Thursday 29 November 2012

The Power of Sex

How's that for a title huh?
Today I'm forcing myself to take a day off from work, so I figured a nice relaxing blog post might be a good way to unwind. I thought it might be fun to talk about the power of sex as a topic in fiction, how it can be treated, and what it can mean.

Over on Kindleboards there was an interesting thread I stumbled upon last night about a Christian erotic author who was having trouble reconciling their feelings of guilt with their publishing schedule, and it got me thinking about how powerful sex can be to both readers and writers alike. It's a shame it's still such a rarely used tool in a lot of mainstream fiction, because sex can be used to explore and contextualise both some of the most wonderful, and some of the most harrowing extremes of the human emotional spectrum. I'm sure for a lot of people some of the most intimate and loving moments in their lives have involved, or will involve, sex with a significant other. Equally, nonconsensual sex rates for many people as by far one of the most abhorrent and harrowing things that can happen to a person.

So we have those two extremes, and all the shades of grey in between. That's a fantastic palette for an author to work with, but also a tricky one to manage. When it comes to handling any sensitive subject matter, I think any creator of fiction has a degree of responsibility to their audience. Your audience trusts you to deliver an experience that's entertaining, thought-provoking, cathartic, or stimulating in some way. A bad author usually loses this trust before too long, and the reader along with it. But equally problematic, I find, is an author who doesn't treat their subject matter with the respect it deserves.

This was what was going through my mind when thinking back to the Christian author on Kindleboards; is there a context in which it's right to feel guilty about depicting sex in your work? Religious concerns aside, my answer was yes; if you're going to portray sex in a lazy, callous, or damaging manner, then you're doing your readers a disservice and potentially communicating some rather unsavoury sentiments about the subject in general.

To look at some examples in my own reading, there's a distinct difference between a couple of popular series' I've read in recent years regarding how they tackle sexual issues, namely George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire (or Game of Thrones, to use the far catchier popular title), and Jean M. Auel's Earth's Children. Neither series shies away from sex and sexuality, but there's a key difference in how these topics are presented. I found myself unable to get past the third Game of Thrones book in part because of the callous way it handled sex, violence, and morality in general. But looking specifically at sex here: George Martin frequently references rape, defloration, unwanted pregnancy, and the general abuse of women in his books in order to establish the brutally grim reality of his world.
Jean Auel also deals with these themes in an even more direct and harrowing manner, but her books leave the reader with a far more healthy and balanced view of sex as a result.

So why is one author's treatment of sex so different from the other? The key is that Jean Auel presents the other side of the coin. She shows the intimate and loving extreme of sex alongside the negative and disturbing one, providing contrast and context to her subject matter. George Martin by comparison overwhelmingly touches on sex in a debasing, sordid, negative light, without really going very far to explore the emotional effects it has on the individuals involved.
This was why, even though Jean Auel reaches far darker places (in my opinion) with her depictions of sex, her series has by far the more balanced, positive, and wholesome portrayal of this sensitive subject matter.
Martin uses sex as a tool to establish tone and setting, whereas Auel treats it as a critical part of the story worth exploring and understanding in and of itself.

I'd argue that these two authors demonstrate how sex can be presented and contextualised in both the right and the wrong ways, and how other writers can learn how to give sex the understanding and the respect it deserves as a core theme.

I feel like I should wrap it up here, as this has been quite the ramble!
I suppose my overall point is this: if you're going to tackle the emotional extremes of a particularly sensitive subject, take the time to flesh them out properly. Don't write kinky erotic shorts that make your readers think BDSM is a bad thing because you were careless in explaining how a master/slave relationship works, and don't write novels that portray every other male character as a rapist just because you wanted the tone to be dark.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Expected to Serve published, and future titles!

Part three of His Darkest Desire is out and available to buy on Amazon and Smashwords!

Tired of feeling used by her sometimes-employer sometimes-master Elliot, Nina agrees to meet with him one more time. She needs to know whether she really means anything to him, and if he cares about her, why is he so restrained in showing it?

Persuaded to spend the day together, Elliot shows Nina exactly what sort of relationship she can expect with him. It may not be normal, it may not be everything Nina wants, but her desire to be dominated is too strong to ignore.

As it happens, I made my first blurb typo when publishing this one. In the very first word of the blurb, too.
I hope it didn't result in too many prospective readers thinking I'm the worst person in the world and never buying any of my stories ever again. :(

So aside from that, today I'm going to talk about my upcoming release schedule a little! My current goal is still to get a minimum of one story out a week, and I ideally I want a new instalment of His Darkest Desire as often as possible. Having said that though, I'd also like to write some quick and steamy one-offs in between, just to add a little variety to my release (and writing) schedule. I'm going to try my best to pound these out in no more than a couple of days, and hopefully have them edited and published after not much longer. Right now I have a little quickie called Mated by the Minotaur half way done (my first foray into monster sex! Well, sort of), and if all goes well these titles shouldn't cut into Darkest Desire release schedules all that much.

Blog post on a less businessy topic in a few days! I'm sure I can come up with something sexy and/or writing-themed.

Friday 23 November 2012

Erotica as Art

Here we go. Erotica as Art. I'm going to try and keep this as brief as I can, because there's a thousand essays just waiting to be written (and a thousand that probably already have been) on this topic.
So as someone who's spent a great deal of time studying the arts, the relationship between them and erotica is never far from my mind. The tip of the iceberg is: how do you define art?
To some people erotic short stories are no more "art" than a cheap porno shot in someone's college dorm. They exist purely for titillation without any kind of creative depth behind them. They're certainly not the sort of thing to ponder over and critique alongside the Mona Lisa.

But that's a snobbishly academic view of art I've never agreed with. To me art is anything creative that's designed to entertain, provoke or stimulate its audience in some way. Art takes a thousand different forms and works on a thousand different levels, some of them profound, some cheap and cheerful. And erotica most definitely takes a degree of talent on the part of the writer to pull off. Just like any form of fiction it's all about making the reader feel something - in this case, turning them on and exciting them. A good erotic author knows exactly how to do that, from sizzling descriptions and steamy settings to perfect structuring that doesn't skimp on either the sex or the set up. An even better erotic author will be able to inject fun little bits of narrative, and put an interesting new spin on tried and true concepts.

To me it's really the same as any other artistic medium; at it's worst it's bland and boring, at it's best it's creative and engaging. It's very easy to think of erotica as inartistic because of the volume of sex-based media out there that caters to the lowest common denominator. There are thousands upon thousands of porn movies that have zero creative input beyond sticking two pretty people in front of the camera and telling them to fuck. But at the same time I've seen porn (very, very rarely, and that's a great shame) that has fantastic performers who really sell what they're doing, great editing to keep the sexy pacing going, elaborate sets, sultry lighting, sometimes even a soundtrack that gets away without sounding cheesy. It's hard to look at something like that and not call it artistic just because the subject matter it's dealing with is intended to arouse.

Cheap garbage gives cheap thrills, quality erotica will leave you breathless and unable to tear your eyes away from the page.

AN: I am in no way suggesting that my own work falls into that second category. But we can all strive for something. ;)

Monday 19 November 2012

Forced to Obey Published, and the Taboos of Sex

Phew, I've really been hard at it getting these first two instalments of His Darkest Desire up and published. Today I actually took a break from any writing/editing and realised it was the first time I'd done that in a few weeks now. Sometimes I wonder if I get into this stuff a little too much.

Anyway, Forced to Obey is now available for purchase through Amazon and Smashwords! Nina's relationship with affluent writer Elliot Wolf has gone beyond being just his typist, but where does she stand now that his true intentions have been revealed? Longing for him to punish her again, but afraid of being used, Nina returns to Mr. Wolf's mansion to confront the latest erotic game he has planned for her.

The first part of the series is now priced at a nice accessible $0.99, so take a look if you're interested!

Aside from my new release, I wanted to do a bit of a proper blog article as well, as it's been a little while. So what about the idea of sex and sexuality still being such a taboo subject in society? Obviously the standard thoughts apply - yes it'd be nice if we were all more open about sex, yes it's a silly double standard that things like violence are so much more acceptable in entertainment mediums, yes I wish I could sit down with my family and talk openly about being an erotic author this Xmas.

But despite all of that, the taboos of sex are a large part of what makes it so exciting. Sure society could go a few steps further in embracing it, but in a completely sexually open society would sex and erotica still have the same appeal they do today? I think about every time I type words like naughty or dirty or have characters say phrases like bad girl, and the reasons those choices of words elicit certain emotions from the reader. It's the idea of there being something inherently shameful and wrong about sex that makes it so deliciously naughty to embrace in the first place, and kinks like BDSM are so appealing in part because they draw on all of those emotions so strongly.
In a world with no uptight secretaries waiting to be punished, or bad girls looking for a master to discipline them, or members of the clergy suppressing sizzling homo-erotic desires, a lot of the emotions that elevate sex beyond just the physical act would be lost.

I have a feeling I might just be coming at this from the perspective of someone who's far too kinky for their own good (I'm sure there are lots of people out there enjoying good old-fashioned vanilla intercourse as much as ever), but I almost hope sex never becomes too socially acceptable. A lot of our modern understanding of it stems from a background of repression, and I think, in that regard, we've developed a heck of a lot of art from adversity.

If you consider erotica an art, that is. Oh boy, that's a whole other topic just waiting to be blogged about.
Let me just add that one to the list.

Thursday 15 November 2012

Tempted to Submit published, new BDSM series!

All aboard the Fifty Shades bandwagon, whoop!
In all seriousness though, you can now find part one of my very own romantic BDSM series titled His Darkest Desire on Amazon and Smashwords.

Aspiring journalist Nina can't believe her luck when world-renowned author Elliot Wolf offers her a job as his typist out of the blue. Unable to pass up the opportunity she begins to work for the enigmatic Mr. Wolf, but soon begins to realise that beneath the job offer lies a far darker desire.
Elliot Wolf likes to play games, and Nina is his latest toy. Is his interest in her superficial, or is there something genuine lingering beneath the surface? Whatever the case may be, Nina soon finds herself slipping into a dark sexual world beyond anything she has experienced before.

This series will be a little bit of an experiment for me, as I've only really published one-off (okay, sometimes two-off) shorts so far, primarily in the "pure smut" genre. There'll still be plenty of smut in this endeavour, but also a more fleshed out story and characters, which should run for 5-10 parts depending on how it all pans out. My schedule for publishing each instalment should remain the same at roughly one per week (though I'll try my best to get the first few parts out quickly). It might be that I throw out the odd one-off erotic short in the middle somewhere, but I want to see how having a multi-part series published works out for me in the long run.

Forced to Obey, the second instalment, should be out within a week!

Sunday 11 November 2012

Strong Female Characters (in erotica?)

I've always been interested in strong female characters in fiction, and that goes for everything from novels to stage plays to films and video games (perhaps specifically due to their sparseness in the latter two mediums). I love a good female character that's well-rounded, unique, memorable, and able to overcome the challenges presented to her in a way that seems realistic and organic to the story. On top of that, I've always been a proponent of the idea that truly strong female characters are those that deal with challenges and situations specifically related to their gender. Anyone can write a gender-neutral action hero of the type we've seen a thousand times before in hollywood and popular media and hire a female actress to play them, or change all the "he"s to "she"s in their manuscript. In fact (and perhaps I'm verging into the territory of silly personal hang-ups here) whenever I run across a female character who's portrayed as tough and butch and domineering I can't help but roll my eyes when she's described as a "strong female character" - because in my mind she's really not. She's just a generic strong character with the gender dial clicked over from option #1 to option #2. Of course, I'm generalising here (and not to say that those types of characters can't be fantastic in the right hands), but my preference what makes a strong female character is a little different.

Perhaps the quintessential example for me is the character Ayla in Jean M. Auel's novel The Clan of the Cave Bear. By and large the entire plot of the story hinges in one way or another on Ayla's status as a young woman in a male-dominated clan of Neanderthals. Most of the challenges she faces are related to her social status as a woman, themes of motherhood, and the conflicts placed before her by the male characters in the novel. Ayla is a character who simply would not work in this story if she was a man, nor does she overcome any of the hurdles the author places before her via male-associated traits of strength á la the Ellen Ripleys and Lara Crofts of fiction. That to me is the key distinction between a strong female character and a generic strong character, and precious few writers seem to make it in mainstream fiction.

So obviously I appreciate this type of characterisation, but where do you fit something like that into a quick and steamy erotic short story?
I have been trying, believe it or not.
A big thing for me when writing sex scenes is how dominant and how submissive each character is, and how much control they have over those things. A lot of the BDSM-themed stories I've written are all about a submissive protagonist, and with the small amount of wiggle room I have for characterisation I always make sure to establish that they're not submissive through some defect of their personality, or because they're totally overwhelmed by a powerful male partner; it's always because they ultimately choose to be. It's a small thing, and sometimes one I only allude to in a sentence or two. Most readers might not even pick up on it, but it's important to me to get that kind of stuff in. One of the things I had fun playing with a little in my Confessions of a Slut Puppy shorts was the idea that Fiona the protagonist was just as much of a driving force in her marriage as her husband (perhaps even slightly moreso), despite the stories revolving around her being his utterly submissive sex slave. She was always the one who made the ultimate call about what was going to happen in the bedroom (or on the couch, more often than not), while her husband maintained this gleeful, almost innocent fascination with the prospect of being her master.

I think I'll wrap this one up now as it's getting a little long, but I think there's more to talk about and chew over here, especially related to strong female characters in erotica! I'd love to hear people's thoughts on the subject.

AN: This being said, don't read any of my current stories looking for deep characterisation. They're all still predominantly about hot sex. :)

Friday 9 November 2012

Punishing the Principal published, and Amazon!

My latest very rough, very kinky short is out! You can read all about Principal Alexandra's passionate evening with an infuriating young employee of hers over on Smashwords now, and on Amazon by some time tomorrow.

Speaking of Amazon, I finally started publishing there, yay! Three of my titles are already up, and the rest should start appearing within a few hours time. You can find a link over on that handy links bar I stuck on the right. ->
Or here. Just in case you couldn't find it.

I've been neglecting my poor blog a little this week, mostly because of essay demands, redoing almost all of my old covers, and getting everything up and running with Amazon. Rest assured I'll have more posts ready to come in the future though, I've got a few topics in mind for things to witter about, namely Emotional Context in Erotica, Strong Female Characters in Erotica, and some ideas for starting up a BDSM-themed series of shorts at some point. Mine won't feature a hunky billionaire as the love interest though. Probably.

Monday 5 November 2012

How much is too much?

My most recent erotic short is all about rough sex - and in the process of writing it turned out to get very rough indeed. I'm not crossing any lines into weird sub-kinks or anything, but it got me thinking about the different types of erotica you can write as an author. More specifically; how kinky do you get?

The last piece I wrote was practically vanilla by comparison, and I have a feeling I could definitely get a lot naughtier and more deviant if I tried. My concern, I suppose, is that some people might read one of my lighter stories and enjoy it, then hop into Claudia King's Extreme Sex Dungeon Boogaloo (working title) and be totally put off by how filthy the story was. I know we have things like tags and descriptions for that, but it's still something that's on my mind when writing a new piece that strays into kinkier territory. Honestly I think most people are probably pretty open about mega-dirty stories if the writer pulls them off well, and I'd definitely prefer to be an author that dabbles into too many kinks than too few, but you always have those little niggles about it.
So I'm wondering, what do most people "expect" from your average erotic short? What's a standard vanilla encounter likely to include? What's a staple BDSM story? Are people upset when anal sex isn't explicitly mentioned in the book title?

I'll put it all down on my list of things to learn. And I'll get back to finishing up my rough sex extravaganza.

Sunday 4 November 2012

Finding a style (and learning lots of things!)

Writing erotica - specifically short erotica - has definitely been a learning experience over these past couple of months. Coming into it I started writing more or less the same as I would in any other genre, and looking back I'm not particularly fond of my earlier stories as a result. At least not in the context of them being "erotic shorts". The two Erica stories I started with for example would probably work better as more of an erotic romance rather than quick steamy romps. There's way too much padding and character development/minor drama, especially in the second one. Ravaged in the Stables as well is probably my least favourite of my shorts, I wrote that one straight after my first two even though it ended up getting published later. The build up is way too slow, and there's a ton of superfluous information (well, superfluous in an "anthropomorphic wolf-fucks-girl-in-stables" sense), to the extent that it reads like more of a fantasy piece than a kinky short. Also the cover is terrible. I've been thinking of redoing a few of my early ones, and Ravaged is definitely at the top of the list.

I think with stories like Confessions of a Slut Puppy and His Girlfriend's Daddy (those italics really make them seem a lot classier than the titles imply :/) I started to settle into a much more suitable erotic style. I figured out that, hey, when you're writing about hot, intense sex it's probably better to do it in the first person. A third person perspective definitely distances the reader from the action, and characterisation in such a small space is trickier when you're not inside the protagonist's head the whole time. Not that there's a ton of characterisation in 3000-5000 word erotic stories anyway, but at the very least a bit of personality spices things up a lot more than a bland empty shell. Speaking of bland empty shells, I wasn't too happy with my dabble into vampire erotica recently either. Taste Me, Take Me has gotten by far the lest attention of all my stories, and while that's another story I'm not too proud of the cover for (why did I keep thinking dark reds on black worked well?), I feel like the fact that the characters are completely devoid of personality didn't help much. I wanted to go with the idea of this kind of cute rock chick having a ton of hot sex with a pair of vampire studs after a concert, but it turned into more of a low-key thing about the sensations of having paranormal erotic blood-drinking experiences instead. If there's one thing I'm cottoning on to, it's that big emotions are better in short pieces. My natural tendency is to write things very slow-paced, setting up characters naturally and organically over time. But that's stupid when you're not going to be with them for more than twenty minutes or so. Taste Me should've been about the main character being totally pumped after a wild performance in front of thousands of people, then getting passionately fucked by a pair of vampires at the after party.

So I'm just the teeniest bit self-critical, as you can see.
Not to worry though! I've always thought a healthy dose of self-criticism always drives a writer to keep adapting and improving their techniques, and to try out new things. I think I've finally gotten my head around what makes a hot title cover, and I'm very excited about a few ideas I've got for upcoming stories that deal with lots of intense emotions, fast action, and hot sex. ;)