November 18th, 2010 | 24 Comments »

It’s an interview! It’s a giveaway! It’s a … a whole new word!

Is it, in fact… a whole new genre? It might be! If you google “erotocomedic,” the first 20 hits are all to Jeremy Edwards. Sex and humor are difficult to write about (or, perhaps it’s better to say, they’re difficult to write well about), so to find both done very well, and done together, is a treat.

I previously reviewed his erotocomedic novel Rock My Socks Off here. Now I have Mr. Edwards himself here for an interview about writing and his novel. At the end of the interview, please see details for how to enter yourself into a drawing to win an autographed copy of said novel.

But first, a formal introduction, of both Jeremy and his new novel:

Jeremy Edwards is the author of the erotocomedic novel Rock My Socks Off and the erotic story collection Spark My Moment (both published by Xcite Books). His libidinous tales have been widely published online, as well as in over fifty anthologies. His work was selected for The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, vols. 7, 8, and 9, and he has read at New York’s In the Flesh and Philadelphia’s Erotic Literary Salon. Jeremy’s greatest goal in life is to be sexy and witty at the same moment—ideally in lighting that flatters his profile. Readers can drop in on him unannounced (and thereby catch him in his underwear) at

Writer Jacob Hastings is uninspired by his latest assignment: a museum full of hideous rocking horses. But his socks are rocked by Normandie Stephens, a mischievous astronomer who can match his dry wit, quip for quip, and his sexual appetite, frolic for frolic, with energy to spare.

Thanks to Jacob’s public relations and the machinations of a feisty and frisky mentor named Kate, an impasse in Normandie’s career promises to blossom into either glory or disaster—with enigmatic photographer Susan and obtuse clubber Brandon along for the wild rocking-horse ride. Between farcical talk show appearances, sensuous threesomes, horny little quickies, sex-drenched romantic getaways, and close calls with utter embarrassment, the pace never lets up in this smart erotic romp.

And now to my questions, and of course, his answers.

Until Rock My Socks Off, you’d published exclusively erotic short stories. Why the change to a novel?

Once I’d been active for a while as a short-story author, I became aware that writing an erotic novel was something I might undertake—though I wasn’t sure this was something I actually wanted to embark on. At a certain point I judged that if I were going to do it at all, the time was right: I seemed to be at the right place in my career, the market seemed to be inviting, and my schedule at that juncture could accommodate the task. I’d developed a rough idea of the type of book I’d write if I wrote one, and there really didn’t seem any reason not to give it a try. So I jumped!

How did the idea of rocking horses come to you?

I don’t have a clear memory of the moment I got the precise brainstorm (if you will); but I do know I’d mulled over the possibilities for an institution that could be dysfunctional in that special way some small organizations become, and whose mission could involve something that was prized by certain discriminating individuals but innocuously repulsive to other discrim. individs. Somehow a user-unfriendly museum of over-the-top Victorian-era rocking horses came to mind, and here we are.

Recently I’ve read in quite a few places some debates among authors about words—specifically, whether an author should take care to only use words he thinks his readers will understand, or whether he should actually endeavor to use “big words” and throw a little education in there, or whether he should just write as he pleases, and let the chips fall where they may. Where do you stand on this issue in regards to your own writing?

You would count me with the chips. (And I do hope there’s some smoky, garlic-heavy salsa on the table.) While I wouldn’t use a word strictly with a didactic intent, I also don’t hesitate to use words that some readers might have to look up. Personally, I enjoy learning new words when I read fiction. But hopefully I draw the line at using words so arcane or archaic that their use could feel forced. (I think writers need to keep in mind that an autolectic avoidance of kenspeckle terms, with a goal of venditating one’s vocabulary and metagrobolizing the reader, can reduce one’s prose to literose remplissage.)

Well, Jeremy, that’s easy for you to say. And metagrobolizing is illegal in six states now. Incidentally, I’ve noticed that your novel diverges a bit from the classic plotline of the two main characters having a conflict with each other; rather, they get along famously, and their challenges are with external things. Coincidence, or design?

Definitely design. I didn’t want my protagonists to have to navigate a wilderness of relationship uncertainties, obstacles, or complications, or to suffer through misunderstandings, interpersonal conflict, or heart-wrenching ambivalence. I wanted them to have fun together, damn it!

Would you write another novel? If you did, would you re-use any of the same characters, or would you write new ones?

I’m not sure yet if there’s another Jeremy novel to come. But I could see going either way as far as a fresh set of characters or a new adventure for these peeps.

If you do write about a new heroine, I hope you’ll name her Literose Remplissage. She’d be French, of course, and she could be “Rose” for short. Or “Lite,” for short and thin. So, what are some things that you like to hear from readers about what you’ve written?

Some of the most heartwarming feedback has involved people telling me how likable they found my characters to be; how my work made them laugh at certain moments while getting them seriously aroused at others; that they found it joyous and uplifting; or that they’d been inspired to take something I’d written and read it aloud to a lover.

Who is your “guilty pleasure” author? Someone that popular taste says you shouldn’t like, but you actually do?

I suppose I’m my own guilty pleasure: you can all-too-often catch me rereading my old work.

How can readers get their hands on this wonderful book?

To purchase the book in paperback or e-book form, visit the publisher’s website; or see Jeremy’s site for a voluminous list of other retailers.

Isn’t there another way, though? Mr. Edwards, isn’t there some sort of a book giveaway in conjunction with this interview? I know! Maybe readers could submit an erotocomedic novel of their own by email, and then —

Why yes, Ms. Sharazade, there is a book giveaway! I invite your blog readers to leave a comment on this post, anytime from now through your bedtime on Wednesday, November 24, for a chance to win an autographed paperback copy of Rock My Socks Off (or, if preferred by the winner, an e-book copy). Simply make sure you comment under a name or nickname that will differentiate you from other commenters (i.e., you can’t all be “Anonymous.”) I will draw the winner on Nov. 25, using a random-number generator.

* * *

Well, there you have it! A chance to win a free book! And all you need to do is to leave a comment here. Well, almost all. You’ll need an identifying name (it needn’t be your legal one), and you’ll have to enter your email — this will be shared with Jeremy Edwards if you win (so he can arrange mailing of the book), and no one else. It will not be visible on this site.

Your comment can be about anything, and can be as simple as, “Yes, I’d like to enter this giveaway.” However, links to sketch online pharmaceutical companies are going to send your comment straight to my spam folder, and I might not check it before my bedtime on the 24th. I’m a busy girl! You may comment more than once, but that doesn’t enter you more than once. That would only encourage the desperate and obsessive, I’m afraid. (Needless to say, if Mr. Edwards also comments, he’s not going to put his own name into the drawing. So don’t fear him as competition!)

I suppose you’ll also have to guess my bedtime on the 24th… assuming I even go to bed then, and don’t stay up working till the 25th bears down on me, as could happen. This blog’s time stamp is from Seattle, Washington, in the U.S. Get a comment in before Seattle’s midnight, and I’ll throw your name into the metaphorical hat. And who knows? You might win something that will rock your socks off!

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September 7th, 2010 | 5 Comments »

I’ve always been a bit suspicious of those guys (and gals) who say, in their personal ads or their earnest conversations, “I’m not into playing games.” Really? I think. Then you’re possibly not much fun. It has been pointed out to me that what they might really mean is that they don’t like deception. OK, fair enough, but then why not say that? To me, games are not deceptions, they are fun; and I like fun with my sex. Games (especially verbal ones), and laughter, and tickling, and just general having-a-good-time-together.

I was delighted then to be sent a whole book of fun sex. Spark My Moment (Xcite, 2010) is a Jeremy Edwards extravaganza — 25 short stories, and 13 “moments,” or pieces of flash fiction. I guess it’s the presence of the “moments” that suggested the title, which had me kind of confused at first. It seems, I don’t know, too tepid somehow, for a book of explicit fun. It reminded me of that song Light My Fire, the Doors’ ode to bad rhymes, only weaker (yeah, yeah, I like that song too, but come on! “You know that I would a liar / If I was to say to you / Girl, we couldn’t get much higher”? In college we’d drink a few beers and play this game where we’d sing along but have to make up our own ridiculous lines to rhyme with “fire,” like, oh, “A horse has got a dam and sire,” “I can’t decide which guy to hire,” “The hobbits all came from the Shire”) (well, it’s more fun with beer, that’s all the more I’m going to say about that).

Sorry. That digression rather ran away with me. What I was trying to say is, here is a nice thick collection of stories that are all fun. They’re intelligent. They’re clever. Some of them made me laugh out loud; a lot of them made me wet. They’re mostly (but not exclusively) written from a male point of view, with frank appreciation for the woman (or women!) involved. There’s nothing dark here—no revenge sex, no jealous sex, no “I’m doing this because I can’t think of a way to get out of it without a fuss, but I really wish I weren’t” sex. No self-punishing sex, no sad sex. And yet there is still plenty of variety. There are new lovers and married couples. There are brazen lovers and shy lovers, confident lovers and clueless lovers. But every story is uplifting in some way.

I think the best way to explain why I like these stories is to show some excerpts. I can’t really excerpt from the “moments,” though, because it would ruin them, I think, to take out a small piece. So you will just have to trust me when I say they’re excellent.

From the stories, then.

One thing I like is the lush descriptions, like this one from Mom-and-Pop Enterprise: Mom wanted it both ways: she wanted the intense, dark-chocolate rush of secret satisfactions; and she wanted the frothy strawberry milkshake of showing off – and even, perhaps, the caramel drizzle of being discovered.

From Cordelia’s Significance: Her hair, which was the colour of an oak bookcase, curved to a couple of adorable points in the vicinity of her chin, and her smile was a smidgen off-centre. “Oak bookcase.” I just love that! I know that color, everyone does, but it’s not the same old description you’ve read before (that would be “honey”).

I was impressed with the character insights. They’re not overdone, you’re not hit over the head with psychoanalysis, and these parts don’t take over the stories, but—they gave me pause, they made me remember people I know who are (or at least were) just like that. From Passive Vocabulary: In the course of our four months together, Penny had unconsciously tried to become more like me, while I had unconsciously tried to become more like her. In retrospect, I knew that we‘d been jointly drifting into an artificial identity that was somewhat alien to each of us. And by the end of it, though the idiom and rhythm of our speech, the sound of our laughter, and even some of our body language showed great similarity, both of us had become people we couldn’t stand to be in the room with. The chap in Being Myself muses about his sense of self: I think identity is a lot like hit-or-miss photography. We keep taking pictures of ourselves, in different outfits and lighting and contexts, hoping for a likeness that resonates … and of course the actual person is infinitely kinetic and complex, and can never quite be captured as a concept, even by himself.

Of course—of course, of course—I like the sexy stuff. This excerpt from Vacation Plans describes the man catching the scent of his lover in her bedroom: It smells like the essential, private you. En route, I have passed the appetizing, fruity scent of your hair; the refined, floral scent of your cologne; and the clean, tangy scent of your deodorant. But the scent I have tracked down is completely distinct from all of these. It is incomparably richer and grander … and more genuine. It is your most intimate scent – the familiar, intoxicating aroma of your sopping, aroused cunt, a sharp, earthy, ultra-feminine essence that almost defies description but which connects directly to my most primal urges. It is a scent that, when you are present, unabashedly cries, “Fuck me!”

In contrast is this sweet description of a man with a very shy, almost silent woman (most women in erotica, if you hadn’t noticed, tend to orgasm at a neighbor-awakening volume), in Why Georgina?: She enjoyed being kissed there, more than licked. So he kissed and kissed and kissed and kissed it, while her one-time whispered utterance of the phrase “kiss it” repeated in his head to the beat of a fox-trot. … Georgina was a woman who even came quietly, shuddering soft “oohs” into the armrest of the couch.

There’s a wonderful little story, From Tip to Toe, about a woman who doesn’t show her feet at first, because she prefers to keep just a little part of herself hidden until she is fully ready to give herself. Her lover never pushes her, but wondering about what her feet must look like eroticizes her feet over time, and the descriptions of how he comes to think of her feet are just lovely.

And I like the cleverness, the fun of it all. Some of it is in short descriptions: Monica’s mouth was as dry as the Economist while she awaited clarification (Mom-and-Pop Enterprise); some of it in longer repartée:

Kirsten guffawed. “You’re thinking she might dash over here and eat me now?” How wonderful it was, Glen reflected, that Kirsten had so quickly embraced the scenario that her only concern was as to its timing. Clearly – and, after a decade of marriage, not surprisingly – she liked the idea.

“No, I was thinking tonight. But we might want to catch her ASAP, before she makes other dinner plans. I thought I could try a recipe from that new fusion cookbook.”

“What if she says no?”

“Then I’ll make something more conventional. I’m sure she likes pasta.”

(Becky Holds the Floor)

There was even one story all done as a mock Rudyard Kipling tale, of the Just-So Stories variety. I think Mr. Edwards and I must share a similar streak of humor; if he came over, he might ask me, “Do you like Kipling?” and I’d say, “I don’t know; I’ve never kippled,” and he’d know just what I meant. And then he might let me review another story collection.

My favorite story in the collection was the second one, Passive Vocabulary (well, it was kind of a tie with Ironic Lingerie), about a man who loves a woman who loves words. The man is intellectual, but not used to expressing himself in the same way she does.

“My lust for you is buttressed by our intimacy.” Buttressed. She was always using words that I found too beautiful to say aloud, words that I was afraid I wasn’t handsome enough to use. It was as if she could reach in and pluck all the finest nuggets from my passive vocabulary.

In any event, the gist of it now was that she wanted me inside her. And since I wanted to be all over her, it seemed we could cut a mutually satisfactory deal.

She opted to cut, flipping over and sliding her thighs apart like two glistening chunks of plastic-coated playing cards – revealing an ace.

I, of course, dealt.

It is not the fault of the stories, of course, that I would have preferred a hard copy—unfortunately, this collection, at least so far, is available only as an e-book or for the Kindle. Especially with the sprinkling of the “moments” throughout, I often found myself wanting to flip back to something, and (for me) that’s just more awkward with an electronic file. Also, you know how it is with a .pdf file—the pages on the right, the little thumbnails, are numbered by what page they actually are. But the pages in the book, those start from 1 on the first page of stories—which is page 7 of the actual document. But it’s the thumbnails on the right whose page #s you can see, which makes it awkward to try to find a story that starts on page 131; you have to keep mentally adding seven.

However, it’s a minor annoyance, and certainly not worth forgoing the book for! Buy the e-book version here, and the Kindle version here.

[Note: The publisher, Xcite, is British, and so therefore is the language. I left in the British spellings in the excerpts, but—oh, forgive me—I had to Americanize the quotation marks. I hope that’s not illegal or something. They do take payment in dollars, by the way.]

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August 20th, 2010 | Comments Off on Review of Fast Girls (ed. by Rachel Kramer Bussel)

I have only one quibble with Fast Girls: Erotic Stories by Women (published by Cleis Press, 2010), and that is with the title. I hate to nitpick over something as small as a preposition, but… oh, who am I kidding. I love to nitpick over things like prepositions! While it’s true that all of the stories in this collection are “by women,” I’m not sure I see the point in calling attention to that fact. If some of the stories had been written by men, I wouldn’t have had any problem with that. They’re certainly all stories about women, but then they’re about men too. Both women and men would love to read them (I tried out some of my favorite stories on a man, just to be sure!). However, if you think that choosing a title for a book is easy, well, then, you’ve probably never tried to choose one.

***UPDATE (Aug. 21): Another happy reader of this anthology just pointed out to me that the title changed! My advance reading copy says “erotic stories by women”; the title now for sale is “erotica for women.” Apologies! My quibble still stands, since men would love this book too. These are erotic stories, and they are about fast women. Let’s leave it at that!

Fast Girls, now, that is a great title. In her introduction, Bussel explains that while she wanted to reference definitions of fast that include both quick and sexually promiscuous, but, as she put it, I didn’t just want to read about slut after slut after slut. I wanted to read about women who in some way defy the conventional norms…[not] being shocking for shock’s sake but following their passions, seeking out what it is that they need to be truly pleasured. What I love about these fast girls is that even as they are daring and dynamic, they have a thing or two to learn about sex and themselves.

What I would expect, after an introduction like that, is stories that are strong on character and plot as well as hot sex scenes. And yay! That is precisely what I found.

Fortunately for me as a reader, and unfortunately for me as a reviewer, there are 20 great stories in here. I loved them all, but I cannot write about them all! So I’m going to choose two, from the two ends of the continuum of what I personally like to read in erotica.

On one end is Whore Complex, by Rachel Kramer Bussel. Another great title! That double entendre — “complex” as in “mental condition” and also as in “intricate or complicated” (but not as in “apartment complex”). A clever title gives me shivers! As did the story. The heroine describes being used as a whore by her lover. He dominates her completely: he holds her down to have his way with her, he forces her into humiliating scenes in public, he gives her body to other men. And she loves it.

I think a common misconception about readers (let alone writers) of erotica, made by those who don’t read such stories, is that we read what we secretly crave — that is, if we like a story, it must mean somehow that we wish the events in the the story could happen to us. Uh… no. Oh, sure, maybe sometimes, in some stories, but all the time? No. It’s fantasy. It’s partly hot just because you know you’d never do it. What makes a fantasy “work” for me is when it’s a more extreme version of what I actually like. A man (whom I know!) grabbing me and kissing me roughly? That’s hot. A man making me fuck a stranger? then making me pay him? Eh, I’ll pass. But those are both along the same continuum of dominant man/submissive woman. If we imagined a scale from 1 to 20, with this story being, say, an 18 (the man doesn’t harvest her organs, or anything), then I’m more like a 2 or a 3. Oh, OK, maybe a 4. But that’s why it’s so hot — I can be thrilled by those actions that are way too extreme for me, but are exaggerated versions of my feelings and urges.

On the other end, then… I really enjoyed Married Life by Charlotte Stein. This story describes a middle-aged woman whose hormones are raging. OK, now we are in Reality Land! A lot of women get that way. I sure did.

The opening lines:

I’m so horny I could fuck anything. That guy with the weird hair and the nervous hands — I could fuck him. I could fuck his peach-haired girlfriend, too. And is that his mother with them? Throw her in while you’re at it.

Now, this woman is married (as you probably surmised from the title), and her husband… well, he’s just not giving it to her.

I think that’s a pretty common situation too, honestly. Maybe it’s the wife, maybe it’s the husband, but lots of couples experience, at least sometime in their marriage, disparate sex drives. And often this leads to hard feelings, and insecurities, and accusations and blame and so on and so forth, even to the extreme of divorce.

Now in this story, OK, yes, the woman is climbing the walls, but she loves her husband. She doesn’t want to leave him — she wants him.

And then… she discovers a secret. His secret. Something about him that she never knew. And that secret, that will change their lives, is

Oh, come on! You didn’t think I was going to tell you?! Read the story!

What’s especially nice about this collection is that the stories, while obviously all on a theme, are different from each other. Not so different that if you liked one, you’d dislike the next; but different enough that you’d never think, “Oh, didn’t I just read that one?” Uniformly, too, the writing is good. Anyone who thinks “erotica” is just a description of two bodies mashing together has never read stories like these. I think the best way to show both of these, the variety and the quality of writing, is to give just the first 1-2 lines of each one (but not the two described above, because you’ve already had a taste of those).

Temptation (Kayla Perrin): “No one should be that good-looking.”

Waxing Eloquent (Donna George Storey): This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. I wasn’t planning to fuck anyone during the two weeks I was house-sitting at my brother’s condo in Manhattan Beach.

Five-Minute Porn Star (Jacqueline Applebee): I was once told that time is what stops everything from happening at once. I used to believe this take on things until I met Charlie.

Winter, Summer (Tristan Taormino): The Provincetown I remember was a crowded summer street packed with the traffic of tourists and local characters: bawdy drag queens dressed to kill en route to their nightly performance; boys traveling in pairs or packs, fresh and frisky from tea dances; and sun-drenched dykes on their way home from the beach, sweaty from sex or flag football or both.

Playing the Market (Angela Caperton): Who knew you could lose your ass in bonds?

Panther (Suzanne V. Slate): It’s Friday afternoon and I’m strolling through the galleries at the MFA, killing time until Paul gets off work.

Communal (Saskia Walker): “I vow that I will be as decadent and liberated in my sexuality as she is.”

Fireworks (Lolita Lopez): Her body hummed with anticipation as Leland tugged gently on her hand, dragging her away from the gathered crowd to a more secluded area.

Flash! (Andrea Dale): You’ve got to admit, no matter what else you might think about Rose McGowan, it’s pretty impressive that she managed to upstate Marilyn Manson so spectacularly.

Waiting for Beethoven (Susie Hara): Shirin is sitting naked on the terrace in the moonlight.

Confessions of a Kinky Shopaholic (Jennifer Peters): I was flipping through the paper, trying to find out what the latest city council scandal was, when an article in the metro section caught my eye.

Let’s Dance (D. L. King): Hands up in the air, twirling around trancelike, eyes closed, with a stupid smile on his face — or maybe it was more a beatific smile.

That Girl (Cherry Bomb): I am a promiscuous girl… only not in the way that you think.

OZ (Isabelle Gray): Home I want you to fuck me like you’ve been in prison for seven years for doing very bad things.

Princess (Elizabeth Coldwell): The first clue I have that this isn’t going to be an ordinary birthday treat is when Melanie produces the blindfold.

Chasing Danger (Kristina Wright): Even after five years on the Minnesota State Patrol, Erica Jeffries’ heart beat a little faster every time the radio crackled to life.

Lessons, Slow and Painful (Tess Danesi): I look forward to the weekends, especially at this time of year when the weather is somewhere between summer and autumn.

Speed Bumps (Tenille Brown): Sunny checked her watch before she gripped the bars on her bike tighter, bending low to take the curve.

I’ll conclude with another perhaps trivial point about the book, but one that caught my attention and is important to me, namely that this is a very handsome book. I don’t mean that metaphorically, I mean it literally: It looks good. Attractive cover, nice quality paper, and a good font. A pleasure to have and to hold.

Read more about Fast Girls at this blog site, which includes information about each of the contributors and links to their blogs, and also this one that includes a list of the different blog sites that are reviewing this book (which I think would be interesting to bookmark and then come back to after you’ve read the stories; I’ve held off on reading any of the reviews before I posted my own, so I’m dying to check them out!) and then head on over to Amazon to get your copy! Fast!

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August 14th, 2010 | 5 Comments »

It’s a little strange that I bought myself a copy of Best S & M III: Still More Stories of Still More Extreme Sex (published by Logical Lust, 2010), and that is because of its title. “Best” is fine, and “III” sounds good, but to be honest, S & M (sadism & masochism) really isn’t my thing. I have no objections to it, on either side, it just doesn’t hold any strong personal interest.

Just to be sure, I checked a dictionary. This definition is for the term sadomasochism, but you could divide it easily enough: The combination of sadism and masochism, in particular the deriving of pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from inflicting or submitting to physical or emotional abuse. Well, there you go. “Abuse” does not sound appealing to me.

So why buy a whole anthology of it? Well… it was a loaf I bought for one slice. For about a year, I’ve been following the blog of a writer called Oatmeal Girl. Her blog is largely personal reflections, with some poetry and a little fiction. And I just love her writing (even though, yes, she does write a lot about sadism, and masochism… but in a way I like, somehow….). She’d never published offline before, though. So when I saw an announcement on her blog that she had a story coming out in print, I wanted it!

Of course, the book arrived with more than just her story in it. I told myself that I’d review it if I liked 60% or more of the stories in it, and the fact that this post exists answers that question. Indeed, the whole collection was a delightful surprise.

It is of course not the editor’s fault that I hadn’t read books I and II in this series, so I really had no idea what to expect. I don’t need to embarrass myself by saying what I had expected, but what I found was a collection of stories that focus on psychological interactions between lovers, and it is fascinating. It isn’t “abuse” at all, not as I understand that word, anyway. And just some damn good writing.

The collection as a whole holds together well. While all of the stories have some aspect of power imbalance and control, it isn’t all “Mistress Ashley whips slave Derek” (in fact, none of it is). There are physical stories, and psychological stories, and realistic stories, and fantasies, and humorous stories, and dark stories, and stories I’d be hard-pressed to really classify. There’s one that’s all hot foreplay, leaving the actual sex to unfold after the story ends; and one barely refers to physical interaction at all.

I can’t review every story in the collection, and I can’t even review 60% of them, because the review would just go on forever. I’ve chosen therefore just a few. These were stories I especially liked, and also ones I felt I could say something about—because sometimes you can read a story and love it, but just have little to say other than “Wow.” Which does not make a fascinating review.

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You Wake ahead of the Alarm (Oatmeal Girl)

The first line of the first paragraph, as printed, is

You wake ahead of the alarm, the sun knocking on your face

The second paragraph begins like this:

You wake ahead of the alarm, the sun knocking on your

Uh-oh! Did the editor or the printer screw up? That’s the same line! (the second paragraph gets one less word because it begins with an indent, which the first one doesn’t). I double-checked. No… it was deliberate, and each sentence finishes differently.

The third paragraph begins the same way, then repeats an element of the second one (but not the first), like the theme & variation of a fugue. Other words and phrases are similarly picked up and carried through for a bit. It’s enchanting, and it’s not something I’m used to seeing in English writing—although it is very much a characteristic of Arabic writing.

The other feature I liked in this piece was the voice—the narrator uses she (for the woman), but writes to you (a man). It’s tricky to use you (although it’s one of my favorite ways to write), because the reader (in all but one case, at most) isn’t the person in the writer’s head; but pitched just right, it can be very sexy. The she instead of I is even more unusual, and I love the effect. It makes the narrator so much more submissive, so objectified, and I think that little quirk in the writing style says as much about their relationship as what actually unfolds in the scene.

I realize I’ve now written 255 words about this story and not said what it’s about. Well, I guess you’ll just have to buy the anthology and read it. 😉

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Halloween (Cecilia Tan)

Where I live, there’s a place where the goth kids hang out (and I know many are in their 20’s, but they still seem like “kids” to me). They dress outlandishly—huge spiked hair, dyed in lurid colors; black leather with zippers bustin’ out all over; faces that look like they’ve been attacked by a feral Ronco Rhinestone and Stud Setter (she said, revealing her age). They seem to be screaming for attention, yet they’ve always struck me as fundamentally shy, somehow. Certainly if I talk to them, they shrink back; and yes, I do talk to them sometimes. I’ve asked about hair styling (I’m just really interested in hair!), and I once asked one with the really low-slung pants how on earth they stayed up (he showed me—string! he had string suspenders that went under his t-shirt). I don’t find the goth style attractive, but I do admit to a fascination with that in-your-face/shy dichotomy.

The … OK, what do I call her? protagonist? heroine? female lead? none of those seem fitting. The … girl-that-the-story-is-about in Halloween is just like those kids, or at least as I imagine them. Tan captures that mix of bravado and insecurity, and it’s totally convincing. The girl is aggressive, and scared, and a bit of a jerk, and oddly sweet. It might seem strange to call a story that has more pages of graphic sex than anything else (2 pages of build-up, 12 pages of sex, if you’re counting) “sensitive,” but it is. Sensitive, and really hot.

~ ~ ~

Lucky (Xan West)

I enjoyed Halloween for its realism, and this one for just the opposite reason. This story describes the lengths a slave goes to during the course of an evening to feel owned by her mistress. I’m not a slave, or a lesbian, and I don’t enjoy humiliation. And yet… the story works for me. Again, it comes back to strong writing, and also to being able to articulate the feelings behind the actions. I don’t think there’s much in that story I would actually do, and yet the opening lines speak to me of me:

I need to be forced to name my desires. I need to look them in the eye and accept them for mine. I need to travel that long journey through shame into pride.

It takes a skilled writer to convince me of the reality of a life isn’t at all like mine, and she (he? I don’t even know) (or care) did it; and—trickier still—aroused me while doing so.

~ ~ ~

Empty Vessel (Shanna Germain)

I’ve tried three times now to write about this story, and I keep deleting it. When I try to describe it, it doesn’t come out right. Just read it.

~ ~ ~

Down Below (Jean Roberta)

This story came just at the right time for me, because I’d finished writing one of my own that includes a one-line reference to the novel 1984. And I wondered… but what if someone hasn’t read 1984? If I explain the line, I ruin it. I don’t want to take it out, because I like it. But do I risk losing some readers?

Here, for me, was Jean Roberta’s answer. A good part of the plot of Down Below refers to a short story by Edgar Allen Poe. The two main characters in the story work in a university’s English department, and they discuss the story.

Now, I have to say, I’ve read quite a few books set in university English departments (most of them murder mysteries, which must say something about university English departments), and the part where two characters discuss a book is a tricky one. Certainly professors do discuss books with each other, and they discuss plot and character and setting and symbolism and all that in great depth sometimes. But what they don’t do is summarize the book as if someone who hadn’t read it is eavesdropping in the hallway. They don’t say, for example, “Yes, but then in Chapter 2, Anne moves to Green Gables, situated on Prince Edward Island in Northeastern Canada, to live with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, the latter a curmudgeonly old lady beneath whose rough exterior beats a heart of gold.”

So Roberta’s characters talk about the story’s plot (which is relevant to the current story unfolding), but they don’t OVERtalk about it. And what I particularly liked is that they didn’t name it. Either you’ve read the story, in which case you don’t need to have it named here; or you haven’t, in which case you’re probably not going to throw aside your Best S & M III and rush out to the library to get it. (But if you haven’t read it and feel you simply must know, then you ought to read Poe’s Collected Works. You’ll find it here, and much more besides!).

Now, I did ask myself how the story would work if you had not read the Poe. It would work just fine. The Poe is an added a layer, a treat for someone who knows it, but the plot unfolds perfectly well without it. Very neatly done. (And I’m leaving in my 1984 line.)

~ ~ ~

Six of the eighteen stories in this collection have been published elsewhere; some may, in the future, be published elsewhere too. However, what makes this a book worth buying is not only the individual stories but how they work together. Eighteen variations on a theme, or eighteen interpretations of a dynamic I’d now be curious to read more about.

Best S & M III contains stories by these authors: Billierosie, M. Christian, Mykola Dementiuk, Shanna Germain, Ralph Greco, Jr., Theda Hudson, Kane, Jude Mason, Oatmeal Girl, Jean Roberta, Jerry Rosen, Jason Rubis, Craig J. Sorensen, Cecilia Tan, Jan Vander Laenen, Sharon Wachsler, Xan West, and PM White.

Buy the print or e-book from the publisher here, or on Amazon here.

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August 7th, 2010 | 1 Comment »

When I meet people for the first time who ask what I do, and I say, “I’m an editor,” in most cases, their eyes glaze over, and I get some response like Huh or No kidding? Say, I wonder if there are any of those little sandwiches left on the buffet table, or occasionally Oh. You must be a good speller. (Actually, I’m a fantastic speller, but that’s probably a proofreader you’re thinking of.)

One reason most people aren’t quite sure what an editor does is that there are so many different kinds of editors. There are commissioning (or acquisitions) editors, who seek authors to write specific books the publisher has planned, or who simply are talented writers that the editor believes would produce good works.

There are development editors, who work with the author to shape the manuscript.

A series editor is the person who oversees an author team that works on a series, or a project with different components (a book, a DVD, a Web site).

A copy editor works with the manuscript before production to check grammar, spelling, and sometimes style. The proofreader generally checks the manuscript after it’s been typeset and covers formatting issues as well, such as page numbers and word breaks; and certainly some publishers do employ the same person as the copy editor and the proofreader.

And then we have the anthology editor, who collects and then selects stories for a collection on a particular theme or topic. Anthology editors are more common in erotic fiction perhaps than some other genres, though, because erotica lends itself so well to the short story format.

I’ve worked as a commissioning editor, a development editor, a series editor, and a copy editor — but never as an anthology editor. So rather than just guess what one does and how he/she does it, I decided to ask a real one. I chose M. Christian, because 1) he’s edited 20 successful anthologies, and 2) I could easily find his contact information. And of course also because 3) he answered promptly and politely and agreed with enthusiasm. I’d heard from some authors he’d worked with that he was “sweet,” and I wasn’t quite sure what that meant — doesn’t his photo look devilish?? but he really is. He closes his emails with “Hugs,” and called me “Sweetie” once, which quite tickled me coming from a man who’s just finished editing Best S/M Erotica Vol 3: Still More Extreme Stories of Still More Extreme Sex (which I’m reviewing here in my next post within the next week).

Here, then, is that interview, with information of interest to both the reader and the writer of quality erotica.

1. How does an edited volume come to be? That is, does a publisher choose a topic and solicit an editor, or does an editor dream up a project and approach a publisher?

Actually, it’s done both ways.  Most of the time an editor will put together a brief (one page or so) proposal about the anthology — what it’s about, who might be invited, how it could be marketed, etc. – and then send it around to various publishers, hoping to find a home for it.  Sometimes, though, a publisher will reach out to an editor they might know as a writer or who may have done other anthologies with them to do a project.  That’s happened to me a few times, and it’s a wonderful compliment.

The trick to putting together a proposal is to not only make it sound exciting to a publisher but also to authors.  I try to make my own different and rather (ahem) off the wall. That can be a bit of a trial to sell and fill, but it’s fun to do and, hopefully, for folks to read.

2. How do you find your authors? Where do you advertise?

There are a lot of places where editors and publishers post a brief statement saying what they are looking for, which is called a Call for Submissions. A good one, by the way, will have all the essentials a writer needs to send something in: what the anthology is about, what they don’t want, the deadline, the payment – that kind of stuff.

The best place, though, is a wonderful site called The Erotica Readers & Writers Association. The ERWA has, deservedly, become THE resource for erotica writing info: forums, articles, essays, news, and a lot more.  I even wrote a column for them for many years, called Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker, about writing smut (coming out very soon as a book, btw). I cannot rave too much about them. [Shar’s note: I love that site too!]

3. How many submissions do you typically get, and of those, how many do you choose?

It really depends on the state of the writing world and what the book’s about: A general anthology will get a lot more than a very specific one, and if there are a lot of writers out there chugging away … well, then you get more. On the average, most of my erotica anthologies get anywhere from 25 to 100 submissions, but a few have gotten a lot more.  When I edited the non-erotic anthologies Mammoth Book Of Tales Of The Road and Mammoth Book Of Future Cops (both with my pal Maxim Jakubowski) I got almost 500 submissions … gack!  Needless to say it took me quite a while to get through them all.

4. Do you read submissions “blind,” or do you know who’s written each story?

I always know who is submitting what. Trying to read blind is really too much work and, well, kind of pointless: I don’t care if a writer is a ‘name’ or not, just if they can tell a good story. Another reason to know who is sending in what is to get an idea of how they conduct themselves, via their cover letter.

You see, unfortunately some writers treat anthology editors as a kind of enemy. Sure, some editors are jerks and should be avoided, but others are – like me – are writers as well and really strive to be conscientious to the people who submit to their books. I read and try my best to answer every email, and will always send out rejection letters – even though it might be painful to do it – rather than only talking to the ‘winners’ in the anthology selection game. So when someone approaches me with an attitude (making unrealistic demands, expecting to be cheated or plagiarized, etc.) I just roll my eyes and, while I will always read their stories, their arrogance will shadow their work – which is not a good thing.

5. Anthologies are built around a theme. Given that, though, do you strive for variety among the stories, or do you want them to be similar to each other?

Ideally I’d love it if each story approached the anthology’s theme uniquely because, let’s face it, the same story over and over again is boring. I often have the hard choice of picking one story over another because the two are far too similar to both be in the book. But I also try not to take stories that are too far away from the idea of the book – which would be jarring to the reader.  It’s always a weird game, picking stories, as you’re always trying to balance style, story, length, and everything else.  There’s also a point, though, when you simply have to let it all go and just get the thing finished.  No book, especially an anthology, can ever be perfect for everyone.

6. Do you have an organizing principle for putting the accepted stories in order? That is, if a reader intended to read every story, would it make more sense to read them in the order you chose?

I follow a pretty simple formula when I put together book: short and punchy up front, longer towards the end, not too many short stories together or too many long ones.  Ideally, I’d like a book that is always fresh and unique, where similar things don’t run after each other.

7. How are authors paid–a flat fee? A percentage of the royalties? How is the editor paid–a flat fee? A percentage of the royalties?

It really depends on the publisher, really, as they are the ones usually handling the legal stuff (creating the contracts and so forth) as well as how the money is paid out.  There are normally two models: one, the publisher pays the editor a fee to put the book together and then pays the contributors themselves; or, two, the publisher gives the editor an amount that the editor then pays the writers from.  It used to be rare that anthology writers got a piece of the royalty pie, but ebooks have changed all that and now it’s fairly common for books to offer some kind of royalty.

8. Do you prefer authors to write stories specifically for your anthology?

That’s an odd one.  If the story hasn’t appeared anywhere, I don’t really care if it was written for me or not – though I really do love it when a writer has a good time writing a story for me.

9. Do you accept stories that have been previously published elsewhere? What are the pros/cons of doing that?

Sometimes the publisher is strict about not wanting reprints. Personally, though, I don’t mind it if the story is good. The con side of it is that sometimes a story might be published too many times – but that’s pretty rare.  The pro side is that sometimes a book can be damned hard to fill and accepting reprints, especially if you have a tight deadline, can mean the difference between a really thin anthology and a nice, juicy, fat one.

10. Do you permit authors to re-published their stories elsewhere after the anthology has been published? What are the pros/cons of doing that?

Without getting too much into it, an anthology editor is usually only interested in using that one story that one time.  It’s very, very rare for an editor, or even a publisher, to demand all rights.  Frankly, I think writers should never – or rarely – sell the work to someone without having the opportunity to sell it elsewhere.  There are simply too many opportunities to sell and resell something, and so get some much-needed income.

The trick is that when you send something, be sure to tell the editor that it’s been published before and where.  Not doing that is a no-no than can get you, the editor, and even the publisher in trouble.

11. How much do you “edit” an author’s submission? Do you pretty much take it as it is, or do you make any requests for content changes?

Soap box time! Some editors feel that they have to be EDITORS (in all caps), meaning that they feel they have to put their fingers all over a book. I’m much more laid back: I prefer the writers to tell their own stories in their own ways. Rarely, though, I do tell a writer to change something, but it’s usually not very large and, if the writer does them, I will take the story.  Some editors have the nasty habit of asking for changes and then still rejecting the story – which I feel is cruel.  But then, again, I am a writer as well as an editor so I edit following the rule of “treat others as you’d like to be treated.”

12. I keep reading in various places that the short story is “dead.” Yet erotica anthologies seem very common. Is erotic writing an exception? Do novels outsell anthologies?

Short stories are definitely not dead, though we do seem to be in a time when there are fewer anthologies – but then that can change any day now.  Shorts are great for writers because you can try out new and different things, and they are great for readers because you get to read all kinds of … well, new and different things.  Anthos are very popular with erotica publishers as that variety can often excite their readers (and THERE’S an image) more than other formats.

As far as selling goes, that’s something I still don’t understand as some books sell really well and others just don’t.  Believe me, if I DID understand it, I’d be a rich recluse instead of the poor recluse I am now ….

Right now I have one brand-spanking (ahem) new anthology out from Logical Lust called Best S/M Erotica Vol. 3, which is, kind of naturally, the third volume in a series I’ve been editing, erratically, for quite some time.  It’s a wide-spectrum anthology covering all kinds of S/M tales.  If I do say so myself it’s a great book, with stories from PM White, Sharon Wachsler, Kane, Jean Roberta, Jason Rubis, Shanna Germain, Cecilia Tan, Xan West, Craig J. Sorensen, Ralph Greco, Jr., Theda Hudson, Jerry Rosen, Jan Vander Laenen, Mykola Dementiuk, Jude Mason, Billierosie, and Oatmeal Girl.

Coming out very soon is another anthology, this time from Sizzler ebooks, called Sex in San Francisco, which is a celebration of kinky erotic fun in that legendary city.  It has stories by Donna George Storey, PM White, Renatto Garcia, Adele Levin, Shanna Germain, Craig J.  Sorensen, Theda Hudson, Jude Mason, Neve Black, Mykola Dementiuk, Jeremy Edwards, and Anna Reed and Lily Penza.

And here’s some great news: I just agreed to edit three new anthologies for Sizzler ebooks.  I can’t tell you what they are about (yet) but keep your eyes on my site at or, of course, the The Erotica Readers & Writers Association site for the Calls for Submissions.

~  ~  ~

M.Christian is – among many things – an acknowledged master of erotica with more than 300 stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and many, many other anthologies, magazines, and Web sites.

He is the editor of 20 anthologies including the Best S/M Erotica series, The Burning Pen, Guilty Pleasures, The Mammoth Book of Future Cops, and The Mammoth Book of Tales of the Road (with Maxim Jakubowksi) and Confessions, Garden of Perverse, and Amazons (with Sage Vivant), as well as many others.

He is the author of the collections Dirty Words, Speaking Parts, The Bachelor Machine, Licks & Promises, Filthy, Love Without Gun Control, Rude Mechanicals, and Coming Together: M.Christian; and the novels Running Dry, The Very Bloody Marys, Me2, Brushes, and Painted Doll.

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