Dec 112014
 
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By Suz deMello

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He nodded.

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

He smiled.

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

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

*****

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

About Writing for sale at Amazon;

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

*****

About Suz deMello:

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

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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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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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Jul 182014
 
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By Nobilis

The ending of a chapter should always, always, give the reader a reason to look up, check the clock, and mutter, “Three hours’ sleep is enough, just this once,” and turn the page to keep reading. It should take discipline for a reader to put down your book. Willpower. Determination. The end of a chapter is an important moment, one that should not be squandered.

The great thing about chapters is that there is absolutely no rule about how long they must be. You could have one word, or ten thousand. This means that you can end a chapter virtually anywhere. Well, okay, ending a chapter mid-sentence is kind of weird, but you can probably think of situations where even that would be the right thing to do.

Chapters should always end with a moment of tension. The cliffhanger is an old standby, and in some stories it’s almost a requirement to end most chapters with the protagonist in sudden mortal peril. That’s not the only note to end a chapter on, however.

A cliffhanger promises a thrilling escape, but there are other promises you can make. You can start a fight scene, or a sex scene, or a chase scene at the end of the chapter. You can reveal a clue to a mystery, an important secret, or new character.

For example, here’s an excerpt from “Monster Whisperer,” a story I’m releasing in my podcast and on scribl.com, chapter by chapter. These are the last three paragraphs of chapter 6. For context, a Chocondris is a plantlike, woody tentacle monster, which is owned by Dale Clearwater, the eponymous Monster Whisperer.

Then the shuttle settled into the water, and the forward hatch hinged downward, revealing a ladder on its inner surface. A tall, dark-skinned man with short black hair wearing a bright green outfit emerged and leapt into the water. He raced up onto the beach and caught up with the Chocondris in mere seconds. He jabbed sensitive flower buds, and the Chocondris flinched and twitched. It spit spores at him, but he ducked under every little cloud without even a speck touching his skin. It tried to grab his arms and legs, but he slipped out of its coils with dizzying alacrity. On the rare occasions it could get a tentacle around one of his limbs, he twisted away, undoing its coil before it could solidify its hold. The Chocondris quivered with rage. It dropped Dale and Christine to bring more of its limbs to bear. The man retreated a few steps, then leapt back under a concentrated assault. He seemed to know exactly how far away to leap to stay out of its clutches as he retreated back toward the beach.

As soon as the Chocondris broke out of the cover of the trees, the shuttle’s capture beam caught it, plucking it like a weed. Like the others, it quickly disappeared inside the shuttle.

“Connie!” Christine shouted, stumbling forward to wrap her arms around the man. “You found us! I knew you’d find us.” She squeezed him hard then stepped away to point, beaming at Dale with her perfectly bright smile. “I told you my brother would find us!”

I went back and forth on whether to include that last paragraph in the chapter. Wouldn’t it be better to end the chapter on the hopelessness of the Chocondris being stolen by the mysterious monster hunter? After consulting with my beta readers, it became clear that no, that was definitely not the right course of action. It’s fine to end on a threat, with some monster appearing and threatening the protagonist with some dire fate, but if the threat evaporates as soon as they move on to the next chapter, the reader will feel tricked and cheated. The end of a chapter should make promises that the next chapter fulfills.

That’s why keeping that paragraph at the end of the chapter is the right thing to do. Instead of promising some kind of conflict with a mysterious monster-hunter, we’re promised an introduction to a new character. The next chapter fulfills that promise.

Generally speaking, that’s the best place to end a chapter if you want to keep your readers engaged with the story.

—–

Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

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

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May 192014
 
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One of the questions beginning writers ask us most often is: “How do you know if you have captured the love in your characters’ lovemaking, and aren’t just writing a run-of-the-mill sex scene?” 12 writers offer their own thoughts and advice in this unique WriteSex Author’s Roundtable. Each Monday a well-known romance author will discuss the difference between a sex scene and a love scene, and show us how to charge an erotic encounter with romance. Look for personal insights and how-to tips from our participants in this first ever WriteSex Authors’ Roundtable. —Ed.

***

By Blake C. Aarens

My first thought was that there isn’t any difference between a sex scene and a romantic sexual encounter.  Both describe the selfsame event with fake notions of good and bad, right and wrong, coming down to nothing but the use of language to try and tabulate and limit by judgment some forms of sexual expression. That’s my default setting these days, to try and emphasize—as often as possible in as many arenas as possible—that we humans and the animal things we do are more alike than unalike.

But that’s not an honest answer to an honest question, ‘cuz just as I say out loud, as I read the question off my phone and mutter “there is no difference”, the split screen in my head plays two scenes:

On the right-hand screen, a couple, A and B, are at each other in the dimly lit corner of a club. A has at least one body part inside at least one opening in B’s body. Tab A in slot B. Penetration and friction. That is the essence of a sex scene. But on the left-hand screen in my head, and playing at the very same time, are the same two people, in the same corner, in the same club, with the very same lighting, tab A in slot B, even. But here is where the romance comes in: in the way they strain in the darkness to see the expression on the other’s face as they move together, in the way the owner of slot B holds their breath to hear the noises coming from the owner of tab A, in the way their focus on each other makes the bouncer’s mouth water and he leaves them alone and lets them love each other up.

If you look the two words up in the dictionary—as I did—you’ll discover that both have entries as a noun and as a verb. They can both be either an action, or a person, place, or thing. But for the purposes of this roundtable discussion, I want to concentrate on several very specific dictionary entries:

romance1—n.  4. a baseless, made-up story, usually full of exaggeration or fanciful invention.
—v.i.  10. to think or talk romantically.
—v.t.  11.  Informal.  a.  to court or woo romantically; treat with ardor or chivalrousness.

sex n.  3. the instinct or attraction drawing one sex toward another, or its manifestation in life and conduct.
4. coitus.
—v.t.  8.  sex up, Informal a.  to arouse sexually

For me, it’s all about focus.  And not just the focus of the writer. If my characters are primarily about body parts and positions—and there ain’t nothing wrong with that—it’s more of a sex scene in the way I craft it and the details that it makes sense to share. But if I’m writing a romantic sexual encounter—George Carlin would hate the wordiness of that phrase—the focus is about cause and effect. This is what I’m doing to you, with you, and this is how it is making me feel, and breathe, and arch my back. The difference seems subtle, but is in fact, huge.  It is the canyon that exists between intimate physical contact, and intimacy itself.

They say you don’t fall in love with another person, but you fall in love with the person you become when you’re in the presence of your love. You fall in love with how they make you feel about yourself. Within yourself.

I wrote a story called “I Want You Back” where one of the characters is having a sex scene while another is involved in a romantic sexual encounter. The interesting thing is, they’re in the same scene. The story was published in my erotic collection Wetting the Appetite.

To quote the introduction I wrote to the story,  it “deals with the uncontrollable urges some lovers are able to arouse in us”, particularly “that lover we know isn’t a damn bit of good for our head, or heart, or self-esteem, but who does something to us that we can’t live without.”

The point-of-view character—who is never named—becomes the object of badboy Nick’s focused sexual attention the day they meet in a bowling league.

He made me nervous, made me conscious of my own body, made me ask him to come over just to get a break from all the sexual energy he was aiming at me.

The narrator is already off into a romance, inventing a connection between them and exaggerating its meaning, based on nothing more than how Nick’s attention makes him feel.

Nick, on the other hand, is just doing what he’s done with every other member of the league. He meets a bowler he hasn’t had sex with, and he does the obvious thing: he makes sex happen between them. That’s what Nick does.

The story details their first sexual encounter. An encounter completely dominated by Nick’s timetable and tastes.

When we arrived at my place, he pushed me inside.  He kept on pushing until he had me on my back on the living room floor.  His dick was in my face before I knew what was happening.  I lunged for it with my mouth, but he put his hand on my forehead and pushed my head back onto the carpet.

“Open,” he said, and I parted my lips.

He put his dick in my mouth, but he wouldn’t let me suck it on my own time.

The narrator is turned on by his own openness, his quick obedience. Nick seems to take it as his due from a sexual partner. The narrator relaxes and just lets him, focusing on the pleased murmur that comes from Nick when he registers the narrator’s surrender. He can’t get his pants down fast enough.

When they move to the narrator’s bedroom, it’s still a two-tier encounter. Nick has found the bedroom and waits on top of the comforter, stroking himself back to hardness for round two. The narrator, on the other hand, is on an expedition through his own apartment, trying to find where his newfound lover has gotten to.

I walked to the door of my bedroom and found him lying naked on the bed. He had his own fat cock in both hands and was taking long strokes up and down it.

“C’mere,” he said.

Of course I went to him.

When I got close enough, he let go of his dick and grabbed me by both wrists. He snatched me off my feet and onto the mattress, then dragged me to lie on top of him. We were belly to belly, our cocks pressed between us and just touching.

I could barely look him in the eye. He put one of his hands behind my head and the other in the small of my back and made me kiss him for a very long time.

They are having two very different experiences. The narrator’s is amorously familiar; he’s submitting to things and showing sides of himself that make him feel vulnerable. Nick is doing what he likes, when and how he likes, to get himself hard and get himself off, end of story.

And therein lies the difference between the two. Romance is about more than the interaction of genitalia. It’s more than just the act itself. Romance is about breath and eyes and feelings. It’s about the stories we tell ourselves about what the intimate physical contact means. It’s about the actions we take and the thoughts that propel us into action. And it’s those details—above and beyond and beneath what characters are doing with their naughty bits—that carve out the difference between romance and sex.

 

Live fully, keep reading, and don’t stop pressing those keys!

BCA

***

Blake C. Aarens is an author, playwright, poet, screenwriter, and former college theatre instructor. Her play, The Prince of Whiteness, was the Invited Play at the 56th Conference on World Affairs.  Her solo performance piece, My Great-Grandmother Had a Sex Life, debuted at the “Have I Got a Story for You/Solo Performance Showcase” at The Studio Theatre, College of Marin. Excerpts from her erotic poetry collection Words on Fire appeared in the Milvia Street Art and Literary Journal. Her script, Still Life with Android, won a Judy Award for Achievement in the Thriller/Horror/Sci-Fi Screenplay division.

Blake is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who writes award-winning erotic fiction.  Her work has appeared in the Herotica series; Aché: A Journal for Lesbians of African Descent; Best American Erotica 1993; Penthouse Magazine, and numerous other anthologies.

Blake has seven letters after her name and more than two decades’ experience teaching classes on everything from Principles and Theory of Acting (Laney College), to Dramatic Technique for Fiction Writers (Berkeley Story Workshop), to Writing Life’s Moments: The Craft of Personal Narrative (The Writing Parlor, SF), to How to Write and Read a Dirty Story (San Francisco Center for Sex & Culture).

Her first collection of stories, Wetting the Appetite, has been published by Sizzler Editions both as a paperback and an ebook.

She lives in the Bay Area with Kazimir, the Crown Prince of the Universe.

 

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May 152014
 
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By Colin

Not too long ago I sat down with an anthology of new horror fiction I’d picked up at the library.  The lineup included some writers who were old favorites of mine, as well as a few I’d heard good things about. One of the latter had contributed a story with a particularly intriguing title, one that really got my horror-fanboy Spidey senses tingling. So when I sat down that night in my easy chair, that was the story I turned to first, cackling in gleeful anticipation.

It wasn’t long before I realized that fifteen minutes had gone by. Normally that’s a sign that the writer has done a masterful job of pulling you into the story. Unfortunately, in this case I had spent those fifteen minutes reading the opening paragraph over and over again, trying to make sense of it.

See, the story was written in a very artful, literary style, one that made heavy use of stream of consciousness, creative misspelling to indicate dialect (not jest in dialogue, y’know, but in thuh actual story isself), and a fine contempt for its rather dimwitted redneck protagonists. It was a style I probably wouldn’t have blinked at under other circumstances, even in a book of horror yarns—today, the line between genre fiction and literary fiction is often eyelash-thin. Heck, I’ve used that style in stories of my own. The problem was that in this case I wasn’t expecting it. I was expecting a fast, dirty monster story with a good, gory payoff. When I found myself eating at McSweeney’s instead of McDonald’s, I had to shift gears…and your correspondent is a little slow these days, poor old thing.

Now, when I did shift gears and read the story on its own terms, I liked it just fine. I even wished it was longer, which is the highest praise I can think of, so this is not going to be a straightforward screed against writers Getting All Literary when they should be Getting On with the Story. But this little episode hit me harder than I would have expected, maybe because I’ve known plenty of writers who love going off on that very topic. One guy I used to pal around with would hold forth on it quite regularly. Thing was, his choice of poster-child for the Virtues of Simple Storytelling was ’50s crime writer Jim Thompson. Now, no question about it, Thompson wrote a hard, mean line, and his abilities as a pure storyteller have never been in question. But he’s remembered as much these days for his pioneering use of postmodern experimental techniques as for anything else. Holding him up as a God of No-Frills Narrative is a bit like celebrating Thelonious Monk as a champion of traditional jazz.

Nonetheless, it brings up an interesting question for writers: at what point does a “literary” approach work against the purposes of your writing? Since erotica, like horror, is based on creating a specific response in the reader, it seems very relevant here. But first, another crime-writer anecdote: once upon a time, the great French detective novelist Georges Simenon was trying to sell short stories to the great French literary author Colette, who at the time was editing at the great French paper Le Monde. The (apparently not-so-great) manuscripts kept coming back, and when Simenon finally buttonholed Colette and asked her, in effect, WTF?, she told him (apparently with some exasperation), “Look, your stories are too literary.”

In general, erotic fiction that is less focused on plot offers more room for experimentation and unconventional technique. A story focused on, let’s say, a young woman alone in her bedroom, fantasizing about past lovers seems like a good example. The opportunities for using stream-of-consciousness, fantasy, allegory and literary misdirection are endless.

But the opportunities for plot in such a story are also endless. The young woman might be presented early on in the story as having some kind of sexual hang-up—let’s say a general fear of losing control, as you often see in bondage scenarios. That hang-up becomes the focus for the “plot.” As she runs through her fantasies, the fear would be present in each one, gradually coming into sharper and sharper focus, until we understand not just what she’s afraid of, but also why she’s afraid of it. This approach makes it rather like an erotic detective story (there’s crime-fiction again…jeez) with a character’s sexuality instead of a robbery or murder as the central element. It could be every bit as satisfying as a well-constructed detective tale. You could even make it novel-length, with a bit of planning. But even if you made all these concessions to Storytelling, I suspect you’d find it a tough sell to, say, the romance markets. It’s still an inside story, whereas most romances are firmly based in a “real world,” where thoughts and fantasies don’t just segue endlessly into other thoughts and fantasies; they tend to lead to actions, which have direct consequences on the plot, even though the “real world” in question might be an alternate Victorian England or a future interstellar empire. I think you could probably still make it work, but you’d most likely need to cut a certain amount of “literary” trimmings.

Now imagine a story planned specifically as a romance, with all the trimmings: shape-shifters, a smouldering alpha-male hero, a spicy spitfire heroine, and sex, sex, sex. You would probably have a much harder time turning that story “inward,” than you would turning an inside story “outward” as in our example above. There are certain expectations in romance stories, many of which revolve around the hero and heroine interacting in (say it with me, kids) a real world. Fantasy sequences could be an effective means of spicing things up in the background, but sooner or later you’ve got to get back to that real world where things are “really” happening. And stream of consciousness passages or artfully misspelled dialogue would probably just get in the way. You’d hit the same roadblocks I did when I tried to read that horror story as a straightforward monster yarn. And your readers might or might not be willing to regroup and reread the story on its own terms (and if they’re reading it to satisfy specific sexual or emotional yearnings, the likelihood of regrouping may decrease).

None of these speculations are to be taken as hard and fast rules, of course. I’m sure a number of examples could be found of “literary romances” that worked (and sold) just fine. But in general, “literary” technique works best “inside,” and “storytelling” works best “outside.” What constitutes inside and outside and how you make your approach work in your own novels and stories, of course, is up to you.

 

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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May 082014
 
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By Elizabeth Coldwell

Whether you realise it or not, it’s all too easy for your writing to fall into a rut.

This might not be so much of a problem if your writing is more of a hobby or a distraction from the Evil Day Job than a career, if you submit to the odd anthology here and there, or if you’re slowly working on that first novel. However, if you’re aiming to make a living from your writing, the pressure to churn out book after book, to build up your backlist and never give readers a moment to wonder when your next novel is coming out, can lead to a certain feeling of déjà vu when you read through your work. Just as importantly, it can also make you forget that, above all, writing is something to be enjoyed. If you’re slogging through the pages, rest assured the readers will be, too.

Even if you don’t notice that you’re in a rut, your editor should. All authors have certain words they tend to overuse, usually without being aware of it, which in the aggregate can dumb down otherwise good work and give it a feeling of tiresome over-familiarity. And I’m not even talking about the dreaded ‘that’ and ‘was’ which so many editors are on a mission to eradicate from manuscripts. Use the same verb three times within a paragraph, or repeatedly refer to your heroine’s ‘wavy, dark hair’ long after this characteristic has been established, and a good editor will flag this up. Some line editors will even highlight these words, making it even more obvious how often they appear—a sure sign you need to start reaching for synonyms.

But even ruthless editing can still leave your readers feeling like you’re rehashing ideas from previous books, whether you’re aware of it or not. So what can you do to freshen up your writing? Here are a few suggestions:

1) Change your writing routine

This might not be possible if you’re one of those people who, due to work or family circumstances, can only allocate a certain part of the day to their craft—but if you’re able to write full time, then do something different for once. Don’t shut yourself away in whichever room you use as your office; get out of the house and write. OK, so the writer with their laptop in the coffee shop has become a cliché, but it can actually do you good to be surrounded by other people as you write. Maybe you’ll see or hear something that inspires a story idea, and it never hurts to be reminded of the many ways people interact in the real world. You might worry that you won’t be as productive as usual, but I can never stress often enough that meeting an arbitrary word count every day doesn’t necessarily make you a good writer.

2) Try another genre

A lot of writers are very reluctant to write in anything other than the genre for which they have become known. They are afraid that by doing so they will somehow alienate their readers, particularly if they write anything other than contemporary romance. Of course, this suggests that perhaps it’s the readers who need to more flexible, rather than the authors, but that’s a whole other topic… However, you don’t need to go so far as to start (or stop, depending on where you’re coming from) writing male/male stories for a change of pace. There are lots of genres you can explore—ménage, Rubenesque, cowboy—that are hugely popular and don’t require you to go too far out of your comfort zone. Or you could try something that will take more research than you’d usually put in, like historical fiction set in an era you’re unfamiliar with. Who knows, you might even learn something…

3) Shake up your cast of characters

If your hero is always the alpha male who has more money than he knows what to do with and women perpetually falling at his feet, try writing about a guy who has to work hard, both for a living and to get the girl of his dreams. (Lord knows it’ll spare us any more dreary Fifty Shades clones…) If you write exclusively from the submissive’s point of view, try putting yourself in the dominant’s shoes (or thigh-high boots) for once. Switching the focus helps keep your writing sharp and forces you to think about a character’s motivation in a different way, which is never a bad thing.

 

Elizabeth Coldwell is Editor-in-chief at Xcite Books, where the titles she has edited include the National Leather Award-winning anthology, Lipstick Lovers. As an author, she has 25 years’ experience in the field of erotica, having been published by Black Lace, Cleis Press, Sizzler Editions, Total-e-bound and Xcite Books among many others. She can be found blogging at The (Really) Naughty Corner – elizabethcoldwell.wordpress.com.

 

 

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Apr 282014
 
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By Jean Marie Stine

It cannot be emphasized enough. Your blog, your tweets, your photo-sharing, your Facebook page, and any and all of your other social media efforts aren’t just something to be reserved for your new book’s debut, or a contest, or an online or in-person appearance.

If you take that course, you will only be preaching to the converted—which is to say, you’ll only be reaching the people you have already reached.

Those readers are crucially important, but even they are not really your #1 target audience for social media. It’s time to re-conceive your presence on the world’s computer screens, phones and tablets from a whole new perspective: as a magnet designed to reach as widely and as frequently as possible beyond your normal circle of fans to bring in new potential readers for your books.

At the same time, you don’t want to take one more minute away from actually writing those books and stories than you have to.

It may not seem like it would be possible to maintain an active blog presence and still have all the time you need to do your core creative work.

But it can be!

Most social media mavens recommend that, at the very least, you put up some kind of blog entry every week, twice if possible. That may seem like a lot of work—and it would be, if you have to write all those blog entries yourself.

But you don’t!

Some writers (perhaps because they are writers) make the mistake of believing that blog posts invariably have to be lengthy, comprehensive, entirely original written pieces.

Instead, there is an easy way to let your own personal interests generate compelling blog entries for you—entries that will bring lots of visitor traffic, most of it new, to your blog. And it involves almost no writing on your own part. Using this technique, your entire contribution to each blog entry you create is a sentence or two to a paragraph at most.

There is no way an author can write a story without putting some of their own personal interests into it. That might be skiing, Europe, the town you live in, collecting stamps, the world of high fashion, the U.S. Civil War, rodeos, motorcycles, etc.—and chances are, if you are interested in something, other people are interested in it, too.

For instance, you might have visited Paris, or wanted to visit it, and thus your newest novel is set there.

Say you see a great picture of Paris on the internet, one that is beautiful, or touching, or shows some specific locale you used in your book. Insert or link to the picture on your blog. Write a sentence or paragraph about why you liked it—something like “I had to share this stunning picture of Paris at night from the top of the Eiffel Tower. I love both so much, I made Paris the scene of the second half of my book, For Love or Money.” Or, perhaps it is a photo of the Champs-Élysées. You could write: “I set the climactic chase scene from my romantic espionage novel, Secrets of the Heart, here.” You will be surprised, over the course of the next year, at how many new visitors have come to your site.

You might be an aficionado of the U.S. Civil War era. You might do research in old magazines and newspapers of the time, or read books reprinting material from them, and come upon an chapter or article that captures your interest. Perhaps an 1864 Harper’s Monthly contains a piece by a woman describing her feelings as she saw the Union Soldiers come running back in terrified, chaotic retreat from the battle of Bull Run. Since anything written in the U. S. before 1923 is out of copyright and in the Public Domain forever, you have every right to reprint that article for free (and there is a great deal of such material in text form free on the internet, at sites like Gutenberg.org and Archive.org). If printed materials are involved, consider purchasing a scanner. They can be very inexpensive, often below $100—and voila, you have a cheap and almost limitless source of blog entries. Again, all you have to write is a sentence or two, such as “I had to share this very moving eyewitness account of the Union rout at the first battle of the Civil War by a young Northern woman whose boyfriend was a soldier in that battle. I found it while researching my next novel, Troubled Allegiance.”

Or you may have written a romantic thriller set at a championship skiing event in the scenic Grandvalira region of Spain. On the web you can surely find photos or video of Grandvalira, as well as present or historic footage of ski meets there. Pick five that catch your eye, and turn them into a little series of posts—put a link to one each week with a few words about the region and your book. You now have five blog entries to draw people in, if they’re interested in the area and/or its skiing, and introduce them to your book—or to get people interested in your book if they’ve heard of you but not Grandvalira.

If your story was set at an oil camp in the 1920s, you can certainly find archival photos of the real thing all over the web.

You get the idea. Here are some more tips to letting your blog draw in new readers and keep existing ones happily following you—without spending valuable writing time and energy on it:

* Don’t overlook your own (digital or physical) filing cabinet! In it you may have all kinds of work you’ve already done but never introduced to a larger audience: articles, school papers, book reviews, interviews and so on. Depending on the subject, they are likely to be of interest to others, too. For example, I recently found an interview I conducted with science fiction great Frank Herbert for a Los Angles publication when the movie Dune came out. I suddenly realized it might be of interest to science fiction enthusiasts, and draw some to our science fiction blog. Not only did I publish it there, it was so lengthy I broke it into three entries. It brought in double the number of my most-read posts till then. I also found a paper I wrote for a university class on Mary Shelley and Frankenstein, arguing that she based much of the monster on herself and her own experiences. I plan to post it on the same blog soon; it should appeal to both aficionados of Shelley’s book and more widely to fans of horror fiction and films as well.

* Link to movie trailers. Somewhere on the web, you can find a trailer to almost any movie ever made. Find trailers for a favorite movie or one related to your latest book (or your writing in general), post a link to the trailer, and write a few words about it.

* You can do the same with full-length movies. There are quite a number of sites were you can watch recent or classic movies for free, like Crackle.com and Archive.org. Browse their stacks. Find a personal favorite or one related to your writings and post the link for it, inviting visitors to watch it too.

* If an article or chapter you want to reprint is lengthy, break it up into two or even three blog posts and serialize it.

* You can also include a scene from your book, its cover image (if one exists at that point), and several others books you have written on the same subject.

* Always attribute the source of any material you reprint:  ”From Harper’s Monthly June 1864, found at the Gutenberg Project.”

Using this easy approach, you can find material for hundreds of blog posts, and draw in new visitors, without going an inch out of your way. All you’re really doing is pursuing of your own interests and passions as you would anyway, and sharing these interests with readers.

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Apr 252014
 
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By Sherry Ziegelmeyer

Last month, we discussed media kits; as you may recall from that post, media kits are important for making that first approach to any writer or editor. When you initially begin a relationship with a new media contact, I don’t suggest that you immediately start giving them product for free. If you want to bribe them (and, in the context of getting people to write about you at all, bribery can be a good thing), then do so with something on which you’ll lose nothing, in case they hand it to some civilian, non-writer friend. And no, I don’t think “word of mouth” is worth enough to be handing over your copyrighted, produced-for-profit, material to just anyone; reserve your copyrighted product for writers who indicate a willingness to write about it (themselves, as opposed to passing it on to someone else) and hold off on sending review kits otherwise.

But once you have established that a writer is interested in giving your book a spin, it’s time to set them up with a “review kit”. Review kits can be very important for an author’s publicity campaign—good publicity is based on getting as many other people talking about you as you can. This is especially important with adult entertainment products, be they sex toys, print books, ebooks or adult videos. The consumer has no way to know exactly what the book, product or movie is about (or what it does)—and they certainly don’t know whether they’ll like it or not—until they can actually get their hands on it.

Since a lot of your books are sold online (and often there is no return or refund option for an e-book, or any book), giving an adult-media reviewer a copy—so they can offer their readers a third-party opinion and synopsis—helps you to make the potential consumer more aware of, and interested in, your product to begin with. In the mind of the consumer, the reviewer is going to have more credibility regarding the book’s worth than you are, so reviewers are an essential publicity force.

Review Kits

While a review kit is similar to a media kit, it will contain less information about you and much more about the book. A review kit must include the following, or you’re wasting your time and that of the reviewer:

A Copy of Your Book

Insert a physical sample of the book you are submitting for review. If you only sell e-books, for goodness sake, include a CD containing the book in an easy-to-open and easy-to-read format, such as a Word document or a PDF file; don’t just send them a link to some download. And I have to say, if at all possible, a printed book is much more impressive to a reviewer than only sending them a digital copy, unless you load it into a brand new Kindle or Nook.

An Art Disc

Include a CD containing all relevant artwork concerning your book. You will want to include the book’s cover art, but also include any images that you are using in your book’s overall marketing effort. Sometimes your publisher has created sales slicks or fliers, ads or other marketing tools, any of which may suit the reviewer’s taste, or fit into the layout of the review, better than the book cover does. (Be aware the media will not run ads without you paying for them, so we’re talking only about art to accompany the review itself.)

As with media kits, make sure the artwork you provide in review kits is capable of being reproduced in a print format. This means that images, logos and photos included in your art disc are all capable of being printed on paper at a minimum size of 8.5 inches by 11 inches when set at an image resolution of 300 dots per inch (DPI) or higher. You will also want to include web-resolution artwork in your art discs, so that an editor can immediately use the image on the publication’s web site. Web resolution is usually 72–78 DPI, and all images should be sized at a minimum of 600 pixels by 800 pixels.

If you have Adobe Photoshop, or your publisher has Photoshop files of your book art, include these in their original .psd format—including all photos, logos and book covers—saved as unlocked and layered. This gives the publication the ability to resize and reformat them in any way they may need to run them in print.

Please be sure to label this disc as “Art Disc for [Title of Book] by [Author name]“. You should also write a list of the disc’s contents on its label, or as an insert into its case—this way, the writer can take one look at it and know they have all the art they need to complete their review.

To be safe, write your name and your phone number and/or email address on that label as well; if it gets separated from the rest of the package, or if there are problems opening any of the files, they can contact you quickly and easily and proceed with the review of your book.

A One-Sheet

For all book review kits, you should put together a one-sheet containing all the information the reviewer needs, outlined in a convenient and easy-to-read format.

The top of the page should contain the full title of your book. If you have a second line, or “kicker”, to the book title, such as Sex Slave: One Chick’s Journey into Submission, please make sure you indicate that so the reviewer won’t mistake it for two different titles. Sometimes a book’s cover design won’t make it clear that the book contains one novel with a kicker and not, say, two novelettes (though it should—but that’s a subject for another column), and it’s never a good idea to end up with a reviewer giving their readers the wrong title of your book!

Right under the title (or left aligned with it and all the following text, if you want to be professional) embed an image of the front of the book cover. Sounds odd, but especially if you are sending digitized books, the reviewer needs to be assured what they have in their hand is definitely the book you sent them to review.

Under the photo, include the date of publication, the author name (yours and those of any co-authors), the publisher’s company name, the ISBN number, retail price and any information on where your book is available for sale.

Don’t add in direct links to the book on Barnes and Noble, Amazon and the other retail outlets unless you know for a fact that the publication has an affiliate account set up with a specific retailer. If they do have an affiliate account, make it as easy as possible for them to find your book listing and link their affiliate account to it. Money makes the entertainment world go around, darling.

Next on the One-Sheet is a synopsis of your book. Please don’t just copy this from the back of the official book jacket! Make an effort to tell your reviewer the plot of your book in easy-to-understand words. You can be dramatic and a bit flowery, but save the “heart pounding adventure on the high plains” crap for the consumer market. Less “hype” is more with the press . . . they get spun each and every day, so they don’t need more spin from you. ;)

In your synopsis, spell out the names of all the principal characters, the location of the story, its period and timeframe (2014? Two hundred years into the future? 410, BC? This matters enough to indicate to a reviewer from the getgo, and will increase your chance of a good review.)

If you have strong supporting characters, or just a lot of them, it’s wise to make a list of their full names and character synopses, so the reviewer can reference this after reading your book. You’d be surprised at how often some minor character in your book ends up getting “star treatment” from a reviewer, when you always thought your leading lady (or man) was the star attraction. So make sure you cover all your bases, and list the cast of characters so the reviewer can easily locate each one’s name and part in the story line.

Digital Copies of Everything

Always include a CD with digital files of your One-Sheet! You may be able to fit this on your Art Disc but if you can’t, include a separate disc that contains them. So many reviewers copy and paste whatever they are writing; you want to give them something to copy from quickly and easily. It won’t hurt to include a digital copy of your book, even if it is available in print. You never know when a reviewer may lose the copy you sent—and it’s better for them to have a backup than skip the review all together.

Your Business Card

A review kit should always have a printed, actual, hold-in-your-hand business card. Most reviewers will end up requesting one at some point, so include one in your review kit (and in your media kit, for that matter). Who says print is dead?

You should also include an Outlook Contact Card on your art disc, or at least a Word .doc containing all of your business contact information.

Goodies!

Seriously, did you think reviewers do this out of the kindness of their hearts? Review kits should come with “swag”! You don’t have to go overboard and include the keys to a brand new Ferrari (that’s reserved for the music industry) or stacks of non-sequential $100 bills (that’s for political lobbyists), but it never hurts to bribe a reviewer to read your book, as long as you’re subtle. Look at retail stores like Dollar Tree or Big Lots with an eye toward items that resonate with your book’s storyline and are easy to pack into a shipping container. Alternately, you can choose useful, everyday items that complement the book you are sending to your reviewer.

In the case of print books, it’s perfectly acceptable to include a beautiful bookmark (if you have some printed with your book title, send along a half dozen of those as well) or a small reading light that can attach to a book, shelf or airline seat. Just make sure that if you include a book light, you also include batteries for it, along with some spares—it’s always good to over-gift and never good to under-gift.

If you want to get more creative, go for it! If you wrote a western romance—how about sending along a bandana or a cowboy-hat-shaped keychain fob. For bondage-themed books, send along a pair of cuffs or some other toy (not a dildo!) featured in the plot. None of this grabbing you? How about a ceramic mug printed with your book title and artwork and a $10 Starbucks card or a box of upscale tea bags? Maybe you gave the reviewer an actual Kindle or Nook containing your ebook . . . think about adding a $5 or $10 dollar Amazon or B&N gift card to the package.

But please beware of sending along goodies that could backfire on you. Nothing ticks off a reviewer who is post-rehab, more than being presented with the object of their former addiction. Cigarettes, booze . . . anything that could possible offend someone should be discounted when choosing swag. That also goes for sending chocolates to someone with diabetes or muffins to someone with celiac disease. Unless, of course, you know a certain reviewer has diabetes or wheat intolerance and you send them something “free” of whatever their personal poison is—in that case, you don’t need my silly columns to be a damn good publicity agent for your books!

Looks Matter

As with the media kits, it cannot be stressed enough that the better your packaging looks, the more interest the reviewer will have in its contents. Be creative, and remember that appearances matter in all aspects of publicity.

This is a physical representation of your professional image—and that of your book—which you are presenting to the reviewer. This is not the time to reuse an Amazon packing box, or use Band-Aids as the shipping tape on a mailing carton. Unless of course your book title is Naughty Nurses, and then maybe the bandages would fit the theme—but really, it’s still better to keep them to the inside of the packaging so your media contact’s first impression of your kit isn’t “…What?!”

Bottom line . . .

Include every possible thing that a reviewer could ever need to go forward with their review of your book. If you aren’t sure what a specific publication needs, ask! And more importantly, write it down for future reference.

Your contact list should contain detailed notes on each and every publication (and each individual writer and reviewer) you are working with. This is part of that all-important relationship that a publicist (you) will build with your media contacts. This level of understanding and cooperation makes a huge difference to a reviewer as they decide whether to work with you or not. If you are willing to give them everything they ask for, and make yourself available for anything else they may request later, it will go a long way toward making them want to work with you as often as possible.

 

Do you have specific questions concerning how to generate publicity for your books? Please email questions and comments to Sherry; answers will appear as future WriteSex blog topics.

Sherry Ziegelmeyer is a professional publicist and public relations representative, who happens to specialize in adult entertainment (in all its various forms). She resides in Chatsworth, California, affectionately known as “ground zero of the adult entertainment industry.” When not working on writing press releases, arranging interviews and putting together review kits for her clients (among dozens of other career related activities), she reads a LOT, loves cooking, appreciates beefcake eye-candy, spending time with friends, family and with her assortment of furred and feathered “kids”.

Get to know Sherry at blackandbluemedia.com or www.facebook.com/sherry.ziegelmeyer.

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Apr 172014
 
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By Marissa St. James

We have a bad habit of writing the way we speak—and most of the time our spoken grammar is incorrect. Do we want to write the same way? Not if we can help it. Writing the way you speak can make your text look foolish and clunky, and can turn readers off to your book before they’ve made their way through Chapter One. To avoid this fate, pay particular attention to the following mistakes:

1. AND/THEN

One of the most common errors I find is the use of ‘and then.’ When you think about it, those two little words are a contradiction in terms.

Can you pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time?
Here, two actions are done (or attempted) simultaneously.

John yanked open the door, then ran through the corridor.
Here, however, sequence is important. There is no way John can run through the corridor while yanking open the door. He’d either go through the door, like a ghost, or knock himself out. ‘Then’ is used to show two actions performed in sequence.

2. ALL OF

This is another one of those terms that can appear to be contradicting.

John wanted all of the employees’ names added to the list.
All means every name. When sticking ‘of’ in there, you not only hint at only a portion (which contradicts ‘all’) you also create a useless prepositional phrase.

John wanted all the employees’ names added to the list.
This sentence may sound like it’s missing a word, but it’s actually the correct one.

By making it a habit to correct our everyday speech, we set a pattern to write proper grammar. Writing proper sentences will become automatic. We won’t have to stop and think about what’s right and acceptable, or what an editor will do to our work. Believe me, it’s no fun having a manuscript returned for fixing, and finding it heavily decorated with editor’s marks and comments.

3. WORD ABUSE

There are a few words we tend to overuse, or misuse. The word ‘that’ is one I would personally love to remove from the dictionary —permanently—or at the very least outlaw. I admit, there are times where it should be legitimately used, but other times…

He called the newspaper knowing that he would have to leave his name.
‘That’ is unnecessary in the sentence.

He called the newspaper knowing he would have to leave his name.

If you use the word often, try reading the sentence without it. Most of the time you’ll find it can be deleted.

‘As’ is another word which belongs in this category. For a two-letter word, it runs neck and neck with ‘that’ as being the most abused.

Harry set the table as Sally finished mashing the potatoes, then put them in a bowl.
This can be changed a couple ways:

Harry set the table while Sally finished mashing the potatoes.

or

Harry set the table. Sally finished mashing the potatoes, then put them in a bowl.

If you use ‘as’ too often to connect separate actions in your sentences, consider breaking up those sentences into smaller ones.

4. AND, THEN, BUT

These three words are conjunctions and were never meant to be used to start sentences. They connect parts of sentences, show additions, exceptions. The only time they’re used to start a sentence is when you want to emphasize a point. More often than not, a short sentence will do the trick.

Make copies of the report for the board meeting. Then you can take your break.

Take your break after you make the copies of the report for the board meeting.

Mary heard noises downstairs and picked up the phone to call for help. But it was too late. Someone cut the phone line.

Mary heard noises downstairs and picked up the phone to call for help. It was too late. Someone cut the phone line.
In this second example, you not only eliminate unnecessary conjunctives, but you build a little tension with the shorter sentences.

5. WEASEL WORDS

‘Just,’ ‘only,’ ‘simply,’ ‘barely,’ ‘very,’ are some of the words that can be done without. I know, many folks say, “If the words are in the dictionary, then I should be able to use them.” There’s also an expression that says, “Less is more.” By keeping your sentence structure straightforward, you don’t need a lot of words to get your point across. Weasels are sneaky little critters, little thieves; weasel words steal the gist of your thoughts.

You want your writing to be strong, make an impression. These words, used at the wrong time and in the wrong place, will make you appear noncommittal (and sometimes even whiny) as a writer.

He simply refused to obey orders.

Mary just wanted to be left alone.

If John had only known about the interview…

In each case the sentence loses something. If you think about it, weasel words make each sentence sound more like gossip than a statement of fact.

Fact: He refused to obey orders.

Decisive: Mary wanted to be left alone.

Choices: If John had known about the interview…

Like any other rule, this one also has its exceptions. The smart use for weasel words is when you want to build some tension into the scene. The trick is to know when to use it. Here’s an example.

John had a death grip on the shrub growing out of the cliffside. One foot slipped and he tried desperately to gain a toehold once again. If only he could get a grasp on the cliff edge and pull himself up. He tipped his head a little to see how far he was from the top. Dirt rattled down and struck his face, forcing him to look away. It was now or never. Very carefully he reached up, stretching as much as he dared, without jeopardizing his position. His hands slid lightly upward over the dirt, loosening more of it, until he’d reached his limit. His fingertips just barely touched the top of the cliff, but left him nothing to grab onto. So close, and yet so far. He might as well be back at the bottom of the cliff. John screamed out his frustration.

While you can get a sense of just how tenuous his predicament is, the word ‘just’ shows how close he is to saving himself, yet not being able to. ‘If only’ shows him to believe the situation is nearly impossible.

This is the kind of situation where you want to build the tension and keep your reader following every word. These words bring your characters and readers so close to a solution, but maintain a sufficient distance to keep the story going. Use them sparingly, and see how much your writing can be improved.

***

From Marissa St. James’ Doing it Write: Putting the Final Polish on Your Manuscript, Copyright © 2006 PageTurner Editions, available at Amazon.com for Kindle, Barnes & Noble for Nook and iTunes for Mac-based devices. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Guest columnist Marissa St James writes sweet romance. Her books include Lady in Black and Other Tales of Paranormal Romance, The Legend and the Laird, Liberty’s Belle, and many others. Find them all and keep up with Marissa’s writings and doings at www.msjbookshelf.blogspot.com and www.marissastjames.blogspot.com.

 

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