Monday, August 31, 2009

Dream on...or not

By Jenna Byrnes

I don't remember my dreams. I have plenty of them. Thanks to my bestest nighttime buddy Ambien, I have tons of vivid and busy dreams every night. I just don't remember them when I wake up. I might recall a certain person being there, or a tidbit of what the dream was about, but unlike Lisabet, my dreams don't tell stories or write books or poems.

Maybe I had better dreams before the Ambien, but who cares? I love that I sleep through the night now, and only once--once--have I gotten up and done something I didn't remember doing the next day. (This is a common side effect of Ambien, and concerning to people who don't have a light-sleeping husband lying next to them.) Some people *cough* Jude *cough* prefer to live more naturally and would rather not take pills if they don't have to. I think that's great. But for me? I say, you got something legal that will make me feel better/ look better/ sleep better, bring it on, baby!

Sleeping without Ambien is a tossing and turning nightmare. So I simply pop one tiny white pill each night and snooze comfortably until my alarm goes off the next morning. I sleep so well, in fact, that when I'm asked to answer questions about how I sleep I always say "Great!" and then have to remember to add, "With Ambien, that is." LOL

Back to the issue of dreams. Trying to remember my pre-Ambien days, I still don't think I ever used anything from one of my dreams in my writing. Dreams are freaking weird. Daydreams are so much more fun!

Daily campground admission: $8

Large outdoor blanket: $95

Pitching a tent in your sleep for everyone to see... Priceless.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

What Dreams May Come

by Lisabet Sarai

The vast room stretches two stories up to a sky-lit ceiling. The trainers bustle about in white leather miniskirts and heeled boots, their hair pulled back into severe pony tails that shimmer down their trim backs. The slaves are shackled to walls, or more accurately, to jointed cantilever frames that extend out from the walls and support all manner of interesting and embarrassing poses.

I am one of them, a novice, recognized by the minions of the mistress for what I am, enticed here by their veiled promises. I am naked, bound and gagged, unable to move. I am simultaneously aroused and terrified.

My trainer, a stunning brunette with crimson lips, approaches me with an enema bag. “You must be empty,” she says, “so the mistress can fill you.” I nearly come from excitement and terror.

The scene shifts to an outdoor cafĂ©. My own master and the mistress drink espresso at a wrought iron table. I crouch at my master's feet underneath, listening to their conversation. “She did well,” the mistress comments. “You've done a good job preparing her.” The pride I feel at pleasing her and showing off my master's skill is almost more intense than my sexual desire.

The above is part of a real dream. It's not a fictional vignette concocted by my dirty mind—at least, not my conscious dirty mind. I've always had vivid dreams. I recall that my brother and I told each other our dreams when we were just kids. I tend to remember more of my dreams, I believe, than the average person, even though I don't usually write them down.

I dream recurring landscapes: the cities of my youth morphed and mingled together, full of buses and trains and subways; a mansion with endless halls and stairways that I think derives from a long ago visit to the Winchester Mystery House; an ocean-front resort during a storm, threatened by the gigantic waves; the rural town where I lived for more than twenty years. I dream repeating themes. I've been given the chance to return to college once again and I'm thrilled to be able to explore all the wonderful topics I had to pass up the first time around. I'm in college again and it's finals week, and suddenly I realize that I've completely skipped attending several of my classes. Evil creatures, aliens or magicians or monsters, surround my house, while I try desperately to find a place to hide. And of course I dream of both my husband and the lovers from my past, as well as new women and men who tempt and torment me.

Sometimes I dream entire stories, with plots and characters who have nothing to do with me. In my dreams these days, I know that I'm a writer. I actually understand, while I'm dreaming, that there's a narrative playing out on the screen of my mind and I try to remember the details when I wake. Often I do. For the most part, though, I haven't managed to get these narratives out of my head and onto the page before they fade. Often I'll remember the premise and the protagonists, but the emotion evaporates all too quickly. Once the excitement slips away, it's hard to motivate myself to actually fashion the dream into a waking tale. It seems stiff and empty.

I did write a poem based on the dream above. That dream was triggered by one of my rare reunions with my master. I've also got a hundred word “flasher” based on a dream:

Conversation with the Marquis

I dreamed of de Sade. He smiled gently down at me. "Come to me when you are ready."

Pretending lightness, I replied, "I never said that I was interested in such things."

"You need not say. I can see it in your eyes."

I knew he spoke truly. When I looked at him I saw ropes biting tender flesh, instruments of steel and leather, candles, clamps, searing pain, scalding pleasure.

Suspended in awful desire, I fled. Waking, I found a volume of his tales by my bedside, inscribed with a single word.


I don't think much of Freud's views on dreams, but I do believe that they can carry some sort of truth. My dreams reveal to me my passions and my fears. They show me who I really am. They also fascinate me with their emotional richness and their sensory detail. John Crowley's wonderful book Little, Big includes a character who spends as much time as she can sleeping, because she loves to dream. I'm not that extreme, but I've been known to wake in the middle of the night, go to the bathroom, then lie down again and resume a dream where I had left off.

I've also experienced a handful of dreams that I can only call prescient. In one, I sat by the hospital bed of a gravely ill former lover, trying to comfort him and ease his pain. I learned the next day that his father had committed suicide the night of the dream. In another, I dreamed that a dear female friend whom I hadn't heard from in months was going to have a baby. Within two days, an email from me informed me that she was in fact pregnant.

Actually, my explanation for these experiences is grounded more in psychic communication over distances than in precognition. I've never dreamed a future that didn't involve someone whom I cared about deeply. I suspect that there's some sort of emotional vibration—electromagnetic waves of some sort—that can be transmitted between people who have a strong bond.

I do dream quite a lot about sex (surprise surprise). Sometimes very strange sex, involving hermaphrodites and detachable penises and public masturbation, sometimes nothing more than a glorious flirtation which cloaks mutual desire. In the last few years, for the first time (that I remember) I've started to have orgasms in my sleep. At least it feels that way. Of course, sometimes it feels like I'm flying, too.

Even though my dreams have been directly responsible for relatively few of my stories so far, I feel as though they nourish my imagination. I use bits and pieces of dream imagery all the time. And I have written a number of dream sequences which borrow the tone of my real night journeys.

I've been thinking about this blog post for quite a while. Last week, I woke from a dream that may well have been catalyzed by my pondering the topic.

The blond young vampire sits on his motorcycle, his face serious. The air is heavy with erotic tension. “I've got to go,” he tells me and my girlfriend. “If I stay, I'll hurt you.”

I take his hand and place it on my breast. He caresses me through my clothing. Desperate lust overwhelms me. I know that he feels it too, that it takes every shred of self-discipline he can muster to hold himself back. “Maybe you could hurt us a little,” I say, trying to tempt him, unable or unwilling to let go of this intoxicating desire.

I wake, wet and trembling, before he can answer.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

For Love Or Money

by Nobilis Reed

I'll start with this:

If for some strange reason, you're in this fiction-writing game (and it is a game) for the money, get out now. There are fields much more lucrative than this where your words will almost certainly earn you a better return on your investment.

Begging on streetcorners, for example.

But you've heard that before, I'll wager. You've heard that it takes ten years of largely uncompensated and mostly thankless work to become a 'successful' author, and even if you manage to get a nice contract, you still won't be able to quit your day job, so I won't natter at you any more on that score.

The answer, ultimately, must be "love."

You have to love writing to be a writer. It can be a fulfilling Ozzie-and-Harriet kind of love, or a co-dependent Archie-and-Edith kind of love, or a self-destructive Romeo-and-Juliet kind of love, but it has to be love. You have to do it because something deep inside you is simply bursting to achieve expression.

That's not to say that there aren't perks. Even just seeing your name (whether it's the one you're born with or not) on the cover of a book feels marvelous. After finishing the first draft of my novel, "Scouts", I felt an enormous surge of pride.

And then there's nothing like the feeling of having a reader tell you they like your work. I never get tired of it. It doesn't matter if it's a fan like Margaret or a fellow author like Tee or a casual reader who I don't know from Adam. It's always a big boost.

Of course, money is very nice too.

Every sale, to me, is someone giving me the same kind of compliment, plus a little money behind it to make it that much more real. That's someone saying, "I want to read your work so much I'll pay you for it." That's a pretty high compliment. That's why some of my work is for sale rather than free-because I want people to have the opportunity to do that. I don't feel like I have a right to that money, or even that any author does. I think the doomsayers who wail that without a way to "properly compensate" authors (whatever that means) they'll stop writing are full of shit. See above.

On the other hand, I don't have just myself to consider.

Publishing is a business, even something as small and experimental as e-publishing. When one of my works gets accepted and published, it is with the expectation that I will do my part to sell the books to as many people as I can. These days it's the author's job, largely, to promote his work, and I take that job seriously. When my writing earns money, it shows that I take that relationship seriously. Making money for my publishers is my way of showing them I respect our relationship.

So in several weird circular ways, money is love.

Ultimately, there's no either-or, at least not for me. My goal is for people to read my stories, enjoy them, and tell me so. They can tell me any way they like, and money is one of them. So are kudos, compliments, and thanks. All are gratefully accepted.


Author's bio:

A few years ago Nobilis Reed decided to start sharing the naughty little stories he scribbled out in hidden notebooks. To his surprise, people actually liked them! Now, he can't stop. The poor man is addicted. His wife, teenage children, and even the cats just look on this wretch of a man, hunched over his computer keyboard, and shake their heads. Clearly, there is no hope for him. The best that can be hoped for is to just make him as comfortable as his condition will allow.

Excerpt from "Magical Clothes" available at

She had to find out what it felt like. She had to know.

She stood at the side door of their house, heart pounding in her chest. Her nightclothes were bundled on the bench next to the door where she'd be able to get to them quickly when she came back in. Slowly, she lifted the latch and pulled the door open a crack.

The alley was deserted, of course. The only people who would be out and about at this time of night were the night watchmen, whose hourly calls of "All's well!" comforted insomniacs and put fear in Verity's heart. If one of them saw her, recognized her, caught her-who knows what the penalty would be. At the very least she'd be mortified to be brought home, especially given the hardship her mother endured.

Night watchmen, or else... those the night watchmen kept watch for.

Thieves plied their trade at night. Thieves, and burglars, and all sorts of dangerous men. Being caught by one of those... that would be even worse than being caught by a night watchman. Who knows what a burglar might do if he came upon a young lady of quality, creeping about in the altogether. She shuddered at the thought.

Verity craned her neck to look up towards the street. The streetlights, with their dancing little flames, made pools of light, but left deep pools of darkness in the alleyways. "Just up to the corner of the house," she whispered to herself. "That's far enough." She crept from the door, careful to close it slowly to make the least possible noise.

Black slippers protected her feet from the cobblestones. She didn't want dirty feet to give away her secret foray, even after the fact. A lady of her class was never supposed to have dirty feet. Aside from that, she wore nothing. Her hair stood on end from excitement rather than cold, for the weather in Blindestadt was always warm, by order of the Emperor.

She reached the corner of the house, and crouched in the darkness.

Her nipples were so hard they ached, and she felt an itch growing between her legs. "There," she thought, "I've done it. I'm as far as the edge of the street." She turned back into the alley, hurried to the door, and closed it behind her, letting out the breath she had hardly noticed she was holding.

Panting, Verity listened. The house remained silent, no sign that her mother had roused. She had done it. No one caught her. No one saw.

She was safe, and she never needed to do it again. Quickly, she threw her nightdress over her head and padded up the stairs to her bedroom.

She kicked off her slippers and flung herself under the sheet, but sleep would not come. Her body trembled, taut as a bowstring.

Her hands crept under the covers, running over the light fabric of her nightdress. In spite of the warmth of her bed, her nipples felt like pebbles, tight and hard. She stroked them, feeling them roll around under the palms of her hands. That moment, peering out of the dark alley into the street, burned in her mind like the fuse on a firework, threatening and full of promise. She couldn't keep her hands from wandering any more than she could control her desire to feel the outside air against her body. Arching her back, she pulled the nightdress up under her shoulders, and threw off the sheet.

Shamelessly, she caressed her body, eyes closed, imagining herself in the middle of the street, vulnerable in a dozen ways, brazen and wanton. Her fingers pushed past the fuzz and into her cleft, stroking the tender flesh. She imagined faceless people watching her, their shocked, curious faces unable to look away.

She was fooling herself, she knew it. The urge to go out in the street, out in public, would only grow stronger, and next time, she knew, she would go farther, take even greater risks. Her breath tightened, and she quickly pushed her pillow into her face, muffling her cries as spasms shot through her body like lighting. Her fingers grabbed and stroked her sodden snatch, right through the orgasm, until finally, she fell back down to the bed, spent.

Finally relaxed, she drifted off to sleep.

Visit Nobilis Reed's website at:

Also, check out the Nobilis Erotica podcast (weekly erotic stories in audio)

And listen The Write Threesome podcast, a monthly discussion of erotica featuring Nobilis, Helen E. H. Madden, and Ann Regentin -

Friday, August 28, 2009

I Was A Graphics Whore

By Helen E. H. Madden

Growing up, I was one of those kids who had no idea what I wanted to be when I became an adult. I liked to read a lot, and would devour books by the truckload. I also liked to draw a lot. Yet despite being voted "most artistic" in my senior class, I had never had any formal art instruction.

(Oddly, I was also voted "worst dressed" by my senior class, but what the hell would those losers know?)

When it came time to head to college, my dad encouraged me to find a more lucrative major than art, which I had a vague idea might be fun to study. He swore I'd never be able to make a living as an artist, and I needed to study a more practical subject. I suppose I could have stamped my foot and thrown an all out rebellion over this, but given that Dad was paying for my school, at least the first two years, I had to go with the flow, so I chose to major in communications. Dad would have let me minor in art, but since I was going the ROTC route, I didn't have time to take art classes. ROTC had its own ideas of what I should be studying, and art never showed up on their list of requirements. As for English and creative writing? Well hell, I had passed my AP tests with flying colors so nobody, including me, saw any need for me to indulge in that subject.

The end result was that by the time I graduated (with honors) from college, I had a four-year degree in Broadcast Journalism, a commission in the U. S. Army, and even less idea of what I wanted to do with my life than I'd had before I entered college. I knew what I was going to do, of course. My commission as a lieutenant meant a few months active duty training in the technical branch I was assigned to (which turned out to be transportation; huzzah for trucks!), followed by assignment to an Army Reserves unit where I would most likely pay back my ROTC scholarship by serving as a platoon leader for a few years.

Oh, and I also knew I was going to marry my husband, even though he hadn't proposed yet. That and the Army were pretty certain things, but they were the only certain things I had. The rest of my life yawned before me like a giant empty chasm, and I had no idea how to fill it.

My husband had not been cursed with this lack of self-knowledge. He was a science guy, through and through, and he liked outer space and math. He knew what he was going to study well before he went into college, and what he wanted to do after he got out of college, and I gotta tell you, his plans went... well, according to plan. But see, my husband had a plan. I did not.

As a result, after college, I drifted. Still not knowing what I wanted to do, I headed back to school to get a masters of science in... Corporate and Professional Communication. Somewhere in there, I got married to my husband (I warned him it was gonna happen someday). My husband became my anchor in life as I continued to drift along, going from one thing to the next without any clear direction. From the time I graduated from college with my BA in broadcasting to the time my first child was born, I held the following odd jobs.

  • A cashier at a burger joint (hated it)

  • A graphic artist for a bankrupt t-shirt company (hated it)

  • A recruiter for the university I graduated from (hated it)

  • A graduate teaching assistant/graphic artist (hated it)

  • A cashier at an arts and crafts store (hated it with a passion)

  • An advertising sales rep for a small local newspaper (you better believe I hated that)

  • A contractor/graphic artist for the U. S. Air Force (hated it so much it drove my to seek out a psychotherapist to deal with my rage)

The only thing these jobs had in common was that I hated them. Many of them did have something to do with graphics, but very little to do with actual creativity and art. These were the jobs that made me feel like a graphics whore, where each crappy assignment felt like turning two-dollar tricks on the great street corner of life. The first of these graphics jobs, the t-shirt company, was a disaster from the start. They never bothered to tell me they were already bankrupt when they hired me. I found that out when my paychecks started bouncing. The arts and crafts store was like working in a gulag. I knew how to draw and paint, so the managed made me stock and clean the silk florals section and run the cash register while she chewed holes in my ass every time I was a penny off. The university graphics position wasn't too bad. I spent 20 hours a week drawing cartoons for a video the communications department was producing. I could lose myself in that kind of work... had it not been for the nut job professor I had to work with. I do believe micromanagement was his first, middle, and last name.

The last of the graphics jobs, as a contractor for the Air Force, should have been a god-send. I was expected to create illustrations for senior officer briefings, as well as artwork for posters, brochures, etc. Again, the kind of work I could lose myself in. It was a fairly high paying job, and the irony that I was suddenly making a living as an artist, something my dad swore would never be possible, was something I pointed out to Dad every time he asked about my work. I got to play with top notch computers and the latest graphics programs. I was expected to further my skills as an artist by taking classes, which my company paid for. I had insurance, I had a retirement plan, I had regular pay raises, I had bonuses...

And I had to fight to keep my job every year September rolled around.

Taking the contracting position, I found myself in the most cut-throat environment I have ever had the misfortune to experience. Every September, I had to justify my continued employment to the government, in triplicate. I had to document every milestone set and achieved, I had to demonstrate that my technical expertise was far superior to anyone else's. I had to write reams of documents explaining why, yet again, I was the woman for the job, and still continue to do my job while I was at it. It wasn't enough that I came in to work at 8AM each morning and usually didn't leave until 8PM each evening. It wasn't enough that I created entire briefings from scratch and repaired broken computers (a task that wasn't even in my job description). It wasn't enough that I worked weekends and never took vacation or sick leave. I still had to prove I was the chosen one, because there were plenty of other contracting companies that were always out there, circling like sharks in the water, waiting for me to stumble so they could take my job.

I worked as a contractor for four years, quickly becoming the lead contractor in my office. The last year, I worked 60-80 hours a week and got paid for only 40. I got yelled at for taking a vacation, and then yelled at again for coming in to work sick. Then one afternoon, during one of the most critical projects I was working on, one of my fellow contractors informed me that she had been offered a job by a competing company, who apparently believed they could oust my company from our contract if they could just lure her away.

I recall saying thank you to my co-worker for the heads up, and then walking into the ladies' room. The next thing I remember, I was lying on the floor, looking up at the ladies' room ceiling, and wondering how I had gotten there.

I had blacked out from stress. That day, I went home to my husband, my rock, my anchor, and told him I had to quit my job before it killed me, not after.

It took about a year to make that happen. The Hubster and I needed to be on solid financial footing, so we spent that year socking away my paychecks while learning how to live off of his. Three months out, I handed in my notice. I don't think I'd ever been so scared in my life. I walked out of my supervisor's office, shaking and ready to pass out. What had I done?! I was making 42 grand a year! I had benefits! Was I crazy?!

No, but I knew I would be if I didn't leave that job.

I left right before Christmas that year, and never came back. When New Year's hit, I was suddenly back in the same position of not knowing what I was going to do with my life. Except for one thing. I knew I wanted to have kids, and by that point Hubster and I knew it was going to take major medical intervention to make that happen.

Fast forward two years. I was massively pregnant, and I idled my days away on the couch, dabbling in freelance computer graphics and the occasional bit of writing. I had discovered somewhere in the midst of my many abysmal day jobs that I liked to write, sort of, so I had tried it off and on. I preferred to write science fiction and fantasy, but on a lark had written an erotica story and managed to sell it to PlayGirl. It was my first sale, and encouraged by it, I soon wrote and sold another erotica story to another venue. And after that...

Nothing. Nada. Zip. Bupkis.

I could accomplish amazing feats in any day job I had ever held, no matter how much I had hated the job. Yet now that I was truly free of the 9 to 5 world, I couldn't get much of anything done. I had scads of stories unfinished on my laptop, along with even more unfinished graphics projects. I had no motivation, no driving desire. Those last few weeks of my first pregnancy, I half-heartedly started an erotica novel that I knew I had no chance in hell of finishing, but you know, whatever. It wasn't like what I did mattered much. Then I went into the hospital early one morning for a C-section and everything changed.

Have you ever been in a car that went from 0 to 60 in five seconds flat? Have you ever been hit by a mac truck? Having my daughter was sort of like both experiences combined. I don't know why, but holding that tiny, screaming bundle in my arms inspired me to find a direction the way nothing else ever had. Suddenly, I HAD to write. HAD to. I would DIE if I didn't write. But I was a new mom struggling to learn how to breast feed her baby. When the hell was I going to write?

Well, obviously while breast feeding. I mean, after all, writing equals ass in chair, right? And since I was breast feeding for 45 minutes at a time, every two hours around the clock, I certainly had plenty of ass in chair time.

I've mentioned it here before. I have a giant 3-ring binder hidden away in my closet that is full of the world's worst erotica novel. That novel I believed I would never finish, is in there - a complete first draft. Most of it is utter crap written in indecipherable chicken scratch. But that notebook was the salvation of my sanity and the eventual enlightenment of my soul. That notebook got me into the habit of writing every day, to the point where I got cranky if I missed a day. I suddenly knew how to give myself goals and how to meet them. I learned how to juggle the demands of motherhood with the demands of writing. I finally grew up, and I knew what I wanted to be.

I eventually felt the same drive for creating art, and I plunged back into that with equal enthusiasm. Over the last six years, I have reached a point where I work 20-40 hours a week as a writer and artist, in addition to my non-stop job as Mom. I get little to no vacation, and gods forbid if I get sick. Do I make a lot of money at it? No, not really. I'm lucky if I break even on my expenses every year. But do I hate it, like I hated every other job I've ever held?

Do you even have to ask?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

love nor money

by Ashley Lister

Dr Samuel Johnson claimed, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”

Dr Samuel Johnson, compiler of one of the first accessible dictionaries, was an intelligent man. However, he was also capable of talking an infinite amount of bollocks. Either that, or I resent the implication that a man who’s been dead for more than two centuries is calling me a blockhead.

In classes, when teaching creative writing, I always encourage students to write for money. Publishing credits are obviously important. And there are many occasions when publishing credits and no payment are a preferable alternative to not having any publishing credits. But because we live in a consumerist society, where intrinsic worth is measured in fiscal terms, one of the surest ways for an author to affirm their success is to cash a paycheque for their writing.

Virginia Woolf said that writing is a lot like sex. First you do it for love, then for a few close friends. And eventually, you end up doing it for the money.

I tend to agree with the sentiment behind this thinking, although I don’t believe that the initial love ever goes away. This morning I was out of bed at 6:00am and writing by 6:15am. The delay between waking and writing was only prolonged by my need to make a coffee, smoke a cigarette and take an obligatory pee. I’ll probably be writing until around 8:00pm tonight, maybe later, and I’ll have taken maybe one meal break in that time along with too many smoke breaks.

I don’t get paid for everything I write. The novel I’m currently working on might never see the light of day. I hope it does. It’s a fun post-modern romp that should prove to be a metafictional experience for the reader. But it could transpire to become a 500kb wart of wasted hard drive space and a reminder of three months of my life that I’ll never get back.

Fortunately, that doesn’t happen very often. I’ve written some novels that have sold well, which is why I continue to write and write and write. However, I’ve also written some stories that have been read and rejected by enough publishers/editors to make me realise that some of my stories are not worth printing.

What I’m struggling to say here is, I enjoy being validated by the payment – I have bills and needs that require money – but I’d probably still be writing regardless of whether or not the payment was there. Most likely, the only thing that would change would be the number of hours I was able to devote to putting words on paper. But, whether it’s for love or money, I guess I’d still be doing it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Swine

By C. Sanchez-Garcia

Genie's always arrive in magic lamps or exotic bottles. In my case , it was a box of Ho-Ho crackers I found in a dumpster on the beach. I opened the lid because I was hungry and out came a genie who looked remarkably like Barbara Eden.

"Master," she said, "because of my crimes in ancient times I am bound to give you three wishes."

I was excited, for maybe two seconds. “Do I have to?” I said.

“The hell’s wrong with you mister? Most people would be happy to get three wishes.”

"I guess." I said. "Okay. Well, let's see. I wish for world peace and no more war. That's one. Aw shit, I don’t know. No more global warming and save the earth I guess. That’s two. I don’t know. Maybe there should be no more hunger and suffering and evil shit in the world. Well, that's it. Am I done? Can I go?"

She looked at me like she wanted to kill me. "I've got some good news for you, kid. I'm not Jesus Christ, alright? I'm just a lousy genie. Wish small."

"I can wish for myself?" I yelled, perking up.

"And don’t feel bad about it."

"Oh - that's great!" Then I remembered this old story called "The Monkey's Paw. "No, wait. You’re going to turn my wishes around into something ironically nasty."

She shrugged. A little smirk.

"Okay," I said. "Let's do this. I'll use one wish and keep the others back in case I need them. This is what I want - I want a red door."

I would guess for the first time in maybe a few thousand years she looked surprised. "A red what?"

I sat down on the sand and looked around to see if anyone was nearby. "Here's the deal, okay. There's this door see? But it’s like this magic door. I make it like this." I held up my hands, forefingers out and made the sign of a large square. "Now, dig. When you open it, whatever I say is on the other side is on the other side, but only in that world, not in this one. Its another world on the other side, you follow?"

She nodded, interested.

" Now I can leave that world and come back to this one anytime by just thinking about it. That's all. If I think about it, the door appears and I go through back to this world, like waking up from a dream. But when I make this red door appear, I can sit in front of it each time and describe what will happen on the other side, what kind of world it is, who I'm going to meet. Then I can explore that world and meet people and do anything I want and it won’t hurt anybody here. It'll be my world. Can you do that? Or is that too hard? I should just wish for a lottery ticket or something?"

"You think I can’t do that?"

"I don’t know." I said. "You said you weren’t Jesus Christ or anything. Maybe you’re not that good."

"Watch this." said the genie. She waved her hand and closed her eyes. Her lips moved. She opened her eyes and nothing had changed. "Done."

I looked around. "Where is it?"

"It's your door," she said. "Its there when you want it. Inside your head. Try it out."

"Where are you going?"

"I'll be around.” she said. She was gone and I was alone.

My first thought was relief that I had gotten through this without destroying myself in some poetically ironic way. But was there a red door?

I held up my fingers and made the sign of the box. As my fingers moved through the air the Red Door appeared. It was an antique wooden door, such as you might see on an old shed. It was painted thickly, sloppily red. It had a brass door knob and old skeleton keyhole. A kind of Hobbit door. I looked around at the space behind it and it seemed to vanish. It would only be visible to me and only from one side. And on the other side, another world. My world.

I should have wished for money I thought. If I'm rich, I'll only be rich over there. Over here I'll still have bills to pay. Dreaming won’t do me any good. If I could make money by selling stories, that would be something. What if I was the world's greatest writer? The soul of Shakespeare and the commercial storytelling of Stephen King? But I want it to come from me, no tricks. No magic. But I want the money too.

I thought about the novel I'd been muddling through. What if I could write the greatest novel of the 21st century and make a pile of money too? That would be the ultimate. But I needed guidance.

I said out loud to the red Door - "I'm in Ireland, I’m in Dublin. There's a bar, we'll call it the White Horse. I'm going to go inside and buy a beer and wait. James Joyce will appear and he'll tell me how to be the greatest writer in the world."

There was this TV show I used to watch with my dad when I was a little kid, called "Rocky and Bullwinkle". One of the shorts was "Peabody and his boy Sherman". Mr. Peabody was this dog with big glasses who spoke English like a Harvard professor and he had a time machine and would announce where he was taking Sherman and who they were going to visit. I felt like Sherman must have felt. Except of course, there was no wise dog to keep an eye on me. I took the old brass knob and turned it and the door opened towards the inside. On the outside was the dumpster on the beach on a summer's day. On the inside was old Dublin at night. I stood up and walked through.

The door vanished behind me. There were sounds and smells of horses, gas lights on the corner, men standing around. I didn’t see any women anywhere. Not a proper time for a lady to be out, unless she was a working girl. In front of me was a dingy dive with a sign above the door with a painted White Horse. There were coins in my pocket, something gold with a queen's head on it. I figured it would be enough. Why would I need money in a world I'd created anyway? Couldn’t I just wish?

I went into the bar. There were the sounds of talking and laughter, the chink of glasses, the smoke of pipes from old men huddled in corner tables, the acidy cigars of young men throwing darts at a board on the wall. Men insulting each other and laughing. Behind the bar a radio broadcast a soccer game and some men leaned in close to hear. There was an empty booth in a corner, I didn’t see any waitresses and realized how unprepared I was for all this. I went to the bar and put my little gold coin on the counter.

The chunky man behind the bar glowered at me. I'd have to learn these details. "You a yank then, are ya?"

Its weird how people in other countries can just tell that right away. Except kids. Kids never know, but grown ups pick you out. "Yes sir, I'm waiting for someone."

"Well, how are you?"

"I’m fine.”

“Are ya bein' thick now? I mane - what’ll ya have?”

“Two beers."

"Black and Tan? Guinness?"

"Yeah, two pints Guinness." What the hell was Black and Tan? I pushed the coin towards him. A moment later I had two tall glasses and some silver coins.

I carried them to the little corner booth and the great man himself was waiting for me, made to order. He looked like a timid bank clerk with a little tooth brush mustache and a rakish pirate patch over his left eye. His clothes weren’t that great, even in the dim light. There were worn out little holes in the collar of his knit pullover vest. His white shirt, with the little string tie was dingy and a little yellow. "Mr. Joyce?"

"Spare the weight from your legs, boy-o. Is that a drop there for me?"

"That’s yours." I put the glasses down in front of him and held out my hand. "I'm Sanchez-Garcia". He took it gently and let it go. I sat down.

"I've been reading your book "Ulysses".

"You poor aul fella." He nodded, taking up his pint glass. "Bit of a slog, eh?'

"Yeah. But I hear it’s a great book."

"Oh aye. It was hell to write. Hell to publish. Hell to get through. What can I do for you on this soft auld summer's evening?"

"Well sir," I cleared my throat. "I want to be a writer - '

"Ah no. Do you now, ya poor maniac. You’ve bought into the great madness then have ya? Were you hit in the head and now fancy yourself a man of letters?"

"Yes sir, and I want to be able to make money with my writing."

"Have you ever yet received money for your book?"

"I sold a story once."

"Jaysus, son, stop acting the maggot with me. Have you received a bleedin' copper for a one of your books or have ya not?"

"No, actually I never have. I don't know if I've ever actually sold a book or not."

"Ah no. I'll have to light a candle for your benighted soul, so I will. Well, there's no harm in the trying. Let's investigate. Do you have some of this excellent nonsense with you?"

"Yes sir - "

"Stop calling me sir. I'm not your bloody priest."

"James? Jim?"


I shoved a manuscript across to him. It was pretty short; I didn’t want to keep him long. He scanned over the first page. "Crap." He mumbled. My heart fell. He flipped to the next page. "Crap." The next. His lips moved one syllable. The next. The next. The next. He passed it back. "You're not touchin' your drink, son."

I picked up my glass and choked down a little. I didn’t feel like having it anymore.

"C' mere now. You'll not be a terror for the drink are you?" he said.


"There’s your first homily then." he said and took a long pull on his beer. "Listen, son, drinking and writing, that's rubbish now. A man who writes when he's seein' triple, well he's just a drunk with talent and no other thing. Amen."

"Yes sir."



"Will you stop being so bloody worshipful. I'm not Jesus Christ."

"You’re the second person to say that to me today. But my story. Jim, its not really all crap is it?"

"Well, it’s a biteen loud, id-n’t it? Sure and it’s a right deadly bit of trash you’ve scribbled off here, all this horned up wanking and wailing, and such grand aul fecking and snogging of the poor ladies so. And they're quick to lift their skirts right up, aren't they now? Jeannie mac, son, it's bloody savage is what it is, but you’ve got some style, I’ll give you that. Don’t be disturbed if no one will publish it. I couldn’t get me Dubliner stories published, the bloody printer wanted to burn them, and they’ve nary a tit to be seen there, sure as you’re born." He slapped the paper with his fingertips. "Not like this stiffy stuff."

"But sir - "

"I am going to hit you so hard in your fecking head, I am."

"Jim! Sorry. My time is different. This stuff is popular. Women too, they like it."

"Well bless your little heart then, go and sin no more says I."

"Listen." I said. "Can't you give me some kind of advice?"

"I like your style well enough. There's a wee bit of truth in it. You got your heart right, I think. But if it’s making a living you’re supposing off this sorry stuff, well then, you're as daft as a Sunday morning so ya are. The publishing house you see, they’ll see you burn in hell first before you squeeze a shilling out of them. Not a fecking comrade of a shilling. And then there's the mother church. You'd best hide your name son, or they'll burn you alive. If you want to hear the truth, you can do this one of two ways. You can be a real man of the pen, give up your job and do this proper and bugger all and starve. Now that's a young man's game. If you have a family, you're done for and all. That's the end of it then. You'll need a proper job for the baby and the missus and call yourself a writer if it pleases you, but its not the same don’t you see. You’re only walking the wire with a net. Don’t feel shame, son, I couldn’t make a go of it. I was a teacher. I opened a movie theater, and so did bloody Shakespeare if you’re dying to know. I did a million things, and I wrote just five books to save me sorry life and there's an end to it you see."

He slammed his glass down hard on the table. I jumped.

"I'm ten times your curd as a writer I am! I'm James Fecking Joyce, better than any dozen you can name by Jesus Mary and Joseph and all the Holy Martyrs, and I couldn’t make a go of it. But you know something, boy-o, I wrote what I bloody pleased. I did! So should you. Thus endeth the sermon."

"I think I get that. I think your stuff is still around, people are still reading it because you tried to tell the truth. At least you fought the good fight. Not everybody is going to get the stuff you write though. But when I hear you say it, it seems all right. I guess I needed to hear that from someone."

"Did you now? Come here. Take it this way, son. If you’re not making enough to be worth knicking - then be a foolish chancer and go your way with your head up. You'll be much happier. You'll sleep at night. And you can tell the truth so, because you’re not beholding. Do what you fecking want. Sleep till noon and screw 'em all. But you must tell the truth. If you write just for the cutter you’re a fecking monkey." He took a pull on his drink, and sloshed the remains around while he stared glumly into his glass. "There I've said it now."

"A monkey?"

"Woah? A fecking silly monkey with a honey flavored arsehole and a tin cup to boot." For the first time he smiled.

"Okay," I said. "Well, this has been great. But its time now, I think I'm going to push off."

"Fancy a biteen game of darts?"

"I'll come back when I have something good to show you. We'll get together. It’s getting late. If this blog thing gets too long people might stop reading it."

"Like poor aul Ulysses. Everybody knows the first chapter. No one makes the second." He looked sad again, a little defeated. I wanted to turn back and say something to him about that feeling, but coming from me it seemed like he’d just get mad.

* *

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

For love or money?!

by Jude Mason

This may wind up as a bit of a ramble, so be prepared folks.

As with many authors, I've always been a story teller. I began when I was too young to read creating little plays for the neighborhood kids to perform for captive audiences of squirming parents, who I'm sure would have strangled me a time or two. But, even then, as innocent as I may have been, my goal was to please those watching. If they didn't clap and cheer, which was my payment at the time, I was devastated.

Moving on a few years to when I sat in English class sopping up every little word the tall skinny teacher graced us with. Okay, this was more than a few years, we're talking a dozen of them. By the time I got to grade 12 English class, I'd already filled dozens of books with my scribblings. Free verse poetry, pages of angst filled plots. More pages of the blossoming BDSM writer who had no idea that was a genre or even an acceptable thing to write about. That one English teacher fanned the spark when he handed out the years assignment. Write a book. Didn't have to be all one story, but it had to fill one of those scribblers we used in the later grades.

I adored all that year of creative writing and learning. Was I paid? Not monetarily, to be sure. But the approval of that teacher, and the few eager young people who somehow shared my passion for the written word all sitting wide-eyed while small snippets of what I'd written were read out. That, for me, meant more than if he'd handed me a thousand dollars. Later, when he'd graded all of the books we'd written, he kept me back when returning them to their rightful owners. He said, 'All writers are a little crazy. They have to be to create the worlds and characters living in their books.' He gave me my book and said, not to give it up.

Payment? You betcha.

I never submitted anything after that until I got online. I didn't understand how to and I was still very unsure of the genre I wrote in. Nasty stuff, BDSM stuff. Old men, sitting in smoke filled flophouses wrote that stuff, right? Not respectable wives and mothers. The approval I craved, well that wasn't an issue. I thought I would just continue writing for myself and dream about being published. The payment for this part of my 'writing career' was really just the opportunity to spread my wings and write exactly what I wanted to. No censor.

When I got online, it didn't take long before I found a nice writing group and discovered there were people who loved what I wrote. The payment there was simply the audience. I wrote pretty much what I pleased, but when the occasional fan would suggest something, I'd be in heaven and instantly drop everything to write what they'd asked about. A publisher approached me and asked if I'd ever thought about submitting, and the rest, as they say was history.

Royalties were small, but for the first time I really understood what my dream was all about. Submitting, waiting, being accepted, contracts, editing, re-writes, proofing, all that and more. It was a huge learning curve and I didn't even get the full meal deal (I so hope that's not a copyrighted bit) The cover I had on my first couple of books was a generic thing. The actual edits weren't nearly as in depth as I needed. The wait time was horrendous, but only in my imagination. The day the book came out, I was so excited I couldn't eat. Being paid for work I'd have done for nothing was huge. I mean, how many people in this world adore their jobs and would really do them for nothing?

Do I write for money or love? My answer to this is 'YES!' To me, genre is simply different things to play with. I have tackled most genres and sub-genres over the years and they're honestly just different ways to play with characters and tell their stories. Right now, m/m is hot. I love m/m stories, always have, so I've gladly dived in and written a few of them, alone and with my writing partner.

I've heard tell that femdom may be the next biggie. I adore femdom and have written that since I was... never mind, too young to be writing femdom. LOL! The paycheck is lovely. But, if a reader lets me know they liked this or that, the paycheck is just nice, the reader is my payment. He or she is who I've always wanted to please. Having one, or more of them, tell me I did something right, or they want something else, that's a huge part of why I send stories to publishers.

I'd love to hear what you've got to say about this post. Anyone, readers or writers.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Avast, me hearties!

(Translation: stop fucking pirating our books, peeps.)

By Jenna Byrnes

The topic this week is For Love or Money--giving away our books vs. selling them. I do both. Hopefully I sell more than I give away, of course, but I don't mind giving away a few here and there. I run a contest in my newsletter each month, and the winner gets to pick a download of my available titles.

In July I attended the Carol Lynne Author/Reader Weekend in Kansas City. I met a bunch of wonderful people there, everyone was nice and so much fun! Some of them seemed kind of excited to meet me, which both thrilled and shocked the hell out of me. I signed a few bookmarks, and gave away almost all the print book inventory I had in stock. The people were just so sweet, how could I not give them a little something? Besides, it was obvious the ones I gifted had already purchased some of my books, and for that I'm so very grateful.

There's a third leg in this 'For Love or Money' debate, and it's one that's been spoken of a lot on the web recently. Ebook Piracy. Where the choice to give or sell is taken away from the author. Some people don't think it's a big deal. I'll admit, I never thought much about it when it first came to light in the form of illegal music and film downloads. But ebook piracy has hit me directly in my pocketbook, which can barely afford the hit.

This diagram, found on the website of author Addison Albright, says it all:

Ebook piracy is unfair to all authors, but really hurts small authors like me who are trying to eek their way in the world. Most ebook authors, myself included, work another job to pay the bills. But even those who don't, and those who will never have to again (Stephen King and Nora Roberts pop into mind) don't deserve to have their work taken from them and copied without their permission. Maybe it takes making something personal to get people enraged about a subject. I guess it did with me. When I find the pirate sites online, and see the number of free downloads there have been of my books, it makes me sick.

And totally takes the fun out of 'Talk like a Pirate Day' on Sept. 19.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Selling My Soul

by Lisabet Sarai

It was great when it all began...

My first novel was a labor of love, a spontaneous externalization of my most cherished fantasies. I took my own experiences and desires and reshaped them into a fictional saga that had little in common with my objective history but was deeply revealing of my psychological reality. Of course, I was excited to be offered a publishing contract. Obviously I appreciated the advance. But the driving force behind Raw Silk was a feverish craving for self-expression. I wanted to get all those dirty scenarios out of my head and onto the page. I didn't think much about the potential readers, aside from the two men to whom I dedicated the book. Marketing? I hadn't a clue.

I look back on those early days with nostalgia. Now I'm a brand, albeit hardly a household word. I write for an audience. Sometimes I force myself to write, knowing that I've got to keep the titles coming or the world will forget me. Even more disturbing, sometimes I choose what to write based at least partially on what I think will excite my readers and “build my brand”. My inspiration, such as it is, is filtered though my notions of what will sell.

An example: I recently completed a M/M paranormal novel called Necessary Madness. One of the main characters is a young man devastated by violent, uncontrollable visions of future disasters. He's not actually psychotic, but he might as well be. His wild behavior terrifies everyone around him. He's homeless and alone, living on the street, trying to stay drunk in order to blunt the impact of his terrible power. (The other character is the older cop who picks up the young bum and ultimately falls in love with him.)

When the premise for this story first occurred to me, I saw the prescient, half-mad street person as a young woman. She was slender, dark-haired, raggedly dressed, apparently frail but with reserves of hidden strength. Her name was Keira. Having spent some time myself in psychiatric hospitals when I was in my late teens, I strongly identified with her.

Then Total-E-Bound released my first M/M romance, Tomorrow's Gifts. The Christmas short sold ten times as many copies in the month of its release than any of my other TEB titles. I was astonished, and sad to relate, excited by the larger than normal royalty check. I decided that just maybe, Keira could be recast as Kyle, and the story flipped into the homoerotic genre that appeared to be so popular.

I signed my contract with the Evil One and began to write Necessary Madness, shaping my picture of slender, dark-haired Kyle, a beautiful, tortured young man, dressed in rags, apparently frail but with reserves of hidden strength... and of course, seriously gay.

To be honest, once I got started, the book took on a life of its own. The M/M relationship gave me ideas and provided social nuances that wouldn't have fit in the hetero version of the tale. I'm really pleased with the way it turned out. I love Kyle and Rob and I'm even considering giving them a sequel.

But I still feel somewhat guilty. Instead of listening to my heart, I bent my ear to the fickle voice of fashion.

For money? Well, not exactly. Given the constraints on my time and on my ability to promote, I'm never going to make much from my writing. Sure, I love to see the royalties slipping into my PayPal account. But the real payoff is knowing that a dozen or a hundred or a thousand readers have enjoyed the products of my imagination. I'd rather get a stellar review than a hundred dollar check. (Though of course, the former may eventually lead to the latter.) I live for reader praise and those circulation figures.

I'm no longer writing primarily for self-expression. I'm writing “for the market”.

Now, there are tons of websites, blogs and books that will tell you this is exactly what you should do, if you want to be a successful author. Research what sells, then write to take advantage of the current trends. I don't buy it. I hate to see myself doing it. It feels dishonest and derivative. This is exactly the attitude that leads to the current glut of vampire and shape-shifter stories whose only virtue (with apologies to my fellow Grippers who write these themes) is that they are just like a hundred other stories in their genres. When I read, I crave something original, startling, unexpected. Yet here I am giving readers the same stuff as all the other authors who are out there clamoring for attention.

When someone asks me what advice I'd give beginning authors, I always say, “Write what you love; don't pay too much attention to what sells.” These days, I feel like something of a hypocrite. Sure, I do love writing about the erotic, in whatever guise. I'd written a few M/M stories before I realized how popular they were. I wrote F/F stories, too, but these days I tend to push my F/F ideas to the back burner if I'm targeting the romance market, because they (apparently) don't sell.

I do give some of my work away. As I said, I'm not really in it for the money. I've contributed stories to five of Alessia Brio's Coming Together anthologies, several of which I've written specifically for the theme of the collection and have not submitted elsewhere. I also offer many free stories on my website and my publishers' sites. I have to admit, though, that despite my sincere support for the causes Alessia has championed, I also see this as marketing.

Now I'm considering embarking on a new project, a sequel to Raw Silk. I worry, however, that I won't be able to create the same vibrant intensity I did in the original. Over the past ten years since that book was published, I've definitely learned a lot about writing. I have far more control over my craft. When I re-read Raw Silk, some of it comes across as clichéd and stilted. Still, the passion shines through—the thrill of sexual discovery, the breathless excitement of serious power exchange.

Can I duplicate that? Obviously not—I'm a different person than I was in 1999. Let me ask instead, can I suppress my craving for approval and popularity and once again write completely from the heart?

Only time will tell. I can only hope that document signed in my blood has an expiration clause.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Swearing Up and Down: Thoughts On Bad Language

by Shanna Germain

I teach a class in writing erotica and one of the exercises that I do on the first day of each new semester is ask my students to say all the "bad words" they can think of. As soon as I say this, they start shifting in their seats, their faces pinken, they bow their heads and spend a lot of time counting coffee stains on the rug. When they realize I'm serious, and that we're not going to move on until they actually do this thing I've asked, someone hesitantly begins, and slowly they all join in, usually starting with curse words--shit and damn and fuck. And then, bit by bit, it moves into sexual words: dick and penis and pussy and eventually, to the "really bad words," like cunt.

Why do I torture my students like this? (Well, they call it torture, I call it teaching). I do it because it begins to eradicate the taboos of language that so many of us carry in our heads. And I believe that in order to write fully realized characters and fantastic sex scenes, it's important to understand the distinction between what you believe to be a taboo word and what your character believes to be a taboo word.

For example, I personally would never use flowery euphemisms to describe bodies or sexual activities. I cringe at the thought of saying or writing about someone's heaving bosom or her pink-petalled yoni. However, if I had a character who used that kind of language, then she might say all of those things. And while I personally like harsh, strong words -- cock and pussy and tit and nipple -- and I wince when someone in real life uses phrase like "her sex" or "her front bottom," my characters may not. If my male character wants to call his cock a penis or a dick or a shaft or even (gods forbid) give it a name like Joey Junior, then who am I to stop him?

Then there are the ever-changing "really taboo" words (capital r, capital t), which most often seem to revolve around sexual orientation and race. Here, perhaps, is the greatest dichotomy between my own beliefs and those of my characters. Would I ever use a racist, sexist or other negative term in a negative way? Fuck no. Would my characters? Very likely.

Along those lines, I find it's important to ask myself what connotation, or particular flavor, I want to create through the words my character uses. Cock says something entirely different (slightly hard-edged, neither too pretty nor too vulgar) from penis (a little more scientific) from schlong (humorous, dorky, not at all sexy). Of course, the connotation of words is always evolving. Shakespeare's curses are no longer even curses--gadzooks for example, which came from "God's hooks," was considered terribly offensive in its day, and now people use it (if they use it at all) as an expression of surprise (or, in the U.S., as the name of a clothing store for teens). Even that most taboo of words from my own teenage years--cunt--has become accepted and reclaimed as a word of power for women.

So, is there any word that I'd never use in writing? There was a time when I would have said yes, but now I don't think so. Words are both my building materials and my tools, and I don't want to throw any of them away. In fact, I am more likely to hoard words, both good and bad. I want to collect every cunt and fuck and twat and cock that I can -- and then dole them out at just the right instance to make the biggest impact on the story, and on the reader. And if I can do that, then all those bad words become not just good words, but great words.


Shanna Germain loves to curse in public, and while living in Scotland this year, she has learned how to properly use bloody, feckin and arsed. Her work appeared in places like Absinthe Literary Review, Best American Erotica, Best Gay Romance, Best Lesbian Erotica, Bitten and more. Learn all about her at

Friday, August 21, 2009

My Native Tongue

by Helen E. H. Madden

I'm back from Chicago, and very happy to see a topic of discussion that is near and dear to my evil little heart - bad language.

I take pride in having a certain mastery of swearing, or as I like to call it, my native tongue. I grew up in a household where understanding the nuanced differences between "God dammit" and "God DAMMIT!" were crucial to knowing when to ask for a raise in my allowance (the first indicated minor annoyance on the part of my father, and he would hand me any amount of money to get me to stop pestering him; the second indicated he had just realized I'd dropped his favorite book in the toilet, and perhaps I'd better hide than ask for a raise). Yes, my father was quite a man of words, most of them being "God dammit" and "Son of a bitch!" And I learned well from him.

It was in college that my natural tendencies came out in full bloom. One simply cannot be a cadet without learning the finer points of linguistics. For instance, while in college, I learned when to call someone a cock-sucker versus when to call them a butt pirate. Army ROTC programs encourage the study of languages, and I was more than up to the task of fulfilling that particular educational requirement (although they did insist I study Japanese for a year in addition to enhancing my native tongue, no idea why).

I never did learn to swear in Japanese, or in any other language for that matter, but I've traveled enough to realize I can make myself well understood no matter what country I'm in when I swear. For instance, taxi drivers in Italy will go much faster if I start swearing about how I'm going to miss my plane if they don't FUCKING DRIVE! And over the years I've even learned how to manipulate the lingua franca much the same way my dad did. Many is the time, during my days in the Reserves, when people would come to me to ask that I volunteer for this assignment or stay late for that project, only to walk away quickly in the other direction when they heard my voice rising in a thunderous "God DAMMIT!" I avoided a lot of unnecessary work that way.

So yes, I swear, quite a bit, and with an expert's flair. But being a mother of two small children these days, I've had to tame my wild tongue. I recalled having written something on this very same subject a few years back, shortly after the birht of my youngest daughter, Pixie. I went trawling through my personal blog today and found this, from June 8, 2006:

Now I will be the first to admit I swear a lot. Much more than your average mommy does. I've said it before, I got my degree in swearing courtesy of the US Army. I take to foul language like it was my native tongue, and when I'm really torqued, I revel in the imaginative use of blasphemous phrases and scatological terms. I'm a writer. Creative language is second nature to me. But when Princess came along, I tried to cut back on the dirty words. I had to swear whenever I nursed during the first three months because it hurt so badly that it was either swear or castrate my husband. Outside of that, though, I tried to cut back. I really curbed the habit the first time Princess tried to repeat a certain four letter word that I usually reserve for computer malfunctions. Nothing like seeing your nine-month old pull herself to standing, shake a tiny fist at your PC and shout, "Fa!"

As Jenna pointed out in a comment on Ashley's post yesterday, a study has been done that shows swearing may help alleviate pain, and my snippet of blog post above only underscores that idea. But if this is the case, then I have to wonder. As much as I swear, does this mean my life is naught but the most glorious, exquisite agony to be endured?


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Double Standards

by Ashley Lister

…and so I said to the cock-sucking shit, why don’t you go fuck yourself?

The example above is roughly what I heard the other day whilst shopping in the town centre. I’ve quoted it here to explain that I have double standards when it comes to taboo language.

If I’m out, shopping in public, and hear someone swearing loudly in conversation, I instantly become a prude. There is a time and a place for everything, I think: and the shopping precinct is neither the time nor the place for taboo language. Children might hear. And even if children can’t hear, I don’t want to listen to such foul-mouthed verbiage.

Yet, whilst a part of my mind is reacting prudishly to this swearing, my immediate thoughts are, “Why doesn’t this foul-mouthed fucker, keep his cock-sucking mouth closed?

Am I schizophrenic? Well, no more than the next couple of person you might meet. But, like so many others on this blog have said this week: context is king.

I should state here that, in my opinion, there really is no such thing as ‘bad language.’ I believe that particular subjective phrase is a contemporary colloquialism used to describe the inappropriate use of profane or ‘taboo language.’ Most profanities refer to either sexual anatomy, sex acts, eliminatory functions or religious iconography and symbolism. (The word ‘profane’ traces its etymology back to a meaning of ‘in front of the temple’ or ‘outside the church’).

Personally, I had always thought that blasphemy was no longer that big a taboo. However, whilst chatting recently about children’s literature, a colleague of mine confessed that she found one contemporary children’s author distasteful because her characters kept saying, “Oh-mi-God!” My colleague didn’t make a big deal about the matter. But it was obvious that this frequent use of taboo language, especially in the context of a medium aimed at children, was causing her some great distress.

Eliminatory functions are more easy to understand as taboo language. We’re referring to waste matter, which is not a pleasant subject. It smells bad and carries the risk of potential disease. It’s no surprise that the associated words don’t have pleasant connotations.

On Wednesday, Jude mentioned the swearing reflex that occurred when she caught her thumb with a hedge trimmer. Current thinking tells us this is because there are certain ‘taboo’ words stored in one side of our brain, and these words are specifically called on to produce a shocking display in readiness for the fight-or-flight reaction prompted by such unexpected stimuli.

This is a reflexive action akin to what happens when you accidentally step on the tail of a cat or a dog. Anyone who has ever done this will know that the pet reacts with an unearthly howl of pain followed by a vicious retaliation or a lightning-fast bolt in the other direction. In animal terms, the pet is ‘swearing’ during this howl, and shocking its attacker whilst deciding if it should fight back or run away. If the pet could talk, it would be saying, “Jesus-fucking-Christ! That was my motherfucking tail!”

But, to me, it’s the inappropriate use of sexual terminology that tends to piss me off. As an author of erotic fiction I spend a good many hours each day, trying to describe scenes of a sexual nature. This means I’m regularly describing the sex act and parts of the sexual anatomy – key areas in the lexicon of taboo language.

I tend not to go to the clinical extremes for which Lisabet expressed a distaste. I don’t think I’ve ever used the word ‘prostate’ in one of my stories. To me that would be as farfetched as one character saying, “I have a pleasant tingle in my pancreas,” or ‘he could feel his pituitary gland throbbing.’

However, at the other extreme of this language usage, I don’t rely overly on vulgarities. It would make for an inappropriate conclusion to an erotic scene if I simply wrote, “And then they did a fuck.”

So I aim for a balance in my writing. Some characters swear. Some characters don’t. Some scenes call for profanities: if only to juxtapose the raw passion of the sex act against the conventional ‘non-swearing’ norms of that specific situation. But I always try to make sure it’s contextually appropriate.

A character in one of my stories might end a chapter whispering to someone, “I want you to fuck me.” In that context I’ll think the language use is appropriate for the situation. But, when a stranger on the street uses the same verb, I will always think, “Mind your language, you foul-mouthed fucker.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Magical Words of Pleasure

by C. Sanchez-Garcia

A few years a ago I was living in these apartments in San Antonio Texas. One of our neighbors was a small, cantankerous woman in her 60s from Thailand named Nute (sounds like newt). She liked us and didn’t have many friends. When she’d make up a batch of Thai home cooking she’d bring a bowl by the apartment for us. She liked to watch me eat it. I was the only one who ate it. The playfully spicy but non-threatening tex-mex of Taco bell and most of San Antonio's tourist traps were boiled oatmeal compared to this. Nute’s cooking occupied its own parallel Universe of studied heat and pain. It’s wasn’t fun. It hurt. It was real. It was the food you might be served in the afterlife if you died without being absolved of your sins. This was serious food, and the faint hearted need not apply. In fact the faint hearted could just get the fuck out of the way when Nute came around with her soup, with tiny native Thai chilis floating in it, the hottest natural substance on God’s foot stool. It made my eyes weep, my nose run, my face turn red and my skin sweat. Nothing could put it out. Water spread it on your lips like a gasoline fire. I took some to work for lunch and people gathered around, seeing me weeping and gasping and red faced, thinking I had received some tragic news. I adored Nute’s cooking and found it sexually arousing.

I found Nute sexually arousing also, but in a peculiar way. I’m oddly wired so that I find older women, whatever age I am at a given time, to be the most sexually attractive. The funny thing about Nute was, that as a fantasy figure she was arousing. But in the real world she was not. When the real Nute was standing next to me, watching me eat and whimper, I didn’t feel attracted by her in that way at all. When she wasn’t around, and it was just my imagination it was another thing. Her skinny frame was a blank tablet on which strange dreams could be written. I could never figure out the mystery of that, how the fantasy image of woman could reach you in ways the woman herself could not. There’s a short story in there somewhere.

I find this true on many levels, and I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately. Here’s what I’ve found so far. Straighten me out if I’m wrong.

One of the best books on writing craft that I know of is Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Steering The Craft”. Most writing books will explain the bricks and mortar of plot structure, POV, character arc and the three act story. Le Guin’s skips all that and addresses something different. Her book is dedicated to the beauty of language in writing craft. Her exercises are along the lines of writing gorgeously, writing “chastely” (no adverbs or adjectives. Just try that some time.) and writing magically.

Writing in a magical voice is an element I’ve seen in several forms of popular fiction. I never got comfortable with this form of speech until she explained it to some extent in her book. It’s the difference between skinny little Nute standing next to me, and Nute the seductive Fox Lady of fantasy. Fantasy beats reality most of the time.

Le Guin gives examples of magical speech from Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings”. We’re not talking about magic words, but instead a kind of syntax. A way of talking. This is a syntax that doesn’t attempt to imitate common speech, but a kind of high flown speech. It represents speech inhabiting a role, compared to speech imitating life. This is one of the chief distinctions between popular fiction and literary fiction. In pulp fiction, tough talking crime noir detectives like Philip Marlowe could be counted on to say things like

"I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun."


"'Okay Marlowe,' I said to myself. 'You're a tough guy. You've been sapped twice, choked, beaten silly with a gun, shot in the arm until you're crazy as a couple of waltzing mice. Now let's see you do something really tough - like putting your pants on.'"

Magical language is recognisable as words without contractions, faux Shakespearean pronouncements in stentorian tones. It is a type of sound, an aural imagery, that reminds your imagination that this is something more than reality. You should be hearing it a certain way. For example imagine, say, a young boy is trying to open a door he’s not supposed to. In mainstream fiction a gruff man standing nearby might say “Hey! Knock it off, kid. You ain’t allowed in there.” Okay. Now imagine a wise old wizard saying the same thing in magical speech “Young boys are most curious. Nevertheless, what you desire is forbidden. You shall not pass." Wizards and wise men talk this way. Native-Americans in movies who speak English as a second language talk this way. Villains on Star Trek talk this way, God knows why.

Magical speech exists in erotic fiction in the BDSM genre. I’m getting better acquainted with this genre as time goes by, but its still a little exotic to me. My favorite book is still “Raw Silk” by Lisabet Sarai. It just stands out, and its probably the best introduction for a beginner to the genre imaginable, because the main character Kate O’Neill is new to the experience. We learn this world along with her. The lesser men in this world, her boss, men she encounters, speak in a natural manner. But when her dom Gregory has her alone for the first time and is seducing and introducing her to the world of pain through which she will explore her own sexuality, he speaks magically:

Gregory stood back a bit, looking her over. “Once again, Kate, you surpass my expectations. Now indeed you look as my slave should look, well whipped and well satisfied.”

Or this from Anne Rampling’s (Anne Rice) “Sleeping Beauty” series:

The Prince gave a low gentle laugh.
“My Beauty is very like an unstamped coin.” Said the Prince. “And I wish to draw in the full character. I shall take delight in training her. I wonder if you yourself are as attentive to her faults as I am.”

My Beauty is very like an unstamped coin? Strictly speaking, guys don’t talk like this. Readers who’ve been getting by on Hemingway and Bukowski have to change gears, and changing gears is good for you. These are fantasy words, words of pleasure and magic, not violence. These are words to conjure with. They arouse and draw you in. They invoke images of pleasure in ways that a more straight forward syntax would not.

Look at it from another angle. Here’s a fragment from an unpublished novella of mine called “Miss Julia’s Cake Club”. This is how guys talk when they’re not playing around:

“You do what I tell you. You don’t think – you just do. That’s what you do. I decide what you do, so you’d better stop insulting me. Me – I decide. You do what I tell you to the fucking T!” He kicked wildly at her again and hit her elbow. Her right arm went numb. “Tell me that lie again!”

“I’m sorry.”

“That’s it.” He grabbed the edge of table and threw it over sending the dinner into a gory splatter against the wall. The cheap glass dishes they’d gotten from the American church missionaries shattered into sharp edged blades over the kitchen floor.

“That’s my fucking dinner!” he screamed at her, his face looking like it had just been boiled. “Look at what you made me do to my fucking dinner! I give you a home. I give you love. I give you everything a woman can ask for. And then you lie to me and you insult me and now look what you made me to do to that shitty dinner that tastes like shit. Look what you just did!”

“I didn’t mean -”

“What? What did you just say? Don’t you fucking argue with me!”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“Don’t you try to lie to me like I’m stupid. Bitch – I will fuck you up!”

She looked around frantically but he was standing between her and the front door, and there was nowhere to hide. She rolled into a ball and covered her head with her arms.

“Clean it up!” he hollered. “Fat stupid bitch – get up and clean that shit the fuck up!” She could see through her fingers that he had his belt off now, the big steel buckle dangling down and she knew the worst was still on its way.

Hello? Anybody still reading this far? Like I said – unpublished.

There’s nothing sexy about that scene. That scene hurts to read, but I promise you its pretty damn realistic for a lot of women in this world. That’s not what we come to erotica for, for many people its what we come to get away from. A good writer in this genre will give us the magic and the language to conjure it with.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Scarface and Swish

by Jude Mason

The door swung open letting in the heat of the late August afternoon into the ramshackle bar. Scarface grumbled, then turned and scowled at the slender man who entered. Blond and fair-skinned, the entire room had to know the silk suited twit wasn't 'one of them' he was much too simpering, too pale and much, much too clean. Before the swish sat down, Scarface slammed his half empty beer mug on the filthy bar and rose to his feet, unsteadily, and shambled across the room.

Simpering swish turned and looked at him, a large buck-toothed smile on his face. His right hand, the nails gleaming with polish, reached out, limp-wristed, towards Scarface. "I'm Sammy, what do you want, asshole?" Even his voice was out of place, thin and reedy, a pitch too high to be manly.

"I'd be much obliged if you'd turn your feet that-away and go somewhere else," Scarface growled, ignoring the proffered hand.

"Why you piece of shit, lowlife asshole, why would I do that?" Sammy replied in a simpering snivel.

"Because, if you refuse, I'll have to show you the door."

"Yeah," Sammy cringed, his face gone white. "I've seen the fuckin door. Now, fuck off!"

Scarface's blood boiled. The swish was asking for trouble. "Listen, Sammy, you'll simply have to go. There's no place for the likes of you here. We're all rough, tough bikers, can't you see that?" The last few words came out with a spattering of spittle.

Okay, I'm not sure if that worked, but it was fun. What I'm really trying to get at here is, lauguage is flexible, beautiful and amazing fun to play with. Characters, people, speak a certain way and as readers you expect the characters to comply with a set of unwritten rules. The biker doesn't sound like he'd pass the Grey Poupon, the sissy doesn't come out with guttural snarls and language that'd make a logger blush.

I'm really a firm believer in using language appropriate to the character. If the harsher words upset you, or you prefer not to use them, don't write characters who would normally use them.

As for what words I won't use? If you mean Jude the wife, mother, grandmother, I tend to fit the words to who I'm talking to. I've been known to curse viciously and foully. Cutting one's thumb with a hedge trimmer will make the meekest of us creative in the use of language. LOL Yet, I'm sure if my grand son had been there, I'd have bitten off a goodly portion of them and screamed REALLY loud instead.

Jude the author doesn't shy away from many words. I'm not fond of purple prose, but have used them in my time. Flowery bugs me, yet vile vernaculars makes me smile. I once read a poem in an outhouse that was inspiring. It rhymed and it was totally swear words. And it made sense. I was impressed. I laughed and pointed it out to my daughter, who was in her twenties at the time. She thought I was a tad weird, but she laughed too.

Okay, back to Scarface and Swish. The language I used didn't fit them. If it had, the story could have gone on quite nicely. Poor Swish would have been either tossed out on his ear or something worse. The way I wrote it, made it pretty much impossible to get into the story. We expect things and are confused when we don't get it. Writers learn this or have trouble finding readers.

What do you all think? Have you ever read something where the language pulled you out of the story? What words bother you? Why?


Monday, August 17, 2009

Going with the flow

By Jenna Byrnes

Someone once said, "I may not know art, but I know what I like." I feel like that when it comes to discussing the topic of so-called 'bad language' in erotic writing. I don't have a list of do's and don'ts when it comes to words I'll use. I go with the flow, writing what feels natural. Though I must admit, sometimes I'll change wording two or three times before I send it off to my second set of eyes, Jude. What she doesn't fiddle with my editor probably will, so I'm not stuck like glue to any one thing I write.

I agree with Lisabet that we use some words to titillate, but as she said, a skilled author should be able to do that without the reader catching on. One of my editors has a real negative thing about repeated words in the same paragraph (or on the same page, even.) So frankly, sometimes I get creative with language to keep from repeating words.

I don't swear a lot in my every day life, so when it's appropriate I let my characters cuss. One of my favorite expressions is "Well, f*ck me." Not that original or creative, but used in context, (with the proper amount of sarcasm or incredulous-ness), I like it.

And I feel the need to express my thoughts on a comment left on Lisabet's post yesterday- someone (I won't say who *cough* Garce *cough*) said he can't stand the term 'pre-cum'.

Excuse me?

I write m/m erotic romance. We got pre-cum out the ying yang, here, folks. We got pre-cum before we even get out of our jeans. We need the term pre-cum, and use it frequently. I never thought it sounded clinical at all. Honestly, when I started writing I didn't use the spelling 'cum' thinking it sounded porn-ish, but editors have since informed me that 'come' is a verb and 'cum' is the product, or a noun. So we got cum all over the place in my books, folks. I think it's expected when you write m/m sex. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

It's all part of going with the flow.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Anatomically Correct?

by Lisabet Sarai

I write erotica and erotic romance at the more intense end of the heat scale. I'm not afraid to use explicit language when the story requires it. I've never had particular trouble calling a “throbbing pillar of male flesh” by one of its common names. So it may come as a surprise to readers to learn that one of my pet peeves in erotic writing is an excessive focus on body parts.

All it takes is one mention of a character's G-spot and I'm ready to throw the book across the room. (Of course, I won't really do that, as it would cause serious damage to my beloved Eee PC, but I'm speaking figuratively.) I would rather not hear about how one hunk's back entry stimulates the other hunk's prostate. I couldn't care less when a heroine's fingers tickle the hero's perineum. I even get a bit annoyed by incessant references to women's clits, grateful though I am that men finally did discover that delightful little nubbin.

My objections are not rooted in squeamishness. I've written scenes that my publishers wouldn't print because they were too extreme. My main objection to all this anatomy is that it doesn't matter. It's distracting. Especially in romance, but even in erotica, the emphasis should be on the characters' feelings – both their emotions and their sensations.

The fact is that when you are making love or even just having sex, you are typically not thinking about either yourself or your partner in terms of discrete organs or erogenous zones. Sex is an integrated experience, and sexual feelings are diffuse. I don't really know, exactly, when someone is licking my clit. The feelings ripple away from the point of stimulation and affect my whole body. I would bet a month's royalties that no man, being penetrated, thinks, “Oh God, yes, I can feel him rubbing against my prostate, and it's fantastic.” No, he's more likely thinking, “Oh yeah, give me more!”. Or perhaps not thinking at all, just reveling in the physical sensations and his own emotional reactions.

An author's goal should be to have her readers identify and empathize with her characters. In a sex scene, she wants the reader firmly ensconced in the character's head. Explicit descriptions do play a role in achieving this objective. They may arouse the reader, making it easier for her to imagine the character's experience. We're conditioned to react sexually to words like “nipple” and “cock”. Dirty words evoke sexy feelings. A skillful erotic author takes advantage of this conditioning.

Overuse, however, blunts the reaction to sexual terminology. In addition, an excess of physical details will draw the reader's attention to the characters' bodies and away from their minds and hearts. The reader becomes an observer rather than a vicarious participant in the scene.

Furthermore, it is the psychological associations of sexual acts, as much as the acts themselves, that make them exciting. Let's consider anal sex once again. (I will admit that it is a favorite literary topic of mine.) Yes, it can feel great if done correctly. But personally, I think the reason that anal entry is so exciting is because it is something of a taboo. In addition, there is a larger element of trust involved in allowing anal penetration than in other sexual acts. It is especially intimate because of the risk of injury and the element of surrender on the part of the individual being penetrated. It is special, regardless of whether the prostate is stimulated or in whether in fact any prostate is involved, because of the bond that it can create between the participants—in the case of erotic romance, the characters.

I'm particularly put off by references to the G-spot because the notion of a magic key that unlocks female ecstasy is so antithetical to the core tenets of romance. In my view, it's not what's being done to you that counts—it is who is doing it. I suppose that some people may experience sex differently, but for me at least, arousal is as much mental, even spiritual, as it is physical. I truly believe my tag-line: imagination is the ultimate aphrodisiac.