent domination sessions.

“How, then, did I get into domination? It started fairly early with pre-pubescent fantasies that involved the kinds of things we now term ‘power exchange’. As a teenager I found pulp magazines that told me, if nothing else, that I wasn’t the only person to have such fantasies. Shortly thereafter I found sexual partners who were similarly exploring their sexuality and not averse to being tied up. And on it went from there.

“In real life I’m a pretty laid-back person. I don’t impose myself on others, have a particularly dominant bearing, or other obvious trappings of being a ‘dominant person’. But I’m generally a good listener and try to understand what my submissive wants. I have a wicked turn to my sense of humour. I’ve taken time out to understand the range of ‘tools’ I use in bdsm—from rope and bullwhips to gags and candles. I know what they do, and wide range of ways they can be used.

“And I was lucky enough, a decade ago now, to meet the submissive who is now my partner. We met in a fetish club; I was doing an impromptu bondage demonstration and she was a volunteer…

“By way of a conclusion, I’ll offer these thoughts.

“A dominant isn’t someone who ‘feels dominant to their core’, was ‘born to rule others’ or feels they should always be privileged over others. People who persistently act that way can usually be described using other, less savoury terms such ‘pain in the ass’—or perhaps ‘bully’.

“It is, of course, important sometimes to act in such ways, because that’s part of the play of domination and submission. But if someone starts taking that kind of role as the key part of their personality they’ll quickly find themselves being laughed at.

“A dominant is someone who takes the gift of submission and works with the submissive to make it something more beautiful and more meaningful to both parties. This is why domination is a craft. It requires dedication, self-reflection and an open and enquiring mind—as well as a balanced personality, a sadistic imagination and a rigorous approach to what is safe, sane and consensual.”

***

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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Sep 172014
 
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By Jean Roberta

Everyone who writes erotica or erotic romance has to find a way to explain what the characters look like – and the appearance of a central character is more important than those of the secondary ones (rivals, exes, parents, siblings, friends, the server in the café who pours coffee for the hero and heroine as they gaze into each other’s eyes). Some writers openly admit that they like to keep descriptions of the central characters as brief as possible so that readers can project their own fantasies onto the page. But in that case, why not let readers write their own stories? Readers want writers to tell them stories they haven’t already heard.

As a fan of the literature of earlier times, I like the long-winded descriptions that preceded film, television and the internet. Here is a description of a successful whore who visits a village in the famous raunchy novel of 1749, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (better known as Fanny Hill):

Nor can I [Fanny Hill, the fifteen-year-old narrator] remember, without laughing, the innocent admiration, not without a spice of envy, with which we poor girls, whose church-going clothes did not rise above dowlass shifts and stuff gowns, beheld Esther’s scowered satin gowns, caps border’d with an inch of lace, taudry ribbons, and shoes belaced with silver: all which we imagined grew in London, and entered for a great deal into my determination of trying to come in for my share of them. 1

Notice that Esther’s fashionable outfit is described at length in one long sentence. And Esther is simply a lure, not a major player in young Fanny’s life.

Most erotic novels of our time introduce characters in terms of physical characteristics. If these follow familiar stereotypes, the women have long hair and large breasts, while the men have broad shoulders and muscular chests. Unfortunately, cliché depictions of conventionally attractive people are easy to parody, and a reader who has seen them all before is likely to be pulled out of the story, rolling their eyes and groaning.

What is a writer to do? Characters have to be described in some way so that the reader can imagine them, but clichés early in a narrative are a clear sign of second-rate writing. At the same time, readers in an age of short-attention-span media usually want the plot to move quickly. Long descriptions tend to interrupt the flow of events.

Columnist Rachel Howard, in an article in The New York Times, suggests that writers can imitate the student artists in the classes for which she modeled when she was younger. She describes the instructor telling the students to begin with a quick sketch:

“Find the gesture!” the instructor would shout, as the would-be artists sketched. “What is the essence of that pose? How does that pose feel to the model? The whole pose — quick, quick! No, not the arm or the leg. The line of the energy. What is that pose about? Step back and see it — really see it — whole.” And then, my timer beeped, I moved to a new pose and the students furiously flipped to a clean page.2

Howard suggests that writers can practice “gesture writing,” which captures the energy or the feel of a character or a situation without adding a lot of detail. Physical description, done well, can suggest intangible characteristics (nervousness, confidence, curiosity, annoyance) before the character has even said or done anything. It’s a tricky skill to master, but it’s worth practicing.

Short story writers, in particular, need to introduce the characters and get the plot moving so that they can reach a climax (of whatever kind) before the story must be wrapped up in 2,000, 3,500, 5,000, or 10,000 words. Descriptions of body language and facial expressions work better for this purpose than descriptions of hair or body build. Descriptions of characters who are already speaking, moving, or touching also tend to seem more believable than descriptions of characters who simply seem to be posing. In the real world, no one except an art model would walk into a room, strike a pose and hold it until the audience has memorized every physical detail.

The general trend in current fiction-writing is to lead with a remark (“Oh my God!” “What are you doing here?”) or a dramatic event, and then describe the characters in the scene. In erotic fiction, a character might be having a screaming orgasm before the reader finds out how he or she got to that point. The trick is to integrate visual imagery with descriptions of sounds, smells, tactile sensations, tastes, and movement in a way that suggests some backstory as well as the forward progression of events.

Find the gesture indeed. I’m still working on it.

 

  1. From Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1963, first published in Great Britain 1749), page 32.
  1. “Gesture Writing” by Rachel Howard, Opinionator, The New York Times, May 25, 2013

 

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Jean Roberta writes in several genres. Approximately 100 of her erotic stories, including every orientation she can think of, have appeared in print anthologies. She also has 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 082014
 
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By Colin

So you’ve written a book—not a story that crapped out after four thousand words, but an actual novel. And you think this book might be the one. Whether you use beta readers or go with your own gut, all the signs are right; this thing might actually sell some copies. You’ve decided to go with a publisher rather than putting it out yourself (and the joys of “putting it out yourself” are something I might go into in a future column). Now the question becomes: which publisher?

Because—just in case you’ve had your head in the sand during your book’s gestation—there are an awful lot of them. Even if you’re going with one of the electronic publishers (which, if your book is erotica, you most probably will), you’ve got an amazing number of choices. This month, I want to throw out a few helpful precepts, garnered through way too many years of my own mistakes, on how to go about shopping for a publisher.

First of all, just in case you have had your head in the sand for the past year, and are interested in an overview of the contenders, you’ve got a number of options. Google is not the least of these. A simple search on the words erotica publisher novel guidelines will get you started. If you’d rather look at more specific information right away, check out the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, specifically the Authors Resources page, and, for that matter, the ones at this site (on the right-hand sidebar below Roundtable Posts. Updated Calls for Submissions coming soon! —ed.). Both contain lists of erotica markets, with links to the publisher’s sites.  If you’re willing to spend a little money ($5.00 a month, or a discounted rate of $4.17 for committing to a year up front), I’ve found membership at Duotrope to be both affordable and very useful, not just for erotica, but for pinpointing opportunities in a wide variety of other genres, from steampunk to Bizarro. They also collate response times reported by members, to give you a better idea if your manuscript will meet with a quick answer or a slow death.

Of course, the first thing you’ll be looking for are publishers who put out the kinds of books you’ve written and want to go on writing, but this will also be an opportunity for you to look into areas you might not have thought of before. You might also find markets for material you thought was terminally unsalable, so take the time to really look around.

Alright, now you’ve assembled a shortlist of possible publishers. It’s time to look over their websites and their wares. You can judge a book by its cover, and you can often judge a publisher by their books. Do the covers jump out at you, and make you wonder what kind of story they represent? Or are they muddy, indistinct messes that just make you go, “Meh?” Would you buy their books? Because if you pick them and actually make a sale, your book will be right there among all the others you’re looking at now.

How about the website? Is the ad copy well-written…or at least competently written? Misspellings, tangled syntax and clichéd phrases on a publisher’s site are a red flag; remember, these people will be representing your work. If you’ve landed in a site full of clip-art covers and bad writing, it’s time to move on. If you Google a publisher and nothing comes up but a Facebook page or a Smashwords profile, then what I just said goes double.

If they’ve posted a sample contract (some do, some don’t), read it carefully, making note of things like royalty rates, and how you would go about pulling your book from their catalogue if they (perish the thought) turn out to be a shady operation.

Speaking of shade, reputation is another big factor to consider. Google the publisher—sometimes adding words like “complaints” or “problems” to their name will bring up some very interesting results. If a publisher treats its writers badly, there will be blog entries—usually a lot of blog entries from a wide variety of writers—about it, as well as mentions on sites like Predators and Editors (another one for your web-browser’s Favorites list). You have to take some of this with a large grain of salt, because a single writer who feels she’s been stiffed on her royalties can 1) be awfully loud and 2) recruit a handful of friends to help boost their signal out of nothing more than personal loyalty, and it’s true to say that sometimes “problems” with a publisher are simply the result of misunderstandings.

Some writers make a point of ignoring new publishers (which seem to crop up every week) until they’ve been in business at least a few years. This is generally sound advice; several years in business means the publisher is not just successful, but also has a certain stick-to-it-iveness. But you have to be a little careful here as well; recently, several publishers who had been around for a while and built up solid track records in that time suddenly went belly-up, literally overnight. Obviously, if you’re good at reading warning signs, these are businesses to avoid. Many publishers are iffy about taking previously-published books when the publisher dies; there’s always self-publishing, but that should be an option, not something you’re forced into to get an older manuscript back into print (probably with a less-than-glorious cover).

So now you’ve narrowed your list down and you’re pretty sure you know which publisher you want to submit to.  What happens now?  Come back in a month and we’ll talk.

***

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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