Friday, December 28, 2012

Coming Together In Vein

Helping Vampires to Save the World

Let's face it. Vampires are sexy. Something about the undead stirs up our juices. Perhaps it's their irresistible power. Even when we know the danger, we're so very tempted to surrender to their all-consuming lust. Maybe we want to comfort them, to save them a lonely, bloody eternity. Maybe we secretly crave immortality ourselves.

Vampires are frequently portrayed as evil or at least amoral, viewing humanity from the jaded perspective of centuries. Now, though, vampires are doing their part to save the world.

Coming Together: In Vein is a brand new collection of vampire-themed erotica and erotic romance edited by Lisabet Sarai. All sales of this novel-length volume support Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières). MSF works in nearly 70 countries providing medical aid to those most in need regardless of their race, religion, or political affiliation. Right now, despite being barred from the country, MSF doctors and nurses are in Syria, working with patients from both sides of the civil war. They're performing surgery in caves and sneaking into refugee camps to distribute desperately needed medications.

You can help MSF in its life-saving mission, simply by indulging your passion for vampires. Buy a copy of Coming Together: In Vein in ebook, Kindle format, or print. Enjoy! Then help spread the word! Every copy we sell has the potential to save someone's life.

The list of contributors includes many names you'll recognize. Every one of these authors has provided his or her work free of charge, to support the charitable aims of the project. Furthermore, the editor is giving away a free copy of her short story collection Body Electric  to everyone who buys a copy of Coming Together: In Vein. (For details of this offer, click here.)

You'll find an excerpt below – just to whet your appetite.

Sink your teeth into Coming Together: In Vein. Help our vampires save the world. 


From “Willing” by Xan West

I pull out my blade and show it to him. His eyes widen and he whispers, "My safeword is chocolate." I am surprised. Most who frequent the fetish scene know nothing about real BDSM. That these are the first words out of his mouth shows that there may be more to this boy than I thought. I stand still, watching him. He is older than I had first surmised, at least twenty four. The little leather he wears is well kept, his belt clearly conditioned and his boots cared for by a loving hand. He is motionless, knees slightly bent, shoulders back, offering me his chest. His pulse is not rapid, but his eyes eat up the knife and his lips are slightly parted, as if all he wanted was to take my blade down his throat.

His brown eyes stay fixed on the knife as I move toward him. I tease his lip with the tip of it and then speak softly.

"How black do you flag?"

His eyes stay on the blade. He swallows.

"Very black, on the right, Sir."

"Is there anything I need to know?"

"I am healthy and strong. My limits are animals, children, suspension and humiliation, Sir."

"And blood, hmmm?" I am teasing. I know the answer. It is why I found him here, and not at the Lure.

"Oh please, Sir. I would gladly offer my blood."


He takes a deep breath, closes his eyes a moment, and then opens them. The pulse in his throat starts racing, but his voice is calm, and matter-of-fact. I tease my blade against his neck.

"I have been watching you a long time, Sir. I have seen how you play. I see the beast inside you. I know what is missing. Those boys at The Lure don't know how to give you what you really need. They don't see that they are barely feeding your craving, and not touching your hunger. The boys here don't see you. They just see their own fantasy. They are simply food. I am strong, Sir. Strong enough for you. I can be yours. My blood, my flesh, my sex, my service. Yours to take however you choose, for as long as you want. To slake your hunger. I would be honored, Sir."

I take a deep breath, stunned, studying him. This boy who would offer what I never really thought was possible. He has surprised me again. That alone shows this boy is more than a meal. He just might be able to be all that he has offered.


I'm a big fan of Xan West's work, so I chose this excerpt among a few really great ones.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Writing This Novel part II

Instead of jumping into action without context or using a Sound of Music style opening, a better idea is to show the main character doing something (action rather than simply sitting around thinking) that will bring him/her/hir to the inciting incident rather quickly.

The inciting incident is what causes the story to happen. In Frank Herbert’s Dune, the inciting incident is when the Emperor orders the Duke to take over management of the planet commonly known as Dune. You never see that scene. That happens before the opening chapter, a good example of in medias res. As the story opens, you see the Duke’s household in the midst of preparations to leave their home planet for Dune. From word one, the story is in forward motion. Another good technique is to ease the reader into the setting and characters by starting a short time before the inciting incident occurs. Margaret Mitchell’s approach for Gone With the Wind gave the reader a chapter or two of normal life on the plantation, but still with forward momentum leading to the two inciting incidents-- Ashley announcing his engagement to his cousin Melanie (effectively dumping Scarlett), and news reaching the party that the war has been declared.

In my novel The Night Creature, I open the story at a party. The female and male lead characters see each other across the room. She wants to hook up with him and he wants her, but they remain on opposite ends of the room no matter where they move in the crowd. They’re chasing and evading each other simultaneously. This foreshadows the plot. It’s also in medias res because you find out later that he’s been pursuing her for a while and she’s been purposefully evasive. By the end of the evening, she lets him catch her. During sex, he bites her. This is the inciting incident. The bite transfers their roles. Now she pursues him and he runs away. As they find themselves trapped in a game without end, they struggle with all-consuming desire, obsession, and madness. I did mention that this story is gothic horror, didn’t I?

The opening of a novel doesn’t just introduce the character and their world. It should also give the reader a taste of what’s at stake for the main character. In Gone With the Wind, Scarlett wants Ashley, to flirt and be admired, and to get her way. She wants life to continue as it has up until now for her, only better. In Dune, the Duke Atreides, his consort Jessica, and heir Paul want to survive the political intrigues of the Emperor and eventually get off Dune with their fortune, power, and lives intact. My characters want the game to end. Yeah. Not going to happen. But that’s not the point. Show what your character wants, briefly. Then yank it from their grasp with the inciting incident. That’s where your story starts. Every book is different, so you could get to the inciting incident within a thousand words or it could take you a couple chapters, but get to it as soon as possible.

For an erotic novel, you might go with a sexual the inciting incident. Desire, lust, attraction, a gang bang, whatever is right for your story should be the catalyst to get the story moving. Sometimes the inciting incident is a situation that makes sexual discovery, seduction, submission, etc. possible. However, be wary of literary tropes. This is an excellent article describing them: I review erotica and have judged both erotica and erotic romance for contests, and I’ve seen a few tropes so many times that, as this article suggests, they make me want to hurl a book across the room. It’s a good thing I like my Kindle too much to fling it. So please, do not make the inciting incident be a bad break up. Don’t have your heroine take a bubble bath as she thinks (what did I say about sitting around thinking?) about making a radical change in her life. Don’t have her buy a fabulous house out in the middle of nowhere with only a mysterious Byronic hero alpha male for a neighbor. Just. Don’t. For me. Please.

How do you decide where to start? Do you go with your first vision? Is starting the novel the hardest part for you?

Next time, I’ll talk about why maybe I should learn to outline (but it won’t happen) and what to do when you feel like you’re up to your knees in muck that’s sucking you down into a writerly funk and you don’t think you can slog through it to the next chapter.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Writing This Novel, Part I

Yeah, I haven't posted in forever. I've been busy working on a few novels and articles for Oh Get a Grip and the ERWA blog, but I thought I should start up again here, so I'm bringing over my entries from ERWA blog where I'm recording my progress as I work on my current novel.

 Anyone who has ever tried to write a novel knows this is tricky. I might not finish. I might get bogged down in the middle and have no clue what to do next. And you’ll get to see me fail in real time! Oh, wait…

     Several years ago at a writer’s conference, Poppy Z Brite commented that you don’t learn how to write a novel. You learn how to write this novel (as you're writing it). I’ve written a couple novels since then and agree with her comment.

   Where do you begin? With the idea of a story. That sounds logical but I’ve seen people claim they sit down and ‘just write.’ I have no clue how that works. It probably doesn’t. Have an idea of the overall story you want to tell even if you don’t have the specifics, who the main characters are (I suggest you have a solid fix on them), and where you want the story to end so you have a goal to aim for. Sure, there are people who claim to be pantsers –- seat of the pants storytellers who don’t outline—but I’m sure they have an idea of what they want to do when they start. Otherwise it’s like entering a forest without a path, walking for several hours in whatever direction your feet lead, then the sun starts to set and you ask yourself where the hell you are and how to get out. That’s how people end up writing two hundred thousand word novels with no end in sight. That’s not the best use of your precious writing time.

     Stephen King, in his fantastic book On Writing, admits he doesn’t know where his stories come from. In the ‘writing is a talent’ versus ‘writing is a craft’ debate, I’m firmly in both camps.  However, I believe that the ability to imagine a story is a talent. You either have it or you don’t. If you have it, you understand why Stephen King can’t tell you where stories come from. He can’t, and I can’t. But I can tell you how this novel began for me.

     I had a vision. It’s sort of like daydreaming, like a snippet of a movie, but so vivid that I swear I can smell and feel things. These scenes hit me while my mind is wandering. I’ve never sat down and said, ‘I will now imagine something.’  This particular story idea came to me after reading comments by Remittance Girl on the ERWA Writer’s list as the group discussed what defined the erotica genre. She (I’m paraphrasing) said that the central question of erotica is how we (the characters) deal with desire. I mulled over that for a few days and this vision came to me:

(I’m not going to record this in any attempt at pretty prose since this would never go into a story raw. This is the way I would have jotted it down on paper.)

    Fog hangs heavily in the air. It condenses on the bare limbs of winter trees and splatters on cobblestones. It’s just before dawn, and even though my vision is in color, it feels like a black and white photograph, like the movie poster from the Exorcist with the priest under the gas lamp in the fog. Street lamps cast cold light on a small train station. A young woman in ratty punkish clothing paces the station platform and stomps her feet to keep warm. She wraps her arms around her waist and mutters to herself. I can’t hear what she says, but she repeats it over and over, so I know she’s losing her mind. At the far end of the station platform, a man appears. He’s been there all along, but she (and I) just noticed him. The young woman is suddenly ravenous and aroused. Her gaze lingers on the groin of the man’s jeans. He’s cold too, with his nose buried in a thick scarf and his hands shoved into the pockets of his thick coat. Just a guy, going to work on the early train. She walks over to him and asks in German, “Want to fuck?” (although I’m convinced that she’s American)

    That’s it. That was all I had to go on. It takes five minutes to write down, but in my mind, it was only a ten or twenty second movie. As I do with most of these visions, I immediately asked all the pertinent questions. Who was she? Clearly the main character. Where and when was she? The train station’s architecture said Eastern Europe. The gas lamps, black and white tones, and train travel suggested the past, but her clothes said 1990s to 2000s, so I knew that the story would be set in current times but have a timeless feel. I also knew from the lighting and the fog that the story’s tone would tend gothic and share genre elements with either horror or noir (a term which technically only applies to movies, but you know what I mean) Why is she at the train station? She’s chasing someone. Why was she losing her mind? Hunger. What was she hungry for? Sex.

    Where do those answers come from? Imagination. As I’m asking myself these questions I’m filling in details. They may change as I’m writing the story, but these are my characterization, setting and tone starting points. This is also where I ask myself: What is the story about? The answer is one sentence, hopefully under twenty words. I write it on a piece of paper and tape it to the wall above my computer so it’s always there to remind me as I write. I also get a summary idea of the story (which can and will change). This isn’t the same as plot, but it’s similar.

   I let my mind run with those answers for a couple days. I sensed a novel in it, but was so caught up in the intensity of the story that I wanted to get something down. Plus, I worried that a story about someone chasing a lover (or lunch, depending on where I went with it) wasn’t a big enough idea for a novel. So I threw myself into writing a short story which ended up on ERWA’s blog in October under the title It’s Lovely. It’s Horrible.  (If you missed it, the story has already been picked up by an editor for a vampire anthology even though it’s not what I’d call a vampire story.) Almost every critique on ERWA’s Storytime list stated that the idea was too big for a short story and I needed to expand it to a novel. So that’s what I’m doing.

    A note about titles. I either get a great idea for a title off the bat or I struggle. Orbiting in Retrograde – flash of inspiration. She Comes Stars – came from a line in the story. It’s Lovely. It’s Horrible – I settled on only after I mentally shoved bamboo slivers under my fingernails. And believe me, that was the best I could do after some truly awful ideas.  That wasn’t the title I wanted to use for a novel so it was back to the bamboo. Desire was my initial title idea since a discussion about desire sparked the story idea, but what the hell does Desire tell the reader? Not much. It could be a great title for another work, but not this one. I flirted with the idea of Consumed for a while but I recognize a yuck title when I see one. I think I was taunting myself with that one. “Pick a better title or you’ll be stuck with this one!” At that point I gave up trying to find a title and forged ahead with the story. You don’t have to have a title. It’s nice to have one, but you can work without one.
A couple chapters into the first draft I stumbled into a title. I’m still trying to decide if it’s The Night Creature or The Night Creatures, and if I’ll drop The, but it strikes me as a good fit. The Night Creature warns you that the work will be dark. It hints at horror. That’s the tone I want to set from the beginning.

Next time I’ll talk about how I decided where to begin the story.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Harder She Comes Blog Tour

Guest Post by Crystal Barela

The Tattoo Artist. A painter of flesh and lover of skin. How can an art whose canvas is the human body, not be sensual? Not make your teeth ache and your fingers itch to touch? I have always been fascinated with the beauty of tattoos and those who sling ink. A woman tattooist—even sexier. “Tits Down, Ass Up” has the reader falling in lust with the confidence and bravado of an artist. It’s such a turn on to read about a girl that moves successfully through a man’s world. Who knows herself and is not afraid to make what she wants in the world.

But Cali isn’t the only character here. Tantra knows what she wants and how to get it. She doesn’t use swag to get her girl, but her womanly curves, and the sensuality of knowing herself. Tattooing is natural for a Dom and Sub. The tattooist is the giver of pain, and her client the receiver of art, of the pleasure of color and life becoming a part of her body. These two characters are opposites. Ying and Yang, Butch and Femme.

Here’s an excerpt from Tits Down, Ass Up

 “Unzip your jeans.” The drag of the zipper and a shimmy of hips revealed the white of her skin to the crack of her ass. Was she wearing panties?

I covered my palms with shave oil and spread it over Tantra’s shoulder blades. Her skin was pale and smooth, except for where her bra had left red lines. I lingered a bit too long, massaging the marks away.
She sighed, and I found I was in danger of losing my professionalism.

The crinkle of the plastic being torn from the razor and then the smooth swipe of blade across her opalescent skin made my lips ache. Gently, I laid the transfer on her back, and then wet it with a sponge, dabbing at the smooth canvas of her back. I lifted a corner of the paper and drew it across her back.

A sigh tinged with sex filled my shop as I pulled the paper free.

Looked good. Too good. I handed the mirror over her shoulder and pointed her in the direction of the wall. "Check the placement, sugar.” Get a grip, Cali. Work before pleasure.

Tantra went over to the mirrored wall and held up the hand mirror to look over her shoulder. “Perfect!” she squealed, with a little hop. She turned to the right, then left, and all my eyes saw were her breasts, now bare and free. Nipples puckered from the night air coming through the back door teased me. I rubbed my eyes.

Tired and horny, that’s what I was.

“Tantra, baby, I think we should reschedule.” Sleep would help me to concentrate on my art and not her ass.

If you want more, you’re just going to have to get a copy of the book. You can find it wherever books are sold or on Amazon or at Cleis Press

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour!

May 1 D. L. King
May 2 Anna Watson
May 3 Evan Mora
May 4 River Light
May 5 Sinclair Sexsmith
May 6 Crystal Barela
May 7 CS Clark
May 8 Valerie Alexander
May 9 Andrea Dale
May 10 Beth Wylde  
May 11 Kathleen Bradean
May 12 Teresa Noelle Roberts
May 13 Shanna Germain
May 14 Charlotte Dare
May 15 Rachel Kramer Bussel