Feb 142015
 
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by Suz deMello

For many of us who write erotica, the paranormal sub-(sub-)genre is the most enticing one of all, with its many ways to increase sexual tension. World-building allows us to create our own erotic settings, invent sexier creatures than those who exist on our planet, traipse through time to find or lose lovers…we can bend reality any way we choose. We can invent supernatural beings both virtuous and villainous; we can invest the corners of our new world with quirks, setting up the thrills and spills that make a great read.

Really, though, the paranormal encompasses so many sub-sub-genres! These include, but are not limited to: futuristic, including science fiction; steampunk; time travel; fantasy, which encompasses “creature” stories with vampires, weres, the fae, dragons, zombies and the like, as well as magic and witchcraft. All of these can be mixed into any story brew you please.

Take the basic elements of any book and consider how they could be made paranormal, i.e., beyond the normal.

Characters and conflicts

There’s a natural tension in a romance between a paranormal entity and a human, and you can exploit this to your advantage and to the betterment of your book. Vampires are a great example. How can there be a “happily ever after” in a romance between an immortal, virtually invulnerable being and someone who will, inevitably, die? Would any sensible vampire dare to open his or her heart to a fragile human?

And how can a human trust in the love of an immortal? We who age must fear the loss of an immortal’s love.

Vampires, being denizens of the night, are intrinsically mysterious. As powerful predators, vamps step easily into villainous roles, but lately we’ve been reading about heroic vampires as well; with their extraordinary senses, vampires can make extraordinary heroes. The vampire lovers in my short story Blood is Thicker… are a case in point. One’s a detective and the other a private investigator.

There’s also natural tension in a relationship between different supernatural beings. Werewolves and vampires are both dominating creatures with their own alpha males and females figuring into many an erotic romance. What happens when territories overlap? Clashes are inevitable, and the sex is awesome.

Many writers have created supernatural beings whose abilities amplify each other’s. For example, Jayne Castle (Jayne Ann Krentz) created different types of psychics in what I call her flower trilogy (Amaryllis, Orchid, and Zinnia); their differing talents need each other in order to focus and operate powerfully. Thus, they have to work together in dyads to solve the mystery and trap the villain. Often (but not always) in a heterosexual pairing, the psychics experience sexual tension, emotional intimacy and conflict via this device with, say, one psychic wondering if the other loves her or if he’s simply invested in their complementary powers.

Other writers create creatures made for sex. Succubi and incubi, supernatural demons who use humans for sex and seed—these and so many others have all become quite popular. Some writers have invented aliens which can extrude body parts and insert them into their human subjects for pleasure and pain.

Setting

Setting is an often overlooked aspect of our novels. As an editor, I have read several stories with completely unspecified or only vaguely sketched-out settings. As a reader, I like to be grounded in a story. I like to know where and when the story’s taking place. As a writer, I let the reader know where and when the story’s taking place, even if the both are completely imaginary, e.g., “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

In a paranormal story, it is fatal to overlook setting. The more richness and depth you can impart to your story’s world within the constraints of wordcount, the better—in fact, some settings are so compelling that they will earn your book a spot on many a reader’s “keeper” shelf. Fans return again and again to the Harry Potter books and to Tolkien not only because of the intriguing characters, compelling conflicts and universal themes, but because they want to spend more time at Hogwarts or exploring Middle Earth. Orson Scott Card calls fiction dependent upon a particular setting milieu fiction, and gives Tolkien’s Ring Trilogy as an example.

Of course you may create any setting that compels you, but when you do so, consider how it will facilitate or block mystery and romance.

When world-building for a paranormal erotic romance, I like to include elements that will facilitate sexy situations. In Queen’s Quest, a paranormal erotic thriller, I postulated a planet with an extremely low birthrate. Babies were rare and prized. Thus, sex was encouraged—including public sex—which enabled me to include numerous erotic scenes, while the dearth of normal births encouraged the characters to find other reproductive methods. These added to the suspense subplot (I don’t want to say more without providing a spoiler alert) as well.

Settings need not be exotic and magic need not be arcane, invented from whole cloth. You can use what you already know. I drew upon my teenage interests in Tarot reading and Wicca to write Gypsy Witch, an erotic short story set in my hometown of Sacramento, California during the dog days of late summer. A character used witchcraft to bring to life the stone statues of knights set at the doorway of the downtown Masonic Temple, bringing magic to an otherwise mundane setting. The romantic conflict ended in a ménage—a different kind of magic.

Theme

Theme is also overlooked, and unfortunately so; it’s intrinsic to our stories, as much so as words themselves. Many paranormals feature the clash of good against evil, often employing mythical and/or religious figures such as goddesses and gods, angels, devils, demons and the like. They will inevitably dabble in moral questions that the author may or may not have intended to raise—but it’s no wonder they make their way into our books; these questions are older than Faust, older even than the Bible.

Coming of age stories are also common, and (if the characters are old enough to consent freely) can be particularly enthralling in an erotic context. In erotica, we often read the induction of a virgin into the pleasures of sex. One of my erotic short stories, First and Last, was about an arranged marriage on a lunar colony. Similarly, another popular theme is the BDSM newbie learning about the joy of kink.

The message? Erotica isn’t only about sex, and paranormal content is an exciting and infinitely fertile way to engage the reader. Write a good story and weave in explicit sex and you’ll have a really good story. Put it on another planet and you’ll have a great story.

***

About the Author:

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written nineteen books in several genres, including nonfiction, memoir, 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 Totally Bound, Liquid Silver Books 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.

–Find her books at http://www.suzdemello.com

–For editing services, email her at suzdemello@gmail.com

–Befriend her on Facebook, and visit her group page.

–She tweets @Suzdemello

–and posts to Pinterest

–and Goodreads.

–Her current blog is TheVelvetLair.com

 

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Jan 112015
 
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By M.Christian (Guest Blogger)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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Jul 162010
 
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Sometimes you sit down to write, and you can’t think of a thing. Or what you do think of is so obviously poor it isn’t worth pursuing. If you have a deadline, or even if you are just wanting to write something for your own amusement, this can be panic inducing. In the first case because you need the money, and in the second because being a writer (someone who is able to write) is part of your self definition. If you can’t write, you may wonder, how can you think of yourself as a writer?

The not-so technical term for this is, of course, writer’s block.

This is a phenomenon that seem to affect authors primarily, although it can also be a problem for artists of other types, particularly commercial artists working against deadlines.

It doesn’t seem to be a concern for members of the general population at all. After all, you never heard of “plumber’s block” or “soccer block” or “grocery shopping block” or even “management block”, did you?

Even the most productive writers are not immune. One of the jokes among science fiction writers in the late 1950s involved Robert Silverberg, author of mysteries, science fiction, non-fiction, erotica and much much more.  He could turn out a novel in three days and a short story in an afternoon, and turned out such a flood of copy that for a while he was more productive than Georges Simone or Isaac Asimov (look them up if you don’t know).

At one convention I overheard authors discussing his productivity (and income) enviously, particularly several suffering from writer’s block. “It’s not all fun and games for Bob,” one wit interjected. “He had writer’s block, too!” the man paused for effect. “Last Tuesday from 11 a.m. till noon!” We groaned.

Although that was a joke, Bob did suffer from writer’s block much later in his career, feeling written out. But, predictably, he recovered and turned out several dozen more books. (Worse, not only was he prodigal, he was good, winning many awards.)

I am not going to discuss here the causes of writer’s block. It has been written about  extensively by authors and by psychologists.

What I propose to offer are some suggestions for getting the words and ideas flowing again when you are all dried up creatively from writer’s block. In short, you don’t have to wait until your block mystically lifts to begin writing again. You can put an end to it yourself  and get back in the writing/word/thought-generating groove in a reasonably short time.

1) Do some routine housework, paperwork, or physical labor. Sometimes you can be trying to think of what to write so hard consciously that it blocks the words you are seeking from trying to emerge on their own from the unconscious. Doing routine tasks, even walking, that require you to put your focus on your body and something other than yourself, can clear the consicous of interfering concerns about writing, and allow the sentences and ideas you are seeking to enter your mind on their own.

2) Play music that stirs your emotions. Whether its rap, r&r, classical, show tunes, or whatever, listening to music that jazzes you helps to get your feelings flowing, and these feelings often begin to carry writing-type thoughts along with them. Such music stirrs the unconscious, the sea out of which creativity flows. It’s a right brain kind of thing.

3) Find an image, maybe a photograph in an adult magazine, that has turned you on sexually before;. Sit down at your keyboard and begin to describe the specific element that turn you on the most.  Before you are through, you will likely find that the ideas you needed for your own project are beginning to run through your head. (Hint, there are strong links in the brain between seeing and thinking.)

3b) Conversely, if you are stuck on a specific sex scene, pick an image of what people would be doing in that scene. Often, looking at a picture of people engaged in the sex act you are trying to describe will start you thinking about differences and similarities between the image and what your characters would be doing. Soon the scene will be writing itself in your head.

4) Find and read an erotic passage in a book or story that you remember as really turning you on when you read it before. Reading it can also start you thinking about similarities and differences; in this case about what you are reading versus how or what you would write. Also, reading a passage you find sexy will likely get you aroused and when one is aroused the chemicals that are released into the blood stream trigger the brain to start fantasizing about sex. All you have to do is write those fantasies down.

5) If you are having troble beginning a sentence, paragraph or scene, take a different approach, begin somewhere you would not normally begin. If you are describing a man and a woman making love. Rather than opening with a description of the couple, or a specific sex act, try thinking outside the box. Begin with a description of the sheen of her stockings, or the dimple on his butt cheeks. Ask yourself what you wouldn’t normally do, stand things on their head. That makes writing interesting again, and your brain can’t help dreaming up a few lines to go with the idea and soon you are writing easily again.

I will offer more suggestions for overcoming writers block in my next entry.

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