Jan 172015
 
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By Nobilis

This week, I collected the fifth draft of the Monster Whisperer novel into one manuscript and sent it off to an editor at Circlet Press to consider for publication. My feelings are, as I’m sure you can understand, complicated. I’m relieved to be done with this phase of the story, anxious about starting the next, puzzled about what to work on afterward, and eager to get rolling on it. All at the same time, or in any combination. But I’ve been through this enough to know that the relief will fade, the anxiety is temporary, the puzzlement is natural, and the eagerness will, in time, need to be nurtured.

I’m enjoying the relief of being done with this novel. Finishing any novel is not easy, and the fact that this is my third hasn’t really made it any easier. But I can’t afford the urge to sit back and rest. There’s more writing to be done, and I know from experience that if I go even just one day without writing, it can easily stretch into two, or three, or a week, and I don’t want that. So I’ve set a goal for myself—to write at least five hundred words a day, every day, in the year 2015. No excuses, no exceptions.

Monster Whisperer is now at a stage where there is nothing I can do about it. It’s out of my hands. Anxiety won’t do me any good, so it’s really best to let it go. Dwelling on it will only lead me to do stupid things like check in with the editor daily on whether she’s reading it. So I need to let it go. The best way I know how to do that is to let myself feel it, acknowledge it, thank my subconscious for its opinion, then go about my day.

I don’t need to work very hard on the decision of what to work on next. I have a story I really need to finish, a novella for a box-set that I’ve been invited to participate in, but it’s not an immediate one and I can afford to spread my efforts around a little. I can’t afford to do that very much though, especially writing only five hundred words a day, so I need to maintain focus. Distractions need to be kept at a minimum. Monster Whisperer took a year to finish; I’d rather not have the next project take that long.

That eagerness to be writing, that desire to feel the intense satisfaction on finishing a manuscript, will need to be preserved and nurtured. Luckily, that gets easier with each finished story. My confidence improves every time, especially when I get positive feedback from people whose writing I admire. But the time will come, somewhere around the late middle of the next story, when I want to just give up. I know it will happen. So I need to fix this feeling in my mind, remember it, come back to it again and again to maintain my enthusiasm. I need to hold onto it the way some people hold onto grudges.

Essentially, my emotional state is very important to my success as a writer—and therefore I need to be able to manage that state, control it, shape it so that it serves my purposes. That may sound like a strange idea. Much of modern culture portrays people as helpless to control their feelings, even victims of them; or else that our feelings should be respected over other modes of thinking instead of in concert with them. I disagree. Our feelings are ultimately under our control, though sometimes only with great difficulty, and only if we maintain a respectful relationship with them rather than pitting them against our rational thought processes or trying to “fight” them. When understood and managed, these feelings can help us achieve our goals.

***

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

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Jan 112015
 
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By M.Christian (Guest Blogger)

Currently I’m involved in a very special publishing endeavor – sorry for the tease; I’ll come to it shortly – that has gotten me thinking quite a bit about writing, especially about what it could meant to be a successful writer.

An odd word, that: success.  In some cases it can be a very clear-cut.  Getting from point A to point B?  Success is just making the trip.  Balancing your checkbook?  Success is making it all add up (and, one hopes, remaining in the black).  But for writers … well, it can be rather, shall I say, slippery.

For example: finishing a book or a story.  That can be a form of success – though too often it feels like there’s always more that could have been done.  Selling a book or a story?  That can be successful – though many times there’s the nagging doubt that it could have gone for more money, higher status, etc.

Then there’s the big form of that word.  What does it mean to be a successful author?  Excuse me for evoking my inner Cranky Old Pro, but far too many authors seem to think that being a successful author is not just finishing books and stories, selling books or stories, winning awards, making money – but making sure everyone, everywhere, knows about it.

In other words, the world of professional writing – or creating anything, it seems like – has become about who you are and not what you do.

Okay, that’s a broad statement, but bear with me.  This new endeavor – which I still won’t talk too much about … yet – involves a lot of looking backwards.  I’ve never been a fan of nostalgia … my childhood wasn’t exactly a pleasant one … but it has been a real eye-opener when it comes to reevaluating what, for me at least, success actually means.

Let’s talk about science fiction for a moment – but, rest assured, the message is the pretty much the same not only for every genre but every form of artistic creation as well.  Right now being a science fiction writer is a big deal: one story, one sale, one award, and everyone’s awash in self-congratulatory promotion.

Yes, PR is more important than ever, what with the evolution of ebooks and self-publishing and all. Going from (yeah I know I might be exaggerating) 1,000 books published a month to 10,000 books a day means that getting your name out there is crucial … but there’s a big difference between trying not to vanish, trampled under the hordes of other writers, and losing sight of the what being a writer is all about.

Part of this project I alluded to in the first paragraph is stepping into a wayback machine to look at many early SF authors and their works.  Back in the 1940s and 50s, and up to the 60s or so, was when many of the SF legends began their writing lives.  If you haven’t, you should definitely pick up a few old SF digests or pulps or cruise a few select sites and check them out.

Sure, far too often their covers were beyond pulpy (half-naked women, Green Men from Mars, stalwart heroes firing blasters, Green Men from Mars holding half-naked women high in the air while stalwart heroes fired blasters at them, etc.), but look at who was slowly making their way up the mastheads of those tawdry pages: Arthur C. Clarke, Alfred Bester, Philip K. Dick, Edmond Hamilton, Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, and (later) James Tiptree, Jr.
 (AKA Alice Bradley Sheldon), Octavia Butler, and so many others. 

Oh, sure, it’s worth a giggle or two seeing authors that we now consider to be legendary on these covers – but doing so is what changed the way I, personally, consider a measure of success … and, perhaps, will change the way you think about it, too.

Back into the wayback machine: no internet, damned few bookstores that would carry digests or paperbacks (they were mostly sold on newsstands), almost no reviews (except in other SF magazines), and pretty much zero, nada, zilch in the way of respect.

Being a science fiction writer back then was a low-paying, quasi-shameful, writer’s life.  You were lucky to get your name spelled right on the cover, let alone have that cover depict anything to do with the book you wrote.  Adding insult to injury, how much you got for your next book had everything to do with how much your last book sold: if it didn’t … well, then you took what you could get.

But these authors kept on writing.  They didn’t have even the possibility of attracting anything but scorn from big publishing houses, let alone movie deals.  They didn’t have a way of reaching out to fans – or even fellow authors – other than writing actual letters or attending what few early conventions existed back then.

So … no money, no fame, only a small cadre of fans, humiliated and the source of almost constant derision from authors in other genres … sure, we know them now, after 50+ years, but what kept them going then?

They were writers: they loved – beyond all else – to tell stories.  Sure, for many of them churning out stories and books was a way of making at least some money but, let’s be honest, there were better ways of doing that.

This is what I mean by success.  Now we look back at these authors as being successful because their names – even beyond science fiction fandom – are well known and even respected, and even a few of their properties are valued in the millions.  But it wasn’t always that way.

Yes, that was then and this is now, but they got from where they started to where they are now because they lived to write stories … and managed to keep at it long enough for the rest of the world to finally catch up and take interest in those stories.

No, it’s not a guarantee – those same pulp pages are full of authors who didn’t last long enough – but the point is still pretty much valid: these celebrated authors began their writing lives not because of winning awards, raking in the cash, or the adoration of legions of fans, but because they lived to write.

And that is what I’ve come to consider to be a personal definition of success: to live for the writing, to remain passionate and dedicated … while the rest, as they say, is gravy.

***

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

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

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

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

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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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Nov 302014
 
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By Mistress Lorelei Powers

You’ve carefully described your protagonists: their degree of youth, beauty, and desirable physique. You’ve choreographed the placement of arms, legs, mouths, and genitalia in various positions for maximum satisfaction and ease of description. Maybe you’ve even tested those positions with a willing volunteer to make sure a kneeling submissive of a given height really can reach quite that far with a tongue.

But have you considered how the scene fits into the flow of the narrative? What purpose it serves in the plot?

“But it’s erotica! The whole point of the story is the sex!”

Well, yes and no. The sex is essential, but it isn’t sufficient. Submissions guidelines generally emphasize phrases like “complex plotting” and “storytelling as well-crafted as the sex is hot.” So if you wish to publish your story in an anthology or have your novel accepted for publication, you need to understand how to time a sex scene to make it effective—and incidentally increase your chances of getting the reader and even the editor aroused.


The Role of Sex in Genre

One way to look at the question of how soon and how often is to look at the standards of the particular form you have chosen. Clearly, in a short story, you can’t postpone the first sex scene for 10,000 words, but in a literary novel you just may want to. Pure erotica often has a faster pace than the “erotica plus” genres: erotic romance, erotic suspense, erotic mystery, erotic horror. Old-fashioned pulp porn generally featured a new sexual combination every other chapter.

Many traditional erotic romance novels (AKA bodice-rippers) brought the hero and heroine together about a quarter of the way into the novel, again at the halfway point, and one final triumphant time toward the end. The ones driven by rape plots generally started the action earlier, sometimes in the first half-dozen pages.

In order to get the feel of a form, you must read widely in it. Read the classics of the genre, but also read plenty of contemporary fiction.


The Motives for Sex

Another way to decide where your sex scenes fit into the story is to ask yourself why your protagonists are going to bed. There are innumerable reasons people have sex of any kind. Here are a few:

·    A simple desire for touch

·    Love

·    Wanting children

·    Wanting to establish a relationship

·    Basic horniness

·    To manipulate someone or gain someone’s favor

·    Revenge (usually on someone other than the new partner)

·    Fear

·    Sorrow (grieving people can have incredibly hot sex)

·    Wanting to forget troubles

·    Compulsion by inner demons

·    Boredom

·    Loneliness

·    Curiosity

·    Competition with an established love object or a new flame

·    Hot make-up sex to rebuild a damaged relationship

Think about these motives. They’re not unitary. Each partner may have several motives, some subconscious. Furthermore, the participants may have conflicting motives—a conflict that can drive plot in any of a number of different directions. Most of the noir genre is based on such mismatches, but then so are most romantic comedies.

The motivations for having sex help dictate where the scene should go. If you are working on a story that emphasizes why or how your protagonists get together, the sex should be placed later in the story—as the climax. If a sex scene is the happy ending you have been promising the reader all along, you should place one of them in the final pages to serve as a symbol of happily ever after or at least happily this afternoon.

If your story arises from the complications of the relationship, the first sex scene must appear earlier. In either case, the sex should change things for your protagonists.


The Consequences of Sex

Once your protagonists have gotten together, they have to face the consequences of that sexual act. Complications are the bone and blood of plot, and sex can create a lot of complications.

The desire for sexual fulfillment, whether plain vanilla or a specific kink, is one of the most powerful of all drives. I’ve seen good sex (not to mention failed sex) radically change people’s lives by:

·    Helping them find new confidence and a powerful new sexual/social identity

·    Beginning and ending marriages, creating and rupturing families, causing long-distance moves, resulting in career changes

·    Shifting the balance of power in a love triangle, ultimately dissolving the triangle and severing several relationships

·    Beginning a number of friendships and ending a few

·    Signaling to one party that they were now in a relationship—an assumption the other party didn’t share

·    Serving as glue for a long-term relationship that was otherwise deteriorating

·    Causing a breach between my date and his hyper-religious mother, who threw him out of the house when he refused to stop seeing me

·    Causing pregnancy—a result that can be joyful, disastrous, or anything in between

·    Prompting one party to have a crisis of faith

·    Triggering unexpected memories and feelings (of love, anger, terror, despair, giggling)  in one or both parties

·    Ending with an intervention by the cops

And that doesn’t even go into the matter of the enraged house-sitter waving a machete, who didn’t realize that the homeowners had given us a key and permission to meet there. Can you see the plot possibilities here?

To be effective, sex needs to be woven in and through your story. The urge to have sex or to frustrate someone else’s desires can set your protagonists and the other characters in motion. Once sex has occurred, it can be the catalyst for unexpected changes. Keep on following the trail of desire, frustration, and fulfillment, and you have a plot in which the sex isn’t gratuitous, but essential for the story. And that’s the kind of story that readers—and editors—love.

***

Lorelei Powers, also known as Mistress Lorelei (pronounced LOR-eh-lye, and named for Germany’s famous siren of the Rhine River whose seductive music lured sailors to their doom), is the author of the BDSM how-to classics The Mistress Manual and A Charm School for Sissy Maids, as well as the short story collection On Display. She is a bisexual, polyamorous sadist and lifestyle Domme. She has started using her surname to avoid confusion with her respected colleagues, Lorelei Lee or Lorelei of BedroomBondage.com.

By profession, Lorelei Powers is a writer and editor. Under various other names she has published a number of books, articles, and stories. She also teaches writing classes, gives workshops and presentations on BDSM technique, and offers private coaching sessions by phone or in person for Dom/mes and submissives.

She blogs about BDSM at The Mistress Manual and about sex, feminism, politics, and naked men in bondage at Gallery of Dangerous Women. Follow her Twitter feed at @MsLorelei.

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Nov 242014
 
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By Colin

There are certain questions every writer is asked sooner or later.  “Where do you get your ideas?” is the one everyone thinks is the biggie, but that one has never actually been posed to me.  “How about I give you some ideas and you write the stories and we split the money?” is, I’m sad to say, one I actually have heard.  Guy I went to high school with.  Had all kinds of great ideas, but…you know, he just didn’t have the time.

There’s one question, though, that’s unique to writers of erotica, usually delivered in a hushed—even fearful—tone of voice.  “Does X know the kind of writing you do?”  For “X” pencil in your parents or your co-workers or your pastor or possibly even your spouse.  Seriously, though, I don’t think Dan Brown or James Patterson gets that question a whole lot, and I’m comfortably certain J.K. Rowling doesn’t.

Naturally, everyone will have a different answer to that question.  In my case, the members of my family who are closest to me know what I write, and don’t seem overly uncomfortable with it…but it’s also a don’t-ask-don’t-tell kind of thing.  None of them are particularly interested in reading any of my books or stories, but I doubt they would be even if I wrote cozy mysteries or sword and sorcery.  Most of my friends know, but there aren’t too many of them to worry about.  My co-workers at my Beloved Day Job definitely don’t know, and if I have anything to say about it, they won’t find out anytime soon.

Another question sometimes comes up, this time from the writers: “Is it a good idea to keep your erotica a secret?  Can you really manage your writing career effectively if you’re not able to reveal your true name?”

It’s true that there are certain disadvantages to going beyond a mere pseudonym—plenty of writers use those, even those working well outside of genre fiction—to actually hiding your true identity.  It can put you in the odd position of almost trying to avoid publicity, and that ain’t good.

But it’s a good idea to remember that, in the minds of a great many people, writing erotica isn’t okay; in fact, for those folks, it’s very much the opposite.  Even if they have a stack of back issues of Barely Legal hidden under their bed, or are practically paying the mortgages of the good folks at clips4sale.com, chances are they don’t have much personal investment in their smut.  Which means that in any public debate on the subject, they’ll likely agree with the loudest voice at the table.  Which is often a negative voice, unfortunately.

Even if you completely hide your identity, outing yourself as an erotica writer to friends and family can be problematic.  Double that for co-workers; people do mysteriously lose their jobs.  That economy, boy, we thought it was looking up, but…hey, you know how it goes.

Okay, fine, you say.  But isn’t it sort of dishonest to not be totally open about your writing?  Doesn’t it imply you have a paper-thin commitment to your art?

If you’re the kind of person with a cast iron ego and/or nothing to lose, or one who relishes a fight, or if you’ve built your life (income source included) within a sex-positive subculture, then that kind of total honesty might just be for you.  For the rest of us, a good first step might be to make a list of those things in your life you can’t realistically afford flack on: custody of your children, say, or your job, or your family’s good opinion.  Gird your loins and proceed accordingly.  And remember, there are worse things than working behind a pseudonym; your identity is one of the few things in life you control.

***

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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Nov 152014
 
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By Nobilis

I recently asked some of my writer friends about the plot of a story I’m working on—was it a romance plot? One of the responders said that the plot didn’t matter as much as the tone; that a romance focused more on the feelings of the characters, and erotica focused more on the events and sensations. If the play-by-play of sexuality overshadowed the characters’ feelings and motivations, she said, then the story was erotica rather than romance.*

Now I should say here that I greatly respect this author, and in fact I am an enthusiastic fan of her work. I’m not saying she’s wrong. There’s a certain amount of truth there. Romance does require a focus on the characters’ romantic feelings and motivations, and erotica does require a focus on sensation.

At the same time, I think her answer implies that a work cannot be both romance and erotica at the same time, and I disagree with that. For one thing, any work longer than a short story will shift focus as it moves along. Action, conversation, reflection, and anticipation all bring out a shift in focus. Any story that focused on one of those elements to the exclusion of all others would have serious problems.

For any given character, there are at least two channels in which to consider their story. Stories will often have an “interior conflict” and an “exterior conflict.” The interior conflict deals with the emotional and intellectual life of the character, which can be romantic, or fearful, or curious, or fill-in-the-blank—and most likely some combination of these. The exterior conflict is about the problems they solve, the obstacles they overcome, the experiences they seek out in the world. As it is written, romance tends to live more in the inner life; the thoughts and feelings of the characters. Likewise, erotica lives more in the outer life, in the experiences of the characters. That’s not to say that there aren’t elements that cross over between interior and exterior. But what I’m getting at here is that there’s plenty of room in a romance story for eroticism, and plenty of room in an erotic story for romance.

You can look at science fiction the same way. When the speculative world exists mostly in the exterior, then the interior conflict can be a romance story without interfering much. In contrast, erotic speculative fiction needs to mesh the sensuality with the speculation. The worldbuilding needs to directly address sexuality, or else the two elements are going to fight for attention, and the reader might start to wonder why there’s so much sex in the science fiction story, or why the erotic story is set in a science fiction setting. I come up against this issue any time I write an erotic science fiction story. How I deal with it, well—maybe I’ll write about that in another blogpost.

Erotic Romance is a thing, and it’s a thing that makes sense. There’s no line between them, no border that can be crossed.

And to my friend, if you’re reading this, thank you for giving me a blog topic this month. You gave me a lot to think about.

 

*Or something like that. I may be misquoting her, which would be a shame but wouldn’t alter my point here.

***

Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

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

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Nov 092014
 
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By billierosie

I want to introduce Jenny Ainslie-Turner to you.

Jenny is my friend and we follow each other on Twitter. Jenny is also a sex chat line worker. I asked her to tell me about her life as a sex chat line worker and how she got into it. As her alter ego, Jolene, Jenny talks about anything and everything to her clients. The phone calls that she responds to are graphic, taboo, not for the fainthearted. As Jolene, Jenny spins a confection of seductive dreams and garish, ghoulish nightmares; fetish and fantasy for her clients, the men who call her. Here’s what Jenny told me. It’s an intriguing slice of life…

I started doing sex chat some 12 years ago, with Datapro Services. I was a complete novice at talking dirty and they gave no training. I had always worked with Army and RAF lads for 18 years prior to this, so I sort of already knew how their minds worked.

It was at a time where I’d just broken up with my second husband and, thanks to him selling my home from underneath me, I became homeless. My mother, back in my home town of Newark, found me a place close to her. So, leaving all my friends and the area that I knew and loved so well, I became rather isolated. Shortly after moving back to Newark my mother suffered a heart attack and needed to be cared for. I became a carer for her but the benefits to help with her care were a pittance and I was used to taking care of myself financially. I had actually seen a documentary on Channel 4 about single mums who, once their kids were at school, logged on to a sex chat company and straight away I knew that was the job for me.

I’d been around men most of my working life and rather missed the banter. And, as I was always a suggestive digestive, a prick-teaser in other words, it was the perfect job for me and I could do the hours to fit around taking care of mum. Not long into the job I realised I had this outrageously dirty imagination. I had discovered my writing abilities a few years before but as I was not educated I struggled to perfect my writing skills over quite a few years. As I found myself creating little fantasy worlds for my callers, my writing also improved.

So I wrote my book, How To Talk Dirty, A Hands-on Guide to Phone Sex.

My video on YouTube was picked by a TV production company. They thought I’d look good on TV and was perfect for their doc, My Phone Sex Secrets, which was shown on Channel 4. Who would have thought the documentary that started me in my line of work would eventually have me starring in something so similar?

I also now give relationship advice as part of a panel in the Metro Monday supplement, and hope to have my own column of sex advice and tips. I just love helping people in all kind of ways. And, thanks to my documentary, I have a successful training business, teaching would-be chat ladies and those who just want to chat for fun, in the art of phone sex.

Added to this, I am writing my first work of fiction—it’s not totally fiction because there’s a good part of me and my chat calls in the book.  I am writing it with one of my callers, Alix James; by coincidence he’s a writer too and when we created our fantasies together over the phone we discovered a compatibility neither of us had experienced before—so much so, we plan to write many books together. In fact, we have become the very best of friends and I couldn’t imagine my life without him.

We have another book out, “Dragon’s Flame”.  It’s the first in a trilogy featuring shape-shifting dragons.  We plan to write many more in the next two years.  That’s what I hope to be, just an author.

 

You can find Jenny, and her books, at her website. Jenny can also be found on Twitter as @jennyjo121, and her books are all available at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

***

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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