What Safeword? or Why I Write Asshole Characters

Do not expect nice people when you read my erotica.

It’s fair warning and more than I get when I read books and realize that the people that I am reading about are idiots.

Power play is a constant theme in my work. In the first place, shifting power dynamics are a great thing to hang a narrative from. I use it in my speculative fiction work as well as my erotica, and I find that it amps up tension nicely. In the second place, I find power play to be sexy. I am interested in this idea and I subscribe to the newsletter.

So in real life, power play dynamics, whether they involve kinky sex or who does the dishes, need to be negotiated between two consenting adults. In my opinion, they should be negotiated exhaustively. Do it right and and it becomes a form of foreplay. (writes down idea for later)

In erotic fantasy however, I don’t necessarily want to write about getting out the kink list and going down it with a partner, and moreover, most of the people I write about wouldn’t do it in the first place.

I write about horrible people doing horrible things to each other. They are sexy things, or at least, the idea of them is sexy to me, but these are horrible things that ruin lives, ruin relationships and oftentimes cause property damage. I would not like to be in a room or even in the same building as most of the characters I write about.*

This leads to some interesting moments when people call my characters “sweet**,” “endearing***,” or “adorable****.”

Someday, I am going to write a piece of erotica centered around kind, loving people. And then, in all likelihood, my friends will tell me that I seem to have written a story about people who are about one bad night away from robbing a bank and going on a murder spree.

Because, well, I know what I like.

Coming Soon:
-5 Locations Where I Have Written Erotica
-I Am Never Leaving My Apartment Again
-A Mango Lassi (any minute now!)

*The exception might be Iskander, from Lord of Misrule. I could actually see him using negotiation as foreplay.

**Homicidal sword-ghost

***Cybernetically augmented information thief

****Sociopathic gangster’s girlfriend

Pinion, at Circlet Press

Circlet Press just published Pinion.

It’s available to read in its entirety at the link above.

If it helps anyone visualize the two protagonists, the narrator has wings that are based on those of a snow goose, while Almaric has wings based on those of red tailed hawk.

Funny little note for anyone reading: I never actually use the word “angels” in that piece of fiction. It’d be cool as hell if I avoided it on purpose, but frankly, I’m not that cool or well-considered. It was just something that I noticed after rereading it this morning, and thought was kind of neat.

The Three Worst Things About Being an Erotica Writer

As cool as my job is, there are still days when I think about going back to something normal. Then I realize that there are men out there who wrestle alligators for less money than they would make doing lawn maintenance, and I realize that of course, there’s no such thing as normal at all.

So as it turns out, I just want something different, not something normal. No matter how good a job is, there are always going to be those things that make you really wish that you were working in a library, a fast food place, or in Michael Rhein’s harem.*

Anyway, the three worst things about being an erotica writer.

If You Say Vulva Enough, It Loses All Meaning
Vulva and labia are the two words that I have issues with, over and over again. I use cunt, and I use that word a lot, but there’s a limit to how often I can do that. Soon, nothing has any meaning any more, and I look down and realize that I’ve just typed the words “sex lips.” This may be part of the reason that I’ve been writing m/m for a while now.

Oh My God, Someone’s Reading This?
I was so happy when a friend wanted to produce an audio version of one of my stories. He did it, he did a great job with it, and as witnesses will tell, I rolled off the bed moaning like a gutted dear when he got through the first paragraph. I repeat, he did a great job, I just suddenly realized that there were people reading my work. I’d like to say that I’ve gotten over this one, but I haven’t. However, it did prepare me for the singular experience of having one of my best friends’ mother read my lesbian story. I think the consensus was that it needed more men.

My Pornography Folder, Let Me Show It To You
I have a pornography folder on my desktop, and it’s all things for work. There are completed short stories for various publishers, half-finished stories that I’m going to get back to “one of these days” and I think one properly started novella that I’ve not touched in a dog’s age. If you actually want to see anything even vaguely naughty that wasn’t created by me, you have to go into my images folder, where pretty half-naked people are jumbled in with my icons, anime fanart and a picture of a one-eyed kitten. I really need to clean that folder some day.

So those are the worst things about my jobs. I’m not going to lie, it’s a pretty good job.

I still wouldn’t say no to being Michael Rhein’s harem girl.
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*The lead singer of In Extremo.**

** Don’t piss on my dream.

Coming Soon:
Love and Sex in Times of Revolution
Why “Happily For Now” Endings Make Me Hot
My Recipe for Mushroom Fried Rice

The Best Things About Being an Erotica Writer

No one is going to be asking me to give a career day presentation at a middle school anytime soon. I have a career, but the valuable things that I could say to middle school students are probably limited to things like, “you can be bad at math and still be a success in life,” and “pursue your stupid little hobbies.”*

I am not sure that anyone sets out to be an erotica writer, but now that I am one, there are some advantages that I didn’t see coming.

So why am I happy I’m an erotica writer?

It’s all research.
Everything. My membership at FetLife? All of the time I spend on sex toy sites? Hanging around the horse tack aisle at Farm and Fleet? It’s stuff I need to write fiction. The funny thing is that this is not a lie, it really is.

I write the erotica I want to read.
I want to read weird stuff. I want to read about sex between cybernetically modified humans, BDSM in a pre-modern fantasy setting and power exchanges between supernatural creatures. I can’t always find what I’m looking for, but at least I can write it.

There are a lot of markets.
I love the Internet. There are lots of places where I can sell my stories, and I haven’t needed to worry about a self-addressed stamped envelope in more than a year.

It looks like real work.
Writing, whether its erotica, speculative fiction or romance, is real work. However, what I’m referring to here is real work like compiling spreadsheets, tech writing or any of the other tasks that I used to handle for the ISP I once worked for. I worked third shift for the better part of a year, and I managed to get myself started as a professional writer during that time.

People say nice things about my erotica.
I have gotten some of the nicest letters about my erotica. You’d think there would more creepy stuff, but not really. It’s all been “that was a sweet story,” or “well done!” Of course, the day I get something genuinely creepy, my friends are going to find me curled in the closet muttering about how the dirt doesn’t come off.

It pays.
Writing erotica is like a fun hobby that occasionally pays my phone bill or buys my groceries. My first story sale was to an erotic ezine, and I used that money to buy delicious, delicious sushi.
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*Stupid little hobbies turn into careers more often than you would think.

Coming Soon:
Ievan Polkka and Other Music That I Listen To While Writing About Sex
“Well, Dad, It’s About Lesbian Vampires. Lesbians. Like Two Girls Together.”
Sex Lips and Other Reasons Why You Don’t Peek Over My Shoulder When I Writing

Four Erotica Cliches I Never Want to See Again

I like erotica. I started reading it when I was fourteen, which was when I realized that no one ever noticed if you sandwiched a copy of Delta of Venus between The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Saint Goes West.*

It’s safe to say that I’ve read plenty of erotica. Some of it was fun, some of it was confusing, and some of it actually made my vagina invert with fear and displeasure.

I write the kind of erotica that I want to read, and a few years ago, I started coming up with a list of things that I was never going to do. It turned into a fairly handy list of things that I never want to read in erotica again.

Bang, You’re Pregnant

In erotica like this, there’s usually loving descriptions of the man laying his seed across her cervix, and then nine months later, she pops out a baby. Pregnancy is a punishment, or maybe it’s flag-planting, or something, but unless the piece is about erotic pregnancy (which I’ve seen and seen done well), we don’t need an epilogue baby.

Sex From the Sky
I don’t mean random sexy parachuters coming in and leaving the protagonist with several orgasms and possibly a head injury. This is sex that seems to come out of no where. Two people who are reasonably attractive and who happen to be in the same room do not automatically fuck. Unless there’s a reason for sex beyond “we’re in a porn story,” I’m going to go read my favorite issue of Hellblazer and call it a good night.

It Doesn’t Go There… I Think?

If I’m reading erotica, I’m not reading for soft-focus synonyms. If I wanted that, I would go borrow a stack of romance novels from the library. Erotica, to me, usually means work that’s graphic and detailed. If I can’t tell whether you are having sex or smothering a unicorn in cotton candy, there is something wrong. Though, I guess, if you are actually smothering a unicorn in cotton candy, you’re much kinkier than I am, and I am too young to be reading the story anyway.

Lack of Lubricant = Love
If you really love them, you don’t need lubricant, and if you really believe that, you don’t need that credit card, so give it to me. Using lubricant can be fun and sexy, and I have no idea why this trope has held on as long as it has. It’s one thing to read a scene where dry-fucking someone is a punishment, or a dominance display, or something like that. On the other hand, one character magically opening to someone because they are their one true love makes my head ache. Though… I suppose I might forgive it if the person on top actually said “Open Sesame.” Now we’re somewhere strange, and I’m going to stop.

Coming Soon:
Oh My God, There Are Other People on the Internet
Fanfiction: The Best Porn I Hide on My Hard Drive
The Best Things About Being an Erotica Writer

*Later, I would work at a library myself and learn the truth: no one actually CARES what you check out.

Getting Started

I published my first piece of erotica at the now-defunct, sorely-missed illustrated erotica site Ruthie’s Club in 2005. I was a year out of college, working in a call center tech support situation, and getting over about eight years worth of sleep deprivation.*

I found the call for submissions the Erotic Readers and Writers Call for Submissions page, and I liked the idea of getting better than a cent a word.

The first thing I submitted was accepted, and my friends had to listen to me rave deliriously about it for a good month. The only thing that kept me from being completely unbearable is that I didn’t force them to read it. It’s not a bad piece, but it was all about erotic genital piercing and some of my friends were understandably squeamish. (Some were not).

The second thing I submitted got rejected, which resulted in flailing and further patience from the aforementioned friends. I liked the second story a lot more than the first one, and I was pretty down until I realized that THERE WERE OTHER MARKETS OUT THERE. That’s a good realization for a new writer to have.

I sent it off Oysters and Chocolate, who accepted it very quickly, and in a strange twist of fate, the second story was published by Ruthie’s Club a few years later.

Looking back, that was an astonishingly smooth road to early publication. I had a sympathetic editor, an understanding group of friends, and a job where typing on the computer looks an awful lot like doing real work.

Coming Soon:
-What My Different Jobs Have Taught Me About Writing Erotica
-Erotica Cliches I Never Want to See Again
-What Safeword? or Why I Write Asshole Characters

*The sleep deprivation came from first being involved in every school activity that didn’t involve me wearing a uniform and one that did, and then getting a double degree in four years. **

**Political Science and Media Studies. As far as I can tell, I am best suited for work as the propaganda minister for a small banana republic.

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“As dark and sexy as the inside of a London cab in wartime”
Wise Children, by Angela Carter