Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sunday Story - erotica likes/dislikes

I read an interesting blog post through the week, which had my mind working. You can read the post here - it's on the Book Riot blog, by Casey Stepaniuk, called "Why Don't I Like Erotica?"

I was tempted to comment on the post...and maybe I will...but at the moment I've not. Mostly because my thoughts aren't succinct!

I share some of her views that erotica can be boring. Sometimes I read erotic stories, often the latest, greatest thing, and I find it boring too. Sometimes, it's just a story. I'm not drawn in or engaged. I read a bit, maybe I discard, maybe I persevere, but it doesn't engage my mind, let alone anything else. I guess I touched on this in the recent Catnip or Poison post.

After reading that post, I've been trying to work out why I have this reaction to stories, particularly erotica.

I think it's because in a non-erotic story, for me to love it, I need to have:
  • great writing
  • characters that I can relate to
  • a story that is plausible and sensible and that works for me
  • good character arcs so I see changes happening

When you add in the erotic component, I also need:
  • sex scenes that are believable for those characters
  • sex scenes that affect me on a mental (and physical/biochemical) level
  • sex scenes that reach inside me and wrestle for my attention/emotion/recognition.

I think erotica needs an extra complexity that other stories don't require because when a reader reads an erotic story, they want (or I do anyway) the tension, the buzz, the build up, and the release that comes with sex. This may not be needed in every scene, but it needs to be there in some form for the reader to connect to the story. And maybe that's why I love writing's deeply challenging.

However, this requirement also adds a deeper layer of subjectivity to an already highly subjective art form. There are so many variables that have to be 'right' for a reader, that finding the correct book/reader becomes more difficult.

It also, for me, adds a much more difficult aspect of writing to 'deal with'. On one level, when a reader writes and tells me how much they loved a story and how much it affected them, it's a truly uplifting experience. It hits right into the heart. It makes all the swearing and sweating and cursing as I wrestled with the story and characters, worthwhile. But there's this part of me that sort of cringes, that gets decidedly uncomfortable with the comment (probably over-thinking on my part!). It goes back to an incident when my first story was published...

When my first short story came out in an anthology, Dad took the book to show his mates at his retirees do. I was so chuffed. Then he told me how he had it wrapped in a paper bag and passed it under the table...and my chuffed got a bit deflated. Some weeks later, he told me how one of his mates forgot my pen name but loved my story and thought it was best in the anthology. Again, a totally chuffed feeling, until the brown paper bag got mentioned again, and I realised I was titillating 70+-year old men...and my chuffed got battered again.

So, it's a strange thing, erotica. It needs to be 'more' to be 'liked' by readers - it needs to connect on a very deep level with the reader. But as a writer, I can't really afford to write thinking about how readers read my scenes. I don't write wondering if people will be reading it one-handed, and I'm not even sure I want to know if readers do that...but isn't that my aim when I write erotica?

When I read erotica, it takes a phenomenal book for me to lose myself in it...and when I do, it's an incredibly powerful read that penetrates my mind and body and takes me on a sensory ride that's a complete and utter thrill. And why shouldn't I tell the author what a marvelous job they've done? Because it's a bloody feat to connect with a reader's mind...and it's even more amazing to do that with an incredible personal experience, like sex.

Which still leaves me confused about reactions...but not confused about the level of difficulty required for an erotic story to be 'liked'.

As I reader, I don't have a favourite erotic writer. There are some authors who I like to read because their writing style appeals, but some of their books bore me, when another of their books has grabbed me by throat and taken me to the highest heights. Some erotic books I've picked up have had writing that grates, but the emotion/sex has grabbed me and I've ignored the writing/style (although, for me, there are fewer of these).

It's such an interesting topic to think about an explore...and possibly I need to think more as a reader, separate to as a writer.

The original blog post I read has taken me on a waffly old journey of thoughts and self-discovery, where I probably haven't solved anything, but I feel better for expressing my mixed up thoughts.

Does the original blog post, or my thoughts, resonate with you?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Phallic Friday - erotica vs steamy contemporary

I've often pondered, and been asked, this question (what's the difference between erotica and steamy contemporary romances) and in theory it's been quite easy for me to address but recently I had a very practical example of it.

I've always answered that erotica/erotic romance has sex as an integral part of the story. Without the sex, the characters wouldn't get together or grow/change. And you can't rip the sex out of the story...because there would be no story.

Steamy contemporary has the story happening, and sex is woven into the story but it's not integral to the story itself. If you could rip the sex out, the relationship would still develop, the story still happens.

In my other self, I write sweet contemporary stories. I was asked to be a part of a 'series' and they were to not be dirty (I initially thought it was Cate writing, which is I guess why this was said). So I left the sex out, submitted the story, and then got edits back saying, "Please add some sexy times." Throughout the story, there were places marked with comments like, "They could have some kissing here." And that's contemporary romance - the story is there, there's even spots to slot in sexy times if that's what's needed, but it's not a prerequisite for the story to unfold.

My latest Cate story, Team Player, doesn't even exist without sex. Charlie's not thinking about inviting Hannah into his confidence, until she has him hard and horny and she's begging to join in for a threesome. Take the sex away, there's no story. She could be a housemate, but the character growth won't exist because Hannah will remain isolated and her emotions almost non-existent. It's the sex that invites trust, that opens her heart to caring for others, that makes her want to understand the men she's with and their families and other relationships. It's the sex that gives them all the confidence to open their hearts and minds, to share, to develop.

Writing these two differently focussed stories is an interesting process as I come at my story development in the same kind of way (characters first) yet I think about everything after that with the completely different focus.

As Cate, I think about the sex and the emotions - how can I go from closed to open, from the unknown to the known, from scared to confident?

In the sweet form, it's how can the characters get together and what can be stopping them? So it's more focussed on the backstory and/or motivations.

And that's my pondering for today.

And just between us, I find the sex-driven stories much more fun to write and think about!! :)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Saturday Soapbox - media and mental health

Not exactly a soapbox, or a great pose, but anyway!
I'm going on a bit of a rant here, no need to read to the end if ranting's not your thing!

The media is driving me bats at the moment with their mixed messages, poor journalism, lack of 'research', tendency to tell us what they think we want/need to hear and not actual news.

My example this week is an easy one to start with - mental health and sport. (I have issues with politics but that such a huge topic, I'm not ready to wade into that one yet, so I'm starting in a confined space!).

The Australian media has been on a huge 'campaign' about the number of mental health issues in society, and especially among sportsmen/women, in particular retired sportspeople. But it's been a huge issue and has been drawn to the public's attention, mostly because of the number of sportspeople seeking rehab or help and then allowing that to be made public to break down stigmas. But, sadly, there has also been a high number of suicides.

Awareness has been a big factor, but also everyone's duty of care, plus things to look out for, what we can do to help, etc etc. I was thinking this was good. The media were taking this issue seriously.

Then this week, the same media who have raised these issues, have vilified a star sportsman, his team and his coach. We've heard how the star is a waste of money, not wanted, detrimental to the team, not working with the younger players, etc etc etc. It's been horrific. And not just journalists have got into this, we've got retired players, ex-teammates, commentators all having their say.We have young blokes drawn into the argument, with quotes of their thoughts, which they've then denied they said. Denied meeting the journo. We've a footy team trying to play with all this hanging over their heads, screamed about for a whole week.

If I was that player, the young players, the coach, or even a team mate...I'd be mentally scarred. It's been relentless. It's been personal attacks. It's been scathing.

And yet, we care about people's mental welbeing.

Yeah! Right!

The media cares only about selling a story. And sadly, with the click counting that websites allow, they know what headlines draw readers. So they use these emotive things to draw in readers, have huge clicks, 'win' whatever they're trying to 'win' ... and who cares about the mental health of anyone. Unless that's a good click-bait headline.

I'm horrified that we've come to this sort of journalism.

I'm horrified that we can one day be concerned about mental health, yet the next day attack someone with no care to their mental health.

Do we have no standards any more?
Do we not care for others?
Do we not have slander and libel concerns?
Do we not want to know the truth?
Do we not want to keep things behind closed doors for the welfare of others?

God. I despair for the world at the moment.

I despair for the sensationalist beings we've become where we feed on others' suffering or shame or humiliation, just so we feel a moment of ... whatever it is.

I'm limiting my clicks on news feeds. I'm trying not to get sucked into the click frenzy.

And I'm trying to find the good in a world that seems to have gone crazy.

How are you going with any of this stuff? Does it bother you too?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Weekly Post Shake Up

I'm having a shake up.


Lots of reasons, like...

1) My camera batteries have died and I'm waiting on new ones and while I do I have no macro, so no bugs even though there's one on my window calling for me to photograph it! :) It's hampering my Wednesdays.

2) I want to rant more but on a wider range of topics.

3) The world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket at the moment and that scares me. I hate seeing what's happening and yet I feel powerless. So I might need to express this.

4) I've been here having my little say for quite a few years now (25 Nov 2009 was my first post), and you've helped me grow, gain confidence, keep to a semi-regular schedule, and do and say things that have been challenging. I'm going to try to keep doing all of that but with more wide-ranging focus. (Maybe, if I'm brave!)

5) I want to try to be a bit more creative in my posts...I'm not entirely sure what that will be just yet...but if I keep things open, then I can explore more freely.

Let's see how I go.

If I get too slack, I'll come back to topics and set days, because they'd been quite good at keeping me focussed and blogging.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wildlife Wednesday - skating things

I don't have the first clue what these are. I've sat on this picture for a while because I thought by some miracle I might work out what they are...but no miracles have come forth. So I give you the picture.

This is from when I was fishing with Dad. And these sparkly specks are tiny fish / bugs / flies / things (maybe 2mm long at best) skating across the surface of the river. They were there for ages, and there were quite a few of them.

I took a photo to have proof that I'd seen them because dad reckoned he couldn't see them - and to be fair, they were at my end of the boat and they are tiny. It's just that there's this little part of me that wonders if I've imagined them! Do you ever get like that!?!

Anyway, here's another mystical wildlife beastie that inhabits my local area, for which I have no clue what it is!

I love Wildlife Wednesdays :) Anyone know if these are real? Or what they might be called?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Sunday Story - Love is Love

Australia is having a same sex marriage discussion...and I can't see that it's going to be pleasant. People can be nasty beasts.

I have quite an odd view about this issue, well, it causes the people in my life to stare at me with some pained horror, so I'm assuming it's totally odd. I'm interested in what you think.

To me, marriage is an act of the patriarchy, used to pass women from the care of their father to the care of their husband...because women are unable to be a whole person in the patriarchy, they are seen as a possession, or a second rate citizen. And I think this is a large reason for the conservatives wanting to retain marriage as is, because any deviation puts a dent in the patriarchy.

I'd like to blow the patriarchy to smithereens. 

I'd love to not have marriage as a part of society at all. If people chose to have it as a part of their religion, then that's their choice. But as a society issue, I'd like marriage to be disbanded.

I'd like individuals to exist. And in that way, people would be allowed to make choices for themselves. And when they made a choice, they could lodge a 'relationship' with a government authority (or whatever that choice is). 

I'd love to see Love Is Love. And whatever relationship choice individuals make, then it is valid. Someone may choose to live solo. Valid choice. A partnership. Valid choice. A polygamy set up. Valid choice if all are in agreement. Threesome. Valid choice. Some other form of bonding. Valid choice.

Why does society need to dictate not only a heterosexual pairing, but any other form of relationship? Can't we be adults? Consenting adults, open to Love Is Love.

Okay, so am I too 'out there'?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sunday Story - catnip or poison

I've been reading a book this week that kept pulling me up. It's a best selling author, a well loved book, and I could see good things in in, even though it kept burring me up.

I persisted, and I finished it. I was still undecided.

I went to Goodreads and Amazon to see what readers thought. Amazon was all the love. Goodreads had thousands of reviews. Many more 3, 4, & 5 stars than 1 or 2s. But when I went to look at the 1s, there were about 30 or 40 of them. I was shocked that the bar graph seemed like there were so few, but I guess when there's a few thousand reviews, that's what happens.

And the 1 stars were all about the bits that I'd struggled with too. A heroine who was sometimes so incredibly naive, sometimes unthinking, sometimes a wonderful person. A hero who was an arsehole, but also protective and so damn good at being a 'father'. A story that sometimes didn't seem to gel properly, and writing that sometimes jarred.

The 5 stars didn't mention any of these things, they more concentrated on the feelings, the emotions, the feel good.

It all made me realise (again - I'm slow!) that what's someone's catnip is another's poison. Writing, any creative pursuit, is subjective. People will love it or hate it. And if it's good, you'll illicit those strong emotions. 

Catnip readers are what you're always searching for as an author. Catnip books are what I'm always searching for as a reader.

Sometimes poison makes people yell more than catnip! :) 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Phallic Friday - Release Day for Team Player

Today is release day for Team Player!!! The MMF I've been chatting about in recent times.

I did a FaceBook release party slot for JA Low and her release last week, and I realised that I never spend any time on FB chatting to people.

Many years ago, I was addicted to chatting online, and so I've consciously avoided falling into that trap again (because I don't have time for addictions if I want to write, and have a hubby, and eat, etc!). But I have gone the other way where I fly on for a few minutes, chuck a few words on someone's post, like a few things, then fly off and do work, or write, or cook, or living stuff.

But release day is a good time to spend the day chatting with reader friends, isn't it? I'll be juggling the day job with chatting, so hopefully that'll work.

Besides, taking myself to lunch isn't all that exciting :)

So, come and visit me on FaceBook if you're bored today. Hopefully the day job won't decide that they need me to be frantic, and I'll be chatting!

Other places to find me today:
ARRA have a giveaway on their post for Team Player today. (You might need to hunt for it a little)

AusRom Today have a guest post from me today too. (And the lovely J'aimee suggested Team Player was a MUST READ for August, which I'm very happy about, especially since there are some writing friends on that list too).


She’s never been shy about what she wants – and now she wants them both…

Hannah Maynard, sports reporter, is sure it’s only her lust-filled fantasies linking Australian rugby league captain, Charlie Maxxin, with relative newcomer, Lyle Smythe-Jones. She and Charlie have shared quite a few steamy sessions over the years, so surely he’s not in a relationship with the young, unflappable player she’s dubbed Marble Boy?

Hannah lures Charlie to dinner and his reaction is all the answer she needs. But she doesn’t want to report on the biggest secret in Australian sport – she wants to take part. However, it’s not just Charlie’s decision and it can’t be just casual. If Hannah wants in, she has to be all in, with Lyle, with Charlie, and with the hottest action any of them have ever experienced.