Sunday, June 29, 2008

Amorous Woman

I just finished reading Donna George Storey's Amorous Woman. I picked it up this afternoon and read straight through to the end. Wow. Just wow. Read it.

Remittance Girl's answer

RG syas:

Hi Kathleen,

I'm sorry for the late answer, but somehow your email slipped into my spam box!

I have a lot of dark stories lurking inside me. It's not really possible for me to ignore them, so I tend to circle around them like a vulture, taking runs at writing something that pokes at the taboo from different angles.

I don't really feel there is anything I absolutely can't write. But I do feel that often, with the really dark stuff, the very darkness of it hampers me writing about it well. The subject looms too big and refuses to be bedded down well in the structure of the story. Although I've written some non-con, some under-age stuff, etc., I never thought I'd done a compelling enough job of it to take it via the 'literature' route.

I think the great challenges and triumphs for some of the writers that Amanda mentioned is that they took this very edgy subject, and wrote about it with such elegance, such humanity, such insight, that the reader felt safe to go there with them, because the writing achieved the reader's trust. Those writers took readers to those very morally ambiguous places, and could be relied on to examine the topic in enough complexity and humanity to leave the reader in a safe, if uncomfortable, place. That, in my mind, makes something good literature. And I can't really claim to have written about any of my darknesses as well as that.

I would say that one of the best short stories I've ever read in this category is Mike Kimera's 'Nadica'. It's incredibly dark, very erotic, and somehow you feel like the writer is an honest, non-exploitative, compassionate guide.

Remittance Girl

KB adds: I rely on RG for an edgy story. That makes me curious about what she feels is dark.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Input from Syd McGinley

The question:

Do you have a dark story lurking in you? Is there a tale so edgy you won't touch it even if you thought it up? Erotica is probably the most self-policed genre out there. If you slapped the label literature on your work, would you feel free to go there? Go where? How bad is your bad self?

My “shit Syd, don’t write this story” is about bad bdsm. Not inept or risky, but abusive. I have an almost complete rough draft of the dark novel: The Keeper of the Keys. The top has anger management problems; the bottom has some real self-esteem and emotional paralysis. Where I think I go beyond the pale is that I don’t make this a cautionary tale, and certainly not an anti-bdsm tale. Those who’ve read my other work know I think D/s can be redemptive. The Keeper of the Keys acknowledges that bad stuff happens in the D/s world as in any other, but that’s why I won’t finish writing it. It has a realistic tone -- this is clearly not fantasy and is firmly rooted in an everyday world.

This story has its roots in two concepts I find fascinating: Stockholm Syndrome and Going Native (yeah that’s pc!). In the original, a social scientist, Fras, gets drawn into a D/s group while he’s studying a club – and goes native. He falls hard for Steve, and makes the error of not being honest about why he was in the club in the first place. He retains enough distance to try to analyze things for awhile and gets punished for claiming one of the other boys suffers from Stockholm Syndrome.

While it involves sex and is explicit in places I really don’t consider it erotica as the sex isn’t intended to arouse – in fact much of it is abusive. But I can’t see it flying as ‘literature’ – and besides, I’d not want any one unfamiliar with D/s to judge it. There’s my dilemma – writing a story with genuinely wrong sex between Steve and Fras, both of whom have confused D/s love with pain and spirit-crushing obedience. Although he didn’t know it before meeting Steve, Fras really is a bottom, he does like D/s, but he’s too naïve to understand the difference between what is happening to him and how it should be. He’s letting his “researcher” persona dig himself in too deep, and he retreats to “observer” when he’s freaked. Steve isn’t a bad man either – misguided and also confused about control and pain, but he’s sincere about loving his boy and wanting a good life for them both. He has some peers who have mentored him badly and who pressure him to stay “true” to their ideas of ownership. Steve and his friends are brutal when they discover Fras is a researcher.

Steve and Fras grow and heal together -- but they really hit the depths first. They learn from another couple – no, not a sunny happy couple – a terrifying and unhinged guy who owns the boy he used to pimp out as a child whore. The boy is over-age now and there’s no pedophilia on the page – although originally there was a flashback to him remembering his first time. Nasty stuff. The idea it could be misread as erotic is freaky. Seeing the boy nearly die with his owner in a murder-suicide shakes Steve up. Worse, the boy mourns his owner -- I’ve looked at some psychological stuff about how children attach to their abusers – and tries to die to join him.

So my story has all sorts of non-pc stuff -- an abuser and his victim do recover together and find love in a long-term D/s relationship; an abused boy is convinced his abuser is the love of his life… While it’s not as dark and perverted as, say, Dennis Cooper, I’d not want it to be seen as a manifesto or used as ammunition against us. I know we control none of our work and ideas once they’ve been published, and it’s grandiose to think Keeper of the Keys would be read, but I can’t get past a feeling that it would be irresponsible to finish it. I genuinely love Steve and Fras and they do have an HEA (I think!) I want to protect them. They’ve become the godparents to my writing.

Their story has become the broth of my writing. I dip into it and let flavor some of my other work, but I’m letting it stay my own private world. I had the idea and wrote the rough draft while I was still very much an apprentice writer. How do you write sympathetically without condoning? How do you show your characters are wrong without the book being a judgmental screed? I just didn’t have the craft to pull it off and even now I wouldn’t dare walk the lines. I’m a mere journeyman and it would take a master to do it right.

My latest project is the Dr. Fell Series from Torquere Press. Lost and Found: Pet Rescue came out in April and Lost and Found: Exotic Pets is due out on June 28. An interim story, Rude Mechanicals, is in the Summer Solstice Taste Test. Dr. Fell stresses that he disapproves deeply of the doms in the Keeper of the Keys.

Pet Rescue:

Rude Mechanicals:

KB: Syd's popular Dr. John Fell series doesn't shy away from some heavy issues. Dr. Fell is refreshingly human for a Dom. For those of you who like realistic BDSM stories rather than high fantasy, check these stories out.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Jean Roberta's answer

Jean writes:

>The question:

>Do you have a dark story lurking in you? Is there a tale so edgy you won't
touch it even if you thought it up? Erotica is probably the most self-policed
genre out there. If you slapped the label literature on your work, would you
feel free to go there? Go where? How bad is your bad self?

Pretty bad, by legal standards! (And regarding some "obscene" topics, Canadian
and U.S. authorities seem to have parallel views.)

Oh yes, literature. Some of the classics are quite edgy already, but they're
not as explicit as they could be. As an English instructor, I've sometimes fantasized about how Hamlet really feels about his mother, and imagine him seguing from rage at her for marrying Hamlet's evil uncle to incestuous lust.

The Greek comedy Lysistrata (circa 450 BCE) ends with the promise of a feast and an orgy between the Athenians and the Spartans featuring "Peace" (actually a beautiful naked woman) - because everyone wants her. It would be fun to write that scene, which
would probably be more over-the-top than "dark." (This could include some cool lesbian action, another ancient Greek discovery, at least in literature)

Probably the darkest scene I've imagined is seeing or being a woman riding a bound man for the purpose of conceiving a baby while choking the man to death. Before this final act, he would have been whipped and branded, and given false promises of freedom in exchange for saying the right things. In this way, he would have gained
some perspective on his own dishonest, irrational treatment of women.

This fantasy kept me relatively sane before I could escape from an abusive
husband in the late 1970s. On December 30, 2006, he died in worse circumstances than I ever wished on him. Attending his funeral and sincerely wishing him peace in the afterlife brought me some closure.

I still think a realistic story based on that revenge fantasy would probably be unpublishable - and definitely wouldn't be called "literature" by the critics, no matter what label I might slap on it.

- Jean Roberta,

author of Obsession, 14 stories of dark erotica from Eternal Press:

contributor to href="">Haunted
Hearths and Sapphic Shades: Lesbian Ghost Stories (see

and Best Fantastic Erotica:


and Lipstick On Her Collar (lesbian erotica):


and Coming Together: With Pride (see

Reviewer for "Erotica Revealed:"

Coming July 1, 2008: "Sex Is All Metaphors" in "Smutters Lounge," Erotica Readers and Writers Association (

writes: So I'm not the only one who thought Hamlet had it bad for his
mother! Yes, literature cloaks a lot of pretty dark stuff with euphemism. The problem I have with that is that to unlock the meaning, most people have to take a college level course that discusses it. And it's not as if once you figure one story out that you then have the key to every book, because different writers in different times used other ways to get their meaning across. Even Aciman's Call Me By Your Name, a
modern book, doesn't use direct language until the last chapters. Until then, he's shooting the scene through a soft filter and sheer curtains from half a mile away.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Beth Wylde

Beth says:

So far I haven't found anything so taboo I won't write it. LOL The time may come but it hasn't yet. I've done f/f and m/m and straight m/f erotica plus my first m/f/f/m menage just came outlast month from Phaze and I have my first f/f BDSM story in the works. Not much bothers me or makes me shudder. I've gotten dark before with a graphic rape scene(not meant to turn the reader on) and still got some heavy criticism that it was too graphic but the story was pushing me to tell it that way and thats what I did. I guess that makes me a bad girl.

Beth Wylde

KB adds: Beth's discussion list is great if you're into Romantic Erotica.It's an active list with losts of snippets and discussion. I reviewed her Big 4-Oh! for Erotica Revealed this month.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Penn & Teller's Bullshit

If you have Showtime, I urge you to watch this week's episode of Bullshit with Penn & Teller. This has been a consistently good series, adding a much needed voice of reason and a cold splash of reality on many subjects. This week, they take on the war on porn.

While their show centered on visual porn, much of the arguments have been used for and against written erotic works. The US Government has long tried to censor or ban works that offended the sensibilities of a few. They continue to this day by prosecuting text only websites that contain stories local and Federal government officials have deemed to be pornography. While I found the stories on that site offensive - and I'm not easily offended - the fact that the government silences the
discussion of ideas by using the threat of legal action to bludgeon citizens into submission angers me.

Unfortunately, the show wasn't long enough for Penn & Teller to explore all the
ramification of what the anti-porn people said, but one of the most offensive ideas I took away from their arguments was that men are incapable of distinguishing fantasy from reality. One woman claimed watching it led to rape and child pornography. She couldn't prove it, of course, but we were supposed to just take her word for it, because she believed it. My bullshit detector went of big time on that. I'm sure most of the men I know use porn. I'm equally sure none of them are rapist. Why?
Because they are decent human beings. They use their brains. They candistinguished
between right and wrong. They aren't violent. They may have sexual urges, but that doesn't mean that they act on them. Watching sexual acts doesn't suddenly rip away those fundamentalcharacter traits and make men into sociopaths. Come on. Men don't need to have their libidos repressed any more than women do. And this is what it comes down to. Repression of libido as the ultimate government/church method of
controlling people. It's more subtle on men than it is on women, but it exists. And frankly, I'm sick of men being treated like knuckle-draggers who are only kept in line by laws. They deserve more credit than that.

Ashley Lister's Confession ;)

Dammit Kathleen,

You always ask such probing questions!

As you know, the major taboos in erotic fiction are incest, necrophilia,
paedophilia and bestiality. (This sounds like the opening to a very bad
joke - but it isn't). Speaking personally none of those deviations float my
boat so self-censoring against them has never been an issue. I find it hard
to write about something being sexually exciting when I'm not able to engage
any personal enthusiasm for the subject.

Does this mean that my self-censor is so ingrained I'm not even aware that
it's operating?

Whilst interviewing UK swingers for my most recent book I spoke with a lot
of people who have an automatic sanction against "the three Ps of
recreational sex," (no pain, pissing or poo). However, whilst we were
discussing these forbidden subjects, the majority conceded to enjoying a
little pain when the mood/partner/situation was right and the other "Ps"
were not wholly ruled out on every occasion.

So, in short, I don't think I have a really "dark" story lurking inside me.
I think most of my erotic fiction is as pure and white as the driven snow
(or, at least, as white as the aftermath of a bukkake party).

Best wishes,

Ashley Lister

Adds: Ashley is a fellow reviewer on Erotica Revealed ,
author of many books, and a monthly columnist for the Erotica
Readers and Writer's Association

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Amanda Earl has something to add

Writing labelled "literature" has dealt with every illicit and illegal activity from drugs (Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas De Quincey), to non consensual sex (Tess of the D'Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy), underage sex (Lolita by Nabokov), incest (The Cure for Death by Lightning by Gail Anderson-Dargatz) to name only a few that spring to mind from contemporary and older literary periods. And I haven't said a word about Shakespeare or the Bible. What was once banned as scandalous pornography (Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence; erotic stories of Anaïs Nin) is now studied by academics as literature.

What is claimedabout the difference between erotica as a genre and mainstream literary fiction is that in the latter the above topics do not serve to titillate or arouse the reader. Do they not? I think that's just a dishonest fiction that society likes to tell itself so as to avoid dealing with sex when it isn't pretty or romantic. I admit to reading literary works and being aroused by the themes and the writing, but also wanting more graphic portrayals of sex. That's one of the reasons that Canadian writer Russell Smith wrote "Diana: A diary in the second person," a novel about a woman's desire to be dominated. Smith is a fairly well known Canadian
mainstream literary writer of award winning fiction. He has said that he has become tired of fiction that pans to the fireplace during sex and that this frustration was also something he experienced about his own writing.

I can't disguise my erotica as literature because I'm too brazen about it. I write to arouse my readers and myself by means of stories that depict unbridled lust for the body and the mind. This means all my characters are over 18, sex is always consensual and not between family members. Would I like to explore underage sex, incest and rape in my erotica? Yes. Because these are subjects that make for extremely powerful conflict and tension.

To answer the questions specifically:

I have many dark stories lurking in me, involving such fantastical notions as devil worship, sexual predators from Mars, bestiality, rape, incest, death and taxes. ok maybe not taxes ;).

I don't have a bad self because I believe everyone has stories of this nature inside them, taboo fantasies etc. There is nothing unhealthy or bad about having fantasies. When they become unhealthy and dangerous is when a person can't distinguish between fantasy and reality. It is not through the reading of literature that one becomes a danger to society but by repression and serious mental disorder.

Yet government censors continue in this day and age unfortunately to ban works of art that deal with sexual fantasy. Look at the terrible piece of legislative shit Canada's wretched right wing minority government is trying to turn into law: the denial of public funding to movies that
government bureaucrats consider inappropriate

It's a horrifying time to be a creator of art. I never thought my country would stoop so low.

Alas I'm not currently writing or publishing works that deal with my darkest fantasies. Not because I think it's wrong to have them or to disseminate them, but because there's simply no legitimate publisher who will publish them and if I post this kind of thing on a blog, it will either be taken down or I will be branded as a dangerous sexual deviant. And yet there's a part of me that wonders about the notion of posterity. So I probably should be writing about these fantasies.

However even responding to this post makes me twitch a bit because whoever googles me will discover, if they didn't know already, what kind of unflowery fantasies I have. Or maybe...just maybe...I want them to know ;)

Amanda Earl Her latest story,
"Love Lies Bleeding" about a man who finds menstruating women sexy is on her blog.

KB adds: Amanda has never been afraid to go anywhere that I can tell. Love Lies Bleeding is a good story, so pop over and read it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rachel Kramer Bussel answers

Rachel says:

I definitely have a few darker stories - that's
what pseudonyms are for! I write most of my work under my own name, but
when writing something of, say, the Daddy/girl scenario or rape
fantasies or something else I feel is extreme, I find it easier to work
under a pseudonym. Often these are topics I never had considered
writing about and have mixed feelings about, but am drawn into writing
erotica about them for whatever reason. So it's not so much a matter of
literary merit, because I feel that some of these stories, which I am
working on now, are some of my best work, but uncertainty about forever
having my name tied to them. That being said, I'm writing a couple of
rape fantasy type stories and we'll see how they turn out; obviously it
could be a big disaster. I do think there's something to an idea when
it unnerves me, and sometimes I ignore those ideas and go for safer
topics, but when I can push myself, that's usually where the more
interesting stories come out. You always have the option to not publish
your work or use a pseudonym; I think going with that initial writing
impulse is worthwhile.

Rachel Kramer Bussel
Editor, Dirty Girls: Erotica for Women

KB adds:

Rachel's name may be familiar to you if you read erotica. She's edited many anthologies, and runs the wonderful In The Flesh reading series in New York. (An LA version just started last month)

Her answer reminds me of a great conversation on the Erotica Readers and
Writer's Association writer's list where we talked about rape fantasy
stories. Someone had an alternate term that I wish I could recall that captured the essence of the fantasy while removing the politically sensitive word. But whatever you call it, rape fantasy is a taboo subject. Women are still being told what they're allowed to fantasize about.

Friday, June 06, 2008

No, I Didn't Forget. The Next Question.

I know it's been a month since my last question to erotica writers about our craft. I didn't forget. I have an excuse. You know how it is when a terrible, awful, horrible, shouldn't even think of it story pops into your head? Something so transgressive and flat out wrong, like the Night Porter where sensuality and brutality converge into train wreck eroticism, and yet so compelling that you can't forget it. Crash is a good example too, but since I'm thinking about real torture, not BDSM play (yes, I went there), the Night Porter seems like a better example. This is when I have the sick puppy talk with myself. But damn, talk about temptation with a capital T. I'm babbling. But this brings me to my current question:

Do you have a dark story lurking in you? Is there a tale so edgy you won't touch it even if you thought it up? Erotica is probably the most self-policed genre out there. If you slapped the label literature on your work, would you feel free to go there? Go where? How bad is your bad self?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Action sequences is one place where film is kicks text's butt. I
thought I was close to the climax of my story the other night, because
the visuals running through my mind were pretty quick. Unfortunately,
what would be one minute of action of the screen takes a long time to
write out. So it could take me days to work through this. I guess I've
been anticipating the end for so long that I'm getting impatient.
That's dangerous though, because it's temptingt o rush it. Grrr. Back to plodding along, but not making it seem plodding on the page.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

It's Been A Busy Week

Los Angeles has been hopping with literary events this week.

Thursday, I had to choose between three events - the Lambda literary Awards (I had nothing nominated. It would have simply been a social night for me), James Buchanan's reading at A Different Light in West Hollywood (just down the street from where the
Lambdas were being held) and the first Los Angeles event for the In The Flesh reading series. I choose In The Flesh (with James' blessing)

In The Flesh has been a New York City institution for several years, featuring some of the best erotica writers working today. Hosted and organized by Rachel Kramer Bussel (of cupcake and many erotica anthologies fame), In The Flesh is an important venue for erotica writers to promote their books. I was thrilled to see that a Los
Angeles version was starting. Readings are difficult in LA. Unless you're a best-selling author, Barnes and Nobles and Borders don't want you (and they won't touch erotica readings). Skylight Books has a great reading series, but again, they
don't reach out to lesser-know writers. A Different Light is incredibly supportive, but they feature GLBT writers. So where do you read if you write hetero smut? Nowhere - until now.

The reading was held in Venice at Freddy and Eddies. This store is such a great space. It feels very personal and homey. Even the dungeon sex toy room had kind of a harem, softer vibe to it instead of being hard core, which made it a comfortable space to explore the fucking machines, floggers, restraints, and paddles. They have an outdoor patio where they hold the readings. There were over 30 people there, which is a great turnout for a first event. I got to meet Maxim Jakubowski of Mammoth Book of Erotica fame. A very nice gentleman. He is largely responsible for the rise of literary erotica. He put it in print long before anyone thought there was such a thing, much less that it deserved to be published. I also got to meet Stan Kent of the wonderful Shoe Leather series. Rachel Kramer Bussel read, as did the LA host, Carly (I have her name written down somewhere. I'll add it later), and a few other people. It was a wonderful night. I wish this reading series a lot of success. (and hope to be part of it)

That was Thursday. Saturday, I went to BEA - BookExpo America. I worked the Man Love Romance booth, but had a chance to explore both halls of this monster event. I chatted with the EPIC people (Electronic Publishing) since I'm a member. The Torquere booth was nearby, so I spent some time with them and was thrilled to see how many people stopped by their booth. Torquere and MLR were the only GLBT publishers I saw. The Torquere and the Man Love Romance booths (which shared space with Aspen Mountain
Press) were the only electronic publishers there, which was really sad considering that Amazon had a huge Kindle display in the South Hall. There should have been more synergy going on there, but tried as I might, I couldn't find anyone at the Kindle booth who was interested in talking e-book publishers or EPIC with me. Hello? Amazon? Wake up. Your product is useless without content.

I'm impressed with the energy of Laura Baumbach and Deena (I can never remember her last name) from Man Love and Lorna and Shawn from Torquere who stayed on their feet all day. I'm exhausted from one day of working the booth, and work it we did. When I toured the two huge halls, most booths I passed were manned by sullen, bored people who sat behind their table displays. Not us. We had one person near the aisle, and if
someone passed and made eye contact, we did our best to draw them closer to listen to our pitch. Most did. We gave away a ton of promotional swag.

My best score of the day - a literary agent from New York was passing by. She sort of paused and made flitting eye contact. I lured her over. She said that publishers were asking her where they could find erotica writers. I didn't laugh in her face, but sheesh, Google is your friend, right? I suppose they want us to come crawling
to them instead of spending two seconds to look up ERWA or individal sites. The problem is that most agents treat erotica writers like scum. If your site flat out says you won't represent erotica writers, don't whine that you have no erotica writers as clients. But I was on my best behavior. I said, "You found us." I made sure she got the disk with sample chapters from the members of the Man Love Romance
promotions co-op. Although an agent seems to be the holy grail of most writers, at this point an agent would have to work pretty damn hard to convince me she'd be of any use. Many erotica writers have expressed the same sentiments. Once people are forced to work without your help and manage to make it anyway, it's really hard to convince them that suddenly they should hand you 10% of their earnings and then be grateful that you'll disdain to take it.

Today, I hope to write. I'm getting close to the end of my first draft of my second try at Personal Demons. (Does that make it the first draft once removed?) I'd really like to wrap it by tonight, but I don't want to rush the ending either. This story has been in my head for over three years. It started as one book, but by the fifth chapter, I realized I had way too much story for one book, so I decided to do a trilogy. Now it's almost over. I don't know if I should be happy or depressed.