Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year! In which Emily sets some goals

My writing and publicity goals for 2014:

  • Finish my books in progress and get them out there
  • Finish 1-2 new short stories and submit them
  • Build up a web presence for New Me through blogging, hosting other authors and publishing professionals, listservs, Twitter and all that good stuff.
  • Create a writing business plan 
And I think that's all I have at the moment. How about you?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy holidays!

Christmas pin up

Because nothing says "happiness" like a holiday greeting by way of the Xmas production of "Salome." :-)
Repinned from this Tumblr:  http://pollysonne.tumblr.com/post/37030323689

Monday, December 16, 2013

Writing Erotic Dialogue

Written dialogue includes both the conversations that your characters have with each other and the ones that your point of view character has with him or herself. It can be used to convey sexual tension, desire, humor and countless other emotions by showing instead of telling.
Your reader learns about your character’s thoughts and feelings through what she/he says to others. At the same time, the dialogue is (hopefully) moving your story’s plot forward.

There are two general flavors of dialogue. External dialogue is signaled to the reader through the use of punctuation like quotation marks.  Internal dialogue is generally expressed in italics. External dialogue is used to develop the characters and to set the scene, among other things. Internal dialogue is also used for character development, but in this case, it’s just one character, usually the point of view one. It expresses that character’s thoughts, feelings and memories, anything that the character cannot or will not express aloud to the other characters.

Because dialogue uses specialized punctuation, it is set off from the paragraphs of description and action around it. This means that these sections of your prose leap out at the reader. Given this, dialogue should be used for maximum impact. If your characters are exchanging information by speaking to each other, it should be meaningful to your story. This goes for internal dialogue as well: your character should be expressing thoughts and feelings that add something to the story.

Using both kinds of dialogue is a handy technique for avoiding the pitfalls of “show, don’t tell.” Instead of just stating that one character is attracted to another, you can transform that attraction into internal dialogue. Or you can show your characters flirting, expressing their desire in what they say as well as what is left unsaid. If done well, conveying emotions through dialogue helps to pull your reader into the story by making it easier to identify with the characters and the situation.

That said, written dialogue during a sex scene is a bit trickier than writing it for characters before or after. It can be difficult to write something that doesn’t sound stilted or cliched. Often it’s easier and more effective to focus on describing what the characters are experiencing instead of having them describe it out loud. Whatever you decide to do, avoid capitalized dialogue, especially when following it with multiple exclamation marks, as in “AHHH!! OOHH!!! (insert name of deity here). This has become one of the ultimate stereotypes of erotic writing and is sure to add to your list of rejections if you decide to use it. Yes, some people do say things like this in real life but on the page it doesn’t add anything to the story. The yelling is just blowing off steam and you might be better off summing it up with something like, “He came with a shout.”

Dialogue is terrific for building the sexual tension and the mood between the characters before the sex scene. It’s also handy for the aftermath. Your characters express their attraction to each other beforehand and make plans or bid their adieus afterward. Or the reader is immersed entirely in one character’s perception of the other(s) through the use of internal dialogue. See any current chick-lit novel for examples; they tend to be full of asides to the reader which are used effectively for character development and humor. Either way the point is to pull the reader into the story, hopefully enabling them to feel the character’s arousal.

Using dialogue as the aftermath of a sex scene is a bit different than using it beforehand. Here you get to set the tone for the reader to interpret the rest of the story. Are your characters off on the road to a beautiful relationship? Do they hope to never see each other again? Does only one of them feel this way? You can make your reader relate better to your characters by pulling them into your written conversations.

Writing dialogue is both similar and dissimilar from having conversations in everyday life. On the one hand, you want it to sound real in order to develop the kind of characters you are writing about. But unlike real life conversations, written dialogue needs to serve your story so it needs to have a purpose. Work on keeping your characters’ speech patterns consistent (grammar, accent, slang, etc.) in the interests of keeping the dialogue realistic. Any changes need to be explained. In general, dialectical English (Southern, Brooklyn, etc.) doesn’t translate well to the page unless you speak it like a native and sometimes not even then. You can suggest accents to the reader by talking about how the other characters hear them and/or using expressions from the geographical region. Even then, a little goes a long way.

As part of helping you to keep your dialogue realistic, it’s worthwhile to pay attention to how other people actually talk to each other. Selective eavesdropping on conversations is one way to do it. Listen to how people speak to each other on the bus or in the coffeeshop. Write down striking phrases or new slang. Listen to the cadence of the words (just not too obviously!). Just remember that most real conversations aren’t that interesting on the page and don’t write your dialogue exactly as you would speak it.

Reading and attending plays is a good way to develop your skills with dialogue. Since plays are all dialogue, they offer fiction writers a unique opportunity to hear a story told without paragraphs of exposition. Try to attend and read plays by a range of playwrights, not just Shakespeare, to get a sense of how to work with dialogue. If you can, attend a new play festival in your area and learn from the successes and failures of playwrights who haven’t made it big yet. It can be an excellent lesson in what works and what doesn’t.

There are also plenty of prose writers who are/were masters of dialogue use. Try Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances or check one of the year’s best erotica anthologies for examples (Best New Erotica, Best American Erotica, etc.). Movies and TV are another option but use them sparingly. The stories here are told more through pictures than words and it’s hard to translate that to the page and make it work.

The thing to remember about using dialogue in your stories is that it’s one tool of many for building your story. You can write a successful short story or even a novel (much harder) without using dialogue very much at all. But if all of your stories are written this way, you may want to examine why you’re avoiding using it. A useful exercise for overcoming fear of talking characters is to write an entire scene in dialogue, no other exposition. It doesn’t need to be a sex scene but it does need to include one or more characters exchanging information. Try reading it aloud to see how it sounds.

If you’re confused or just want to double-check your punctuation mechanics, The Chicago Manual of Style (University of Chicago Press, various years) or Strunk and White’s Elements of Style are excellent resources that every writer should have. Browne and King’s Self-Editing for Fiction Writers  (Harper Resource, 2004) also has a good section on using dialogue effectively.
Until next time, happy writing!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pseudonyms and authors

This is my first experience with using a pseudonym so I'm still learning the ropes. I read Heather Black's post on the subject with interest - http://lesbianauthors.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/love-conquers-all-by-heather-blackmore/ and will be looking around at how and why other authors choose "Other Mes." I'm adopting an open pseudonym because I need to separate out my more erotic writing from my nonerotic fantasy, nonfiction and SF writing. When I started publishing, there was no Google and there was much less spillover into my day job. That's no longer true and I 'd like a bit more distance between Day Job Me and Racier Content Me. At the sane time, I'm happy to own my alter ego and hope that the readers who read and enjoyed my award-winning erotica collections "Crave" and "Night's Kiss" will check out the new work I'm writing under this name. Currently, I have an offer on a three book lesbian erotic romance deal. The synopses have been accepted but I'm waiting on final contract terms. We'll see how that goes - fingers crossed!
Thanks got joining me on my wild new ride!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Making the Past Come Alive

I'm reviving some of Other Me's ERWA posts, beginning with this one.

            Looking for new ideas? History is filled with opportunity for the creative erotica writer - courtesans, court intrigue, forbidden loves - you name it, you can find an example of almost any kind of erotic situation you can imagine in the past.  Writing historical erotica can also offer a fun way to improve your writing. You can work with integrating historical details into your story and have fun playing with dialogue. If you are good at it, the historical settings and details may even give you an edge in getting your work published by giving it a unique voice.

            Using historical settings and/or people effectively in your fiction means doing some research. While historical settings for erotica generally do not need to be as detailed as a PBS miniseries, you’ve still got to know enough about the time period you’re writing about to make it work for your reader. Otherwise glaring anachronisms will take your reader out of the story and probably lead them to avoid your work in the future.

Depending on which time period you want to write about, the Internet and the library are usually the best places to start. Some historical periods are considerably easier to research than others because much more has been written about them. In addition, you can often get primary resources (works written during the time period) as well as secondary resources (works written after the fact) for time periods which are popular with historians and writers. Examples of the latter include medieval Europe, Regency England, the American Revolution and Civil War, the Roman Empire and Victorian England. You can find primary sources for most of these eras as well as numerous books analyzing and compiling the events of the time.

To get going on your research, start out with a good basic history book or two or several websites (see resources below). Take notes as you read; if it’s your book, flag worthwhile passages with post it notes. Or copy and paste notes onto your computer if you’re doing the online research method. At this stage, you want the big picture: events, important figures, geography. It’s a really good idea to read a couple of resources to get different takes on events as well as to make sure that the authors got their basic facts right.

After you’ve got a handle on the big picture, it’s time to drill down to greater detail. Now you want an idea of what people wore and where they lived. Being able to use historically accurate expressions and slang, for instance, also helps make the setting real for your reader. Writing your best guess on how your characters might have spoken can misfire badly however and is best avoided. You can achieve the same effect by using historical slang or making references to the character’s accent or dialect as experienced by your viewpoint character.

For the purposes of writing erotic fiction, it’s very helpful to know something of the sexual mores of the time you want to write about. Researching sexual activities and attitudes toward sex can be done via fiction of the time period as well as through reading nonfiction. Again, it will be much easier (relatively) to find erotica literature from some time frames than others. There was a great flowering of erotic writing during the Victorian era, for example, some of which has been reprinted. Sex manuals, books that were banned when they were first published and letters from controversial figures can all provide information about how some people thought about sex and how they did it. Just bear in mind that this kind of literature was often only available to subcultures and/or the well to do and write your story accordingly.

Secondary sources are easier to obtain, of course. They may lack the immediacy of the primary sources but they can help with the analysis of the available material and give you a broad general idea of what was going on. In addition, you can comb through the authors’ bibliographies to find primary sources that are worth investigating.

Finding good historical resources on sexuality at your public library can be a little tricky, needless to say. Much of what you can find there is likely to be coded rather than explicit sexual writing but this may be enough for what you need. On the other hand, the library is always a good starting place, especially for the aforementioned history and reference books.  But if you require more explicit information, the Internet is generally the way to go. Here are some good resource websites -

Writers Write resources - http://www.writerswrite.com/reference/ -another good page of reference links

Victorian Research Web - http://victorianresearch.org - links, articles and information on the Victorian era.

Romancing the Past - a writer's blog from Carina Press

The Romance Authors Research Index 

          Resources used by historical romance writers are terrific for erotica writers too. Romance readers expect a reasonable amount of accurate historic detail in the novels they read so historical romance writers spend a fair amount of time doing research. Many of these authors are kind enough to share. Some useful romance resources include:

Writing-World.com Romance and Historical Fiction page at http://www.writing-world.com/links/romance.shtml. Good resource list.

            Once you’ve got some good information about the time period you want to write about, you still need to integrate that detail into your story. How much detail is too much? It’s pretty subjective but in general you don’t want so much detail that it overtakes the story. Erotica readers are looking for a different experience than traditional historical romance readers, after all. You don’t want to disappoint them.

            With that in mind, try to avoid “info dumping”: whole paragraphs of information that do nothing to move the story along or to set the scene. Every bit of research that you did to prepare for writing this story should not actually appear in it (unless you did very little). You want your details to be relatively seamless to the reader. If your story is set in a castle in France during the Middle Ages for instance, it’s pretty safe to assume that your reader has some idea of what a castle looks like. You don’t need to describe each flagstone and rush on the floor to convey the setting.

On the other hand, if you’re writing historical erotica, you also don’t want the details of the setting and time period to be so minimal that your  characters could be your next door neighbors having a fun night. Try to establish the erotic elements of your story in some aspect of the time period that makes it special. Is the basis of the story the powerplay between a concubine and her master who’s really a bottom? You can convey some of what a relationship like that would have required two hundred years ago: the sexual tensions, the need to conceal their love. Possibilities abound.

            There are a number of good examples of historical erotica out there for your reading pleasure. Most recently, The Mammoth Book of Historical Erotica edited by Maxim Jakubowski (Carroll and Graf) and Wicked: Sexy Tales of Legendary Lovers by Mitzi Szereto (Cleis Press) are two collections which offer contemporary writers’ takes on historical erotica. In addition, there are numerous novels by individual authors such as the Celia novels by M.S. Valentine (Blue Moon) and Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters (Riverhead Books) that explore sexual relationships in the past.

            Publishers such as Renaissance E-books and even the University of Hawaii Press have reprinted various works of historical erotica. These include The Pearl, a noted Victorian era erotic magazine as well as several novels from the same time period, and The Carnal Prayer Mat by Li Yu, a classic work of Chinese erotica. Take a look around and read some of what’s out there; it should really spice up the historical research too.

Here are some additional resources:

Bald-headed Hermit and the Artichoke: An Erotic Thesaurus by A. D. Peterkin (Arsenal Pulp, 1999) - contemporary and historical erotic words and phrases.

The Literary Companion to Sex collected by Fiona Pitt-Kethley (Random house, 1992) - a compilation of literary writing on sex both past and present.

Sexuality and erotica collections and bibliographies: http://www.univie.ac.at/Wirtschaftsgeschichte/Sexbibl/ - bibliography on the history of western sexuality.

http://www.indiana.edu/~kinsey/library/kicat.html - the Kinsey Institute Library.