Nov 102011
 
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Who gets to talk?

Readers get attached to characters they care about and have built relationships with, just as in reality.  Kill off a favorite character from your reader base and you’d better believe you’re going to hear about it!  Alter that character’s world somehow and again, you’ll get feedback.  But what if the hero and heroine both have something to lose?  Then what do you do?

Cover for Sascha Illyvich's 1NightStand story by Decadent Publishing

Refer back to length of the story.  Who has the greatest loss, and the greatest gain?  Write from THAT one character’s POV and ONLY change scenes if word length allows for it and only if that character’s journey makes us feel something universal.

I recently read a story where head hopping occurred so much because the writer thought to write scenes like we see in TV.  Take Burn Notice for example:  We have Michael Westin, (The hero) Fiona (Heroine) and all the side characters, most notably Sam, the drunk former CIA op who we get to see frequently.  POV switches don’t really occur much because the story is narrated by Michael Westin, but when we do get those changes, Westin is still narrating. That works because people need to see a lot of visuals and TV/movies allow for those shifts to occur. The average attention span is not that long.

But FICTION writing doesn’t.  You’ll end up with unsmooth transitions, annoying head hopping issues that make the reader THROW YOUR BOOK THE FUCK AWAY!

In FICTION, y

ou do two things.  You show the reader what YOU want them to see; otherwise they’ll see something else.  And you make the story smooth.  By sticking to word limit/reason for changes, you’ll eliminate guesswork in your plotting.

Some writers can get away wit

h multiple POV changes.  Sherrylin Kenyon for example can, she has a built in audience that somehow doesn’t care about the change from the H/H to Ash or Stryker.  So does Laurel K. Hamilton, but because she writes in First Person POV, she doesn’t have that ability.  But if she wrote in third person, she could afford to change because she’s ESTABLISHED.  Chances are that you’re not them. (And if you are, thanks for reading my article!)

Christine Feehan does an excellent job of keeping the POV between her hero and heroine.  So does Richelle Mead. And Rebecca York.  Those authors are authors who don’t write what I do, but I learn from them because they’re where I hope to be someday.

To reinforce the key points, I’ll leave with my two rules for simplification.

  1. Tell the story from the character’s POV that has the MOST to lose
  2. Use word length 20k = 1 character.  40k, 2 characters.  60k-100k+=3 and ONLY three.

The obvious exception would be if you have a reason for a secondary story such as the one used in Back in Black by Lori Foster where she had the main conflict going on and for what I felt was literally a second story all it’s own, but was tied together neatly by the author.  That will be a different post though, when we break into deeper POV and more on storytelling craft.

That should simplify things in your stories.  Happy writing!

Sascha Illyvich

http://www.saschaillyvich.com

Listen to The UnNamed Romance Show Mondays at 1 PM PST and Thursdays at 3 PM PST on www.radiodentata.com – hear from Sascha as he shares his work along with interviewing the hottest authors in today’s romance

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Oct 272011
 
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discipline keeps the course when all else seems impossible.

Have you seen the movie Limitless with that sexy Bradley Cooper? in the opening scene you see him walking across the street he is unkempt, (unkempt such a lovely word), and then we hear him say “You see that guy? That was me not so long ago. What kind of guy without a drug or alcohol problem looks this way? Only a writer.”

In the opening Eddie, played by Bradley Cooper, joins friends for a drink he attempts to tell them about his book but as he puts it not even his friends can believe he has a book deal.  So he decides that today is the day he is going to conquer his demons and own that book but he has writers block….

It seems that I am always talking about road blocks to the story.  Unlike M Christian, Thomas Roche, Sascha Illyvich, Jean Marie Stine, Deborah Riley Magnus and the other very great names that contribute here that offer great advice on how to succeed – I am here to tell you that YES it takes talent, YES it takes a bit of luck! YES it takes all these great writers have to tell you and more to succeed. But many do succeed and you can too if you just stay in the room and write.

So today I sit in front of my computer  like I do every day  creating websites, creating stories.. getting carried away by the moment that leads to the next burst of creativity. But somehow this Thursday is different, after a long hiatus, I am back… but I don’t feel like I belong. What do I have to offer other than the recurring theme of perseverance? What can I say that is will impart knowledge. How do I fit in with this site’s company of such articulate, informative, talented writers….

I know many of you must face that feeling of not being good enough, not having anything to say worth writing. Your stories feel insignificant and the plots stale and yet there is still an ember that burns inside that keeps you from working at the mall or some fast food restaurant.

Eddie in Limitless knew that he needed a the bones of  good work ethic to put this ideas on paper but he couldn’t keep his ass in the chair.

Because it was a movie he took drugs that helped him do all the things he wanted to do with a clear head and no self doubt. But that is real. In the real world drugs and alcohol dim our lights and handicap us.

In my world, when I feel this way I look at the quote by Robert Huges that I keep close by…  “The Greater the artist, the greater the doubt. perfect confidence is given to the less talented as a consolation prize.”

it reminds me that I will have doubts but that I can work through them…

As writers, artists we will always have doubts. It has been a constant struggle through the centuries. Even Monet who was known to visit the Louve in his painters smock  would fix his painting with brushes he had hidden in that smock.

So today if the words are not coming, don’t give up. Just keep your ass in the chair and type.

With love
Oceania

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Oct 192011
 
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Publicity is using the media to create relevant exposure for your book

Take a serious look at your book, especially your “hooks” those unique elements that not only make your book stand apart, but identify additional readers for your book beyond genre followers. What in your book or connected to your “hook” might lend itself to publicity or a charity? Connecting with a charity does several wonderful things. It shows you’re a caring author, it supports something you care about, and it connects with your story.

Don’t just randomly choose a charity. If your book has nothing to do with cancer research and none of the characters are cancer survivors, it’s not really productive to connect your book with that charity. If the charity is near and dear to your heart, by all means support it, but don’t connect it to your book, it will look and feel random.

If, on the other hand your story or non-fiction subject does directly connect with a charity, move ahead. Create fundraising events. Donate a portion of your book profits to the charity and make sure they know. Be sure to have the charity logo displayed with an announcement that a portion of your profits support Cancer Research, or The Kidney Foundation, or the ASPCA or whichever charity works.

It’s a kind of giving back that is good for the author’s soul and good for the book buyer’s soul. And, as long as you are doing well, the charity will notify it’s supporters that you are doing this. It just may result in more sales.

Be honest about this, no fake or half efforts. Charitable organizations all over the world are desperate for financial help. It’s a chance for the author to be a hero.

All of this takes place in the world of the media. Press releases and press contacts are a huge part of your publicity, and the charity will benefit from this press as well. Remember the Media Room in your Author Platform website? This is the kind of information that goes in there. If a newspaper does a story about your charity fundraising event, you post that story. If you are interviewed and/or a podcast is created, you post it in your Media Room. News doesn’t just happen, you have to make it happen.

Next time we’ll cover Author Success Tool #6, Your Image.

Feel free to contact me at writerchef@sbcglobal.net with any questions or to share your success stories! If you’d like to know more, let me know and I’ll put you on the mailing list for online workshops and information about my book, Finding Author Success: Discovering and Uncovering the Marketing Power Within Your Manuscript available November 5 in print and ebook.

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Oct 132011
 
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First things first: As I talk about describing sound in fiction, my erotic crime-noir story “Hell on Wheels” is about to be broadcast as an audio program on the BBC. It should be live on the website after it’s on the radio, so if you’re interested, check my personal blog thomasroche.com and my new blog about hardboiled, crime, noir and detective fiction, boiledhard.com, for an updated link once the program is available on the BBC.

Also, my alter ego NTMorley.com has a new blog live at ntmorley.com, with a visual bibliography and plenty of links to my work at Renaissance Ebooks. And in celebration of Halloween, I’ve just published The Spiritualist, a tale of bondage and ravishment by ghosts that has never been published in its full form, available for Kindle, as well as the obscurely-published bondage-ravishment novella A Night Without A Moon and my steampunk story Hysterical Friction, which is under my Thomas S. Roche “pseudonym.”

Also, did I mention I have a new horror novel out? The Panama Laugh is the first ultraviolent crime-noir pulp fiction zombie apocalypse about terrorism, hollow government, privatization of the public sector and LOLZ. I believe it’s also the first zombie apocalypse set partially in a BDSM porn studio…and if it’s not the first one to feature blimp combat, it oughta be. Find out more about The Panama Laugh here, or discover the viral nightmare at PanamaLaugh.com, Zombileaks.com and Z-Listed.com.

Sound and Voice in Fiction and Erotica

This post is part of my series on how to use descriptions that appeal to the five (or six) senses in erotic fiction. Today, I’m talking sound. Describing sound with words is always a challenge for me, but it can be one of the great pleasures of writing about music, which is one of my first loves. So I take the use of sound very seriously when it comes to erotica.

I’ve written several hundred music reviews over the years — but almost all of them more than 10 years ago. I’m a little rusty on the description of sounds…especially since, when it comes to erotica, I’ve always had a hell of a time incorporating “hearing words.” In fact, I struggle with this on an almost daily basis, because I like writing erotica from a very sensual perspective, and sounds always throw me for a loop.

Once upon a time, I wrote — at the insistence of my then-employer — an article about vaginal farts. I was quite sure that this was not a big enough topic to warrant an article, and in any event at the time I had no real interest in writing such an article. While I certainly acknowledge that such expulsions might cause unnecessary embarrassment for someone experiencing them, the whole topic seemed to me to warrant a mention in an article about embarrassing sexual situations or something — not an article of its own. But I was a beginning writer, so I wrote it. The best title I could come up with, given my utter lack of enthusiasm for the topic, was “The Sound of Love.”

Vaginal farts are not the sound of love.

So what is the sound of love — at least in erotic fiction? The sounds of sex are not really well-defined in most peoples’ minds. During real-life sex there are all sorts of sounds, from squeaking beds to slapping fuzzies to squishy sounds that are a little weird to think about. I remember being handed an urban legend as a kid that on one of the classic ’70s KISS albums, you can hear kind of a rhythmic squoosh that was supposedly “the lead singer” having sex with a woman. I thought such a claim was bullshit then, well before I’d ever had sex. (I’ve never been able to find a reference to it, so I can only assume that some dumb fourth-grader made it up.)

The sound of love — or, more accurately, the sound of sex — seems pretty obvious to me; it’s a lover’s voice. But describing a lover’s voice gets monotonous pretty damn fast. Especially in a BDSM or D/s context — where verbal orders and commands can intermingle with physical activity and with moans, groans, and sussurations — I’m often left with too few sensually pleasing words to describe someone’s voice, whether they’re uttering words or just yowling sounds to let the reader know that yes, in fact, the top’s hand did just successfully connect with the bottom’s bum, and ow! it hurts. (Without saying “Ow! It hurts!” which no one ever really says, or they get gagged.)

To my way of thinking, when you’re evoking the empire of the senses, sensual sound-words need to get used with abandon — and smoothly so. Prose that would be considered purple in other genres is standard in erotica, because the whole point is to conjure a kind of sesnsuality.

But when it comes to voices, there are far too few evocative words to use in an erotic context. “Said” just doesn’t work, and volume-related words like “whisper” and “shout” are for specific application. If a top starts whispering into a bottom’s ear, ther’es no reason to keep saying “whisper” for the rest of the scene…so you’re left with “said,” which implies a full-volume kinda speech, or leaving the words out entirely. There are many writers who will hand you their opinion about leaving out the “said” words. (Writers can be snooty as hell and will tell you they know what they’re doing — we don’t. Ever. EVER. Especially when we tell you we know what we’re doing. Rules are bullshit; in fiction writing, all that matter are observations.) Other writers will go on and on about “said bookisms” — “said” replacements that are unnecessarily descriptive or evocative, used to amp up the purple prose and overheated stylistic elements. Said bookisms are most commonly used in juvenile fiction to make the writing more vivid for easily-distracted tykes — and also to avoid using “said.” The technique also migrates into other genre fiction, often to the dismay of writing workshop participants. Most writing teachers despise “said bookisms,” and I don’t blame them, but I also don’t feel wedded to their prejudice. I need a level of purple prose. I’m writing erotica. It’s supposed to be overheated!

In erotica, I think those “said” words are important, and it’s better to have a bothersome “said bookism” than nothing at all. The reason is that I’ve had far too many alpha readers tell me “I lost track of who was speaking.” The same thing happens in every genre, but the modulation of voice — in volume and style — is less critical when your characters are throwing punches or bisecting zombies with chainsaws than when they’re spanking the hell out of each other and tweaking nipples. Then, whether someone whispers, whimpers, purrs, moans or growls is absolutely critical to WTF you as a writer are trying to communicate.

But the English language just doesn’t have the words to describe how a lover’s voice will vary from line to line in a dynamic situation like a spanking, swatting, consensual subdual, Friday-night baby-oil wrestling match or forced-femme strip poker match. In the real world, a lover’s voice should ideally communicate some combination of menace, craving, affection, anger, pleasure, threat, chiding, gentle prodding and a million other things. But in fiction, voice simply can’t be described with all those variations…not easily, at least (which is probably why they pay me the big bucks).

In most other genres, a good policy is to keep it simple, because going on and on about the sound of a character’s voice and the modulation of their words is seen as “telegraphing,” or dictating what the reader is supposed to feel. But a certain amount of telegraphing is almost required in erotica, because the direct involvement of all five senses is right there in the game plan. And it’s with sound that everything falls apart for me.

Voices are tough, whether we’re talking moans or dialogue. A submissive or bottom character can be described as “whimpering,” “moaning,” “whining,” or even “bleating” or “chirping,” those latter words being ones probably no self-respecting erotic writer would use (except me)….but all of these have limited utility. When it comes to a dominant partner, the choices are limited. Female Dommes can “purr,” maybe “hiss,” maybe “bark” or “growl” or “snarl,” and male tops can do a few of those things too, with a few said bookisms on top of those that belong in a detective novel. But overall, the problem becomes one of repetition, and it has to be solved individually for each story, scene or novel.

When it comes right down to it, I’m pretty happy with the English language. But the sound of the human voice is one place where it often feels like I’m left wishing I had another language to draw on.

Of course, if you’re an audio artist or audio book publisher, you avoid some of the problem by introducing actual sound into it. But I remain, at heart, a wordsmith, and sound is one of those areas where I wish I had more words.

How do you deal with the challenges of describing voice in your work? I’m always looking for new ideas, and I’m curious if other writers have this problem. Sound off in the comments!

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Sep 292011
 
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“The assassin readied himself, beginning first by picking up his trusty revolver and carefully threading a silencer onto the barrel.”

That reads right enough, doesn’t it? You look at it and it sings true. But it’s not. Not because the assassin is a product of my imagination but because, except for one very rare instance, silencers cannot be fitted onto revolvers. So every time you see Mannix or Barnaby Jones facing off against some crook with a little tube on the end of their revolver, keep in mind that it has no bearing on reality.

What does this have to go with smut writing? Well, sometimes erotica writers—both old hands and new blood—make the same kind of mistakes: not so much a revolver with a silencer, but definitely the anatomical or psychological equivalent.

People ask me sometimes what kind of research I do to write erotica. The broad answer is that I seriously don’t do that much true research, but I do observe and try and understand human behavior— no matter the interest or orientation—and add that to what I write. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some (ahem) fieldwork involved.

I’m very lucky to have started writing erotica here in San Francisco. If America has a sexual organ, it’s here. Good example: do you know what the most-attended parade is in the US? Answer: The Rose Parade in Pasadena. No surprise there, right? Well, here’s one: do you know the second most-attended parade? It’s the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Trans-gendered Day Parade. There are 500,000 people—some gay and some not, all cheering for love and sex. It’s more than mind-blowing; it’s truly inspiring. It also shows how sexy this burg is. I should also mention the Folsom Street Fair: 400,000 leather- and latex-clad men, women, and genderqueers thronging through seven blocks of the city.

Sex is not just in the atmosphere here; it’s also a tradition. The Institute for the Study of Human Sexuality is here, and SFSI is here. SFSI stands for San Francisco Sex Information, a completely self- funded sex information and referral system. It works like this: after 52 hours of training (doctors get only something like 15), volunteers are qualified to go on the switchboard and answer questions from all over the country on any aspect of human sexuality without judgment, bias, or giggles. If you call (415) 989-7374 one of these volunteers will answer whatever you ask, or put you in contact with another group who will. It’s a wonderful service and an invaluable resource. You can also check them out at www.sfsi.org.

It’s easy to make the assumption that you’re well informed, but the fact is we are being bombarded by prejudice and simply inaccurate information all the time. The media is getting better at depicting sexuality, but they still have a long way to go. Way too often I’ll read a book, watch a movie, or flip channels, and groan at some cliché being perpetuated: all gay men are effeminate, all lesbians are butch, S/M is destructive, polyamorous people are sex-addicted, older people don’t have sex, couples always orgasm together—the list goes on and on. Many of these things are done out of laziness—but others are repetition of what the creators honestly believe are true.

It’s a very hard to unlearn something you’ve always taken as truth, and even harder to recognize what’s in your personal worldview that needs to be reexamined. My advice is to assume, especially in regards to sexuality, that everything you know should be looked at again. If you’re right, then the worst you can do is perhaps add a bit more to your knowledge, or get a different perspective. But if you crack open a book, or blip to a Web site, and find yourself going “I didn’t know that,” then feel good rather than bad: by doing that, and adding it to your erotic fiction, you’ll help perpetuate accuracy rather than bullcrap.

One more thing you could do is help people. We don’t like sex in this country. Sure, we sell beer and cars with it, but we don’t like it. We’re scared of it. Living in this world with anything that’s not beer and car commercial sexuality can be a very frightening and lonely experience. Too many people feel that they are alone, or what they like to do sexually is wrong, sinful, or sick. Now I’m not talking about violent or abusive sexual feelings, but rather an interest in something that harms no one and that other people have discovered to be harmless or even beneficial. If you treat what you’re writing about with respect, care, and understanding, you could reach out to someone, somewhere and help them understand and maybe even get through their bad feelings about their sexuality—bad feelings, by the way, that more than likely have been dished out by the lazy and ignorant for way too long.

In other words, especially in regards to erotica, you should be part of the solution and not the problem.

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Sep 222011
 
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If you get in the lucky position where you have too many paying writing gigs on your plate, you’re going to have to manage your time and stick to the gigs that either pay the most or the ones you really love (hopefully these can sometimes be the same job). When it comes to SEO writing, unlike other writing gigs, you really do have to allot a lot of time to the blogs or articles you are writing.

Now don’t come down on me for saying (which I’m not) that other writing gigs are not as hard as SEO writing, I’m just relating from my experience-which lately has been mainly SEO writing-that out of all the time-intensive SEO writing you are attempting you have to push to the forefront those that pay you the most for your time, or that you love (hopefully these can be the same job…where have I heard that before?)

If you are given specific keywords by a client this writing job will probably easier then if you got to go search for or think-up keywords yourself (I have told you before you should figure these two alternatives into your overall price when first determining the job), but the job that’s easier might pay you less, if your client is a savvy guy or girl. Really, do yourself a favor and weigh your options here.

I sometimes have clients come to me with a promise to send a goodly sum to my paypal to begin some seo blogging for the month and while the am’t seems large at the time we need to project into the future how much time this writing is going to take us and if the am’t you are promised is worth that time and if this job is worth you maybe putting others on the back burner. If you are a writer you’re probably not great in math (I suck at math) but really try to figure these jobs out by how many hours it’s going to take you to do them then see what you’re making an hour.

If you do this you’ll be able to weigh your options (if you have them) and say no or maybe later, to jobs that simply don’t pay you enough or take up too much of your time.

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Sep 152011
 
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Do you know which POV your story is told in?  Do you know the correct Point of View your story SHOULD be written from?  If you answer first or third person POV, you’re obviously being a smart ass.  Let’s rephrase the question, shall we?

What character’s point of view should my story be told in?

There, this defines the question better.  And the answer is simple.  The main character’s POV.  But what if you have two characters?  Presumably a Hero and a Heroine, since this is Erotic Romance I’m mainly covering, let’s stick with that assumption.  What if you have a villain?  Do we tell any part of the story from that character’s perspective?

This was a question I received frequently when I taught How to Write From the Male POV and create better Heroes.  It’s actually a universal question for many new writers of erotic fiction.  Erotica authors wonder which point of view to write the sex scene in.  After all, much of erotica has a very personal feel to it as the point is to arouse, as writers, is it not?

Many writers assume that during major scene changes, the perspective should change.  They’re half correct.  A lot of writers suggest that we need to know about the villain if there is one, and that character should get a say too.  Again, they’re half right.

The truth is, POV is simple.  Tell the story from the Point of View of the character that has the most to lose. 

What do I mean by that?  Let’s break it down.  In a typical romance novel, we have the hero and heroine and a plot that runs something like this:

Hero meets Heroine (hey you’re hot)
Hero and Heroine end up in bed (light cigar/cigarette)
Argument separates the two (God he’s a jerk/she’s a bitch)
And in the end, something happens that is greater than both the Hero and Heroine’s issues that makes them examine their beliefs and realize they need the other.
Let’s figure this out (I need you/I love you)
HEA/Happily for Now

Throw in a villain and that character’s appearance should be before or during the cigar in the above example.  Considering that much of today’s erotic romance is paranormal or urban fantasy, there is a bad guy waiting to kill off both Hero/Heroine. Add secondary characters and it makes things more confusing for the writer.

Erotica is roughly the same formula but the Happily For Now or Happily Ever After ending is optional.

So what determines whose point of view the story is told from? This is also easy.  For the story to flow without head hopping, let’s use a simple rule of thumb (courtesy of Morgan Hawke www.darkerotica.net)

IF the story is under 20k, you simply need ONE character where the event happens to THEM and ONLY them.

IF the story is under 40k, then we have an event that affects two characters.

IF the story is under 100k, we have three characters who get a say, usually because the villain is the one doing shit to the world/universe—including the H/H.

Now that we’ve narrowed that down and fixed the potential to head hop all over the place, thus eliminating characters that are central but not integral for POV purposes, we’re left with the one question:

Who gets to talk?  And we’ll cover that technique next time I have the blog.

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Sep 012011
 
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Time for some serious research.  What other authors write in your genres? Where can one buy their book? Are you e-published? Who else is e-published and successful? What are some of the best promotions or marketing efforts you’ve seen for a book? Do book videos work for your genre? Do you understand how the most successful authors manage their careers?

I’m sure you can come up with a hundred more questions about your market as well. It’s vital to ask the questions, explore what other authors are doing, what works and doesn’t work and how far “wide” or “deep” they go with their marketing strategies.

Don’t just look at the publishing industry either. Look around. Everything you buy is being marketed and promoted. What kind of promotions make an impact for you? Can that approach work for your book?

Next, where is your market? If you’re e-publishing, your buyer is most likely on the computer. Exploration for ways to reach them goes further than simply using your platforms, you have to reach them at their platforms. Remember when you read an interesting blog, respond to it. Comment. Become known to the author and they will frequent your blog too. (If one of your “hooks” is dog lovers, you need to connect with dog lovers online. They have blogs. You can respond because you like dogs. After all, there’s a dog lover in your book.) Use all the promotional options open for authors; blog tours, interviews, book reviews.

If you’re both traditionally published and e-published, never forget to find your prospective buyer through your “hooks”. If you don’t know who will want your book, how can you talk to them?

Next time we’ll cover Author Success Tool #5, Publicity.

AUTHOR BIO

Deborah Riley-Magnus is an author and an Author Success Coach. She has a twenty-seven year professional background in marketing, advertising and public relations as a writer for print, television and radio. She writes fiction in several genres as well as non-fiction.

Deborah produces several pieces weekly for various websites and blogs. She also writes an author industry blog, http://rileymagnus.wordpress.com/ and teaches online and live workshops as The Author Success Coach. She belongs to several writing and professional organizations. Her book, Finding Author Success: Discovering and Uncovering the Marketing Power within Your Manuscript is scheduled to be released in October, 2011.

She’s lived on both the east and west coast of the United States and has traveled the country widely.

 

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Aug 252011
 
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This month we introduce our newest contributor to WriteSEX – Stella Price.  Stella is half the duo of Stella and Audra Price, award winning romance authors who construct characters, worlds and more that draw the reader in.  She’ll be joining us at DragonCON 2011 on Friday Night as we host the WriteSEX Pane l.  Her first article on world building follows.

World Building. Most think it’s just for epic fantasy, or even dark fantasy. As a paranormal romance author, world building is, as they say, 9/10 of the law. Without it, characters are not believable, nor is the story in general. In my coming posts we will talk about suspension of disbelief, character development, and building a world from the ground up, but for now I want to talk about the necessity of world building, in any story setting.

Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Historical, contemporary, BDSM… Name a genre and it’s quite possibly the most important element because this is what sets your stage, and what hooks your reader. Without a believable situation and background, it really isn’t a story.

In work, even if you’re working from a contemporary setting, it’s the details that matter in making your book believable and unique. You cannot write a story without details right? Well details are a major element of world building.

World building, when done correctly, and not half assed, makes your story richer, full of depth and allows the reader to be immersed in the story you created. As an author, you strive to engage your reader on a level deeper than a letter to penthouse, right? Without the connection you can be damn sure that next story you put out won’t be on the reader’s auto buy list.

There are levels to world building. Light world building, where the author uses already accepted places, subjects and morae’s to make the reader feel at ease, and just adds details to enrich the experience. Then there are those that do it with a more heavy hand, where they take ideas already in play and twist them into other things, be it alternate history or alternate universes, and then there is the extreme of building the world from roots to the sky. None of these are wrong, and all have their pros and cons.

Light world building is what you see a lot of in Para romance. They use the contemporary setting, and then focus on the characters and their societies to build up the mythology. Kresley Cole with her Immortals After Dark series and Gena Showalter with her Lords of the Underworld series are prime examples.

A more heavy hand twists to alternate history, or alternate universes, and focuses on the characters and Society like the lighter hand does, but puts emphasis on the background and events that brought about the current status quo. Allison Pang’s Brush of Darkness is a great example of this as well as Lia Habel’s forthcoming Ya Dearly Departed and Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas books. These books rocked alternate histories and timelines, to give the books depth and dimension.

Extreme world building, Like Gail Martin’s Summoner Series or Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series is the very top of the world building ladder. You see this most in High fantasy and Scifi, but it is slowly making its way into the mainstream of romantic fiction with series like Michele Armstrong’s Settler’s Mine series. I look forward to seeing others.

It’s your duty as the author to know what kind of world building you are capable of, so that you don’t short change your readers or your story. Getting into a groove with your writing is paramount and the sooner you realize where you sit in the world building arena the faster you will realize just how important it is to your work.

Stella Price
Award winning best selling author
www.stellaandaudra.com

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Aug 182011
 
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When people write of erotic fiction and bad taste, they usually aim their poison pens at purveyors of writing who prove themselves from page one-and-a-half to be foul-mouthed and boorish savages whose idea of a seductive setup is a pizza boy asking, “Did one of you cheerleaders order extra sausage?”

But that’s not the topic today. This article is the second in my six-part series (you do the math, Bruce Willis) on the senses in erotic writing. Last time around I talked about the delights of the schnozz. Today it’s the mouth that concerns me — I’m writing, literally, about taste.

For a genre where so many book blurbs offer “gustatory delights,” “mouth-watering offerings,” and crap that’s “lip-smacking good,” supposedly, one would think we eroticists would have far more common with food writers than, in fact, we do. The connection between food and sex is nowhere more evident than in the way that erotic books are marketed, far more than in their content. While erotic stories about food are a solid aesthetic sub-genre, it’s also true that even erotic stories apparently unconnected to food per se require some kind of vivid description of taste to truly bring the reader in to the moment — during oral sex, for instance, or even a kiss, or a romantic meal at a zillionaire’s mansion before the orgy starts, or in the moments of burn following a shared Scotch consumed before balling fervently in a dive bar bathroom.

Erotic stories rarely get the vivid descriptions of taste that would do them justice. That doesn’t make them bad stories at all — erotic tales have a lot of fish to fry, in sensual terms, and not knowing what the character’s fourth margarita tastes like probably isn’t going to inhibit the reader’s appreciation if the point is to get the characters into bed together. But at some point in most erotic stories more than a very few thousand words, someone is tasting something where most of us have only a vague idea about what it tastes like — a body part, body fluid, leather boot. It may not get described at all, which is fine for most stories, or writers may use some stock phrase that doesn’t really tell the reader anything. Taste is a tool in the writer’s tool kit that is not always critical — but provides endless creative possibilities once you really start thinking about it.

The description of sensory pleasures in general is one of the hallmarks of vivid writing — and in erotica, the sensual details can set you apart from garden-variety Alt Sex Stories fare (which I do not mean to badmouth, mind you) and writing that is truly evocative. Most evocative descriptions of sexual encounters contain some reference to taste, and for most of us, taste is a key ingredient in real-life sensuality. Food and sex are inextricably connected, and taste and sex still more so.

Yet if you google “taste in erotica,” you get some hits that are at best distantly connected to the topic at hand, like a Nyotamori restaurant in Denver called “A Taste of Erotica,” Nyotamori being the practice of eating sushi off a naked female (or, presumably, a naked male, though I’ve never heard of that). There are any number of books that promise (and, in some cases, deliver) the connection between the sensuality of taste, in the literal sense, and the sensuality of, you know, sensuality, in the euphemistic sense.

Many very good erotic stories engage the senses at the kind of level that’s expected from the very best food writing. Sex writers can learn a lot from reading very good food writers — and surely the reverse is also true. Many anthologies have sought to mine the connection between food and sex, and not just for their marketing copy.

In fact, I contributed to one of them recently, the anthology Torn, edited by Alison Tyler, in which I waxed philosophic for some lengthy pages about the musky taste of the Cherokee Purple strain of heirloom, from the point of view of a character who doesn’t like tomatoes.

Now, my reason for making the character not like tomatoes was twofold. First, it created tension between the two characters, since the other one really liked tomatoes, and in fact grew them in great quantities. Thus, the experience of taste became a dominant/submissive exchange between them. But my second reason was that, by not liking tomatoes, the viewpoint character was forced to experience them with a certain lack of expectations. Tasted in an erotic context, tomatoes proved way sexy, and the endless variations of different varieties at different points of ripeness proved fertile ground for what I found to be a deeply sensual experience (writing about it, that is). Since I don’t usually write about food much, this was particularly cool; like the main character, I was experiencing something for the first time. Or, if not for the first, at least without the jadedness that comes from having done things the same way a million times.

What’s more, I like tomatoes a lot. But I also turn out to be mildly allergic to certain heirloom varieties.

Therefore, tomatoes carry a certain charge of danger,  a certain taboo appeal…just like the other tastes one might encounter in erotica.

The best thing about writing erotica is that as one does it one also gets, ideally, to learn about writing everything else. Every sensual detail brought into a story helps the reader connect with the characters and the fictional world you’ve created.

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