Tag Archives: Writing

BDSM Newbies and Erotic Romance: Q&A with The Discipline author Jade A. Waters

17 Mar

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

Author Jade A. Waters has made a name for herself with her sexy approach to erotica writing. I have published her work in several of my anthologies and have always been impressed with the way it draws the reader in, whether she’s writing about a flogger (in The Big Book of Orgasms) or Shakespeare and theater and love (in Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1).

After publishing numerous short stories, the San Francisco Bay Area-based author landed a three-book deal with Carina Press for her Lessons in Control trilogy, which follows Maya and Dean, both relative newcomers to the world of BDSM, on an exciting erotic journey. The series started with The Assignment, which featured the pair starting to date, with Dean giving Maya a series of increasingly risqué assignments, involving everything from public sex to bondage to sex clubs. Now, it continues with newly published The Discipline, as they take their sexual fantasies to a new level,  and the third book in the series, The Reward, will be published on June 12.

What especially drew me to her series is that while many kinky erotic novels are set in the world of dungeons with confirmed Masters and submissives, everyone fully aware of their BDSM identities from the start, both Maya and Dean are navigating those exciting but often confusing paths together. She has to figure out how much she can share with him about her past, which includes an abusive ex, and he has to figure out how far he can go with his kinky fantasies, especially as they ease into becoming reality. In Maya, Waters has created a heroine who is starting to tiptoe out from the shadow of her troubling history and into a future where she can crave roughness and tenderness from the same person. In our interview, I asked her about her writing career, choosing ebooks over print, BDSM and consent and what we can expect from this exciting literary love affair.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: How and why did you get started writing erotica and erotic romance?

Well, I’ve been writing fiction and poetry since I was a young girl, but I was also on the precocious side growing up…which eventually translated into a thing for provocatively reading synonyms from a thesaurus to my high school sweetheart over the phone. (For some reason, me reading the word “smoldering” often resulted in his squeaky voiced “Can you come over, maybe?”) Around the same time I discovered Anaïs Nin and The Best American Erotica 1993, and I realized I wanted to give sexy fiction a try. My first attempt was a story about a Russian princess trapped in a tower; her king father was attempting to marry her off to a bunch of disappointing courters, and she was supposed to be saved by a seductive stranger…but I never did finish that story. After that, I penned the occasional ditty every few years. The truth is that I fought the idea of writing erotica for a long time for too many reasons, but once I finally decided to up and go for it, it was on. I wrote two stories that I tried to submit to a small call (one of which ended up appearing later in Coming Together: Among the Stars), and then when I decided I was really serious in early 2013, I submitted “The Flogger” to you. That ended up being my first publication in The Big Book of Orgasms later that year!

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: When did you first get the idea for the romance between Maya and Dean, and was there a specific inspiration for it? Did you always plan for it to be three books?

JADE A. WATERS: Maya and Dean’s story was one part my own experience, and about three parts “what if?” The initial idea was sparked because I had a short-lived relationship with a man who playfully gave me an assignment on date one. I thought it was fun (my turn-ons are “playing” and “trying things”), but it wasn’t my thing in the long run, nor would we have ever worked out in a serious way. Pair with that my own history of having been in an abusive relationship in college, and the “what if” arose as I toyed with the idea of how the assignments and power dynamic would play out long term for someone who liked the submission, but who had only experienced it in a negative context. Maya’s independence is a mix of sass and survival—safety and control are imperative to her daily life, so I wanted to explore how that would work if she desired something considerably contrary. When I started book 1 I had some faint ideas of what could happen as they explored and their relationship continued to develop—so I imagined it could be a series, but I didn’t have much beyond an overall arc when I wrote The Assignment.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: There are some very vivid descriptions of things like sex clubs and rope bondage. Did you do any research for the books?

JADE A. WATERS: I do like to do my research. 🙂 It was a mix of memories of a few trips to sex clubs in the past, knowledge from a friend who studied shibari, and a lot of scouring the internet for alternate ideas. Also, reading is key. You pick up a lot from other stories and supplement with research as needed.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Can you tell me about your writing process? For the trilogy, did you write at a set time every day? Did you outline?

JADE A. WATERS: My “process” has morphed like crazy throughout this series. Book 1 was a breeze; it just popped right out. Book 2 had a lot of life and health issues throwing everything off, and required significant time and rewrites. Book 3 happened pretty quickly but needed a solid tweak between the manuscript turned in and what readers will see. The one thing that definitely held true throughout was that I’m a morning writer. It’s my most creative, calm time. I get up at 4 most days to get an hour or so of work in before I go to my day job. Weekends, I’ll start at 6 or so and go until the lunch hour.

I’m pretty simple when it comes to the how—it’s just me and a Word doc—but I like my coconut milk lattes and water in hand and to just go at it. Editing I seem to be able to do later into the day, which is helpful—but any big overhauls need morning light. As for outlining, that’s a big yes for novels. I use a combination of the Hero’s Journey, a 9-step outline process I picked up at a conference a while back, and then a method posted by Glen C. Strathy that I love. I merge these three styles together in a giant document that I print and keep on hand complete with character sketches and floor plans of characters’ houses as I work.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: How did you decide on e-publisher Carina Press, an imprint of Harlequin, as the publisher for your series?

JADE A. WATERS: My agent, Jessica Alvarez, and I shopped The Assignment around for a few months. Some publishers weren’t sure on a series. When the offer came in, we had two—one was for print for a single book, and the other was for the whole series with Carina. While I loved the idea of print, I’ve been fortunate to have been in print in several anthologies and I knew there was time for a print novel later. Carina was enthusiastic about the whole series, which excited me! So, after talking it around with Jessica, it was an easy yes.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Both Maya and Dean are intrigued by BDSM, but are both new at exploring it. Why did you decide to have them both be inexperienced? What was it like to write about a dom who has to act in control but is also, at times, unsure of what he’s doing when it comes to their power dynamics?

JADE A. WATERS: Ultimately, everyone has to be new at BDSM before they’re into BDSM. The desires can be part instinct, but we don’t just wake up one day knowing we like to be spanked or whatever without giving it a whirl. There are a bounty of books out there right now with a super experienced dom and inexperienced (and oft virginal) sub, and it drives me nuts. I wanted to explore two people who had a little exposure and interest in trying more, so that they could develop and cater to their own needs, but together. I find that exploration concept really sexy, which is why it was such an integral part of Maya and Dean’s relationship. However, it definitely posed some challenges in portraying Dean. He had to be in control, and yet he had to make rookie mistakes (he does in The Assignment, after all). It’s maddening to read and watch, but life is all about learning, and that’s what they do. Maya and Dean’s flubs allow them to figure out how to communicate and negotiate their boundaries—something I don’t think ever stops, in reality, in BDSM or any relationship. So they continue navigating that throughout the series.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Maya is intrigued by BDSM and submitting to Dean, but very wary based on abuse in a past relationship that had included some elements of BDSM, and she is also works with abused women at her job, which complicates her perspective. Was it challenging to incorporate the subject of domestic violence into a book of kinky erotic romance?

JADE A. WATERS: In some ways, yes, but not completely. I remember that when I told a non-erotica writer pal about Maya’s background early on, as well as some of what happens in the book, she’d said, “Wait, you’re basically giving her PTSD and having her trigger in an erotic romance book?” I’d found the question rather curious. I think we as a society have a tendency to gloss over the fact that real people have real histories and that can impact one’s choices and experiences. Maya is a fictional character, sure, but I like my characters to be real people. As someone who actually lives with PTSD—which does flare for most PTSD sufferers randomly throughout life—and yet someone who is also extremely sexual, I didn’t find the combination all that strange; I know what that feels like. It doesn’t saturate every moment but there are periods when it’s active. In the same way, making sure that past experience didn’t oversaturate the relationship was a challenge I enjoyed. To me, Maya’s story is about finally coming to terms with her past throughout the course of the series while she finds not only love and lust but herself in her relationship with Dean.

 One of the biggest themes of The Assignment is safety, which is what allows Maya to indulge the side of her that wants to have sexual adventures ranging from bondage to public sex to visiting a sex club. What about Dean makes her feel safe, and what, if anything, about Dean makes her feel unsafe?

JADE A. WATERS: Dean is naturally dominant, but he’s also a playful, compassionate guy. Maya is playful too, which is why they respond so well to one another. His openness allows her to feel safe, as does all his checking in—he may be giving assignments, but they really cater their dynamic together, and flesh it out through the series. We learn more about Dean in The Discipline, and some of his experiences have given him his own reticence that he [foolishly] tries to cover up. But as their relationship grows, it’s got to come out. I’m really into the pieces unfolding in time with people much like peeling back an onion, and yet, that lends to the challenges these two face. Maya’s questioning of safety comes from her background, pure and simple. It’s hard for her to place her trust entirely in someone else’s hands, but she wants to with Dean. Later, when she’s found her confidence in submission, she’s able to use that to call Dean out when he’s holding back. I wouldn’t say she feels unsafe then; in fact she feels safe enough to make the call and draw him out to meet her, too.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: If Maya had not met Dean, do you think she would have found other ways to explore her interest in BDSM?

JADE A. WATERS: Maybe? Frankly, I think she was too busy avoiding. If—and I mean if—she did find it later, I think it would have taken her a long time, because she was mighty happy with her fancy free love and sex life. There’s something about Dean that pushes that button for her in the perfect combo of dominant, charming, and sweet.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: The San Francisco Bay Area, the setting for the series and your home, is very prominent in the series. What’s so sexy about the area? Do you think people are more open to exploring BDSM there than in other parts of the United States?

JADE A. WATERS: I didn’t realize how into the area I was until I started writing erotica, honestly. Someone pointed out that I had a water motif and I had to pause before I realized, um, hello, I’ve been writing watery motifs for a while. I lived in Nevada until I was a teen, and from there I was in Sonoma, Marin, all over the East Bay…this place is just so incredibly lovely. (A 12-year-old me protested becoming a California girl and I now proudly tote that badge.) There’s water everywhere, be it moderate rains or on the coast. And waves…they’re so sexy to me. It’s that soothing but rhythmic one-two punch. I’d read a few erotica books set in other highly populated areas and none seemed to be here, so I felt like it was high time the Bay Area got some quality love! As for BDSM here…San Francisco is such a far cry from many places in our country. There’s a lot of open-mindedness (never mind several BDSM and sex club options), so, if there aren’t more people exploring it here there are at least more aware of and open to it here, I think. 

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Was your focus on safety and consent a response to the perceptions in popular culture of BDSM? Were you trying to address any cultural myths about kinky relationships?

JADE A. WATERS: YES!!! (Sorry, was I shouting?) I have read and heard about far too many misconceptions that BDSM is actually abuse. This is dead wrong. A consensual BDSM relationship is a beautiful thing. A nonconsensual relationship of any type is abuse. But BDSM is not a synonym for abuse, and many people still believe this is the case because unfortunately in real life and in fiction some do treat it as an excuse to abuse. That’s a no-no. Also, I think consent is an extremely important topic. I need to preface this with the fact that I under no circumstances believe it is a fiction writer’s job to educate the public on consent or to only write consensual scenes—and it drives me crazy that people say otherwise. However, if one is writing a BDSM story and they don’t intend for the dom to be an abusive character, then one does have to be a responsible writer and make sure the consent, communication, and negation is there in a healthy way. For Maya and Dean’s story, consent and safety was imperative, both because I wanted them to have a real and healthy BDSM relationship, and because Maya’s backstory requires safety in her relationships. Period.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: What were your favorite and least favorite parts of writing this trilogy?

JADE A. WATERS: This is strangely the hardest question you’ve given me, Rachel! 🙂 Favorite…man, all of it? The way the story morphed over time, and at the same time challenged me and exorcised some of my own demons. I really loved Maya’s growth throughout the series (just you wait until book 3), and it felt good to watch her develop. Same for Dean. Hardest? Mmmm…my life, like, completely blew up at the start of drafting book 2. So I think it would be cool to try writing a series not under so much life stress! (You hear that, Universe? Eh-hm.) Part of that was the pace, and part was just all that was going on. But, I think it worked out all right!

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Can you give us a hint at what happens in The Discipline, which was just published, and the third book, The Reward?

Jade A. Waters: Happy to! The Discipline sees Maya and Dean learning the discipline of having a serious relationship while also exploring more sexual discipline, which means more play, and several really hot fantasies that will definitely challenge them. A. Lot. By The Reward, they’re not only more stable but stronger…however, some past challenges will confront them, hard. We will see tremendous growth in both characters…as well as in their relationship. It’s a mighty reward!

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: What have the responses been like from readers to the series?

JADE A. WATERS: Fairly positive, I think! Some people seemed to really like their dynamic and the story, which is amazing to hear. Some wanted more Dean in book 1, which I knew would show up in book 2 because The Assignment was more about Maya’s growth…so I’m hoping they find what they’re seeking when they read on. I try not to read reviews too closely and when I do I just figure to each her own, but so far it seems people are enjoying, which is such a compliment.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Anything else to add?

JADE A. WATERS: Yes…a giant thank you for having me over!!

Click here to read a sexy free excerpt from The Discipline, which is available for purchase for Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.

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Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 and 2, 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 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.

Perfect-cover_SaFleur_-640x1024

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.