Nov 012014
 
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By Jean Roberta

When composing sex scenes, you want to keep your readers focused on the action—which means that as the writer, as the magician who runs the show, you need to focus on the details so they don’t have to. If all goes as it should, your readers will forget they’re reading words alone and immerse themselves in your story as if it were an X-rated movie.

Hint: adjectives (hot, wet, breathless, full, etc.) and verbs (gasped, thrust, writhed, etc.) are not enough.

As a reader, I’ve often been pulled out of a scene when the sentence structure is off: not exactly ungrammatical, but unbalanced in some way. This can happen when the subordinate clause doesn’t support the independent clause the way a good bottom should.

A clause is a series of words that include a subject and a working verb, like this:

Dave growled.

A subordinate clause (subordinate meaning an underling or servant) adds information to the main or independent clause, the one that could stand on its own as a complete sentence. Here the subordinate clause is in square brackets:

Dave growled [when Sabrina ran her fingernails down his back.]

Do you see what’s happening? The key subject is “Dave” and the key verb is “growled.” But he can’t just growl for no reason. The attentive reader wants to know why. (Even a bear must be motivated to growl.) So the explanatory clause, “Sabrina ran her fingernails down his back” is connected to the independent clause by the subordinating adverb “when.” This tells us these two events happened more or less at the same time, and we can guess that Dave’s growl was a response to Sabrina’s action.

If we want to make these two events equally important, we can write:

Sabrina ran her fingernails down Dave’s back. He growled.

Here we have two independent clauses, which is perfectly legitimate, but the connection between them is less clear. And if the whole scene consists of short, jerky sentences, the reader might be turned off. (This is not guaranteed. Some readers admire the telegraphic style of Ernest Hemingway or Elmore Leonard. But IMO, connections are fairly important in a sex scene.)

So, assuming you are willing to express certain ideas in independent clauses and others in subordinate clauses, you have to decide which points to emphasize. In the first sentence, the emphasis is on Dave’s growl, which is a reaction to the sensation of Sabrina’s fingernails running down his skin. You might want to emphasize something else, as follows:

Sabrina sighed [when Dave’s mouth closed softly on her puckered nipple.]

Here the emphasis is on Sabrina’s reaction not just to the actions of Dave, but to the action of Dave’s mouth. In this sentence, she is sighing in the independent clause, and he exists only as a mouth. The focus here is on Sabrina’s pleasure.

So what could go wrong?

A sentence that includes two or more clauses could unintentionally emphasize the wrong thing. Consider this:

Sabrina went to the kitchen to feed her cat after she spent a long, passionate night with Dave, Bill, Greg, Jennifer, and the famous Mistress Whipmarks.

This is clear enough, right? But which clause is more important? Let’s break it down.

Here is the independent clause: “Sabrina (subject) went (verb) to the kitchen (prepositional phrase) to feed her cat.”

Here is the subordinate clause: [after she (subject) spent (verb) a long, passionate night (direct object) with Dave, Bill, Greg, Jennifer, and the famous Mistress Whipmarks (long prepositional phrase)].

The reader might want to know that Sabrina fed her cat. Just because humans are having fun, animal companions shouldn’t be left to starve. If the reader has deliberately picked up a work of erotica, however, she or he is probably more interested in Sabrina’s interactions with Dave, Bill, Greg, Jennifer, and Mistress Whipmarks than in whether Sabrina is a good cat-owner.

Let’s try moving some words around:

Having spent a long, passionate night with Dave, Bill, Greg, Jennifer, and the famous Mistress Whipmarks, Sabrina went to the kitchen to feed her cat.

Is this better? Not really. All of Sabrina’s human playmates are still in the subordinate clause.

Let’s try dividing the ideas into two independent clauses:

Sabrina spent a long, passionate night with Dave, Bill, Greg, Jennifer, and the famous Mistress Whipmarks. She went to the kitchen to feed her cat.

Now there is no clear connection between the two events. The scene needs more continuity.

Let’s try this:

Sabrina spent a long, passionate night with Dave, Bill, Greg, Jennifer, and the famous Mistress Whipmarks. By noon the next day, Sabrina was still so exhausted that she only got out of bed when she could no longer ignore the yowling of her hungry cat.

Now we have a sequence of events in which Sabrina is the subject of two independent clauses. First, she spent a long, passionate night with five other people, and then she was still exhausted by noon. There is a certain logic at work here. Sabrina is even the subject of the subordinate clause: “[when she could no longer ignore the meowing of her hungry cat.]” This makes sense, considering that Sabrina is exhausted. (And cat-owners would understand the insistence of a cat who wants to be fed, now.)

Of course, Sabrina’s long, passionate night could be described in much more depth, but now we have the most important ideas in the most important words.

The relationship of clauses has much to do with viewpoint. If the whole scene is meant to focus on Sabrina (even if the narrative viewpoint is third person), the focus will be clearer if she stars as the subject in most independent clauses, and if all the other clauses help to explain her feelings, thoughts, and behaviour.

Keeping subordinate clauses in their place will go a long way toward keeping a sex scene vivid and easy to imagine.

Modifiers also need to be leashed to the words they modify, but that is a topic for another time.  :)

————————

Jean Roberta writes in several genres. Approximately 100 of her erotic stories, including every orientation she can think of, have appeared in print anthologies. She also has three single-author collections, including The Princess and the Outlaw: Tales of the Torrid Past (Lethe Press, 2013). www.jean-roberta.livejournal.com

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Oct 232014
 
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By Mistress Lorelei Powers

In no genre does the admonition Write what you know apply more powerfully than in writing about sex. The average reader of a police procedural will never be involved in a murder investigation, and thus their image of the process is likely to be formed by their books, as well as other media: movies, TV shows, newspaper and internet accounts of investigations. With the help of Google, a fluent writer may be able to fake a way through and produce a story this average reader finds plausible, but the work is likely to echo every cliché of the genre.

By contrast, almost everyone has some kind of sex, and people who practice specific kinks know the difference between fantasy and reality. When Anne Rice admitted she had written the Beauty series (originally published under the name A. N. Roquelaure), she claimed she didn’t actually practice BDSM herself. Every kinkster I knew believed her. There were too many problems with the books, and not just because she portrayed some unsafe practices.

You may have been fantasizing about a particular act or orientation for years, but fantasies are an unreliable guide. So are many stories. To hear some people talk about sex between women, scissoring is the be-all and end-all. In 35 years of sex with women, I have yet to scissor. I can’t even figure out the instructions.

Trying to write about an unfamiliar sexual subculture or practice has serious pitfalls. My personal favorite is a slash fan-fiction story in which one gay man “fisted” another’s cock. I had outrageous visions of one man plunging his whole hand into the other’s urethra. The author didn’t know about anal or vaginal fisting (the practice of slowly, gently inserting the whole well-lubricated hand inside your partner); she just wanted to say that her character grabbed a cock in his fist. Oops.

So does this mean you can never use your imagination, or that you have to limit yourself to writing your own experiences? Not at all. There is a place for research in erotica, as with any other fiction.

1. Read all about it. First, check out the how-to manuals and memoirs. In the past 20 years, there has been an explosion of useful and informative books about all kinds of sex. There are superb books on the theory and practice of same-sex love, just about every form of BDSM, erotic hypnotism, enema play, fisting (both vaginal and anal), and more forms of sensation play than I can name. Now that ebooks are so common, you can download anything in peace and privacy.

Check out reviews in places like Goodreads or specialty forums before you buy; not all books are created equal. Steer toward nonfiction; many fictional depictions are inaccurate or actively unsafe. Movies can show how things work physically, but most are insanely unrealistic about the culture and feelings of participants.

Then you may want to go to the library, preferably a university library. Your local library may allow interlibrary loan from nearby academic libraries. You would be amazed what you can find in scholarly books. There are serious psychological and philosophical studies of homosexuality, transgender, transvestism, sadomasochism, and other sexual variations. Books on queer studies and gender studies may be densely written, but they can also offer insights.

Learn about safety, culture, history, and terminology. Read enough to understand how various members of the subculture relate to their sexual practices and to others who share their orientation. You’ll discover that every subculture is a cluster of micro-cultures, some of them deadly foes and others allies. Practices that seem the same to the outsider may have entirely different meanings. A drag queen and a sissy maid both dress in feminine garb, but their aims and clothing are profoundly dissimilar. And both are different from a transgender woman. Know the distinctions, or you’ll piss everybody off—including your intended audience.

2. Make friends in the community. The Internet makes this a thousand times easier than it was twenty years ago. If you’re writing about people who take on animal personas, find an online forum for furries. (And learn the difference between furries and yiffing.) Lurk first. Reading forum threads and participating in group chats are excellent ways to understand a subculture. Approach individuals with respect. Remember, they are not here as zoo displays, nor are they obliged to answer intrusive questions.

You may also find in-person meet-ups where people gather to meet others who share their tastes. Some are informal, public events (sometimes called munches) where people dress in ordinary clothes and don’t do anything more surprising than drink diet soda. Others are parties or clubs where people go to play—a word that has a much broader meaning than you may be aware of. Look for events for newbies. Not everyone is lucky enough to live in an urban area where there are plenty of venues, but even rural areas have their gatherings. I used to drive 110 miles to go to BDSM parties in a neighboring state.

3. Practice, practice, practice. When you learn specific techniques from a book—for example, how to peg your partner with a strap-on—test it out in person with a willing volunteer. When I first started pegging, I was startled and impressed at the sense of power it gave me. I was also surprised that relatively small motions could create such an intense reaction. That’s something I wouldn’t have known without doing it myself.

Now excuse me. I have a naked woman in my bed, and we’re going to try to see if we can manage to scissor without falling off or breaking an ankle.

***

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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Oct 192014
 
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By Colin

I might be jumping the gun a little with this month’s column, but with the air turning frosty (here on the East Coast, anyway), and everyone’s thoughts turning to winter, getting a jump on taxes might not be the worst idea. And if your first thought on reading the above is, “Taxes? What do taxes have to do with writing?” you’ve just proved my point.

When I first started publishing, taxes were one of the things I was thoroughly clueless about. I mean, I understood that money I made in royalties and payments for stories was subject to taxation, but that was about as far as it went. Was I supposed to pay taxes for everything? What if I was working for some big New York publisher? Wouldn’t they handle at least part of it? What if my publisher didn’t send me a tax form?

Ah, youth. If only I could go back and give myself a good firm slap upside the head. But in lieu of that, let’s lay down a few ground rules, just in case you’ve ever wondered about this stuff. As a quick caveat, and with apologies to our colleagues in other countries, the info below applies strictly to US Citizens.

First of all, yes, the one thing I seemed to actually know as a newbie was that money you make on your writing is taxable. All of it, including the five bucks you got for that poem in your friend’s webzine. If there are publishers anywhere—either book publishers or those buying material exclusively for magazines and anthologies—who handle taxes for their writers, all I can say is, I’ve yet to meet them. One of the downsides of making even a little money writing (and it all too often really is just a little money) is that you can’t use the old 1040EZ anymore. You’ve now got income as a freelancer, which technically can’t be included under “Wages, Tips,” etc.

The really nice publishers will, sometime in January, send you a 1099 form, which breaks down how much money you made from them the previous year and is meant to be included with your taxes. Some publishers don’t send a 1099, for whatever reason. You can always ask them, but it’s a good idea in any case to keep a running tab on how much money you make during the year. That way you’ll prepared for that lovely spring day that comes to each of us, no matter how successful.

So how do you declare your taxable income as a freelancer? I’ll tell you what every writer I’ve ever met has told me: I ask my tax preparer. Having your taxes done by a professional is not strictly necessary, of course, but the more you’ve made during the year,  the more of a relief it is to thrust a handful of 1099s at a qualified professional, then go out for cheeseburgers. I highly recommend it, myself. If you’re set on doing your own taxes, you’d be well-advised to get as much information as you can beforehand. Advice from knowledgeable friends is always welcome, and if you’re the bashful type, this internet thing they’ve got is an absolute marvel at pulling together information; I swear, it’s like you just push a button and boom! There it is.

A final remark: some writers might be nervous about talking through earnings for publishers known to deal in erotica. But keep in mind, you are under no obligation to tell your preparer you write smut, only that you do “freelance writing.” Besides, the preparer is not likely to know or care if a particular name on your 1099s is smut-affiliated. They just want to get home and watch the ballgame; they’re not going to put you on the hotseat and demand to know exactly why your publisher is called “Loose Id,” or “Sizzler Editions.” Trust me on that.

***

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

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Oct 122014
 
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by Suz deMello

From my writing treatise, Plotting and Planning, available November 1, 2014:

Scenes are the building blocks of your story, for acts are comprised of scenes. They’re nothing more than events, most often interactions between your characters. Scenes should fulfill at least one or two of the below purposes—best if you can include all four.

•Advance the plot

•Reveal or develop character

•Complicate or resolve conflict

•Express setting, mood, and/or theme

Everything in your manuscript should have a function, even every comma or em-dash.

How does this apply to the writing of erotica?

Too often, sex scenes are shoehorned into a story to increase the word count or the heat level, while those scenes don’t fulfill any other function. To quote from Plotting and Planning again: Everything in a story should contribute to it, from the biggest monster to the tiniest comma.

If a scene doesn’t contribute to the story, it doesn’t belong there. It doesn’t matter how well-written it is. It doesn’t matter how hot it is. It doesn’t matter how much you, the author, may love its beautiful prose or its scorching hot, kinky sex.

There’s a piece of writerly advice out there: Kill your darlings.

No one’s quite sure where this phrase originated, but it’s been repeated often, including by such notable authors as William Faulkner and Stephen King.

But it doesn’t matter who originated the phrase—it’s great advice. We often fall in love with our prose and are loath to cut it, especially when we may have slaved over a particularly well-turned clause or exhaustively researched, say, the eating habits of the lesser lemur of Madagascar.

But fiction is no place to be a smarty-pants. Leave that for term papers, book reports and theses.

In terms of writing sex scenes, what do we leave in and what to we cut?

We leave in those scenes that fulfill at least one of the purposes in the list above. Ideally, a well-written, thoughtfully planned encounter between our protagonists will fulfill more than one purpose.

Here’s a brief example, from a futuristic erotic romance I wrote called Queen’s Quest. The backstory is that the heroine is losing her virginity in a public ceremony that’s traditional on her planet for royals.

Tears in his eyes, my father squeezed my shoulders and murmured brokenly, “My little girl…” I hugged him, my heart full of love and gratitude.

“Blessings on you, my darling dear.” He turned to the front of the terrace and raised my hand, shouting, “Blessings on Princess Audryn!”

The crowd responded, “Blessings! Blessings!” This was the traditional call for a fertile union as well as an acknowledgment of my status as a royal.

My father wiped his damp eyes with a handkerchief and joined my mother on the Golden Throne.

Alone, I walked to the bed. I could feel the cool breeze flutter my chemise, which brushed against my breasts. My nipples firmed.

Frayn waited, already naked, already hard. He stroked his cock, and a cheer rose from the watching men and giggles from the females. He turned his head and winked at the crowd. I laughed.

Now at the bed, I took his hand. We smiled at each other and kissed.

A murmur rose from the crowd, a murmur that rose to moans as I took his face in my hands to kiss him more deeply. He reached for the front of my chemise and ripped it away, tearing it from my body. The crowd roared, as if they knew that real action was close. But Frayn had other ideas.

He eased me back onto the bed so I lay with my hips at its edge. He knelt before me and, reaching up, he parted my legs so my blond muff and pink quim were fully presented to the onlookers. Mutters of admiration filled the air, and to my surprise, I wasn’t frightened, anxious or shy. My pussy seemed to blossom open from the sounds of acceptance I heard from my people.

Lifting myself onto my elbows, I looked over the crowd, fixing my attention on the first row. Most were watching me, but all seemed to have very busy hands. Either they stroked themselves, or more often, caressed a partner. The fancy embroidered codpieces were open and feminine hands grasped a multitude of rods. Some ladies were already on their knees, while other women had exposed their breasts, tempting the males to taste their nipples.

Frayn leaned forward and fastened his mouth to my quim. Lightning shot through me and I wantonly pushed my pelvis forward, seeking completion. Already swollen from the attentions of the guards, my clit twitched between his lips as he sucked and licked. I drew a long, deep breath and allowed the pure joy of this day to flow through my being as Frayn’s talented tongue, the lovely scratch of his beard, took me higher.

He stood, his face shining with my pussy juices, and bent over me. “The important aspect of this ceremony is that the people see me enter you, see me take you thoroughly, again and again, and see the blood of your virginity spilt over my cock. How do you want to do it?”

I blinked, called out of my erotic cloud to do my duty. I managed a grin though I was annoyed. I was already aware of the event’s significance. “We should do it…visibly, I suppose.”

He caressed my pussy and fingered my slit. I took his tool in my hand. His cock had swelled thick and red with desire, and I wanted him inside me. “Lie down,” I said, pulling on him to enforce obedience.

“Yes, your royal highness.”

“Oh, hush up,” I said. “You’re as royal as I am.”

“Not quite.”

“Jealous?” Pushing him down, I straddled him and teased him with my body, bending my knees to dip low, letting my quim caress his cock-head. My breasts brushed his chest.

He gasped, his previous arrogance gone. “Audryn, please. I’m about to burst.”

So what do we learn from this passage? In regard to character, we see that the heroine, Audryn, is a princess beloved by her family and her people. She is fearless, aggressive, passionate and strong, stronger than her lover Frayn, who belittles her intelligence. She’s aware of her position and resents his arrogance, which foreshadows an external conflict.

In regard to the setting, we learn that public sex is not merely accepted but enjoyed. The references to clothing, particularly chemises and codpieces, tell the astute reader that perhaps this futuristic civilization partakes of some aspects of past human history. This allows the reader to visualize the setting and the garb as well as helping the reader to feel grounded in a very different society.

If you like what you read, you can find the book at Ellora’s Cave or Amazon.

I am a romance novelist and believe firmly that erotic scenes should never be gratuitous. If, while writing, an author bears in mind the purposes a scene must fulfill, the sex is never out of place; it is a seamless part of a well-written story.

* * *

About the Author:

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written seventeen romance novels in several subgenres, including erotica, comedy, mystery and suspense, historical, and paranormal, as well as 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.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.

Check out Suzie’s site at suzdemello.com, and her blog at TheVelvetLair.com.

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Oct 032014
 
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by Nobilis

I don’t sprint when I write, not anymore. It used to be that I could get 1,600 words down in an hour if I really put on the power and concentrated on nothing but how many keystrokes I could apply to my story. Nowadays, an hour’s worth of work results in something more like 800 words. It’s not impairment that has caused this slow-down, it’s a recognition of how my creative mind works.

At some point I began to pay attention to how much time and effort I actually spent on a piece of writing—and it became clear that 1,600 words an hour was less effective than it sounded. Did most of those words end up in the final draft? No. I ended up cutting about a third of them, and completely rewriting another third. As it turned out, it was more efficient in the long run for me to slow down a bit and pay more attention to what I was writing. Better for me to write eight hundred words that are already in fairly good shape, and build on those, than to quickly churn out a story I will end up breaking down and rebuilding anyway.

I’m not saying that sprinting isn’t a good practice in general. I’m saying that it doesn’t work well for me. I’ve analyzed my writing process and made the conscious decision to think more carefully about what I’m writing on my first draft. Overall, I’ve tried a number of different ways to get from first draft to final, and found that slowing down works best for me.

There are all kinds of decisions a writer has to make when they set out to write a story. How deep will the outline be? How much planning will go into character and setting? What software will they use? How much time will they spend on it in one sitting? How long can they set it aside? What time of day, and day of the week will be “writing time”? When will beta readers see it?

It’s rare for a new writer to answer these questions with intention and forethought, and yet it’s a crucial first step. No one else can answer them, ultimately; only you can.

And those answers will probably change over time, as you learn more about your writing process. If you’re a new writer, you ought to be trying out many different things. You can’t really call yourself a “discovery writer” if you’ve never tried writing to an outline. You can’t call yourself a “binge writer” if you’ve never tried setting aside an hour a day, every day, for writing.

These experiments can’t be evaluated until they’ve been taken to some kind of conclusion. If you just measure your productivity at the first-draft stage, then sprinting always looks better—but if a sprinted novel takes a major rewrite every time and a more carefully composed manuscript doesn’t, then the gain from sprinting is lost in the editing process. On the other hand, you may find that you wrote your first draft too tightly, didn’t let your ideas flow as freely as they could have, and need to develop much more of the story in the next draft. If that’s the case, maybe a looser, faster style of preliminary writing will prove better for your next book.

Likewise, if a writer completes an outline and feels like the story is told and there’s nothing left to “discover,” (a description of the outlining process I’ve heard from many self-described discovery writers) but has never actually written to the outline, then the writer isn’t giving the technique a fair shot.

The only way for a new writer to determine what techniques work best for them is to try them out, and pay attention to the results, both in terms of quality and efficiency. It’s work, but it’s work that needs to be done sooner or later—preferably sooner, if you want to spend the majority of your writing career working with, rather than against, your own creative process.

***

Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

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

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Sep 232014
 
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By billierosie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

billierosie has been writing erotica for about three years. She has been published by Oysters and Chocolate, in The Wedding Dress. Logical Lust accepted her story “Retribution” for Best S&M 3. She has also been published by Sizzler, in Pirate Booty and in their Sherlock Holmes anthology, My Love of all that is Bizarre, as well as Hunger: A Feast of Sensual Tales of Sex and Gastronomy and Sex in London: Tales of Pleasure and Perversity in the English Capital. She also has a collection of short, erotic stories, Fetish Worship, as well as novellas Memoirs of a Sex Slave and Enslaving Eli, both published by Sizzler Editions in 2012 and available for purchase at Amazon.
billierosie can be found at Twitter, @jojojojude and at her blog.

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Sep 172014
 
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By Jean Roberta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

————————

Jean Roberta writes in several genres. Approximately 100 of her erotic stories, including every orientation she can think of, have appeared in print anthologies. She also has three single-author collections, including The Princess and the Outlaw: Tales of the Torrid Past (Lethe Press, 2013). www.jean-roberta.livejournal.com

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Sep 082014
 
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By Colin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

 

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Aug 302014
 
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By Nobilis

They say that an author shouldn’t pay attention to the market. They say that if an author writes to get on board with some popular trend, rather than following inspiration, the result will be lackluster fiction that arrives too late to catch the wave, and the author will more likely than not end up frustrated.

For what it’s worth, this is true. Most market trends are too short-lived to exploit this way, given how long it takes to write a good novel, edit it, and get it out into the market. (Of course, they said steampunk was a passing fad, and look where we are now—this rule is certainly not universal)

But there’s another kind of market trend that authors are very well served to follow.

My friend Starla Huchton has written two novel series (serieses?). The first was a science fiction romance called the Endure Series, set in an underwater research colony, where the hero and heroine, in addition to negotiating the difficulties of a new romantic relationship, must thwart a terrible global conspiracy. I loved it. The second is the Evolution Series, a superhero adventure romance that I’ve only just started reading but also promises to be quite enjoyable.

The thing is…Starla never finished the Endure Series. What’s worse, the third book ended on a cliffhanger. She promises she’ll get to it, but it’s not on her immediate project list. I confess to feeling no small amount of frustration with this, but I keep it to myself* because Starla Huchton is not my bitch. I don’t have any right to demand she finish the series or even resolve the cliffhanger.

Ever.

That’s speaking as a reader and a fan. Now I’m going to switch around and put on my author hat. I have also written speculative romance stories. There’s the far-future genderfuckery romance series, The Orgone Chronicles. There’s the Roma Fervens series, steampunk romances set in ancient Rome. And my near-future stories are all set in the same universe, which I call Tales of Love and Engineering. I’m currently not working on any of them. Instead, I’m experimenting with a science fiction serial, Monster Whisperer, which I’m producing as premium content on my podcast and releasing in both ebook and audio on Scribl.

And the reason for this is simple: Money. The other series just never sold big. They sold some, for which I am grateful to everyone who bought them, but they never hit that mysterious ignition point that gets a title climbing the charts. So I’m trying something new, to see what happens with it.

That’s why Starla’s decision to focus on the Evolution series at the expense of the Endure series makes sense. If the Amazon rankings mean anything at all, the Evolution series is selling far better than Endure ever did. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Evolution is better than Endure, but it does mean that it fits better with what people want.

I’m not talking about naked greed here. If I wanted to make the most money with the least effort, I wouldn’t be a writer, that’s for certain. No, I’m talking about using money as a measure of reader interest. When someone is willing to lay down five or ten dollars for a story, that means they want it more than they want something else they’d spend that five or ten dollars on.

I love all my stories. I could work on any of the series that I mentioned previously. But people don’t seem to want those stories as much, so they’re on the back burner. I could happily work on any of them. But the lack of interest on readers part spills over into a lack of interest on my part. I’ll keep trying new things, both in terms of subject matter and publishing venues, learning and growing and exploring, and along the way maybe something will catch the public’s interest in a big enough way that I’ll say: “Oh, you want to throw money at me to write more of this? Why, thank you! I do believe I shall.”

*Generally. I recognize the irony in posting it publicly here, and hope Starla will forgive me.

***

Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

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

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Aug 212014
 
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By Ardath Mayhar, reprinted from Writing Through a Stone Wall: Hard-Won Wisdom from Thirty Years as a Professional.

In its simplest definition, a plot is the shape taken by your story. It is the sequence of events that presents your characters, reveals their backgrounds, shows their problems, and leads the reader through all the complexities of the story to the solution of those problems.

It can be attacked chronologically, which is the simplest and best plan for a beginner. It can also come in non-sequential segments, welded together over the length of the tale to make a coherent whole, through the skillful use of such devices as the flashback.

If you are a real storyteller, you will usually find that your stories work themselves out in intricate detail, either beforehand as an outline or as you write. So don’t worry too much about plots … a good one is instantly recognizable.

If something that seemed promising turns out to be a dud, don’t sweat it. We all waste some effort, but all that effort amounts to practice that helps us to deal more effectively with our next project.

A plot can be built, just like a child’s house of blocks. You introduce your main character, find his immediate interest/problem/difficulty. In a short story there may be only one, but in a novel you will need several. You may even need several minor characters, each with a problem that affects, in some way, the overall story.

Once you understand the situation with which your protagonist must deal, then you can work out, step by step, exactly the way in which he will tackle it, the obstacles that will get in his way, the other people who interfere, and the final and climactic situation in which he either conquers or accepts his own circumstances.

There is a rather mechanical way in which to add suspense and conflict. Give that character a break and make it seem that he has surmounted his problems … and then pull the rug out from under him. Create a wavelike undulation between triumph and near-tragedy (modulated to suit the sort of tale you are telling).

The sequence of events can develop your character’s strengths and his intelligence. It can try his emotional stability. And the protagonist and his solution can arrive together at the end of the tale.

This is useful for a beginner, but do not feel that you have to stick with this format. Some of the best stories spin themselves out in your mind, forming their own shapes and rhythms.

There are incredible numbers of kinds of stories and as many ways in which they can be told. As Kipling said,

There are nine and sixty ways
of constructing tribal lays,
and every single one of them is right!

Remember that you are the only person who can write your story, and once you develop your ability to professional standards nobody can tell you that this is the wrong way to do it. Make the plot work for you, and make it fit your characters.

The newspaper every morning and the news every night can be full of plot ideas. Nobody need ever go without the raw material for a story, if they keep their eyes and ears open.

On the other hand, a theme is something frequently overlooked by the novice writer. It is integral to a mature work of fiction (or, indeed, nonfiction), as you can prove for yourself by reading some of the themeless works now sprouting on the newsstands.

Most themes can be stated in cliches. Cliches become such because they are so true and so succinct, and the underlying premise that forms the thread upon which your story is strung must partake of some bit of human truth.

Do you recall Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? It has several themes, one of which is “It is never too late to change.” Another is “Money alone cannot make you happy.”

Most stories and almost all books have more than one theme, if you look closely enough. In your own work, you may be able to look back, as you near the end of your labors, and see several interrelated themes wound through your story.

It is a strange thing that seldom if ever do you think out your theme at the beginning of your writing process. It develops, along with the plot and the characters, as you work.

Yet, if you are deeply involved in the story you are telling, and the lives of the people about whom you are writing, you will find that a theme twines itself into it, without your having to think about it consciously.

A story that is all theme would be very dull work. But a story without any at all is taffy candy for the mind.

Keep a watchful eye on your work and analyze it when you are done. Make sure you dig deeply into your subject, so as to tap the thematic stream that runs beneath all good stories. Make your plot complex enough to be interesting, yet not so complex as to become soap opera.

Flashback, mentioned earlier, is a most useful device in creating a nonsequential plot. It is, however, often done very badly, at too great length, or at a point at which it interrupts the flow of the story. A long flashback at the very beginning of a tale, for instance, can make the reader forget just what was happening to the protagonist at the spot at which he went into this revery.

The past must become the protagonist’s temporary present, in order for a flashback to work well. For instance:

Jonathan looked both ways, hesitated, and then set his right foot into the street. He had never quite recovered from that terrible day…

The truck swerved into the wrong lane, heading directly for him, as he tried to spring back to the safety of the curb. Tires squealed on wet pavement, and as he squirmed desperately backward, something immensely heavy and painful crossed over his foot and ankle. The blackness that rolled over him came as a welcome relief…

Jonathan looked down at the warped and twisted leg. He couldn’t go on reliving that instant of his life forever, he knew. With a sigh, he stepped awkwardly into the crosswalk and limped to the other curb.

This is flashback. Brief ones are best, usually, but there are whole stories that are actually very long flashbacks.

Some highly effective work has been written using a sort of mosaic of plot elements, demanding mental alertness on the part of the reader. Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 is a good example of this technique.

This, however, is not something that you learn to do. It must come as an inevitable way in which to approach the story you have to tell.

Any or all of these techniques can work for you. Just have the nerve to play with them, practice with them, and make them a part of your repertoire.

***

Ardath Mayhar (1930-2012) died on February 1. Mayhar began writing science fiction in 1979, although she had been publishing poetry since 1949. During the course of her career, she published more than sixty novels in various genres, often using pseudonyms, including John Killdeer and Frank Cannon (for Westerns).

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, she and her husband, Joe Mayhar, owned The View From Orbit Bookstore in Nacogdoches, Texas; she sold the store after his death. Her novels, many of which mixed science fictional and fantasy elements, included the four-volume Tales of the Triple Moons series, the Kyrannon Shar-Nuhn series, and Battletech: The Sword and the Dagger. Her 1982 novel Golden Dream was based on H. Beam Piper’s “Fuzzy” series. In 2010 she published Slaughterhouse World.

Perhaps even more important than her own poetry and fiction, Mayhar served as a mentor to numerous other science fiction, fantasy, and horror authors. She provided editorial advice, taught workshops, and often worked as a book doctor. She was a fixture at Texas science fiction conventions for more than 30 years, although a decline in health limited her attendance in the last years of her life. A poem published in the anthology Masques earned her the Balrog Award in 1985. In 2008, she was named the SFWA Author Emeritus during the Nebula Award Weekend in Austin, Texas. —SFWA, February 13, 2012

In addition to her contributions to the field of science fiction and fantasy, Mayhar is the author of over sixty books and has won or been nominated for over two dozen awards including Margaret Haley Carpenter Prize, the Omar Award, the Mark Twain Award, the Spur award, and the William Allen White Award, for her historical novels, character studies and poetry. —WriteSex Ed.

 

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