Dec 262014
 
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By Colin

One of my favorite “writer stories” concerns none other than Edgar Rice Burroughs, who once found himself facing some uncomfortably frank feedback from a magazine editor. It seems Burroughs had just turned in a brand new adventure set in his prehistoric inner world of Pellucidar, and it wasn’t quite up to snuff. Even Burroughs’ most rabid fans have to acknowledge that the master nodded occasionally, especially around the fourth or fifth book of a series. The editor basically imparted this to Burroughs, offering the book’s pallid characters, tired capture-and-escape scenarios and general lackadaisical feel as evidence. To which Burroughs replied, basically, “You know, I kind of felt the same way when I was writing it; I just couldn’t seem to do anything about it.”

The whippersnappers will sneer: Old hack! Gee, his commitment to his craft musta been paper-thin, huh? But wiser (or at least older; or at least more honest) heads are more likely to feel an uncomfortable sympathy.

I, for one, have been there. So have most of us, if we will but admit it. Sunk hip-deep in a story that doesn’t seem to want to resolve itself or even just continue on for a few more pages, helpless is exactly how you’re likely to feel. Writing can be many things: invigorating, joyous, infuriating and, yes, erotic. But it can also be—not so much boring as infected with a strange, passive malaise. You find yourself willing to fling anything down on the page, resorting to the most appalling clichés, leaning on stock situations and characters that a younger you would simply sneer at. Anything to just get through it.

Because, you reason, as long as you do get through it, as opposed to tossing that manuscript in your “Isle of Lost Toys” trunk, then you’re ahead of the game. If you actually sell it and make a few bucks, that’s even better, right? But such “helpless” stories aren’t likely to garner many favorable reviews, assuming they do make it past your eagle-eyed editor. In fact, you’re likely to hear about their faults in living color. If That Helpless Feeling=Poor Work=Poor Returns and/or Negative Reviews, then a case can be made that you’ve crossed the line between “done is better than perfect” and “done is better than good”—and only one of those statements is true.

Which is why, friends, I’m here to talk to you today about the glorious benefits of procrastination.

What am I saying here? That you should just give up every time you get THF? That might seem reasonable at first, but eventually it’ll seriously cut into your productivity. And giving up might not be an option if, say, the project you were working on when THF struck is the next book in a semi-successful series and has a tight deadline.

But sometimes you can get extensions on deadlines, especially if you can make a case for the quality of the work being affected. This is an essential part of the fine art of procrastination: not avoiding work completely but making more time. There are some people out there who call that time “slack,” but never mind them.

Next you find yourself stuck in That Helpless Feeling, try stepping back and taking stock. How important is this particular project? Does it need to be done by a particular date? If so, is that deadline something that applies to you personally (“Colin, no more of your bullcrap, I want the next volume of the Sword of the Dominatrix series in my inbox by next Wednesday”) or a general deadline for an anthology or magazine submission? If the deadline is firm, make the most of the time you have. Go out for a walk and so some thinking about the project. The simple act of marshaling your resources like this can do wonders. The point is, you’ve taken yourself out of passive mode and into active mode.

In a better situation, in which you have considerably more time at your disposal, set yourself a personal “vacation time” of a couple days in which you can work on something else or simply catch up on your reading. Then go back and look at the project that was causing you trouble. Consider it from different angles. Try to reconnect with the elements that had you excited about the project in the first place.

Again, you may not be Superman in this scenario, but you’re no longer helpless. You’re doing something. You’re actively addressing the problem. And there’s a good chance you might just find that Helpless Feeling slipping away…

***

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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Dec 182014
 
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By Nobilis

A speedbump slows you down for a bit; a setback is a loss of progress. Preparation keeps speedbumps from turning into setbacks.

This morning when I got my stuff together to go to the office, I discovered that my netbook needed an update. This is not uncommon, as the Ubuntu OS it runs, along with the apps I have loaded on it, are updated regularly. The problem arose when the update got stuck partway through and I needed to get on the road to be on time for work.

I did the exact wrong thing and interrupted the update.

Needless to say, the netbook is now not functional. I am composing this blogpost on my tablet, which is a good deal slower than I like but that’s how it goes.

I’m not worried, though. Even if the device is permanently kaput, I know I will not lose ground, because each day’s work was automatically uploaded to Dropbox.

That’s the kind of thing that keeps a speedbump from turning into a setback. Backups are the key—not just to saving my work to a secure location, but also to having backup hardware to work with until I can get my primary device back into service. This preparedness is what gives me the room to be flexible.

The same preparedness is necessary at every stage of the writer’s operation. For example, if Amazon were to suddenly remove all links to erotica titles, so that anyone who wanted to buy it would have to link directly to it,  if search and author pages and all of the other methods readers use to find books no longer worked, what would you be able to do? How much control do you have over that part of your business?

If your favorite publisher, the one you’ve been working with for years and have a strong relationship with, were to suddenly announce they were closing their doors, do you know what would happen to the rights to your books? Do you know where you would take them?

If your blogging platform were yanked out from under you, how quickly could you recover?

Taken all together, these questions can be pretty daunting. I know I am not prepared for all of these contingencies. But writers, erotica writers especially, need to be ready for the ground to shift under their feet. It happens too often to ignore.

***

Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

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

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Dec 112014
 
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By Suz deMello

Welcome to EroticaVille, a magical town where our characters don’t shit, piss or bathe…except when there’s some kinky goings-on involving in-shower BJs, scat play or watersports.

When I first started writing romance back in the Dark Ages, I read many stories in which the characters enjoyed frenzied fucking but never seemed to get slimy, smelly or sweaty. They never showered, bathed, pooped or peed. Normal bodily functions were ignored except for eating—mealtimes were prime time for characters to relate to each other.

I hated that. Not that I’m squeamish about bodily functions, but ordinarily, the first thing I do post-afterglow is drag myself out of bed to a bathroom for a quick cleanup, even if that’s only a damp washcloth over my crotch. I can skip that if we’ve used a condom, which is always nice as well as safe, as we all know. Being uninterested in—even repelled by—bukkake, I firmly believe that come belongs in my mouth or a condom, not in my hair or on my face. Either of those destinations would call for a shower. Immediately. Others may feel differently—more power to them—but for me, the less post-coital cold and slippery anything I have to wash off, the better. And I hate to sleep on the wet spot.

Back to my main point: in many novels, characters behave uncharacteristically—and that is okay. Preferable, even. Normal body functions are a part of life, and while I believe that a nod should be given to the day-to-day, the fact is that our characters are not humans, and the world we’ve created is not our world, not even in the grittiest contemporary.

So I was the out-of-step reader. I’d read a lovemaking scene and then think, “Don’t these people ever wash? Disgusting.” Now I understand the reason writers don’t include every little thing that characters do.

Last month I discussed unnecessary sex scenes, scenes that did not perform one of these four functions:

•Advance the plot
•Reveal or develop character
•Complicate or resolve conflict
•Express setting, mood, and/or theme

I respectfully remind you again: nothing belongs in your book—not even the tiniest comma—that doesn’t fulfill one or more of the four functions above.

And that’s the reason most writers don’t show their characters brushing their hair, tying their shoelaces or taking a dump (unless their Dom tells them to, which is quite another matter).

Here’s a snippet from my writing manual, About Writing:

Everything in your manuscript should have a function, even every comma or em-dash. And this is the reason the special world we create in our stories is so different from our ordinary world. Much happens in our day-to-day existence isn’t particularly relevant to the story of our lives, that is, the accomplishment of our dreams and goals.

Let’s say that we’re thinking of having our protagonist, who has as his goal great wealth, stop at a Chipotle restaurant for a burrito. Eating that burrito doesn’t help accomplish that goal. But it’s a common act, one that occurs often. Lunch is a part of our lives, but we wouldn’t put it in a book about a protagonist on a quest to amass loads of money unless something occurred at that Chipotle that fulfills one or two of the above purposes.

Perhaps the protagonist meets someone there who is a mentor, ally or adversary; he could eat lunch with his hippie mom, who vehemently expresses her dismay over his life choices.

Maybe he heroically stops an armed robbery from taking place, garnering publicity that helps him on his way—even though he gives up the chance to close the biggest deal of his life, a sacrifice that would make his eventual triumph all the more poignant. And the event shows character, that this guy is more than a soulless money-making machine.

If he’s just eating lunch, his burrito probably doesn’t belong in your book. The scene might show a tiny bit about your character, but that’s not enough to justify an entire scene. A short phrase (He devoured a burrito at Chipotle before heading back to the stock exchange—where he hoped to complete the biggest deal of his life) is all that’s necessary.

But when I first started reading romance, which was long after I’d started having sex, I found it odd that no heroine got out of bed to tidy herself up. She didn’t even reach over for a tissue to grab that glop before it fell out of her and created the (shudder) dreaded wet spot.

Perhaps this was because of my own peculiar emotional conformation. While in the bathroom, I’d ruminate about what had just happened and how the lovemaking affected my feelings about my partner. In a calmer relationship, as during most of my marriage, I might get up but maybe not, and I wouldn’t think about anything. Scenes of that nature shouldn’t appear in books because they don’t fulfill any of the legitimate purposes of a scene.

But in a romance, post-coitus is a prime time for the characters to indulge in a little introspection, or if they’re feeling chatty, it’s a great opportunity for your characters to relate to each other.  The sex itself should certainly advance the plot—if not, why’s it there? After, a little sweet talk is a nice sequel to the sex scene—or maybe the conversation goes awry and conflict is revealed or advanced.

I love to write historicals, and part of the reason is that I love to learn about how people used to live. The clothes they wore. The foods they ate. And yes, how they disposed of their feces. Most people think that a garderobe was some kind of medieval wardrobe. Nope—it was the castle’s shitter, usually just a bench with a hole. It most often led to the moat which, as you can imagine, was not the most charming spot in our hero’s demesne.

I mentioned above that bodily functions can appear in erotica, as I’ll show here—this excerpt is from my fictionalized memoir, Perilous Play. This snippet takes place after a particularly intense scene.

He took everything off except the collar. With the leash tied to it, he led me into the bathroom so I could pee, and stood staring down at me.

I guessed that this was part of the whole humiliation shtick, but didn’t care. With Trapper, I was beyond embarrassment.

I looked up at him and said, “Remember when you were spanking me in here before?”

He nodded.

I shivered. “That was possibly the most erotic moment of my life.”

He smiled.

My passion for realism often leads me to write scenes in which the formerly virginal heroine washes off the brownish streaks that her first lovemaking left on her thighs while (you guessed it!) thinking about what just happened and how it affected her and the relationship. I also write characters who wake up with morning breath, characters who have to use the garderobe and yes, characters who shower often.

After all, the shower is a great place to fuck.

*****

If you enjoyed either of the excerpts quoted above, you can find them here:

About Writing for sale at Amazon;

Perilous Play (found within a boxed set, also at Amazon, titled What to Read After Fifty Shades of Grey).

*****

About Suz deMello:

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

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Dec 072014
 
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By M. Christian (Guest Blogger)

I’m not too sure whose been spreading the rumors but, believe me, I’d like to get my hands on them.

Not that it’s anything new, I admit. I’ll betcha that for as long as human beings have been putting one word in front of another word for money there’s been a whispering, a murmuring, a seductive allure that all it takes is just the right story, the perfect book, the ideal concept to launch the author from zero to bazillionare.

But that’s all it is: rumor, hearsay, gossip… hollow promises. Okay, sure, it does happen but I’ll betcha with what little money I’ve made with my own writing that the number of people who it has happened to would comfortably fit in an elevator… and a small one at that. In short, while fame and fortune can and has happened with just one book, the odds are nightmarishly against you.

But the myth—sadly—persists. The reason I’m writing this is perfect evidence: no fewer than four people recently asked me to be their book doctors, yet they all vanished once they understood the reality of what it actually takes to make even a moderate amount of money as an author. All of them had actually written a novel, each of them had put aside money to have it professionally edited, and they’d even started up the long social media ladder… but each one vanished in the space of a few months.

I’m a dreamer … hell, half my waking life seems to be spent drifting from one fantasy to another: from super heroics to an immaculately imagined life as a pulp author in the ’40s, I’m usually lost in the clouds. But while being able to support my very simple lifestyle with my writing income is only one of them, I also really try to make at least that fantasy as real as possible.

Part of that is that I really want to make that happen. I know that it won’t take one novel … hell, it’ll more than likely take dozens and dozens… and that it can sometimes take decades before my work gets noticed and, most importantly, purchased by enough people. Just look at how long it takes to build up a social media presence—and then to turn those numbers into people who actually care about what you say.

In short, I’ve always accepted that writing is a very, very, very long game. I just wish everyone else would … not just because I feel for the pain of their expiring hopes but because it’s making the world a lot damned harder for the rest of us.

For example, I hate National Novel Writing Month, AKA NaNoWriMo—well, actually, I loathe it. Okay, I accept the fact that a lot of people need an impetus to write and that some truly great works have come out of it. But for every great novel and each person discovering the glorious thrill that can come from writing, there are hundreds of thousands of people who think that because they actually wrote A Novel in a Month, they can be the next J. K. Rowling, Stephen King, Stephenie Meyer, or [insert-author of-the-moment here]. They take their book and hire (sigh) a book editor, set up a twitter feed, create a website and a facebook page, sign up for Red Room, and [insert social-media-of-the-moment here] with expectations that they will Hit. It. Big.

As I said, this has always been a problem. There were probably more than a few Sumerian scribes who thought they were going to make more than a few [insert whatever money Sumerians used here—dinnar? Shekels?] and retire to a little mud hut on the shores of the Euphrates—only to take what few coins they made and go into the sheep herding business like their parents wanted them to.

The problem is that this isn’t ancient Sumer—this is 2014 and we aren’t writing on clay tablets. The good news about living in this day and age is that we have seen the death of death, at least where books are concerned. Sure, a few of my early books have crumbled to dust, reduced to a few tattered copies in a few struggling bookstores. But those that have been republished as ebooks will be there for as long as the Internet is.

Don’t get me wrong, I love ebooks—hell, I absolutely adore working for two different ebook companies as a publisher right now—but the downside of this digital literary immortality, with the perfect storm of an exponential increase in the number of books being written and published, is that being noticed as an author has gone from unlikely to utterly impossible. Add to this the people who still think that the pot of gold at the end of the literary rainbow is there for the taking with just one book, and you can see why things have gone totally and absolutely nuts.

Yes, I like to dream; but when I want to make a dream a reality I know that it will take a lot of long hours with my butt glued to my office chair whether I like it or not, with my brain glued to my story whether I’m inspired by it or utterly sick of it, that there’s no Leprechaun to capture, no social media lamp to rub. I’m not perfect—far from it—but I made a decision some twenty-or-so years ago to pursue my dream of being a working writer even though it wouldn’t be easy … and to accept the sad fact that it may never come to pass. But I also understood that a shot at earning a living writing was, for me, completely worth all that work, even if it was never guaranteed to happen. It was also my dream to attempt it—and I’ve been able to live that dream every day for the same last twenty-or-so years.

I have more than a few gray hairs, so I get to say “get off my lawn” now and again: write your novel, have fun, dip your toes into the lake of glorious creativity, know the giddy thrill that can come from creating a work that has never—in the entire history of … history … existed before, do the NaNoWriMo thing but, please, for the love of all that is good and wonderful, don’t step into the world of professional writing unless you are willing to accept the facts of The Long Game.

Please don’t waste the time of editors and publishers—and, most of all, do your readers a service and don’t waste their time by writing just one book, expecting overnight success, before deciding that all this is—sniffle—too much hard work.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … until I can’t say anything else: the only time a writer ever fails is if they stop writing!

 

Originally published 8/9/2014 at Lisabet Sarai’s blog, Beyond Romance.

***

About M. Christian
Calling M.Christian versatile is a tremendous understatement. Extensively published in science fiction, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and even non-fiction, it is in erotica that M.Christian has become an acknowledged master, with more than 400 stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and in fact too many anthologies, magazines, and sites to name. In erotica, M.Christian is known and respected not just for his passion on the page but also his staggering imagination and chameleonic ability to successfully and convincingly write for any and all orientations. His short fiction has been collected into many bestselling books in a wide variety of genres, including the Lambda Award finalist Dirty Words and his novels include the queer vamp tales Running Dry and The Very Bloody Marys, the science fiction erotic novel Painted Doll, and the gay horror tale Fingers Breadth.

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

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

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