Sunday, November 06, 2011

101 Best Sex Scenes Ever Written

I bought 101 Best Sex Scenes Ever Written: An Erotic Romp Through Literature for Writers and Readers by Barnaby Conrad when I bought his other book 101 Best Beginnings Ever Written. While I liked the 101 Best Beginnings Ever Written, I have issues with Best Sex Scenes.

It started off promising. In his forward, he states

"The selections were not chosen gratuitously, not included to titillate - (sorry) - the reader. They all advanced the plot in some way of helped to characterize the protagonist of the story they came from."

He at least seems to respect that sex has a legitimate place in storytelling, if you can overlook his comment in the previous paragraph that

"Justice Stewart surely would label this book pure porn, and of course, considered out of context, many of the scenes read as though they were, indeed, porn. Yet every excerpt is from a distinguished writer, often a great one, and its source is a published and respected novel or short story."

Okay, so if you're a literary writer, you don't write porn. You write pornographic scenes, but you can be forgiven because your work is published and respected.

After the first couple chapters, it became evident that to Mr. Conrad, a great sex scene takes place off page and leaves everything to the imagination. Worse, at the end of chapter six, he states:

"But, by reading Lolita, a would-be writer can learn how to write a beautiful sex-driven novel with no gross language or uncomfortable images."

Lolita is his example of a book that doesn't contain 'uncomfortable images?' Does he think that most people are comfortable with the idea of some old geezer lusting after a twelve-year old girl? I'm not arguing the literary merit of the book, but even I have real problems with the subject matter.

If his squeamishness over the depiction of sex wasn't clear enough by then, the title of chapter thirteen drove it home: Ugh, E-e-e-uuu, and Gross. 

Really, Mr. Conrad? Why on earth would you approach this subject if the best you can summon is a juvenile reaction to the subject? And why is it that that

"I shall leave the literature of same sex and kinky sex and bestiality to those who see drama or purpose or exemplary behavior therein."

So gay sex is equivalent to bestiality and not exemplary behavior and has no purpose?

Ugh. *Flings tome across the room* I suggest Mr. Conrad avoid this subject until he's mature enough to approach it as an adult.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Will She or Won't She?

With the publishing world in such flux right now, I'm mulling over the idea of self-publishing The Devil's Concubine. I've already contacted Kelley from Sterling Editing about reserving a slot in her schedule, because editing is something you don't skimp on if you want your readers to have a good experience with your story. Editing is something you treat yourself to as a reward for finishing a novel. Editing is a personal masters level course in writing.

I'm reading blogs and tapping into resources to find out how to go about this. If my budget were really tight, I guess I'd try to learn as much of this as I could on my own, but I'm probably the least visual person on earth, so I don't trust my ability to do a good job on things such as the book design, which is how it looks on the inside, and the cover art. And there's formatting for the different ebook platforms and ISBNs and POD and ... so much to learn about.


I'll keep you posted.  

Saturday, October 01, 2011

This is How it Works

I saw a recent pie chart of how readers find ebooks. I can't seem to find a link. so I can't share it, but the upshot was that people rely mostly on recommendations on groups they belong to, then recommendations by family and friends. Those slices combined were well over 50% of the chart.

In a book store (remember those?) it's called hand selling. That's when a knowledgeable clerk says "Oh, you like that book? Well, let me tell you about this one!" Even without book stores, it remains the most powerful selling tool for a writer.

This isn't self-promotion. Hey, I'm a writer, I understand letting people know that you have a book out. But it becomes just so much background noise especially to those of us with a lot of writer contacts. I don't think I've ever read self-promotion SPAM and thought, "Hmm. I must read that." However, I have on occasion said,  "I will never read anything this writer ever writes because she's pissing me off with her ten posts a day about her book."  I've heard that from others too. There's obviously a fine line here, and it's different for everyone, but one or two announcements are plenty. After that, you're teetering on the annoying edge. 

So how do you tap into this all important 50% plus marketing vein? Well... You have to write a really good book. You have to write something that gets a reader excited enough that they talk about it. You can't force them to talk. You can't SPAM them into talking. All you can do is write such a great book that a complete stranger will tell another person, "You have to read this."

That's the big secret.

Now you know how it works.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

NaNoWriMo is coming!

NaNoWriMo - national novel writing month - begins November 1st.

Last October, writer Nobilis suggested trying the snowflake method of outlining as a way to prepare for the grueling month of writing ahead, so I tried it. It's an interesting exercise for a non-outliner (I could even say for someone hostile to the idea of outlining) to engage in. Would I do it again? Probably not, but I learned some useful stuff just by trying.

I tried other experiments outside my usual method of writing. Some were useful, some weren't.

While I hit the 50,000 word mark, the novel I produced wasn't useable. However, after the third rewrite, I now have The Devil's Concubine, and readers have a lot of good things to say about it.

So am I going to try again this year? No, but nothing about the experience was wasted. I learned how to write even when I didn't feel like it (here's when having an outline really helped. I didn't stare off into the distance as I tried to figure out what happened next. I'd already done that work in October). I learned how to distill my story down to one sentence. Hopefully, I learned how to write a decent synopsis. (I'll test that when I try to prep The Devil's Concubine submission package).   I'd suggest it to anyone who ever wanted to try to write a novel. If anything, it teaches you to just write.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

It's Been a Week

and I'm still in recovery from the conference.

But, I'm hearing back from my beta readers on The Devil's Concubine, and what I'm hearing is encouraging. It's good to know that my third try at this novel was worth it. The common complaint is that the story ended. Hah! Success!

Monday, September 12, 2011

EAA Con wrap up

I'm still in recovery from this weekend, but what a weekend it was!

Thanks again to D.L. King, Nan Andrews, Kate Dominic, and Jolie du Pre for their amazing hard work running this. Andrea Dale also pinch hit for us in a spectacular display of generosity.

Where do I begin? Things that went wrong. Hmm.

Well, the starting hour was way to early. Unfortunately, we we took this date, the hotel didn't mention to us that 9/10/11 was a huge day for weddings. If we'd known that "suddenly" the hours we needed the rooms that they wouldn't be available and we'd have to start at the crack of dawn to get in our programming, we would have gone a week later. Live and learn. Get the hours in a contract and fight it tooth and nail when they change it on you.

No readings opposite panels. The readings were sparsely attended, and the schedule was to blame for that.

Have more staff! We were blessed that Nan and Kate, and Andrea, were willing to be drafted. We couldn't have done it without them. But we need to recruit more people before hand. Andrea - I will never forgot that you offered to help with programs next year! NEVER! Programs were the bane of my existence. And some of the things she mentioned were so obvious in retrospect that I'd wished I'd tapped her insight beforehand.

Some panelists and class leaders weren't able to come last minute. Oh man, were they ever missed. I don't know how you work around real life emergencies, and we filled in fairly well, but some guests were really disappointed that certain people they came specifically to see weren't there. All I can do is apologize. And get viruses to obey me. And flooding rivers too. I'll work on that. Oh, and internet connectivity. It was crap in the convention center. Sorry.

I should have asked the hotel to show me their worst rooms as well as their best beforehand. I hope no one besides me ended up in one of the frankenrooms.

I'm sure that there's more that I missed. People were generous with their insights, and I hope we can address those problems next year. We will send out a questionnaire and please, tell us again, because right now, I barely remember my name.

What went right? Our amazing panelists and guests. Imagine all sorts of people you admire chatting and laughing and having a great time. Imagine people so engaged in panel discussions that they groan when the time warning goes off. Imagine for once as an erotica writer not having to self-censor an honest question about your work.

I'm thrilled that so many people came and that there was a broad spectrum of interests, writing styles, sexualities, and backgrounds represented. The generosity of everyone who came and shared blew me away. So I'm tired, but very happy.  

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

My Bags Are Packed, I'm Ready to Go

Except that I'm not leaving on a jet plane. Tomorrow morning, when I try to shove my suitcase into the car, things are going to get interesting, because my poor car is so stuffed with boxes that I may have to pack my clothes and toothbrush in a grocery bag. Climbing the Cajone Pass with that much extra weight in the car is going to be interesting too, to say the least.

One panelist fell ill and another had to cancel at the last second, leaving us a bit short on one panel and eep! one class short in a time slot. I really wanted to go to the synopsis writing class, so it was the only one I demanded free time for. Now I'm leading a class in that slot. Oy vey.

See kids, this is why you never put on a play in the old barn. You end up playing seven roles when all you wanted to do was be the prop person and enjoy the show from the wings.

Truthfully, it's not that big of a scramble to fill that slot though. D.L. King and I talked a long time ago about what we'd do if this situation came up, so I already had some notes together for a class on character development. (I'm not going to try to teach synopsis writing)  So this is what I'm doing tonight - fretting over character. (I hope everyone goes to the taboos panel instead.)

That, and moving boxes around my car trunk to make sure every inch of space is filled.   And wondering what else will go wrong.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Eek!

I didn't realize that it had been so long since I'd made an entry. I blog weekly over Oh Get A Grip and that's been about all I've managed to do as D.L. King and I have worked off our butts putting together the first EAA Writer's Conference (this coming weekend in Las Vegas). It's gong to be amazingly successful. I hoped for sixty-five attendees. We just hit eighty. So that's huge, and wonderful, and scary.

I've also been writing madly to finish The Devil's Concubine. It's in the hands of a few beta readers. This is my third stab at the novel, but this one works (thank goodness!). At least it does for me. We'll see what they think.

Once the conference is over, I'll try to be much better about regular posting. I may have to give up my slot at Oh Get a Grip. It's fun, but I'm not sure if I like the amount of personal disclosure it sometimes pressures us into. This week's topic was a good example. While I'll admit that there a (very) few erotic diarists who can share interesting stories about their sexual fantasies, I'm just not into that.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Interview about the EAA Conference

Sharazade was kind enough to interview me about the conference. Check it out!

Monday, June 06, 2011

It's Been a Few Years, Boys

Hello, again.

It seems that the boys of the  US Department of Justice have returned to their old habit of reading my blog and spying on everyone I have links with. I do hope it was official business and not them using government property for wank time. I mean, I expected that during the Bush administration, because the DOJ and Army Intelligence use to visit my blog All The Time back then, but during these difficult times, I expect a little more for my tax dollar. Try not to disappoint, boys. Okay?


United States Flag Washington, District Of Columbia, United States Us Dept Of Justice (149.101.1.117) [Label IP Address] 0 returning visits
6 Jun11:31:37
(No referring link)
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Monday, May 30, 2011

Revisions

I've heard of these mythical writers who, when asked to do revisions on a MS, say No and flounce off in a huff. I say mythical, because while they exist in anecdotes exchanged between publishers, editors, and writers, I have yet to see one of these divas in print. Sure, I've seen the occasional grammatically challenged anti-publisher rant on FaceBook, but if sputtering incoherence is the best a writer can do in a paragraph, I shudder to think what an entire self-published book of their work is like.

I can see opting not to revise if the publisher asks for something that would change the entire story, but that's about the only place I'd draw a line. So when a publisher recently expressed interest in my MS but said it needed revisions, my reaction wasn't "What they hell do they know?" No. See, I know that my opinion of my story isn't impartial. Theirs is. Plus, they're the professionals. They know what sells. And they know what makes a strong story. So if they're willing to guide me - which is a big investment on their part - I'm willing to do what they ask.

Someone will read this and grumble that I sold out to be published. (although that isn't a given at this stage) Sold out what? The weaknesses in my story? An underdeveloped character? Hey, some sacrifices must be made, and those are the types of sacrifices I'm more than willing to make.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Saints and Sinners

Today, I head to New Orleans for the Saints and Sinner Literary Conference. As I told my boss "I really do attend the classes," but the main pull is, of course, friends. Three days of talking to other writers in person is bliss. I always come back ready to write.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Carnal Machines Blog Tour



In the 1780s, Amy Lyon, who would later be better known as the notorious Lady Hamilton, worked for James Graham, a charlatan Scottish doctor who was rather infamous for his electrified bed that he claimed would help infertile couples to conceive. Oh, those naughty Victorians, juicing up their sex lives with machines and electricity. And here we sit thinking those poor Victorians were dowdy prudes! That just isn't fair. We got The Humane Society, Women's Suffrage, sanitation, and a professional police force from the Victorians. Yes, there was a downside to their mania for engineering society, but they certainly weren't afraid of change. Or, apparently, things that vibrated, hummed, or stimulated their naughty bits.

And speaking of stimulated naughty bits...

My first vision of The Lair of the Red Countess was a gentleman knocking on a door while his friends cowered around the corner, afraid that a girl (or wife) might see them. Classic blustering he-man woman haters club stuff. That's when my sinister countess stepped out of the shadows and made herself known. Stern but loving, she was the perfect woman to transform Archie (the gentleman knocking on the door) from one of the little boys into a man.

The story was partially inspired by a trip to Saint Petersberg, Russia. We toured the basement where Rasputin's comical assassination began (Well, I suppose that he wasn't laughing, but really, talk about the gang that couldn't poison, beat, stab, or shoot straight). I was surprised by our tour guide's attitude toward Rasputin. Rather than casting him as a villain or bogeyman, she seemed in awe of his legendary healing powers over the Tsaravitch's hemophilia.

While my story don't mention that the Russian Revolution had driven my countess from Russia, Queen Victoria passed away several years before the Tsaravitch was even born, so the era of this story is technically Edwardian, not Victorian. Not that a story must be set in the Victorian Era to be steampunk, but it's understood that most are. Also, as a member of the Russian aristocracy, my countess most certainly would have been a White Russian, not a red. But a Russian countess lurking in the dark in her Edwardian whites just didn't create the right mental image, so I put her in red. Besides, red has other connotations beyond political affiliation.

Niokla Tesla wrote of his Tesla Orbs in 1897. They were of no practical use, and he never sought to produce them, although after Bill Parker, a student at MIT, replaced the inert gases in Tesla's tube and changed the shape of the orb in the 1970s, he was able to commercial the orbs as a novelty product. (search for images of plasma orbs if you aren't familiar with these) So I took a leap of imagination by using the modern form of the orbs and used them to conduct small amounts of electricity through my character's fingertips to power a rather infernal carnal device.

I mention these "inconsistencies" so that purists will know that I'm aware of them and didn't write them out of ignorance. Although I'll admit that I did a bit of a happy dance when my research proved that Tesla originally invented the plasma orbs I'd envisioned on my soul machine. If it was brilliant, and used electricity, it's almost a safe bet that Tesla invented it - but it was nice to have proof.

I hope that you enjoy the story. I indulged in spanking, excruciating manners, and euphemisms like "a gentleman's vitality" with Victorian abandon. Now there's a term you don't often see, but you should. Those people were wild.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Carnal Machines Blog Tour Dates

Check out these sites for the blog tour:

May 1 D. L. King http://dlkingerotica.blogspot.com
May 2 Teresa Noelle Roberts http://teresanoelleroberts.blogspot.com
May 3 Kathleen Bradean http:/kathleenbradean.blogspot.com
May 4 Jay Lawrence http://jaylawrenceerotica.blogspot.com
May 5 Kannan Feng http://kannanfeng.wordpress.com
May 6 Essemoh Teepee http://www.smotp.com/html/blog.html
May 7 Elizabeth Schechter http://easchechter.wordpress.com/blog
May 8 Delilah Devlin http://delilahdevlin.com/blog
May 9 Tracey Shellito http://traceyshellito.livejournal.com
May 10 Renee Michaels
May 11 Elias St. James http://dlkingerotica.blogspot.com
May 12 Lisabet Sarai http://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com
May 13 Janine Ashbless http://janineashbless.blogspot.com

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

EAA Writers Conference

EAA - Erotic Author's Association - was started by Marilyn Jaye Lewis about the time I started writing erotica. I was thrilled to take over as director late last year as it tied into the erotica writers conference I planned to hold this year - September 9th and 10th in Las Vegas, Nevada.

One of the joys of erotica is the very cool people I've met who write it. D.L. King, Beth Wylde, Jolie du Pre, and James Buchanan are helping out in a huge way to put this together. As word is trickling out, I'm hearing a lot of enthusiasm.

I'll post more here when we have panels set. Please feel free to give me ideas.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

I Hate Winter

It gets so cold by my computer that I often wear gloves to write, but that's not the reason.

I don't like driving to work in the dark and driving home in the dark, but that's not the reason.

There isn't a winter holiday, from Christmas to Valentines, that I enjoy, but that's not the reason.

It's my day job. From December until the end of April, it's non-stop intensity. The dread begins in October. By mid-December, the data requests start flowing. By mid-February, I walk into the office at 6AM, open my email, and the race is on to provide everyone with everything they need. I eat breakfast and lunch at my desk. Everything is top priority. There are a million details to track. Push, pull, in every direction at once.


Is it any wonder that I look forward to May so much? Every year, I go to the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans and immerse myself in the world of writing. I get to see friends from all over. We talk about writing and food - my other passion - and oh, just about everything else there is to talk about. I can't even begin to explain what it's like to be in a room full of GLBTQ writers. Comfortable is a good word, but even that falls short of the relief I feel knowing that I belong. As we amble around the French Quarter, we constantly run into people we know. I've never lived in New Orleans, but for those few days, it feels more like home than any other place on earth.

Winter can't be over soon enough.   

Sunday, January 16, 2011

It Has to Be Said

There's a topic spoken of only in hushed whispers in erotica circles, and that's gender discrimination.

In science fiction, literary fiction, and  -according to a recent open letter to the editor -  the New Yorker, female writers are passively/aggressively discriminated against. In erotica the reverse is true. The now defunct publisher Black Lace was notorious for only publishing female writers. The excuse was that it was an important part of their marketing to assure women that their sexual fantasies weren't in the hands of icky boys who would turn it into porn. (That's not the way they put it, but that's what it meant.) Even now, Best Women's Erotica and many other erotica anthologies explicitly state that only female writers may submit.

I'm female. I benefit from this discrimination.

Or do I?

As witnessed by the huge percentage of female writers who contribute to open call anthologies, female erotica writers can compete on a level playing field with the guys. I think that this open hostility and discrimination against male writers only hurts the anthologies, and by extension, it hurts me as a writer.

So back to that idea of the marketing ploy. First off - how many readers pay that much attention to a writer's name? From a recent FaceBook discussion about author bios, I found out that few people read them, and those who do are usually other writers. So readers don't care. But that's the main argument for discrimination! Could it be that idea is antiquated at best, and probably just dead wrong? Second - who would flip pages past a story just because they don't want to read something by a writer of that gender? A reader would give a story a shot, at least a couple paragraphs. Either the story engages them, at which point they forget all about the writer, or it doesn't, in which case, they aren't gong to think "But it's by a woman, so I'm going to slog through it anyway!" No. That's not how readers behave. Third - it used to be that anthologies were produced by strict sexuality guidelines so that no reader would be exposed to something that might offend them (in erotica!) but now stories range all over the spectrum of sexuality in books aimed at heterosexual audiences and it hasn't hurt sales. 

Which brings me to this point.

Years ago, when erotica was coming out from under the counters and being shelved with the rest of the real books, there might have been a reason to treat the readers with kid gloves. The seventies and eighties were laden with so many sexual minefields that everyone trod very carefully. Probably too carefully. (The whole Heterotica 6, or was it 7, kerfuffle by overly PC committee comes to mind.) But we're a bit more savvy now, or at least our audience is. Isn't it time that publishers caught up?

Readers already get it. They don't care about the contents of a writer's underwear. Only the story matters to them.

It has to be said: The story is all that matters.

Publishers, let down the drawbridge and let the male writers in. I've met many of them in person. I promise that they aren't icky. More to the point, some are amazing writers. Why in the world should readers be protected from quality?

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Absinthe


For the past two years, on New Year's Eve, I've been seized by a sudden urge to try absinthe. I have no idea why it only strikes on that day.


Part of the lure of absinthe has to be the ritual. If there's one thing creative types adore, it's a ritual. You don't simply pour a shot of absinthe and down it. I suppose that you could, but that reduces it to simply another flavor of alcohol.

The other part of the lure is the mystic.
Absinthe is the drink of artists. If you believe the bad press, it's a gateway to insanity. If you believe the aficionados, it's the gateway to the muse. Those aren't mutually exclusive. But like most anti-drug hysteria, I doubt most of the alarm surrounding it. It's legal to sell in the US again, I assume after a great deal of scientific evidence proving its safety. Considering how rarely the US Government lets science be heard over hysteria and religious nuttery, the case had to be compelling.

Absinthe isn't a cheap habit. For that reason, I'm hesitant to dive into it. And I worry that the flavor might not be to my liking. I've tried basil infused vodka, so an herbal drink isn't out of the question. I'm not terribly fond of anise though. Or more accurately, I don't like black licorice, so I'm a bit hesitant. But this coming May when I head to New Orleans for Saints and Sinners, I think I'll give it a try. That's the perfect city for indulgence, muses, and maybe a touch of madness.