Condoms: fictional contraceptive of choice

I’ve written several times (here, for example, and here), about why, in real life, I’d always rather be on the pill. I like semen. I like spontaneity. I like intimacy. To a certain extent, I think condoms interfere with the enjoyment of all those things. But in erotica? In erotica, I think they come in to their own.

There’s been a lot written by erotica writers about whether we have a responsibility to write condoms into our sex scenes, a responsibility to write safe sex. That is not the purpose of this post: this is less what about what we do through obligation to reflect best practice in real life, and more about how condoms can actually serve a fictional purpose.

In fiction, you can almost argue that the pill is the contraceptive of deceit and stability (almost, because right now, helpfully, I can’t think of any specific examples – I thought Gone Girl was one, only to be reminded that what Amy does is worse still.) It’s the form of contraception that women ‘accidentally’ forget to take, or the one they make an active decision to stop taking when they want a family. It feels, to me, more about conception than sex.

Condoms, and other barrier methods, on the other hand, are visceral – though condoms more than say, the diaphragm, since they’re on the outside of the body, not the inside. The pill, the coil, the implant – they’re intellectual decisions, made in a GP’s surgery, out of the heat of the moment, separate, really, from desire. The rip of that foil packet? It screams desire.

The sheer physical presence of the condom is a great device in fiction – I made my own attempt at writing that here, but it’s better shown, I think, in Kristina Lloyd’s Asking for Trouble, which is my go-to novel for demonstrating how to do stuff well – not least because unlike my fictional take on condoms, it has actual sex! Condoms recur throughout this novel – they’re symbolic…

‘Just a sec,’ I said, and scurried to get a condom from my desk drawer. That had been a real treat for me when I’d first moved in: hiding little condom stashes here and there, making every room in the flat a potential fuck zone. No more having to worry about other people. The whole place was mine.

… but that symbolism works on a very real level …

When he withdrew, I saw the rubber wrinkling on his prick, its teat drooping with liquid. I just hadn’t felt it. I guess my vagina wasn’t concentrating. Thank God one of us is in control, I thought.

There’s so much in those three sentences. The comedown from the out-of-control desire that fuels this sex scene is captured in ‘drooping’ alone, but the fact that Ilya, the hero, puts on a condom despite Beth not realising, and that she goes on to frame that as ‘Thank God one of us is in control’ foreshadows the way that she relinquishes control to him all the way through the novel, and it’s all captured in one perfectly written piece of latex.

Symbolic objects in fiction fascinate me. And condoms lend themselves perfectly to symbolism, whether your characters use them, or whether they don’t. It’s why a blanket insistence that we include them just to remind readers of the importance of safe sex denies the writer, and the reader, so much damn potential.

 

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I’ve got a guest! #03: Kristina Lloyd on Writing on the Body

Kristina last guested for me when her last novel Undone was released. She’s been quiet for a while so I’m incredibly thrilled that she’s just published a collection of her short stories, On My Knees. The collection opens with one of my favourite of Kristina’s shorts, No Sleep, which features some super hot Sharpie action. As writing on the body is a relatively new kink of mine, and one that recurs in Kristina’s work, she kindly offered to write me a guest post on why it’s just so bloody hot…

Writing on the Body 

Pete withdrew his hand from my breast – much too soon – and pressed it to the flat of my chest, telling me to keep still. It was difficult. Passion made my thighs tremble and my head spin.

Then I felt the cool tackiness of Ilya pressing the lipstick to my back.

‘What letter’s this, Beth?’ he asked as the lipstick snaked a winding path from a few inches below one shoulderblade and down almost to waist level.

‘S,’ I whispered.

‘Good girl,’ breathed Ilya. ‘And this?’

As he stroked a lipstick line down my back, the other guy gave my clit a series of tiny circular rubs, the pad of his thumb hard and abrasive.

‘Oh God,’ I cried, my body swaying with delirium. ‘I can’t take it. Please –’

‘Keep still, Beth,’ urged Ilya. ‘What letter was that?’

‘L,’ I gasped. ‘L.’

Pete carried on leering, giving my clitoris the odd teasing flick or two. Ilya continued drawing on my back.

‘And that one?’ said Ilya, quietly demanding.

‘U,’ I said, a hint of weary resignation in my voice.

‘Well done, Beth,’ said Ilya. ‘S-L-U ­– What’s the next letter?’

I could feel all my juices flooding from my pussy on to Pete’s hand. My arousal was more humiliating than being humiliated. 

(from Asking for Trouble, Kristina Lloyd)

*

Erotic humiliation features heavily in my fiction, tending towards the psychological rather than the physical. For the most part, the humiliation arises from the woman’s failure to be sexually appropriate and decorous. She might be shamed by being ‘forced’ into acts which debase her, such as cocksucking (because nice girls don’t) or shamed for having sexual desire (because yup, nice girls don’t). In all cases, her worth and status are lowered. Writing on the body is, for me, a quick, powerful means of achieving degradation (that lowering) and eliciting those concomitant hot feelings of shame. In this piece I want to attempt to unpick why that might be; not to offer an insight into my twisted psyche, but because I think it’s super interesting, and often useful, to explore the underpinnings and dynamics of kink, both psychological and socio-cultural.

Humiliation is about falling from grace; about failing to meet or adhere to a social value system. It requires a public, even if it’s just a public of one, who brings that value system to bear on the wayward individual. Where it gets particularly interesting for me is when the humiliatee sets no store by the value system they are deemed to have failed. The public system, or representative of it, must then ramp up their activity so the failure is recognised and, ideally, felt in the gut by the individual who’s attempted to bypass the shared values. The rebel must be shown the error of their ways and brought back into line. They must be punished by being publicly shamed.

In our culture, women are not permitted to have a sexual appetite proportionate to men’s. When we overstep the mark, society has  names for us ­– slut, whore, cumdumpster, skank, tramp, slag and so on – words which all have the same meaning: you are having a lot of sex. In this context, ‘ a lot’, of course, means ‘too much for our liking’.

If, as the accused woman, your response is ‘Hey, I am having a lot of sex, thanks, isn’t that awesome?’, it’s still hard to escape the pejorative sting of words intended to shame, of words which carry the values one has tried to ignore or evade.

Words such as slut, whore, tramp etc, are layered with meaning and inference. They equate to ‘lots of sex’ which, for many people, is cool because lots of sex is exciting. The words also, for me, carry the thrill of shame which taps right into my personal submissive desires. The process of being shamed means, for the duration, the humiliatee is exposed for being outside the value system, be it the value system of a society or a house of kink in the countryside. The disobedient person is made lesser by their outsider status and their failure to conform. They need to be taught a lesson so they’ll think twice before straying again. During the lesson, they have no right to reply. They are being shown their failure and are being taken deeper, lower, closer to a place that is beyond culture or rules in order to then be brought back. (The word ‘humiliate’ has its etymological roots in the Latin ‘humus’, meaning ground or earth.) As punishment, they are being reduced by being done to by a greater power.

I get off on scenarios of women being done to; of women being rendered so insignificant and worthless that her male adversaries needn’t behave decently out of respect for her personhood or her femaleness. And I like (the idea of) unrestrained (archetypal) masculinity because it trashes all those notions that say women aren’t really into sex; that they need to be approached at an oblique angle, seduced into ‘surrender’, then gently made love to on a bearskin rug by the fireside.

Submission and being shamed for having sexual hunger is often a way for me (or my characters) to say ‘Have at me, big boy! I like it just as bad as you.’

What does all this have to do with writing on the body? Language is a social phenomenon. Words require a reader. A person wearing signage intended to shame comes with a ready-made implied and disapproving audience.  A few years ago in the States, a deeply unpleasant trend arose for parents disciplining their kids by forcing them to wear placards listing their domestic misdemeanors. Fortunately, the practice was short-lived but it spawned the internet meme we see now where pets are shamed by signs, the joke being that animals can’t read (so woof, no harm done).

Shaming someone with written words emphasises the viewing, reading public, making it a very efficient means of humiliation. With just a few strokes of ink, it states the crime and shames the criminal. Bring this practice into the erotic arena and skin becomes a canvas, the naked body the signboard. The implied audience doesn’t just read the words, they see the person stripped bare, exposed, powerless and vulnerable. Add text to a bare body and, thanks to that implied audience, the inscribed person becomes so much more naked;  there’s potentially a whole bunch of ‘outside’ eyes on them, those metaphorically clothed representatives of the disregarded value system.

When it is written on, the body becomes an object. The living, breathing individual, with their protective ego and their dignity, is diminished. I don’t have space here to delve in to the liberating pleasure many submissive-identifying folk derive from being stripped of the attributes comprising our social selves, of becoming de-civilised. But if language and literacy are one of the hallmarks of an advanced society, it’s easy to see why being turned into a tool that facilitates an expression of that advancement highlights the power disparity between the writer and the written upon, between dom and sub, between being a person and being parchment.

Top all those factors off with the speed, convenience and spontaneity a writing implement affords, and you have a neat and nasty means of erotic humiliation at a dominant’s disposal. While many people kink for elaborate, ritualised forms of punishment, my own preference is for shabbier, less structured expressions of powerplay. When Ilya from my second book, Asking for Trouble, makes a cameo appearance in my fifth book, Undone, he asks Lana, ‘I assume you have a lipstick in your bag? May I?’

He doesn’t need any kit to humiliate and horrify Lana; just a tube of colour and her skin. He doesn’t need to be prepared and that lack of forethought again implies a de-valuing of the person to be punished. And yet speed also implies value: the feelings she stirs in him are so powerful and immediate, that he, the dominant or punisher, is going to act on them right now. (In RL, I don’t believe men are beasts with uncontrollable urges but that dubious stereotype is a hot line to pursue in the realm of consensual play, fantasy and fiction.) Similarly, in ‘No Sleep’, the opening story of my newly released short story collection, On My Knees, the dominant guy rejects an available bag of cuffs, gags, blindfolds etc in favour of a sudden idea inspired by a Sharpie he finds in his pocket. ‘It was a testament to his dark imagination he could reduce her to a sobbing wreck with so little equipment.’

Writing on the body of the shamed, submissive woman encapsulates and condenses so many facets of my own desire. I like a lot of kinky stuff but this small act carries a big erotic charge. In today’s popular culture, sexual submission is frequently represented by the external trappings of that red room of pain, by equipment and fancy stuff that costs time and money. And while all that gear can be awesome, when we look behind those easy media depictions, we can start to see a sexuality that’s often complex, paradoxical, slippery, unsettling, and is rooted in both the personal and the political. I’ve used an awful lot of words here to fumble my way towards some kind of point. As the saying goes, ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’. And of course, each to her own, but for me the pen, the lipstick, the literate badges of shame, are far mightier than the tawse, paddle or fully equipped dungeon.

*

You can read the entirety of my short story ‘No Sleep’ via Amazon’s preview of On My Knees or by downloading a sample to your Kindle. And if you’re up for some lipstick-related fun, please check out my competition, Match the Writer to the Lipstick, and Charlie’s accompanying flash fiction lippy comp. One of the prizes on offer for each competition is a paperback of On My Knees. Charlie and I are both donating a pound per fiction-comp entrant to Refuge, the charity supporting victims of domestic violence. Closing dates are 11th October. Go!

PS: You can buy Kristina’s new anthology and her novels Asking for Trouble (my fave!) and Undone by clicking on the links below:

Asking for Trouble

Undone

On My Knees

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***COMPETITION: LIPPIE***

Remember Polished?

Well, I thought it might be time to do it all over again, and I mentioned it to Kristina Lloyd, who has a great new anthology out, and she suggested a fresh take: lipstick.

I’m not a big wearer of lipstick, so instead of my own collection, this competition will be based around the names of classic MAC lipstick. It’s simple – if you want to enter, you drop me a DM, I’ll select a lipstick name for you at random and you write a piece of erotica using that lipstick name as a title. Sound familiar?

There will of course be a prize, the full details of which are yet to be confirmed, but which will definitely include a signed copy of Kristina’s anthology when it’s released in paperback. In addition, I’ll donate £1 to Refuge (up to a maximum of £30) for every story entered – and you can enter more than once.

If you’re tempted, here are …

… the Rules…

(1) Your story must be a piece of erotica and use the name of the lipstick allocated to you as, or as part of, the title. The more creative the story, the better.
(2) The post must (obviously) be your own work.
(3) There is no minimum length for posts, but they must be no longer than 1500 words.
(4) You may request more than one lipstick name and submit more than one story, but you must submit a story for every lipstick name you are allocated.
(5) You must post the piece on your own blog and link back to this post in order for your entry to be counted. If you’re having trouble with the link, DM me or drop me an email and I’ll add your post to the list of entries.
(6) If you don’t have a blog, but would like to enter, I’ll also consider stories sent via email (my email address is here)
(7) The competition closes at 23.59 GMT on Sunday, October 11th. Any entries submitted after this point will not be considered.
(8) You consent to me linking to your post in a list of all the entries once the competition has closed.
(9) Should you win, you are happy to share your mailing address with me (and Kristina!) for the purpose of sending your prize.
(10) The competition is open internationally.

If I’)ve missed anything, or you have questions, please let me know…

Charlie xx

Kristina Lloyd’s Undone: the ‘unsuitable for Amazon’ review

My copy of Undone arrived with strict instructions from the author herself:

‘Promise that you’ll read it in order.’

Well, of course, Kristina. How else would I read it? Do I look like the kind of person who trawls books looking for an immaculately written blow job or any hint of anal? Maybe don’t answer that.

Kristina has her reasons for not trusting me. Her second novel, Asking for Trouble, is my favourite erotica novel ever. It never leaves my bedside table, and it rarely leaves my actual bed. I lent it to the boy when I wanted him to understand what turns me on. I use it when I need reminding how to write well. It’s a superb work of erotica, but it more than holds its own as a piece of fiction outside of the genre. It’s taught me how to write characters, how to describe place … wait, I’m reviewing the wrong book.

Anyway. Asking for Trouble is the reason Kristina doesn’t trust me. When we first started chatting via Twitter, I confessed that I’d owned it for months, years even, before I fully pieced the plot together. Why? Because the sex in it is so hot that I’d been ‘reading’ (wanking over) the sex scenes time and time again, and figuring out the plot using a mixture of guesswork and logical deduction. That’s how you have great orgasms. It’s *not* how you read a book.

So, good girl that I am, I obediently started Undone at the beginning. Like, right at the beginning. With the dedication.

I’m not totally sure what the etiquette is regarding mentioning the dedication in a review. It sort of feels like it’s not fair game because it’s not part of the story: the story is *not* about Kristina’s life, the dedication presumably *is.* But anyway, here’s what it says:

For Ewan, for being generous with the measures.

For that to make sense, you kind of have to know that the book is set in a cocktail bar, and, bad reviewer that I am, I haven’t filled you in on the plot. But the cocktails aren’t really my point. Lana and Sol, the characters in Undone, aren’t Kristina and (presumably) her partner. What they do have though is affection and respect for each other that underpins all the sex in the book and proves the publishing industry wrong about everything it holds true about erotic romance. And for me, the stunning simplicity with which Kristina writes emotion and affection is captured wholeheartedly in that dedication.

Unlike most of what Black Lace publish these days, Undone is described as ‘erotic thriller,’ rather than ‘erotic romance.’ It really, really bothers me that we’ve come to understand erotic romance as being synonymous with billionaires, helicopters and fifteen-million page contracts. The reason I picked the dedication as an example of Kristina being so much more than just a sex writer is because it’s too hard to pull out an individual quote from the novel itself that proves that this is romance too: the whole text is shot through with the depth of Sol and Lana’s feelings for one another.

Not that those feelings cast any kind of soft focus glow over the sex scenes. When I first started reading Kristina’s work, I picked it up by chance: in those days I’d read pretty much any Black Lace book. Since then, I’ve learnt a lot more about my own kinks and consequently, become a lot more discerning in what I read, erotica-wise. Even in a year and half’s worth of blogging I’ve discovered that I’m not as vanilla as I thought I was: I identify as submissive far more strongly than I did at the start, but I know more about what kind of sub I am, too. What I’d call ‘formalised kink’ – beautiful rope work, toys, spankings, the word ‘Sir’ – none of that really works for me. I like improvised bondage, bruising, shame – and Undone is very much about the last of those things. Not that it doesn’t have stunning S&M kit in it – Kristina has certainly done her research into handcuffs – but it feels much more about the psychological aspects of kink than her last novel, Thrill Seeker, did.

It’s a massively intelligently-written book, but if I flick through my copy now and find the bits I underlined, it’s the visceral quality of the sex that means I’ll probably return to this as wank-fodder almost as often as I do to Asking for Trouble. Again, it’s difficult to the pluck the best bits out of context, but I particularly loved the following:

Specks of purple and green glitter shone where he’d rubbed against my make-up. I thought of the ways in which we become each other’s bodies, how a punch becomes a bruise, how fluids mingle in kisses and how I take him inside me, the boundaries of our selves no longer sealed and whole.

And then, a little later, this:

He raised himself over me, his cock bumping at my entrance. He grabbed my wrist, pinning my arm awkwardly above my head as he drove into me. His bulky shaft pushed me open, my heavy, wet insides clinging to his thickness. I cried out, as thrilled by the hand squeezing my arm as I was by the cock surging into me. He shoved high and hard, his fingers tight around my wrist.

So, do I recommend it? Hell yes. But do yourself a favour and take Kristina’s advice. Read Undone in order, as much for the thriller plot as for the sex. Don’t look for (or post!) spoilers on Amazon. It’s better that way. If you must know though, the super hot anal starts on page 221.

Guest Post: Kristina Lloyd’s Main Man

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Kristina Lloyd’s fiction. I love her writing style, her unashamedly hardcore approach to erotica, and perhaps most of all, her male characters. Which is why I’m delighted to have her here today to talk about the hero of her new novel, Undone. Over to you, Kristina…

Undone Kristina Lloyd

My new novel, Undone, is set in a cocktail bar, and the main man is Sol Miller. Several months into writing the book, it was pointed out to me I’d named him after two brands of beer. I swear this wasn’t intentional! I briefly considered changing his name but by then it was too late. He was Sol Miller through and through.

Sol is a Jewish ex-New Yorker , now resident in the UK. I wanted him to have an ordinary, American name so spent time diligently researching common Jewish names before, yup, inadvertently naming him after a couple of lagers. In the current erotica publishing climate, Sol is perhaps unusual because he’s not a billionaire. (I’m sure I’m not the only person with zero erotic interest in wealth.) He’s a former IT guy, taking a step back from a stressful career and doing casual labour at a building site in Saltbourne, the town where my protagonist, Lana Greenwood, has her cocktail bar.

I love writing about mysterious, possibly dangerous men, and creating female characters willing to play with fire. Lana meets Sol at a weekend party in a manor house. While drinking in the garden with friends, she’s directed indoors to fetch another bottle of wine. Here’s a brief excerpt where Lana describes their first meeting:

“The stone utility room was cool and shadowy, an Aladdin’s cave of alcohol. Sunlight filtered in through a small, grimy window, casting a meagre sheen on kegs, crates and exotic, multi-coloured bottles. I blinked as my eyes readjusted, goosebumps stippling my bare arms.

In the veiled light, a shirtless man stood before a tall American fridge, head bowed. He rested one hand on the matte silver door, while the other angled a pint glass at the ice dispenser. He wore canvas knee-lengths, slung low on his hips, and his dark, sweat-soaked hair was hooked behind his ears. He was powerfully muscular but not unnaturally chiseled, and a small roll of softness edged his waist. Ice cubes clattered into the glass. The bars of his ribs pumped below wet spikes of hair in the pit of his raised arm. His torso glistened, a soft curve of light resting on one shoulder. Beads of sweat trickled down his chest . A couple of droplets fell, making dark spots on the flagstones.

I shivered. Laughter and the clink of glasses from outside grew faint, as if I were sinking under water, the world fading out of reach. He stood straight, glancing at me. For an instant, the light around him was magical, a diaphanous haze pricked with glittering motes. His chest hair was plastered to his body, and his lower lip was smeared with blood, a glossy violet bulge distorting its shape.

‘You see any cloths around here?’ His accent was American, a sexy, sonorous drawl, and a  slight slur marred his words. He stepped into shadow and slid open a flaky, wooden door beneath an old Belfast sink. He bobbed down to peer in, holding the sink above for balance. Down his left side, from underarm to hip, was a tattoo unlike any I’d seen before. To be accurate, there were several tattoos but they formed a picture, or a panel, depicting a stemmed dandelion head gone to seed. The images were as delicately rendered as etchings under tissue paper in a botanical encyclopaedia. Single, fluffy orbs drifted from the spiky round flower, as if a breeze were blowing tattoos across his body. I half wanted to reach out and catch one, then I could make a wish.”

Lana and Sol exchange only a few words but Lana immediately thinks she’s got him sussed: simple, straightforward, sporty, fun. Not her type at all. She’s forced to reevaluate her opinion when she hooks up with him and another guy, Misha, for a threesome. She starts to suspect there’s more to Sol than meets the eye, especially on the morning after when Misha is discovered dead in the swimming pool. Lana has reason to believe Sol may be implicated in the death. She knows the wisest thing would be to steer clear of him but she’s finding him increasingly hot and intriguing. So of course, she follows her groin rather than her head. And I totally would, too!

If you’d like to know more about Undone, please hop over to my blog for an excerpt, and check out the other stops on my Sexy September blog tour.

 

Kristina Lloyd writes erotic fiction about sexually submissive women who like it on the dark, dirty and dangerous side. Her novels are published by Black Lace and her short stories have appeared in dozens of anthologies, including several ‘best of’ collection, in both the UK and US. She lives in Brighton, England.

About Undone

When Lana Greenwood attends a glamorous house party she finds herself tempted into a ménage à trois. But the morning after brings more than just regrets over fulfilling a fantasy one night stand. One of the men she’s spent the night with is discovered dead in the swimming pool. Accident, suicide or murder, no one is sure and Lana doesn’t know where to turn. Can she trust Sol, the other man, an ex-New Yorker with a dirty smile and a deep desire to continue their kinky game?

Undone is published on Sept 11th, 2014. Pre-order with Amazon: Amazon UK paperback :: Amazon UK Kindle :: Amazon US Kindle :: Amazon CA paperback :: Amazon CA Kindle

Sea Breeze

OK, a confession. I haven’t actually drunk a Sea Breeze since I was, ooh, 17? The alcohol to juice ratio is way out. But I have a soft spot for them – they remind me of Monday evenings out on the town with my best friend, mixing cheap vodka and lemonade and eating pizza by the river and then going to a cocktail bar for just one (it was all we could afford) before they called last orders. These days I opt for more sophisticated poisons – New World Sauvignon Blanc, Prosecco, and, as far as cocktails are concerned, the Q-tini, a martini-style mix of gin, elderflower liqueur, cucumber, apple juice and a sprinkling of cracked black pepper.

But when Kristina Lloyd asked if I wanted to join in with her Kinky Cocktail Party to launch the start of her blog tour, it was too good an offer to pass up, but too bloody hard to write a kinky Q-tini story. So, Sea Breeze.

If you’re wondering what a Kinky Cocktail Party is, it’s a day long party to celebrate the launch of Kristina’s amazing new novel Undone. You should totally work your way down the menu, which you can find here. And Kristina will be here, talking about her male protagonist, Sol Miller, on Friday, September 5th.

Anyway, Sea Breeze. Kind of a continuation of this.

***

You think Sea Breeze, you think nice day at the seaside, blue skies, mojitos on the beach, right?

Yeah, not so much.

By the time we went for dinner it was pissing it down. I was still dressed for summer, squelching a bit in my sandals, wet strands of hair clinging to my face. I had to hold my skirt down to make sure I didn’t flash passers-by. I hadn’t checked the forecast before I packed.

We ate huge bowls of pasta, drank red wine, not white, as we usually would. It was pretty much winter out there, after all. After dinner, we headed down to the seafront, in the direction of the pier. I had plans to kick his ass. But the pier was in darkness. Piers shut at night, apparently. Who knew?

Back at the hotel the bar was deserted. We ordered more wine and took it upstairs.

We drank, kissed, talked.

It got late.

He stood up, undid his belt, and slowly pulled it free of his belt loops.

I said something, I can’t remember what exactly. It might have been ‘Ooh, belt…’

He made me lie flat on my stomach. He doubled it over.

And used it to turn my arse the same colour as the wine.

Polished

Back in December 2011, I joined in with the Curiosity Project – a blog swap project where your details and a list of your likes/dislikes are sent to another participating blogger and they send you a shoe box full of stuff they think you’ll like. In return, you do the same for another randomly allocated person.

The project has been on hold for a while, and although it’s due to restart soon, I miss getting exciting mail. So, in the words of Carrie Bradshaw, I got to thinking…

In March this year, Kristina Lloyd ran an excellent erotica workshop about how to spark up ideas for flash fiction pieces. Her suggestion? Nail polishes have cool names, so why not pick a colour name at random, brainstorm its associations and use it as the basis for a short story?

I keep meaning to give it a go, and then never quite getting round to it.

So, with kind permission from Kristina, here’s what I’m proposing:

If you’re a UK-based erotica writer (I would love to make this worldwide, but British postal regulations on nail polish are ridiculously tight) and you’d like some inspiration, I’m proposing a polish swap.

You send me your address and I match you randomly with another person. That person will send you a nail polish which you then use to inspire a piece of erotica/a blog post/–a short story in another genre. In return, you send out a polish to another participant.

Hopefully that makes sense, but to clarify:

The Rules…

(1) Email your name/pseudonym and full address, including a postcode, to sexblogofsorts@gmail.com before midnight on July 11th.
(2) Your name will be put into a hat and each participant will be drawn a secret recipient to send their nail polish to.
(3) You will receive an email with your recipients name and address on July 12th.
(4) You purchase a nail polish of your choice and send it to your recipient before July 18th. Because of the previously mentioned mailing regulations, please read this to make sure you’ve packaged/labelled your nail polish correctly.
(5) Please make sure the polish you choose has a name – it’s not much fun if someone gets a polish called ‘112.’ Good sources of relatively cheap polishes with good names are Maybelline and Rimmel 60 second.
(6) When you receive your nail polish, write a short piece of erotica/a blog post/a short story in another genre, inspired by its name. It’s up to you whether you share the story on your blog, but I will link to anyone who sends me details of their story once its written. There is no minimum/maximum work count for your story – it’s totally up to you.
(7) Hopefully it goes without saying, but this is open to both men and women.
(8) Your personal details will be forwarded only once to your secret project partner. Your information will not be shared with anyone else. If, however, someone does not receive a polish, I will send on the email address of their sender so that they can contact them and find out what happened to their parcel.
(9) This isn’t a competition – it’s just a bit of fun and an excuse to write something new. No winners, no prizes – sorry!

If I’ve missed anything, or you have questions, please let me know…

I’m excited!

Asking for Trouble

When I was staying with friends the other day, we were lying in the park and, having read the Sunday papers from cover to cover, had turned to Siri for amusement. I already have my favourite exchanges with Siri, namely:

‘Do you like anal, Siri?’

‘This isn’t about me, Charlie, it’s about you.’

Yep, OK, Siri, you’ve got me all figured out.

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Charlie? She’s a fucking letdown

When I wrote about Eroticon a couple of posts ago, I was kind of hoping my nerves would settle before the day itself. Instead, the complete opposite proved true: I spent last night wide awake with nerves until 3.30, and I had to get up at 6.30 to drive to Bristol. Where I spent the whole day in a state of permanent terror.

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FFS, or, ‘The rise and rise of erotica for women’

So, the plan for today was to write the second part of ‘Things I read in 2013.’ But, as often happens, something got in the way, something which matters more to me and which I think needs writing more urgently. Secretly, I like it that way – I much prefer writing posts about things that have got me riled up than calm, collected review posts (don’t worry, Part 2 will still happen at some point).

This morning I got up, and was all cosied up on the sofa in my dressing gown, watching Gary Barlow’s Big Ben Bash Live (although not live, obviously) and browsing Facebook, when I came across this article entitled ‘The rise and rise of erotica for women.’

Sounds good, yes? Sadly, like most things in the post-FSoG era, the truth is a little more complicated and a lot more disappointing. I’ll start by saying that yes, I’ve read all three FSoG novels, and sometimes I even defend them (I think EL James has mastered the romance plot. Do I think it’s erotic romance? Not particularly, no.) Plus, after FSoG was published, a lot of good things started to happen, which I thought were promising both as a reader and as an aspiring writer of erotica, not least that the UK erotic romance line Black Lace was resurrected.

Black Lace books have featured prominently in my life for years now. As a teenager, I bought them in secret and stacked them high on my bedside table, hidden by ‘real books.’ I’m pretty sure my mum knew they were there all the same. When they stopped publishing, I kept buying old titles from the only places they were still stocked – motorway service stations – and tried to avoid the curious looks of checkout staff more accustomed to selling overpriced chewing gum. I even mentioned this by way of an utterly bizarre chat up line to someone once, but hey, it worked!

So when it returned, I was understandably delighted. Except … I’ve been disappointed with nearly everything I’ve read by them since. There are exceptions, of course. I loved Kristina Lloyd’s writing the first time round, and I still do. Black Lace also own the UK rights to Alison Tyler’s Dark Secret Love, which I’ve just finished, and which I’d also highly recommend (review to follow in the coming weeks). But a lot of the other stuff has just felt gimmicky, or too much about the happy ending (no, not that kind of happy ending!), such as the Christmas anthology, Stocking Fillers (Black Lace used to do excellent anthologies – check out this one, if you’re interested).

The Contributoria article quotes Gillian Green as saying:

“Black Lace titles are erotic romances rather than a string of sex scenes held together by a thin plot. Women, it seems, still want their Mills and Boon-style happy ever after, just kinkier.”

Now, I read Mills & Boon – rarely, now, but often, in the past and I just don’t agree. I’m pretty vanilla (monogamous, Gary Barlow fan, used to enjoy the bit in Famous Five books where they all go home and have tea way more than the actual plot), but when I’m reading erotica, it’s the sex scenes that matter, more than the plot, or the ending. Of course it is – these are the books I use to get off. Someone asked me on Twitter the other day whether the ending of Kristina Lloyd’s Asking for Trouble made me cry. Er, no – because by the time I actually read the book in order I pretty much knew it inside out anyway. Which isn’t to say that Kristina writes a weak plot or a weak ending – nothing could be further from the truth. She just doesn’t write a romance plot (although she writes emotion amazingly). So why does Gillian Green think it has to be romance – why not an erotica thriller, or just a contemporary erotic novel in which the girl doesn’t end up with her guy?

Plus, the article also mentions that Black Lace “plans to publish a series of erotic memoirs.” Do these all have happy endings? Really? Because that makes me nervous. I wrote what could essentially be classed as erotic memoir for NaNoWriMo this year and Black Lace is one of the publishers I’d eventually consider submitting to. But what I wrote doesn’t have a happy ending, because I think true life rarely does. I’d be pretty gutted if, in order to find a publisher, I had to put some kind of positive spin on the ending.

My final bugbear with the article is the way it ends:

“All publishers and authors agree that stylish covers are important for sales, as well as good proofreading.”

Maybe Black Lace books do have what the industry consider to be stylish covers, I don’t know. Personally, I’m not a fan. They do, at least, finally have men on them sometimes, but when you compare them to the beautiful covers used by the US imprint, Cleis (this is my favourite), they’re pretty disappointing. When I bought Alison Tyler’s Dark Secret Love, I was disappointed to get this cover, not this one. I’m not the kind of girl who’s ashamed to be reading erotica, so please, let’s have covers that reflect the content of the book.

Still, at least there’s one positive thing to come out of this:

“Green says she is always on the lookout for broadminded editors who don’t flinch at editing explicit sex scenes.”

Maybe 2014 will be the year I get a new job …