Rachel Kramer Bussel’s latest Cleis Press anthology, The Big Book of Submission, has been on real and digital shelves for almost a month now. If you’ve picked up a copy, I hope that you have been as excited by the sensual stories as I am to simply be included in such an excellent work. If you haven’t yet, then do so soon!
Over the last month, Cleis Press has been celebrating the release by doing a virtual book tour, introducing their readers to the blogs of the other authors in the anthology. Today, naturally, is my day to be showcased, so if you are here as part of the tour, welcome! If you are one of my regular visitors, then please take the time to check out the other stops on the tour and the wonderful writers to be found there.
For my part of the tour today, I’d like to share a couple thoughts about the theme of this book, and how my story for it came together.
Why this anthology?
Some of my first experiences with print erotica happened in the dark corners of bookstores, furtively flipping through anthologies that I was too nervous to actually take to the counter and buy. The first anthology I ever owned was given to me by my boyfriend just a few years ago. The book is Please, Sir, and it is also a Cleis Press anthology edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel, and it also happens to be about the topic of submission. Since then my private library has expanded, but that one remains my favorite, so when I saw the announcement for this new anthology, I knew I had to pull myself out of my own dark corners and actually submit to it.
Where did you get the idea for your story, “Where the Sun Don’t Shine”?
As much as I love the sensuality of darkness, in my heart I am a sun-worshipper. During the summer months, I take as many opportunities as possible to lay out on my meager deck and get some reading and vitamin-D production done. For me, the experience is an intoxicating combination of warmth and luxury, juxtaposed against vulnerability and the thrill of the taboo. Throw submission into the mix and, well…it’s easy to see why sweat isn’t the only thing soaking the skin of my main character in the story.
What is it about submission that appeals to you?
It’s hard to say, really. Hard to categorize and rationalize the feeling, the fluttering thrill that arises in my chest when I feel truly overwhelmed by someone else, someone whom I feel deserves such power, but at the end of the day, it comes down to the same things that are the foundation of all relationships: communication and trust. Submission, obviously, is the ultimate gesture of trust, but it is also an elegant form of communication, where movement, body language, and tone can mean just as much as a spoken word.
And I don’t mean just in sexual contexts. A few years ago I took up Argentine tango and fell in love with the elegant physical communication it represents. I easily saw the connections between the interactions of D/s and leader/follower. One of my teachers eloquently described the moves of the leader as being an “invitation” to the follower, an invitation that doesn’t force an action without first letting him or her choose to surrender first. It is a beautiful, subtle communication (and, sadly, one that a lot of people who are too focused on the shoes and the clothes and trying to memorize the steps, miss out on entirely).
Finding the right people to practice such submissive communications with—with sexuality, with dance, or elsewhere—is often a challenge for me, so I am delighted to explore these ideas further within my writing.
Every good writer has their role models–generally the more the merrier–and Reyna Todd is definitely one of mine. She is a real-life friend and successful writer across multiple genres, under a few different names. A few months ago, I did an early read of her new erotic fantasy novella, Ill Met in Tanivar: A Sinjin and Asamir Adventure, available now from LooseId, and I am excited that others will now be able to read her lovely work.
Todd’s story was part of the inspiration for my recent post on the ERWA blog, “In Defense of Bad Sex,” discussing how less-than-perfect sex scenes might be used to deepen character development and create tension in the plot. This story is the perfect example of this, as the sexuality–both good and bad–of Todd’s characters isn’t just an entertaining set-piece, but a deeply important force that grounds them in their world and their relationships with each other.
And oh, what relationships those are…. The story revolves around an elaborate high-society masquerade ball, and the sexual proclivities of the characters are just as rich and diverse as their costumes (or, more often, their lack thereof). Todd plays around with themes of homosexuality, heterosexuality, gender bending, BDSM, trans* issues, and all topics between, and handles every one sensually and masterfully. LooseId classifies the story as “LGBTTQ,” but really, one probably should add a whole handful of letters to that to encompass the full breadth of this story.
I hope to one day tell such richly exotic erotic stories–with equal parts eroticism and story–of my own, but in the meantime, I highly recommend you check out Todd’s work!
The last few months for me have been an unusual time, for writing and otherwise. I have been devoting a lot of time to non-erotica writing projects and I’m even trying to pull thoughts and notes together for making a sprint toward an erotic fantasy novel or novella. Through all this, I keep finding myself simultaneously brought back to Earth and shot over the moon when I remember that, holy crap, my very first published work is coming out next month.
My story, “Where the Sun Don’t Shine,” will be in Cleis Press’s Big Book of Submission, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel, and I couldn’t be happier. Cleis Press puts out excellent anthologies and I am very proud to have been selected for their latest. To celebrate the release, Cleis Press is organizing a virtual book tour, showcasing the blogs and other works of the authors included in the anthology. My stop on the tour is scheduled for August 21st, so check back then for a special post discussing my story.
In the meantime, check out the following quick peek of my story:
The phone buzzed again a few minutes later: I don’t like the look of that suit. You’re going to get tan lines. You know I don’t like anyone but me marking your skin, Pet.
A thrill shot through her. He wouldn’t have called her “Pet” unless he had some sort of game in mind. She hesitated, then replied: What would you have me do…Sir?
There was a longer delay this time, but when his reply came it was short: Take it off. Now.
Want more? Well, the book may come out next month, but there are 68 more sexy snippets that are sure to heat up your summer now.
This month, many of the erotica writers in my ERWA circle are participating in something called the Baton Blog Hop, where we each write a few words about our thoughts on the writing process and then pass the chain along to other writers. I got tagged in by the excellent Sybil Rush. If you are not familiar with her, she has to say about herself:
Sybil Rush is currently a research scientist and erotica writer. However, she has been, at various times, a striptease artist, an enlisted soldier, and a midwife. Her stories can be found in Valentine’s Day (Stringybark Press), and Shameless Behavior (Go Deeper Press). She blogs at http://nouveaugrotto.blogspot.com.au/.
Visit her blog to see her answers to the questions, and then check out my responses below!
This month, I was excited to participate as a guest blogger for the ERWA Blog. Many great names in the erotica field contribute there so I was honored to be asked to participate. My article is called In Defense of Bad Sex, arguing for the inclusion of “less than perfect” sexual themes and interactions in erotic storytelling and discussing how such scenes might help advance the plot.
Please check it out, and join the discussion there with your thoughts!
One of the things that I love about erotica is the fact that it gives writers an opportunity to challenge cultural expectations about sex and sexuality. For decades in American culture, simply talking about sex at all flies in the fact of acceptable mores. As sexuality has become more welcome in the public sphere, erotica continues to push the conversation by flirting with the edges of the unconventional and the taboo. As a proponent of sex-positivity, I very much approve of this this, since being exposed to sexual subcultures in any fashion helps normalize them; even if the reader never chooses to participate, it might make them more accepting of others who do.
Unfortunately, as much as we love erotica, it’s hard to argue that ideas coming from it might have a certain stigma attached. Luckily, though, in the last few decades we’ve seen cultural sexual conversation (particularly American sexual culture) expanding on many fronts.
For example, In the past few weeks, two articles have come across my newsfeeds addressing topics near and dear to my heart: female sexuality and polyamory. Now, it’s not unusual for online content generators to mine such topics for link-bait articles, but these articles are not such sensationalist jink. Indeed, they are frank, accurate, reasonable discussions about these so-called fringe areas of sexuality and are lent further legitimacy by their sources: the article on female sexuality is from the New York Magazine, and the polyamory article is in The Atlantic. Encouragingly, rather than being scandalized, people seem excited to use these articles as a starting point for open discussion. One friend in my poly-community said that the Atlantic article in particular is, quote, “The sort of thing I can send to my mom!”
Hopefully material like this–as well as the respectable research these articles cite–represents a coming seachange in how our culture views sexuality, and I for one am excited to be a part of the movement.
I am excited to participate in my first ever blog article exchange! Today I have exchanged with Henry Corrigan, a fellow contributor to the ERWA, as well as an erotica blogger. I have found his articles to be as intriguing and finely-crafted as his stories, so I am proud to share some of his words with you here today!
A teenage boy has sexual fantasies about his cousin (I know this is an odd way to start, but humor me). Now, these fantasies are not only explicit, they are practically all consuming. He dreams about his cousin night and day. He imagines incredibly detailed scenarios involving positions he doesn’t know how to properly perform. Nothing matters more than to see his fantasy fulfilled.
Unfortunately for him, he has both the odds and social convention against him. He has no outlet for his urges and the pressure in his…mind, is driving him halfway up the wall.
But then one day, this frustrated hormonal teenager, goes online and stumbles across a very particular story. One that features a protagonist he can identify with. Now, he still may not be able to fulfill his fantasy, but at least the story gives him an outlet.
This is part of the nature of erotica. It knows that we all have secrets, no matter how taboo they may be. It understands that secrets need to be indulged.
They say the internet is for porn–a fact which I certainly can’t contest, considering I would be making the argument on a blog dedicated to discussing sex and erotica writing–but the internet is also for nerds. It is, in many ways, our Promised Land, the place where we can simultaneously be ourselves (and any other personality we choose) in a Dali-esque landscape littered with cats and references to Dr. Who. This might seem a strange juxtaposition–sex and nerds, two armies of conflicting culture battling for the same territory–but the reality is these two armies are stronger allies than most outsiders might realize. Why?
One of the first comments I received from the ERWA mailing list on a piece of my erotic work was that my voice was strong, but somewhat over-written. I was genuinely surprised by this because in all of the writing classes and workshops I’ve taken, I’d somehow never heard that term before. Was my meaning not clear? Was my first concern. No, the commentators assured me, it is, it’s just bogged down in extra words that slow down the pacing and flow of a sentence (and, of course, add extra words, something I struggled with not long after as I tried to get a draft for an anthology submission under the required word limit). I believed them, of course, but I was having trouble “seeing” the over-writing in my work in order to correct it.
Luckily, one of the patrons of the list, the illustrious and incorrigible Daddy X, came to my rescue by sending me a list of words that are often over-used (a near-identical list that also includes some cliche phrases can be found on the Write Divas blog). It’s not that these words and phrases should never be used, it’s that they are often unnecessary at best and slow down or weaken their sentences at worst. As an exercise, I started going through some of my shorter works and doing searches for every instance of every word and critically considering A) whether I could delete the word, or, even better, 2) whether there was a more interesting way of wording that sentence to avoid the problem altogether. It was amazingly illustrative. I feel like I made some significant advances in training my eye almost immediately.
Today, Remittance Girl has an excellent post on the ERWA Blog that continues this discussion of over-writing, taking it beyond simple word usage to phrasing and style, with a specific discussion of how over-writing relates to erotica. She also has some interesting things to say in defense of poetry and how poetic thinking can both tighten up and deepen your writing. I am not much of a poetry person myself (I did my poetry report in high school on Robert Burns purely so I would have an excuse to read “Brave Johnny Lad, Cock Up Your Beaver” out-loud in class) but her comments might help change my opinion.
In any event, I am always excited to find resources like these to help me mature as a writer. The practice of writing is exactly that, a practice. In other words, something we should always look to improve upon. Most importantly, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up when we make some of the same mistakes, since identifying those mistakes in the first place is the most important step in the first place.