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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Feb 072015
 
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By Nobilis Reed

I just finished listening to the audiobook of Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá. It’s a nonfiction analysis of the science of how human sexuality evolved. Mainly, it takes aim at the evolutionary psychologists that have presented us with a competitive model of monogamy and cheating, where men evolved to try to impregnate as many women as possible without commitment, and women evolved to select only those mates who could be coerced into committing. They point, instead, to a tribal culture where sex was free and open, used not for a “pair bond” but rather as a bond for the entire tribal band. Competition, in their view, takes place at fertilization (i.e. whose sperm will fertilize the egg) rather than by restricted matings.

It’s a fascinating book, and so chock full of useful information I won’t bother to summarize all of it here. Instead, you should read it. Or listen to it, as I did. I think you’ll find it quite convincing.

The important takeaways for me as an erotica author are manifold. Among many other things, this book explains why more women read erotica than men. It explains why MFM menage is more popular than FMF.

Sperm competition is one of the most important ideas in this book. The basic idea is that a woman’s body is designed to make fertilization difficult, so that only the fittest sperm make it to the egg. Biochemistry, the woman’s immune system, even the shape of her cervix are all designed to weed out all but a tiny fraction of sperm. This means that in evolutionary terms, it is advantageous for her to have sex with as many men as possible, in order to make that competition as fierce as possible. That explains why a woman (generally) still wants sex after she’s had an orgasm, more than a typical man would. This would seem to me, to explain why MFM menage is so popular; it synchs up well with that fundamental drive.

Sperm competition also explains why women can stay aroused for long periods of time, in spite of orgasm. To me, this is related to the greater demand for longer erotic work like novellas and novels among women. For a long time I had thought that this was simply sexism, a greater tolerance for such interests in women than in men, but I can see now that view was flawed. The difference isn’t cultural, it’s biological. Or at least, it could be.

Another book that’s been on my mind is Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us by Jesse Bering. This one talks about the nature of sexual paraphilias and how they come about; it appears that your average male’s sexual preferences are set during early adolescence and persist strongly for the rest of his life, whereas your average female’s are more malleable. This is referred to briefly in Sex at Dawn, as well. Again, there’s a lot more going on in this book than I can summarize here; I recommend it to anyone interested in writing books that hook deep into the reader’s psyche.

To my mind, this causes the interests of male readers to become tightly focused; they want particular body types, activities, or themes presented, the same ones over and over. They discover an author or website that focuses on what they want, and they stick with it, as long as it keeps feeding their particular interests. Women, on the other hand, being more flexible, can find lots of things sexy; this explains why more women write erotica, and why there’s more variety in erotica marketed to them.

These influences may have been presenting some obstacles to my career, or at least my ignorance of these influences hasn’t been helping me any. I’ll be keeping this new information in mind as I go forward.

***

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

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Jan 312015
 
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By Suz deMello

Amazon is known for its ruthless business practices—it doesn’t merely squeeze competition, it strangles it until it dies.

Amazon currently sells 40% of all new books sold in the USA. Their percentage of the market in ebooks is even larger—perhaps 66% according to the above-cited Salon.com article.

Amazon is not only a bookseller, but a publisher, and it favors its own imprints and minimizes the ability for readers to find its competitors. The most famous example is that of Hachette. Check out Stephen Colbert’s clips on the issue.

Well-known is Amazon’s dislike of sexy covers, adult-oriented books and erotica; it seems to especially target purveyors of steamy books. Though Amazon touts its independent publishing program as a boon for writers, many indie published authors, especially in erotic romance, complain that Amazon’s search engine has made it difficult if not impossible for readers to find their books. The Kindle Unlimited program has cut further into their book revenues. Ellora’s Cave, one of the most prominent publishers of steamy and erotic romance on the web, has downsized radically, citing a massive drop in Amazon sales of its books as the reason.

Well-known erotic romance author Selena Kitt had this to say (and a lot more):

If you’re an erotica writer, you know that Amazon has a double standard. If you publish a title and put it into the “erotica” category, there are certain things that aren’t allowed in the title or on blurb. But if you put that same title and blurb into the “romance” category, it’s fine. Half-naked couples in a hot, torrid embrace are just fine in romance, but strangely, in the erotica category, they’re often filtered and sometimes even blocked.

The loyalty of many customers to Amazon is misplaced. For example, Amazon often does not feature the best online price for a book or other item. A couple of cases in point:

On 30 Sept 14, the price of one of my shorties, Highland Vampire, on Amazon was $2.51. The price at Harlequin’s site was $2.39.

Being the daughter of Brits, I’m a tea drinker and lately have been into using loose teas (they really do make a better cuppa). Initially I had been purchasing from Amazon—isn’t that the place we’ve all become accustomed to checking first? Then I went to the Twinings Tea site and found that I’d been grotesquely overpaying.  My fave Darjeeling at Amazon costs $8.24 and it’s an “add-on item,” which is some sort of irritating practice at Amazon—I couldn’t get the tea without buying other stuff, and I couldn’t find a work-around for that bit of Amazonian weirdness.

The same tea is almost half the price—$4.49—at Twinings.

Like many, I have come to rely on Amazon for so much! I listen to music on my Amazon music player on both laptop and cellphone, and download music from Amazon as well. I’m an Amazon affiliate. I also buy books for my Kindle Paperwhite, which I love, from Amazon.

But maybe it’s time to cut the cord. Why should I fund an entity that seeks to exploit me, maybe even put me out of business?

I’ve taken down my Amazon affiliate ads—that won’t hurt, as they’ve never earned me a penny. I’ve changed my email signature line, which used to direct folks to my Amazon author pages, to instead include my website and blog. Other changes will be harder.

I’m an Ellora’s Cave author. I also have books placed with two other publishers that have disappointed me in myriad ways—see these links:

www.harlequinlawsuit.com  and scroll down to #9 at

absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=194729–scroll.

So I’m going indie. But Createspace and KDP are fabulous platforms for self-publishing. How ethical is it, given my concerns, to use those platforms?

And beyond my personal worries, there’s the greater problem. Amazon sells a huge number of books, films, music and other creative and factual works.

Should one entity control so much of what goes into our minds and thoughts?

Will Amazon destroy erotic literature with its changing algorithms and prejudices? Will Amazon make it impossible for some books to flourish?

Does Amazon threaten our freedom of speech and thought?

***

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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Nov 302014
 
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By Mistress Lorelei Powers

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

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

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

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


The Role of Sex in Genre

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

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

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


The Motives for Sex

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

·    A simple desire for touch

·    Love

·    Wanting children

·    Wanting to establish a relationship

·    Basic horniness

·    To manipulate someone or gain someone’s favor

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

·    Fear

·    Sorrow (grieving people can have incredibly hot sex)

·    Wanting to forget troubles

·    Compulsion by inner demons

·    Boredom

·    Loneliness

·    Curiosity

·    Competition with an established love object or a new flame

·    Hot make-up sex to rebuild a damaged relationship

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

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

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


The Consequences of Sex

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

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

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

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

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

·    Beginning a number of friendships and ending a few

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

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

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

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

·    Prompting one party to have a crisis of faith

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

·    Ending with an intervention by the cops

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

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

***

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

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

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

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Nov 242014
 
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By Colin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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Nov 012014
 
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By Jean Roberta

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

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

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

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

Dave growled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what could go wrong?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s try moving some words around:

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s try this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

————————

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

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Oct 232014
 
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By Mistress Lorelei Powers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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Oct 122014
 
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by Suz deMello

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

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

•Advance the plot

•Reveal or develop character

•Complicate or resolve conflict

•Express setting, mood, and/or theme

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

How does this apply to the writing of erotica?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, your royal highness.”

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

“Not quite.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

About the Author:

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

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

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

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

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Sep 082014
 
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By Colin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

 

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Aug 302014
 
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By Nobilis

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

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

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

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

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

Ever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

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

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