Tag Archives: Writing

How to write erotic flash fiction and turn readers on in a few pages

17 Feb

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

I’m a sucker for a good short story. I always have been, which is perhaps why I’ve made a career out of editing short story anthologies, but I’ve come to appreciate the genre anew by compiling three books of erotic flash fiction: Gotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex, The Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy Stories and The Big Book of Submission: 69 Kinky Tales. Yes, the number 69 is a cheeky reference, but also rounds out these collections in a beautiful way, allowing room for plenty of variety.

Before I delve into why I love these super short tales so much, I want to let all you writers out there now that I’m looking for the last few ultra hot, creative and brilliant BDSM erotica stories to include in The Big Book of Submission, Volume 2, to be published in 2018 by Cleis Press. Get all the details in the call for submissions and send your stories in by February 28, 2017. Yes, I know that’s around the corner, but at only 1,200 words or less, writing one can be done in a day.

The Big Book of Submission: 69 Kinky Tales

The Big Book of Submission: 69 Kinky Tales

So what do I love about these books? As an editor, I selfishly love that I get to say yes to 69 authors, since sending rejections is the part of the job I hate the most. As a reader, I relish seeing just how playful writers can be with such a limited word count. And as a person with ADD, I love that I can read one of these stories in just a few minutes, making them perfect for our often overbooked and overly busy culture.

Some people might see the words “1,200 words or less” and think, That’s nothing more than a sex scene. Au contraire! What’s been extraordinary to me is seeing just how much passion, heart and soul these authors have imbued into their relatively small amount of words. They’ve created stories that are rich with gorgeous imagery and eroticism, the kinds of stories I reread often. One of my favorites is “Housebroken” by Laila Blake, from The Big Book of Submission, about a special kind of roleplay. Here’s a snippet:

The tiny bell on her kitten-collar chimed whenever she moved her head a little this way or that, sparkling like her pink lips with their ubiquitous honey-scented gloss. All of her seemed to glow as she lay there ivory-pink, her knees pulled up in a shallow angle, leaning against each other, her toes wriggling a little. She never did lie completely still—for that she needed ropes and cuffs, commands and punishments. For the moment, though, Imani allowed it, smiling at her kitten’s antics and the way, in her apartment, her kitten could let go completely, with no care in the world but Imani’s pleasure and her own, attaining the purest sense of freedom humans could find.

Yes, in her limited space, Blake takes readers inside an intimate, loving lesbian BDSM relationship and helps bring their roleplaying to life.

The Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy Stories

The Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy Stories

One of my favorite stories I’ve ever published is the humorous yet thought-provoking gender changing tale “Remote Control” by Logan Zachary in The Big Book of Orgasms. Using the hilarious premise that the title device can change everything from the weather to one’s genitals, Zachary presents a couple who transform themselves inside and out, with fascinating results. You can listen to the whole story on The Kiss Me Quick’s Podcast—I dare you to do so and not wonder what you yourself would do with such a remote in the palm of your hand! Not only is this story sexy and funny, it also manages to slyly comment on gender and sexual orientation.

What the writers who are successful at these sexy flash fiction stories know is that economy of language can indeed be hot, because it forces you to truly say what you mean and imbue every single word with as much power as possible. You can focus on the heart of what makes a relationship or sex act or scene so arousing, cutting out all extraneous distractions. Honing in on what’s vital can help authors see what makes the story tick and force them to value each thought, each touch, each movement as it builds to something greater than the sum of its parts. For the reader, the payoff is that they can get completely sucked into a story, knowing they can fully savor it in the time it takes to enjoy a morning cup of coffee.

Gotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex

Gotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex

These tales capture the complexity of trying something new in bed, and instead of jumping straight into the screwing, they still take the time to make imbue realism into the equation. In “Anal-yzed” by Donna George Storey from Gotta Have It, she tackles the negotiation between a couple about exploring anal sex, covering a woman’s doubts, fears and uncertainties while still maintaining the heat level:

“Interesting. I have another theory, though.” As he said this, his finger dipped between my asscheeks to stroke my tender pink valley.

I shivered and arched up into his touch. “Theory?”

“Yes, that anal sex is an unnatural act, so it makes you feel like a dirty slut to do it.”

My muscles down there—belly, cunt, asshole—immediately went into spasm, prickles of shame mixed with sweet twinges of pleasure. He was right. It was a turn-on to be a naughty girl who let boys in the back door. But I suddenly realized something else too. Having him talk about fucking my ass—actually analyze it like this—was making me incredibly hot.

Yes, within the confines of her 1,200 word maximum, Storey takes a common sexual fantasy, deconstructs it and does it justice as the narrator and her partner find out just how they can make this fantasy come true. She doesn’t waste any words, but she doesn’t rush the action either.

For those who prefer watching a sex scene unfold, here’s me reading my face slapping erotica story “Manners” from Gotta Have It several years ago at erotic shop Coco De Mer in West Hollywood, a topic I enjoyed distilling into a few racy pages:

To play devil’s advocate, I know that for those who solely read and write novels, the idea of even attempting to narrow down a short story into the confines of flash fiction is anathema. The biggest complaint I get from readers is that these stories are too short, that just as they get started, they’re over. On that point, I agree; however, I see their shortness as their strength, their beauty, their brilliance, and if they leave you wanting to know more about these characters, I consider that a win. So if you’re pressed for time, have a limited attention span like me, or simply want a huge amount of variety in the palm of your hands, check out these flash fiction books, and perhaps they’ll even inspire you to write one of your own.

Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, Begging for It, Fast Girls, The Big Book of Orgasms and more. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture and teaches erotica writing classes around the country and online. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter and find out more about her classes and consulting at eroticawriting101.com.

On creating inclusive, multicultural erotica in the age of Trump

18 Nov

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

In the nine days since I woke up and learned that Donald Trump had been elected president, I must admit that everything I do with my life has seemed largely pointless, from sex journalism to erotica editing to even blogging. How could it not be n the face of public discussions in 2016 in favor of a registry for Muslims and praising Japanese internment camps? The question that made my 41st birthday on the tenth and the rest of the ensuing days pass by in a blur of bingo and the blahs has been, What am I doing to make this world a better place? Because I had already been in somewhat of a creative lull and mental haze, the answer I kept coming back to was: nothing.

It felt ridiculous to be talking with the social media manager I had been so proud of myself for hiring about what quotes and images to use to promote my books, like I was ignoring the very real problems that have exploded into our world with a vengeance since last week’s news, despite not being able to take my eyes away from my increasingly scary Facebook feed for more than a half hour at a time.

And then copies of my new anthology, Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 2, arrived, all 200 that I had purchased in a burst of optimism and eagerness. There’s always something thrilling about seeing a book with my name on the cover for the first time, knowing that it went from a mere concept in my head into an actual paperback that will soon be on the shelves of bookstores and sex toy stores in all its shiny glory. I savored that moment, realizing that the book was bigger than me, and that I had authors who were excited to be published, many of them for the very first time, and that by helping them share their work, I might also be encouraging future authors to get writing. So I stopped feeling despondent for a little while and got to work packaging up those books and mailing out contributor copies to my 21 authors from around the world. I actually think my trips to the post office are my favorite part of the anthology editing process, even more than opening those boxes, because I get to be the one to deliver something that’s so much more than the sum of its individual parts to the people who helped create it, without whom the book wouldn’t exist.

Hot off the press Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 2

Hot off the press Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 2

Holding those books in my hands made me realize that while I don’t consider myself an activist, what I can do in my own small way, is continue on with my vision for inclusive erotica. When I took over editing the series (which used to include calendar years in its title; my editing started with Volume 1), I decided to make some changes. One biggie was that authors who’d been published in one of my volumes before wouldn’t be able to submit again, in order to make room for more voices. While I’m only contracted through Volume 4, my dream is to get to edit 10 volumes, and in the process, publish writing by over 200 amazing authors, while also boosting their profiles and helping them gain a dedicated readership. I also started doing more outreach to writers who might not consider themselves “erotica writers” but who might want to contribute, because I believe there are so many people with brilliant untold stories that speak to their deepest desires, even when times are hard, even when other things may seem and actually be far more urgent than plain old s-e-x.

Now, I vow to do even more of that, because while I only have 65,000 words to do so, within that space, I want to publish the types of authors who may not be heard in mainstream erotica, yet whose perspectives are vital and urgent and powerful and lively and fierce and tender, who find eroticism within circumstances that may seem unlikely or unusual, whose fetishes defy categorization, whose desires continue unabated no matter how many hurdles, internal and external, they have to jump through to act on them. I want to continue to seek out women from small towns and big cities, from atheists to dedicated believers, from brand new adults to those many, many decades their senior, to contribute and make this a more varied, diverse series and share aspects of sexuality that help us understand each other better. This may be my Polyanna side showing, but I hope that in illuminating how sex and lust and love play a role in the lives of the kinds of women readers may or may not know in real life, these stories bring us all a little closer together.

So here is what I will ask you: please think about women and gender nonconforming/nonbinary people you know who might have a fascinating erotic story to tell, and pass on my call for submissions for Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 3. The deadline, December 1, is soon, but for those with stories to tell, I hope this call inspires them (and I will be editing Volume 4 next year, so stay tuned). Authors whose stories are accepted for publication will receive $150 and 2 copies of the book (plus as much social media promotion and support as I can possibly provide).

While I intend these volumes to be timeless and, hopefully, still in existence twenty, thirty, fifty years from now, I also want them to grapple with what it’s like to live and love and lust now, in such a chaotic political climate, not just in the United States but all over. I want them to run the gamut of human experience and look at how sex and religion, sex and age, sex and race, sex and disability, sex and gender, sex and anger and sadness intersect. I don’t want cardboard cutout characters or agendas, but humanity in all its messy imperfection. I want characters who break the rules (their own and society’s), who try something new, who surprise readers and themselves by following the path their desire takes them, even if it’s not “smart” or “rational” (perhaps especially if it’s not). I want them to defy stereotypes and slut shaming and the notion of being “good girls.” I want characters who deserve (and maybe even get, or have gotten) their own novels to truly see thir journeys to their fullest course. No, these aren’t essays, and their primary purpose still needs to be to arouse readers, and perhaps offer them an escape from the real world, but I don’t think that’s antithetical to also giving those consuming those words something lasting to think about.

On a personal level, I also am grateful that I’ve already got a mini book tour in the works, because I’m sure if I had the option of planning one now, I’d chose instead to stay home, to savor the small comforts of my little corner of suburbia, where people from different cultures do actually live together in harmony, rather than going out into the big wide world where it seems like we are becoming more and more divided and the worst of humanity is on full, loud, public, scary display.

Will anyone want to hear erotica read to them after the inauguration? I have no idea, but one of the things that has sustained me through editing anthologies over the last 12 years is taking an often lonely process that happens solely in my home and channeling it into something that brings real, live people together in a room. I also believe we need our independent bookstores and sex toy shops more than ever to be community spaces, places where we can find new ideas and entertainment, and I’m proud and honored that they want to work with me and my authors.

I don’t know what the future holds, for my country or my career. But right now, I know that this is my path, and I intend to use it to help other writers get published, get paid and help spread their words as far and wide as I can. It may be a drop in the ocean in terms of making the world a more understanding, less hateful place, but it’s the drop I can offer.

Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, Begging for It, Fast Girls, The Big Book of Orgasms and more. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture and teaches erotica writing classes around the country and online. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter and find out more about her classes and consulting at eroticawriting101.com.

How to get published in anthologies

16 Sep

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

First let me start by saying this is not a definitive guide to how to get published in anthologies, but a highly subjective guide based on my editing over 60 anthologies, and now being the Best Women’s Erotica of the Year series editor for Cleis Press, and having my own work published in over 100 of them. Why am I sharing this on Lady Smut? Because writing erotic short stories for anthologies is how I got my start, and how many in the erotica and erotic romance genre have broken in. It’s not for everybody, especially if you think only in novel length plots, but what anthology writing credits can do is give your work visibility and gain you new readers, boost morale, connect you with other writers (and editors and agents, who may be reading and looking for their next big author) and earn you a little extra cash. My anthologies are on bookstore shelves across the country and a few around the world; several have been translated into German. That means that your short story may be read by someone far, far away who, if they like it enough, may start following you online, eager to read every word that follows the end of your anthology tale.

Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 1

Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1

Numerous erotica and romance novelists have gotten their start by publishing shorter fiction in anthologies. Delilah Night, whose work I published in my erotic romance anthology Irresistible, put out her first solo novel, Capturing the Moment, this year. She described getting her first acceptance letter for an anthology this way: “I actually found out that my story had been accepted into Irresistible because I was following Rachel Kramer Bussel on Twitter. She said that she had three stories with Jewish characters, and I thought *hmmmm.* An hour later I got the email. I screamed, grabbed my husband, and may have cried.” Jade A. Waters, whose novel The Assignment, the first in her erotic romance trilogy Lessons in Control, will be published in December by Carina Press, got her first byline in the genre in my anthology The Big Book of Orgasms. There are countless paths toward book deals, but having previous writing credits bolsters your visibility and can be impressive to publishers because they know your work is already “out there” and being read.

Jade A. Waters' first novel, The Assignment

Jade A. Waters’ first novel, The Assignment

I also organize readings at bookstores, like our upcoming Best Women’s Erotica of the Year reading January 31, 2017 at Skylight Books in Los Angeles, for my anthologies, giving authors the opportunity to read their words aloud to a live audience, which I find an invaluable experience for finding out what truly connects with readers. Often, local bookstore patrons will attend, who may have never heard erotica read aloud before. You never know who will show up to a reading, and often your words will stick with audiences long after they’ve heard them.

Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 2

Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 2

Plus, it can often be easier and faster to get a short story published than a longer work. Generally, it takes about a year to a year and a half from submission to publication. It’s also exciting. I too cried when my first short story, “Monica and Me,” got published, and the thrill of seeing my name in a book has never gotten old. It’s also been a stepping stone to a career as an anthology editor I never imagined when I sat down to pen that first story.

So, with the caveat that short stories aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, for those who are interested, I’m sharing my top five pieces of advice on how to better your chances of getting published in an anthology. Please keep in mind that an anthology editor may be inundated with hundreds of submissions and only able to select a very small percentage of them. This means that, simply based on the numbers, not everyone is going to get accepted. Don’t take it personally; if your story gets rejected, send it back out, or polish it and see if you can tweak or extend it. Whatever you do, don’t give up on it because you don’t know all the variables at play that went into an editor’s decision.

Right now, I’m aiming to get 500 submissions to my call for Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 3 (December 1 deadline), even though I only have room for between 20 and 30 stories, depending on length. Why? Because I want to publish as many authors I’ve never worked with as I can from around the world, and want to offer my readers as much novelty, variety and creativity as possible. The best way for me to do that is to draw from a wide pool. Please don’t let that discourage you, though; in the past, if I had too many wonderful stories that simply wouldn’t fit within my allotted work count for an anthology, I’ve taken the surplus and fashioned some of them into a new anthology idea based around a theme that’s cropped up. I’m also editing the flash fiction BDSM anthology The Big Book of Submission, Volume 2 (January 10 deadline), which will contain 69 stories, three times the usual number I have room for. You can find many more calls for submissions at the Erotica Readers & Writers Association Author Resources section, and also follow publisher Sexy Little Pages for their calls.

Onto my writing advice:

Read the guidelines fully

This rule should go without saying, but with every single anthology I edit, I receive submissions outside the stated word count, not focused on the theme or otherwise outside the rules I’ve set down in the call. My calls tend to be very long (most by other editors are shorter), but that’s because over the twelve years I’ve been editing anthologies, I’ve honed in on the exact what I’m looking for (except for plot and content; with those, I want to be surprised!). What I try to do with my very detailed calls for submissions is save both authors and myself time. Will I read your story even if you submit it single spaced when I require it to be double spaced? Yes, but for every small adjustment I have to make to submissions, that’s time taken away from reading them. One major point: only submit your story once. Don’t consider your submission a rough draft, a suggestion or in any way unfinished. Yes, an editor will be editing it if it’s accepted, but it looks bad and is insulting to an editor’s time and professionalism to submit a piece, have it accepted and edited, then completely rewrite it and expect them to the do all that work over again. Submit the final, polished, amazing, proofread (see last item) story you’d want to see published with the byline you want to use. Following the guidelines shows you want to be taken seriously.

Make your writing stand out

Considering what I stated above, that editors may be facing hundreds of submissions, think about how to make yours stand out. For instance, when I edited Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, I received many more excellent submissions than I could include in the book. Since the theme was sex toys, I read many stories that focused on the same type of sex toy used in a similar way. That’s not to say those stories were bad, but simply that I couldn’t include more than one lest my readers get bored. Some of the stories that stood out as unique were ones like “A Tale of Two Toys” by Chris Komodo, about dueling remote control vibrators, “My Life as a Vibrator” by Livia Ellis, told from the point of view of a vibrator, from factory shelf to being used by lusty women, as well as stories that employed household objects as erotic aids, such as “Icy Bed” by J. Crichton. Obviously, you can’t know in advance what kinds of stories will be your competition, but you can think outside the box. Now, I’m not saying that you should set your story on Mars or some fictional planet if you hate sci fi just for the sake of standing out. I’m saying that if you have a brainstorm that’s off the beaten path, or know about a subculture that not many people do, use that to your advantage. For instance, I used my many years playing in chess tournaments as fodder for my story “Check, Mate” in Alison Tyler’s erotica anthology G Is for Games.

Grab the reader’s attention, but don’t give away too much immediately

When I’m reading story submissions for my anthologies, I especially look for stories that pull me in with an amazing first line and keep me frantically reading to find out what happens next. That’s not to say each story needs to have a fast pace; in fact, in addition to variety in terms of sex acts, sexual orientation, setting, tense, and age and race of characters, I look for stories with varying paces so readers get a wide range of types of stories. But I tend to prefer stories that keep me guessing just a little, not necessarily with a plot twist, but that are full of enough drama to make me keep reading. Sometimes people assume that “erotica” simply means “sex story,” and that’s not the case. A short story, erotic or not, still has to have a beginning, middle and end (no matter the chronology), and the ones I tend to select are intriguing from the start and stay intriguing.

Have fun with the theme

Not all anthologies have themes, but when they do, go ahead and mix things up a little. One of my favorite examples of this is from my anthology Flying High: Sexy Stories from the Mile High Club (originally titled The Mile High Club: Plane Sex Stories), where Cheyenne Blue took the sex on an airplane theme and ran with it (or rather, walked) with “Wing Walker.” In this case, I truly didn’t want every story to be about seat mates getting it on in the air, and she made sure her story spun in a direction I could never have imagined when I wrote the call for submissions. I’ve channeled my fear of driving and cars into a BDSM erotica story about a woman “forced” by her partner to drive as part of their kinky relationship. Once again, if you have insider details about a certain location or fetish or hobby, taking that and eroticizing it is a way to impress an editor, gloss on the theme and stand out from the pack.

Proofread and read your work out loud before submitting

This goes along with my first rule. We all make typos and other mistakes, and I’d say almost everyone will find something to tweak once they read their work aloud. It simply sounds different when you speak the words rather than read them on the page or screen, especially if you’ve already read them numerous times. This is an excellent way to give your work a final proofing before submitting it.

Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, Begging for It, Fast Girls, The Big Book of Orgasms and more. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture and teaches erotica writing classes around the country and online. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter and find out more about her classes and consulting at eroticawriting101.com.

 

 

Six-Figure Book Contract – A Horror Story

7 Sep

By Elizabeth Shore

Although writers say, and it’s true, that their pursuit of writing is primarily for the satisfaction they get from a creative outlet, who among us hasn’t indulged in the dream of landing a big book contract? A nice hefty one, enough so we can quit our day jobs and do nothing but churn out book after fabulous book, generating still more big hefty deals! From the outside looking in, it’s an enviable dream, one to which we can all aspire. We’d land on the New York Times bestseller list, have tons of marketing muscle promoting our work, even get our faces on daytime TV! Getting a big book contract would be just awesome. Right?

Meet Dan Blum. Dan’s a writer, a poet, and a blogger. I first came across his hilarious blog, The Rotting Post, (“The Finest in Literate Snark”) when I saw a piece he’d published about badly written sex scenes. As it turns out, however, Dan is also a novel writer. His new book, The Feet Say Run is due out in December. But several years ago, Dan wrote what he describes as a “post-modern sex comedy” novel entitled lisa33. For his effort, Dad snagged a well-known agent who handed him a dream: a book contract with major New York publisher Viking and a six-figure advance. Dan was on his way to author nirvana! But not so fast…

LadySmut: Hi Dan! Thanks for agreeing to tell your story to our Lady Smut readers. Let’s start, as all good yarns do, at the beginning. Before being offered the deal for lisa33, you’d been trying to get a “serious” novel published but without success at that point. Was lisa33 born out of frustration with the publishing process?

Dan Blum: Not exactly.  I have to be genuinely inspired by an idea to put the time into writing it.  I had always enjoyed both humor and serious fiction.  With the dawn of the internet, the world of the chatroom and instant messaging and all of the anonymous flirtation and sex that it led to, I felt like there was this new world that was fascinating and comic and sexy and worth exploring.

LS: You’d put massive time into writing a serious novel and couldn’t get a publisher, yet you dash off a sex comedy in three months and get offered a six-figure advance. You must have been surprised that it was picked up so quickly, but were you also angered that this lighter novel got so much attention over your other fiction?

DB: It was very frustrating – particularly because I wanted to shout out, “This isn’t me,” or rather, “This is just one small side of me.” But there was no way to explain it. lisa33 was what got published and so it was all I was known for. It was me.

LS: The new agent you signed with for lisa33 was bursting with confidence and enthusiasm – did you have any hesitation at all in having him represent you? One of those “if it’s too good to be true” moments?

DB: I definitely wondered if he was for real. It happened incredibly quickly once he picked it up, all a bit dizzying. And I hadn’t really focused on what it would feel like to have that book actually published. I had a young family, was living in suburbia. After it came out, I remember waiting to meet my son at the elementary school bus stop, and wondering what all these mothers who were waiting with me thought of me. If I was the neighborhood creep.

LS: You wrote that Molly Stern, Viking’s Editor at that time, was a big fan of the book but wanted a couple of changes – like making it even funnier! Can you talk about those conversations? Did you feel like it was a collaborative process with her?

DB: Molly was a great supporter and if the rest of Viking had been behind the book in the way Molly had been, it would have been an entirely different outcome. At the same time, for anyone who writes humor, hearing, “Make it even funnier,” is a bit like a personal trainer hearing, “I want to be taller.”  There is only so much one can do. I have only good things to say about Molly, but I never really felt secure at Viking. I was always trying to please, trying to prove how accommodating I was, never quite there.

LS: When things started turning sour with Viking, where was your agent in all of this? Was he going AWOL on you at the same time?

DB: Yes. As it later turned out, he was off on a cocaine bender.  A good agent will not only represent the book through its sale to a publisher, but also make sure the publisher is doing the right things and assist some in promotion.  Just when I really needed that, my agent flat went missing. I never really knew what had happened until he published his own memoir about it.

LS: (And for which he himself received a giant advance. Ach! But I digress). So, OK. You’ve got an agent you can’t reach and a pub date that keeps getting pushed back. Did you at any time think about pulling your book from Viking?

DB: The short answer is no. I just didn’t know enough at the time to know what my options were. And I continued to get reassurances from Viking. “It will all work out in the end.” “We’re still behind it.” Etc.

LS: I’m curious about the contract you were offered. Since your agent had gotten a bidding war going for the book, it seems like Viking, the eventual winner, would have offered you a multi-book deal. Was that not the case? And if not, what did your agent have to say about that?

DB: This was something that in retrospect I should have insisted on. I’m confident we could have gotten it. But my agent was focused on getting top dollar, not on the other aspects of the contract, and it never came up.

LS: So your pub date gets later and later, your agent disappears…did you ever consider quitting writing altogether after this happened? It seems like the emotional toll would have been monumental. How did you get through it?

DB: For years I not only stopped writing, I even stopped reading – or at least stopped reading fiction. I just wanted nothing that reminded me of the publishing world. But at the same time, you need perspective. There are worse tragedies, worse misfortunes in the world than a writer getting screwed over by the publishing world. It’s been over a decade now, I have a new novel coming out, a humor blog I’m having a great time with, and it is a distant memory – like a bad break-up might be after a decade.

LS: I have to ask the “lessons learned” question. When you look back on the experience, what were those lessons for you, if any? Were there things you would have done differently?

DB: That’s a tough one. You finally get your dream, and it is not what you expect at all. In fact…nothing changes. You have the same friends. Enjoy the same things. Are frustrated by the same things. Maybe the dream is an illusion. There is no amazing, joyous, completely fulfilling other life out there. There is just this one. So make the most of it.

LS: Lastly, congrats on the upcoming book! The Feet Say Run is due out from Gabriel’s Horn Press in December (read the blurb here). Are you at all concerned that history will repeat itself with the new book?

DB: Thanks. But no, I don’t really worry about history repeating because I did not get a huge advance, and have not been told I would be famous. So I am much more grounded. If it’s a big success, that would be wonderful. If not, then so be it.

LS: Anything else to share with our Lady Smut writers and readers?

DB: Well, first of all, to the writers:  best of luck to all of you. As the site is all about erotica, I would add that I often feel we’re in an era of disappointingly prudish serious fiction. Shouldn’t sex be a topic to be explored like any other? In lisa33 I tried to mix erotic, comic and serious elements in a story about real people. I would leave it to others to decide whether or not it works for them. But I will say this:  I wish more writers today were willing to try it.

Amen to that! Thanks so much for joining us today, Dan. Great having you here.

For Dan’s own account of what happened, dash on over to his blog. You can access the harrowing tale here.

Elizabeth Shore writes both contemporary and historical erotic romance. Her newest book is an erotic historical novella, Desire Rising, from The Wild Rose Press. Other releases include Hot Bayou Nights and The Lady Smut Book of Dark Desires

 

 

How to succeed at writing when you feel clueless

19 Aug

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

I’m getting a head start on Second Chances week in honor of the release of our own Lady Smut author Elizabeth Safleur’s new erotic romance, Perfect, which you can read more about on her website, including an excerpt.

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But what I want to talk about today isn’t so much fictional second chances, but real life ones, though if you are looking for a fun foodie romance all about a second chance career, I highly recommend the hilarious Nuts by Alice Clayton.

nuts-alice-clayton-romance

I’m going to focus on my own second chance career as a writer, which started off when I was flailing my way through one of the worst time periods of my life: law school. When I was in college, I thought I knew everything about everything, including what I wanted my future job to be. I did consider applying to journalism schools, because I’d been writing letters to the editor throughout my teens, getting them published everywhere from The New York Times to Vogue, but because I thought I would be the next big activist lawyer type, I focused on law schools. Also, I was 19 and 20 when I was applying, because I graduated from college in three years and my birthday is in November, which in hindsight at 40 years old seems very young to have to know what I want to do for the rest of my life.

So there I was at one of the most prestigious law schools in the country, NYU Law, and I was miserable. I felt totally outclassed by my peers and kept falling farther and farther behind on my schoolwork. I was living off student loans in a dorm so I couldn’t foresee how I would be able to ever afford to leave, since I didn’t have any savings. I wound up slogging through the next three years, but using my newfound enthusiasm for indie bands and musicians as a way to escape from what increasingly felt like an utterly wrong fit.

I had been reading erotica since college, but one day I decided to see if I could write my own. I had no fiction writing background and had never even considered writing short stories before; I was more of the impassioned, fiery, opinionated essay writing type. I saw a call for submissions for an anthology about celebrity sex fantasies called Starf*cker and went about crafting a story based on my own crush on a certain famous figure which became my first written and published erotica story, “Monica and Me” (you can listen to it on The Kiss Me Quick’s podcast).

"Monica and Me" image from The Kiss Me Quick's podcast

“Monica and Me” image from The Kiss Me Quick’s podcast

Around this time, just as that story was being submitted, I realized that the jig was up, and law school wasn’t for me. In 1999, at the end of my third year, when I should have been graduating, I slunk into an administrator’s office and confessed that after dodging my classes and basically flunking out, I would be taking a leave of absence. I never went back.

From there, I went on to write more short stories, which led to be asked to co-edit and then edit anthologies. At first, those books were conceived of by publishers who would present possible subjects such as spanking or exhibitionism and voyeurism, and later, I started pitching my own anthology ideas.

What started on a whim eventually became my second chance career, and even led to a full-time job when an adult magazine editor in chief was looking for a new senior editor, and approached me about it. At the time, I was making do as a typist at an insurance agency, an utterly mind-numbing job that left me feeling utterly bored.

Over the next seven and a half years, I learned a ton about writing, editing and publishing at that job, while also delving into new projects, such as writing a nonfiction sex column for famed alt weekly The Village Voice and running an erotic reading series.

But even though I loved all these opportunities, I carried around a huge amount of guilt about dropping out of law school. I felt like it was this giant black mark not just on my finances (I emerged with over $150,000 in student loans, and while I don’t have the exact amount I paid over the next 14 years, I’d estimate that Sallie Mae ultimately got around twice that from me in payments), but also on my reputation. No matter what I achieved in my writing career, whether bylines or awards or speaking engagements or packed rooms full of people at readings or new books published, I felt like a failure. That only started to ease once I finally did pay off those loans in 2013, with some help on the final payments from an inheritance from my grandmother.

Even now, I still sometimes wish I could go back in time and get that degree, not because I wish I had stayed on that path and become a lawyer, but because then I would feel like I had accomplished what I had set out to do. I’ll never know what opportunities that would have led to, but I do think dropping out had a silver lining, because it made me that much more dedicated to my new career. I threw myself into writing, editing and promoting my work with gusto. I said yes to almost any opportunity to do live readings, to write for new publications, both paid and unpaid, to work with various publishers.

This year all of those skills came in handy when I faced a major depression for several months, slogging through each day listlessly. I was stuck mentally, emotionally and, it seemed, in my career, which didn’t feel like it was moving forward in any way. I worried each month that I wouldn’t have enough money to pay the rent, and didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I asked those closest to me for help, not with my mental health issues, but with potential jobs.

With some guidance from my therapist and my depression naturally running its course, life started to seem brighter and a bit more worth waking up for, and those friends I asked for help have launched me into what I consider my next second chance writing career, as a part-time copywriter for a retail company. At first, I felt like I was giving up my freelance writing life that I’d built up since my magazine job ended in 2011, but over the past few months, I’ve discovered that I actually enjoy copywriting and geeking out about marketing. Contrary to my concerns that I was unfit for office life after working from home for so long, I love having coworkers I can turn to with questions and get an immediate, face to face answer. I’ve also started doing entertainment blogging for a site called OMJ (Oh. My. Jersey.), which has provided its own learning curve, but also showed me a whole new way of being a blogger I’d never considered before.

My point in sharing all this is that it’s never too late to start writing, or return to writing, or try a new way of writing. Maybe you’ve written technical manuals but want to try writing a mystery. Or maybe, like science writer Emily Nagoski, author of the much buzzed about sexuality tome Come As You Are, you’ve also got a romance novel in you. Nagoski, writing as Emily Foster, has a new romance novel out called How Not to Fall that I’m excited to take to the beach with me next week while I’m on vacation.

how-not-to-fall-emily-foster

Or what about Jill Kargman, who prior to 2015 was primarily known as an author of novels like Momzillas, but has now parlayed that world of ultra rich mommies into one of the most hilarious shows on TV, Bravo comedy Odd Mom Out, which she also stars in? Talk about a second chance career!

odd-mom-out-bravo-jill-kargman

I had no idea what would happen when I left law school, or when I got laid off from my magazine editing job, or when I started exploring copywriting, or at umpteen other points along my career journey. How could I have? But taking those leaps, some by choice, others by necessity, has helped get me where I am today. I didn’t have a game plan when I wrote that first story; I never said “I want to edit dozens of anthologies.” I did it all one step at a time, and I’m still doing it one step at a time, as I assess and measure and experiment and forge ahead with each new essay, article, short story and anthology.

I often find that prospective authors want a blueprint to follow, a mapped out route to writing success, but alas, there is none, because each of our journeys are different. Just as nobody can tell you exactly how to write (in my opinion), no one can tell you what chances you should be taking. That you have to figure out for yourself.

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite books I’ve read this year, the essay collection/memoir You’ll Grow Out Of It by Jessi Klein, a comedian and head writer for Inside Amy Schumer.

youllgrowoutofitcover

She has a chapter titled “How I Became a Comedian” which is actually a pretty serious chapter, about how we can wait and wait and wait, sometimes forever, for our big breaks, so often held back by our own fears, but that at a certain point, we have to decide whether to create our own chances, or keep on waiting for some mythical future time when we feel “ready.” Klein writes of doing her first standup comedy gigs after longing to do so for years: “The fear of trying stand-up and the fear of not trying stand-up were locked in an endless stalemate, where both sides made convincing arguments and both sides agreed it would be a good idea if instead of making a decision I just sat on the floor of the crap apartment Pete and I shared and ordered huge amounts of truly terrible Indian food.” Her path meandered toward her eventual success, including turning down a stint writing for Late Show with David Letterman in large part because her dad said to her of the thirteen-week offer, “Well, that doesn’t sound like much of a job at all.”

Contrary to my post’s headline, I don’t have a surefire route to instant writing success, because there isn’t one. I’ve done it in my own roundabout way, not by writing novels as so many of my peers have done, but by writing and editing short stories. That’s one path, the one that has worked for me so far, because it’s something I love doing even after 17 years. I think the key to that success has been being willing to adapt and grow and take risks and, via trial and error, figure out where to best focus my skills, time and energy.

If you take anything away from my words, I hope it’s that whether your thing is writing or comedy or athletics or art, you will never regret going for it. You won’t regret giving yourself a second or third or fourth or thousandth chance, but it’s very likely that you will regret never taking that chance in the first place.

Visit Lady Smut all next week for more on Elizabeth SaFleur’s new novel Perfect and second chances.

Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, Begging for It, Fast Girls, The Big Book of Orgasms and more. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture and teaches erotica writing classes around the country and online. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter and find out more about her classes and consulting at eroticawriting101.com.

Read it already! A writer’s confession.

12 Aug

by Isabelle Drake

I’m not so great at reading my own writing aloud. Sure, I’ve done it. For small groups, large groups, for college credit, and a couple weeks ago, for fun.

For fun? Well, sort of. Partly for fun, partly out of curiosity and well, yeah, I also did it for promotion. Promotion! Marketing! These are topics writers are encour50s-pin-up-girl-picturesaged to think about all the time.

  • Where are you going to promote your new release?
  • How’re you going to promote your backlist?
  • What about your work-in-progress makes it marketable?
  • How are you reaching new readers?

You get the idea. We’re encouraged to try new marketing strategies–all the time. We should be innovative and exciting. Relevant. We must keep up with our blogs, twitter accounts, and Pinterest boards. On the side, we’re also writing.

That’s a lot of pressure. No, not the writing. That’s not pressure. That’s fun. We’re writers, so creating stories and torturing characters, that’s what we do. It’s that marketing and promotion stuff that stresses us out. Not because we don’t want to do it, don’t understand it, or even because we’re not good at it. It’s because there’s always something newer, fresher, and more exciting we need to do. Right now that new fresh thing is Facebook Live.

Now here’s my confession. I don’t care that I’m not good at reading my work aloud.

NVP final coverI’m a writer. I write stories for other people to read. I love crafting stories and I’m thrilled that I have readers who support my work. Isn’t that what matters? The words on the page? The story? I think so. I probably shouldn’t admit this either, but I think its funny that I’m not a great performing-author. Sure, on occasion, I have pulled myself together and done a fine, if not good, job at reading. Like when I did my MFA graduate reading. But for the most part, I’m happy to hand over my work for other people to read (inside their head) and enjoy (without me there staring at them).

So, if you haven’t guessed already, I did a live reading of my new release, BAIT, from New Vintage Press, on Facebook. I was at the Romance Writers of America national convention, standing on my balcony in San Diego, wearing my favorite Hello Kitty t-shirt, and I did it. I hit go live. I said, hi, showed people around, then read.

 

Yeah, it was promotional, but more important to me, it was fun. Will I do it again? Sure. Will I worry about how well I perform? Nope. Not at all. The only thing I’ll be concerned about it whether or not people have a good time.

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Here at Lady Smut, we love to know what’s on your mind, so comment and let us know what you’re thinking. And follow too, for all the news you need–and want.

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Want to check out Isabelle Drake’s next live reading? Come find her on Facebook. Cuckold Beach 3, her newest release is the third in her smexy Cuckold Beach series is available now for preorder.

Why are tattoos and their wearers so hot? An interview with Anna Sky, editor of Inked: Sexy Tales of Tattoo Erotica

17 Jun

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

Before I even though about getting my first tattoo, I was intrigued by them. Not every tattoo, necessarily, but certain ink that spoke to me, that called to me, that begged to be stared at. I’m a nosy person (I’m a journalist and writer, after all), so of course the tattoos that draw me in make me want to ask questions (no, not did it hurt?), ones like What made you get that? Why that location? What does it signify?

That alone is enough to be sexy to me, and tattoos’ sex appeal has clearly swept the romance world, because there’s lists on Goodreads of the Best MF Romance Novels about Tattoo Artists and tattooed heroes aplenty.

In my genre of erotica, I assumed that after I knew what it was like to feel the sting of a tattoo needle, to sit without squirming, to focus so intently on my body for those precious, intimate minutes, plots for sexy stories would simply come to me as if injected along with the new color adorning my body. But writing is tricky like that; it doesn’t arrive fully arranged on a platter there for our minds to simply toss on a garnish and serve. So while I’ve flirted with tattoo erotica of the years, I’ve yet to complete my own.

Inked: Sexy Tales of Tattoo Erotica published by Sexy Little Pages

Inked: Sexy Tales of Tattoo Erotica published by Sexy Little Pages

That’s why I was so intrigued to see that sex positive publisher Sexy Little Pages had put out Inked: Sexy Tales of Tattoo Erotica. Having read the anthology, I can assure you that the stories more than live up to the promise of that hot title. There are tales of tattoo artists plying their trade, those who sport the ink and those who are irresistibly intrigued by it. Each story is intriguing and honors the art of the tattoo without fetishizing the ink; the stories are centered around the tattoo wearers and creators and all the emotions that arise for them. I was particularly smitten with “Uncovering Heather” by Victoria Blisse, in which a woman is greeted during her morning work commute by a lewd, tattooed stranger she should ignore but of course, in his own irresistible way, he gets under her skin and shows her a side of herself no one ever has. “Scissoring” by Annabeth Leong is a fun lesbian erotica story premised around the title sex act, where a tattoo plays a very important role in the protagonists’ meet cute.

Last month I promised I’d get into why tattoos are sexy, and to do so, I got an expert’s opinion. I decided to ask Sexy Little Pages founder and editor Anna Sky, who’s also an author in her own right, about the inspiration behind the book, and, most of all, what makes tattoos so sexy.

Why did you decide to publish Inked

Inked was the first anthology for Sexy Little Pages and I had no idea what to expect in terms of how many writers would submit stories and what those stories could be. I settled on tattoos as a topic as I thought it could have so much scope; as the blurb says, tattoos are intimate and personal. From there, stories could be sweet and romantic or transgressive as hell. Couple that thought with the different attitudes towards ink, from my mother telling me I’d regret mine to people using their bodies as a canvas. From people showing they’re part of a social setting or distancing themselves from a particular group, to those seeking cosmetic touch-ups or post-surgical art.

What surprised you about the submissions you received for Inked?

 I was so excited and curious as to what people came up with and I wasn’t disappointed. My biggest issue was choosing which stories to include and which didn’t fit in with the overall feel of the anthology. I had to turn one or two great stories down. I really loved that the writers took my theme and created so many different stories from them. There’s a huge amount of diversity in the nine stories, from magic and sci-fi to contemporary romance, serious themes and laugh-out-loud moments but overall, just damn good writing.

Do you think the public perception of tattoos has changed over the last 20 years Are they considered more sexy than they were in the past?

I think the internet has made tattoos more socially acceptable in some ways. And I think that increased access to images and ideas has helped people to really express themselves individually and find out who they are through that expression. People who are passionate about their ink and wear it well turn themselves into pieces of living art and I love that.

Why do you think tattoos are sexy?

I love how multi-layered tattoos are—they all tell a story, turn our skin into an artist’s canvas and are a snapshot of a particular time and place. My best friend recently had the most gorgeous tattoo and it says so much about her, and her artist. You can see it was chosen and designed with love and inked-on with so much attention to detail. And it truly is beautiful. Her body has turned an image into something so much more and that to me, is what tattoos should be.

Pondering Penis Lipsticks While Awaiting Inspiration

25 May

Sexy red head woman in black lingerieBy Elizabeth Shore

If you’re like me, with a thousand more things to do than there are hours in the day, you wish for more free time the way Kim Kardashian might wish for a brain. Recently, however, I’ve found myself with a boatload of spare time on my hands. Days and days and days of it.

Nothing has been worse for my writing career.

Why is this happening, I ask myself. WHY? I should have written three novels by now and outlined a fourth. I should have my Goodreads page updated, my Amazon author page updated, and have enough blog posts written so I can take the rest of the year off. But have I done any of those things? Even one? No siree! I also haven’t organized my closets, given my apartment a proper cleaning, or switched out my winter clothes for summer. Turns out, in order to get my rear in gear, I’m the type of person who needs a serious deadline. A pressure writer. Perhaps, even, a pressure thriver.

When I was in college I was asked by someone extremely close to me to write a paper on his behalf. Yeah yeah, I know. I probably shouldn’t have offered. But hey, I was in love. So anyway, I had this paper to write. I put it off and put it off, ’cause, you know, I had plenty of time. But then the deadline crept on up me and the night before it was due I holed up in my room sweating it out. Cursing and swearing and pledging to myself that I would never ever ever get myself into that position again. But I met the deadline, finished the paper, and turned it in to my friend. And the grade? Well, ahem. I aced it.

Penis-shaped-lipsticks

(Picture: Instagram/grownfolkparty) The colors are awfully bright, aren’t they? Wait, that’s NOT what I’m supposed to be focusing on?

I look back on that incident, combined with my thorough lack of motivation in my present situation, and it all adds up to needing some pressure, a deadline, a driver with a sharp whip screaming at me to get moving. If I don’t have that, I do senseless things that leave me completely unsatisfied, like looking at phallic lipsticks and trying to decide whether I like the available colors. Or whether I’d have the balls – heh – to use them in public.

In the absence of having a deadline put upon me, I need to put one on myself. This is surely one of the reasons why writers sign up for the annual NaNoWriMo challenge. You’re given an insane deadline with a clear cut goal. Now get to it. For me, the key to successfully wrangling this free time and making the best of it is structure. I need a schedule that tells me exactly what I should be doing, when, and for how long. And then I have to stick to it. If I don’t have that, who knows how I’ll occupy my time. I might decide I need to make my eyebrows multi-colored. In the meantime, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some cute kitten videos to watch.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for a FREE READ of my newest erotic historical release, Desire Rising 

Elizabeth Shore writes both contemporary and historical erotic romance. Her recent releases include Hot Bayou Nights and The Lady Smut Book of Dark Desires. Her newest book, released April 29th, is an erotic historical novella, Desire Rising, from The Wild Rose Press.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please keep writing, because the world wants your sexy words

20 May

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

This post was originally going to be about why tattoos are sexy, and I promise I will write about that soon, but instead, I wanted to give those of you who want to write, or have dreamed of writing, or do write but have doubted yourself lately a little pep talk. (For the record, I place myself in that final category.)

I know not all of you reading Lady Smut consider yourself writers, but I also know that almost all, if not all, writers start out as readers. There’s a huge overlap between the two groups, and so for those of you who’ve ever entertained the idea of writing but put it off because you weren’t sure of your abilities, or were nervous about what people would think because you write romance or erotica or sex scenes, or for any other reason, I want to say: the world wants your writing.

Now, that may sound grandiose, especially because I can’t guarantee that you will sell your writing or find a wide readership; nobody can guarantee that, and that’s okay. I can tell you that your writing is valuable no matter how many people read it and that if you put it out there, wherever “out there” is, someone will read it.

I teach erotica writing classes in person and online, and every single time I do, I’m struck by the fact that many of my students are taking a huge risk in daring to open themselves to a genre that is still often looked down up, maligned and misunderstood. There’s often a lot of fear about even putting down sexy words on their computer screen, let alone showing them to anyone else. But when they do it anyway, they are almost always amazed at how freeing it is to simply start unleashing the images and scenes and ideas that have been floating around in their head.

I was inspired today to share this pep talk by an essay novelist Jaime Clarke wrote at Literary Hub titled “Why I Quit Being a Writer.” Before I even started reading it, even though I’m not familiar with Clarke’s work, I felt a pang of sadness, because for me, writing has been the mainstay of my life, the thing that has gotten me through the toughest of times, that has allowed me to access other worlds and communities, the thing that has always grounded and centered me. After finishing the essay, I have a better understanding of Clarke’s perspective, and I respect it, but I also know that so many would-be writers quit before they start, or quit at the first sign of rejection, or let someone else’s opinion matter more than their own, and I want to encourage you get right back out there and keep writing, if it’s something that’s at all important to you.

That’s not to say writing is “easy.” For me, certain pieces flow out of me as if fully formed, and others are absolutely agonizing, each word one I have to search my mind desperately to conjure. Often, I have to trick myself into writing, daring myself to write a certain number of words or for a given time period simply to get my fingers moving, even if what comes out looks to me like gibberish. I’ve written short stories that have gotten published and when I’ve read them later, all I could see was where I wish I’d done things differently.

But that’s all part of the process. Our writing experience doesn’t necessarily end when we hit send or publish or see our name in print. While the words may remain static, our minds do not. There is always the next story, the next chapter, the next blank page to tackle.

For me, I find that when I start to compare myself with other writers, that’s where I start to falter. Whether that’s ogling their Instagram accounts or fancy blurbs or book reviews, the truth is, I will never be that person or able to write in their voice. I can certainly hone my craft, but at the end of the day, I can only write as myself—and that’s a good thing. That’s where your strength, uniqueness and individuality come into play, and where your words can shine and draw in readers who want to hear what you and only you have to say.

signing at Book Expo America

signing at Book Expo America

Last week, I attended book publishing convention Book Expo America (BEA) to sign copies of my anthology Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1, and also to simply observe all the new books surrounding me and talk to others who are as passionate about books as I am. It would be very easy to get discouraged at such an event, to feel like such a small fish in such a giant pond that I might as well swim away and shut up. Instead, I made sure to truly connect with the many readers, writers, librarians, booksellers and distributors I spoke with, to feel grateful that out of the hundreds of thousands of books published each year, there were people who were excited about mine.

Back in March, Elizabeth Shore posed the question, “Should we be writing if nobody’s reading?” This post is my way of saying to you, whether you’re a multi-published author, a budding writer, or someone who’s never even contemplated picking up a pen, that yes, you should. Now, I’m not arguing that everyone is somehow obligated to write; not everyone wants to express themselves in that format.

Yet based on my experience teaching hundreds of erotica writing students, I have a strong feeling that the line between “reader” and “writer” is incredibly malleable. Witness all the erotic authors who’ve said that on some level, the success of Fifty Shades of Grey inspired them to start writing, whether because they thought they could do better, or they saw that E.L. James didn’t come to fiction from a lofty place on high, but as a TV executive turned writer of fan fiction. Maybe you don’t see yourself as a writer today, but tomorrow something fabulous and unexpected, or horribly life-changing, or explosively erotic, happens and you find yourself thinking, I have to write about this. If you wind up in that position, even it’s just a momentary inkling and you have no idea what will happen after you write the first sentence, do it. Don’t hesitate, don’t wait, don’t look to anyone else for “permission.”

Here’s the thing about writing: you never know who’s reading, who’s paying attention, who’s absorbing what you write. You might think you’re writing for people who look and sound and think like you, but find that your work connects with people who are in totally different places in life than you are. There’s no way of knowing that until you put those words down and send them off into the world, whether that’s a blog post, a Facebook status update, a short story, an essay, a book, a magazine, or a handwritten missive posted on a coffeeshop bulletin board. Call it woo-woo if you like, but I fully believe that the right people will find your words at the right time, and I don’t mean because you used the perfect SEO or used the best Amazon meta tags or hired the best book cover designer, but because you wrote something that mattered to you.

Here’s something wise my writer friend Lauren Baratz-Logsted posted today on Facebook: “If you’ve written something that has made just one person laugh or think of the world in a new way, if you’ve made one person who while in a dark night of the soul say, ‘I’m staying alive to keep reading so I can find out how this thing turns out’ thereby helping that person see another dawn: you’ve already succeeded.”

One of the reasons I’m so passionate about erotica is because it welcomed me into its folds (I promise I didn’t mean that as a double entendre) when I as at a point in my life when I wasn’t sure what direction to take. I was in law school but increasingly feeling out of touch with my classmates and found myself ditching class because I didn’t understand the material and, most importantly, realized I didn’t want to be a lawyer.

I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do next, but I found myself starting to submit erotica stories and getting them published, one by one. Those first few stories led to editing my first erotica anthology back in 2004, and now 12 years later I’ve edited over 60 of them. I say this not to brag, but simply to point out that I entered this field with one idea that has since blossomed into something far greater than I could have imagined. But none of that would have happened if I didn’t take that first idea and let it come to life.

Erotica is, I fully believe, just as welcoming and eager for new authors as it was back then. There are new publishers popping up all the time and new ways for writers to reach readers, whether it’s blogging, Wattpad, self-publishing or other means. Erotica editors want your stories. Right now there are calls for submissions open for everything from lesbian romance to “characters living and loving while STI-positive” to the theme of, simply, lust, to name but a few. What you do with those topics is up to you, but the point is: they are ripe for your own spin.

Maybe I sound like an erotica Pollyanna, but I don’t care. I don’t want any of you to miss out on the joy of sharing your words with readers because you let fear get in the way. Happy Friday, and happy writing, wherever your words take you.

Rachel Kramer Bussel is the editor of over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1, Dirty Dates, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, The Big Book of Orgasms and Fast Girls. She interviews women about their sex lives for Elle.com and writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture. Find out more at eroticawriting101.com and follow her @raquelita on Twitter. Sign up for book giveaways in her monthly newsletter at rachelkramerbussel.com.

Torn fishnet stockings and sex in cages. Or, how I got started writing erotic zombie horror

25 Mar

By Isabelle Drake

Write about zombies? Not me. Write about zombies who feed off sex? Well, that’s more likely. Add in a horror element–now I’m all in.

ServantJanuary of 2011 I was about halfway through my MFA in Creative Writing. We were given a writing prompt that, we were told, was designed to push us “out of our comfort” zone. The assignment: read a tabloid newspaper, like The Weekly World News, long time supporter of Bat Boy, or the National Enquirer, currently keeping readers up to date on the happenings with Matilda, the Cat from Another Planet, then write a scene based on one of the features. Being the good student that I was, I dug right in to the assignment.

The two articles that inspired me most:

Zombie Barbies! by Frank Lake of the Weekly World News

A Very Zombie Holiday also by Frank Lake

Since I was soon to be on my way to Boston, I was also inspired by a very real blizzard wrapping its way around the East coast.

Before I move on to the rest of my account of how I started to write erotic zombie horror, I should mention that prior to beginning my MFA program I had already publisher about ten novels, fifteen novellas, and twelve short stories. Give or take a few in each category. All of them were written to make readers happy, many were romances of all heat levels, and nearly all were “commercial.” And, to be honest, pretty much all of the stories were written with the end goal of selling them. Like, for money. I mention this last part about the money because in the literary community writers are often paid with contributor copies or not at all. So, I entered my MFA program with the mindset that the work I produced should be, could be, salable. Enter this assignment.

Even before my fingers typed the first word, I was already planning to write not only one scene, but a whole story that my readers would be excited about reading. In the winter of 2011, I was writing all erotica and erotic romance. So, the story had to have sex. Problem: sex scenes with yucky rotting zombies would not be…pretty. Or alluring. Solution: attractive zombies. Logical solution: zombies that live off sex. Even better solution logical solution: zombies that live off sex with human captives. That’s right, as long as they have enough sex with their human captives, they stay attractive. Bonus to the improved solution: sex scenes will be necessary and part of the storyline.legs

The current East Coast blizzard intrigued me because it had shut down entire cities, halted travel. That sort of thing doesn’t, or rather didn’t, happen very often. What if zombies roamed an entire frozen city? A city held hostage to a fierce winter storm? One thing that came to my mind, zombies don’t feel the cold. That’s creepy. I took that idea and went with it. Soon, my tribe of sex zombies had extraordinary strength, from all that sex no doubt, and the ability to climb ice coated buildings. The last thing I needed was a zombie. An sexy, aggressive sex-hungry zombie. My inspiration? Zombie Barbie. Once my imagination was done with her, she was built like an Amazon goddess, wearing a mini-skirt, torn fishnets, and heavy black boots. Simply put. Mattie is a badass who takes what, and who, she wants. Her victim? A tabloid newspaper writer named Hayden.

Servant of the Undead breaks some of the “rules.” For one thing, the point of view character is male. Hayden’s capture and subsequent servicing, read: giving Mattie the sex she craves, is the main storyline. The other thing, he is the captive, not her. So, to see what readers think of this role-reversal, I decided to post the novel on Wattpad, the free, online reading community. I post a new part every Friday. Each part is about 1000 words long and features a “fishnet” video.

meThe fishnet videos, like the story itself, are an “accidental” creation. I did not set out to use myself to promote Servant. But after looking for images that suited my story and uncompromising zombie Mattie, I came up empty. My solution to this dilemma: put on my own leather mini, torn fishnets, and boots, then go out into my backyard and make my own pics and videos. I imagine I looked a tad eccentric wandering around my backyard, climbing on my woodpile and such, dressed that way and with a hoodie, undone hair and no makeup, but hey–I’m a writer. The neighbors know I’m weird.

You can check out Servant of the Undead on Wattpad, let me know what you think about that role reversal, then come back every Friday for the next part of the story. Want to be sure you don’t miss any? Add the Servant to your Wattpad Reading List.

Isabelle Drake writes erotica, erotic romance, and urban fantasy. Her most recent novel, Off the Rails, is a romantic comedy about a girl faced with one of life’s most challenging events: the high school reunion.

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