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On Transgression, Taboo Subjects, and Censorship

sculpture at Khajuraho Temple

Transgression, Rule-breaking and Paradoxes of the Human Condition


As a storyteller, I used to say my first mission was to entertain, and I have written many fun, little stories. But taboo subjects are, by far, more interesting to write.

Looking for ways to question, overturn assumptions, startle moral codes, and catch readers—and myself—off guard, I examine each work before I begin to decide how to best accomplish these things, for they have become the very point of most of my stories.

The Satanic CalveryFelicien Rops
My short fiction can be shocking, or controversial; my characters mean or ugly, but what entertains more than that which inspires fear, shock, denial, uncertainty, mystery, or gives us a glimpse at subjects we think we know (presented in a new way), or at worlds completely foreign to us?

I enjoy flipping expectations on their heads by the end of my tales, having led the reader through the dark and scary forest maze of transgression, into the safe clearing on the other side, sometimes with a new set of feelings and understanding of my subject.

Original writing is not born on the non-offensive-to-anyone-politically-correct middle ground, but always at the fringe. Taboo subjects make us think and can bring about changed minds. Or show us new worlds. Or close doors. It shows us who we, and others, really are. So why write a boring story when you can do all that?

Taboo Subjects and Themes, Creativity, and Censorship


Writing requires not only freedom but also the assumption of freedom. If a writer is afraid of the penalties of their creative choices, themes, or treatment of subjects, then their work will not be formed by their talent or creativity, but by fear.

When censorship hinders writing, it becomes the subject; the writing is stamped “censored or banned”, and that is how the world sees it forever. The censored work is believed to have earned and deserved censorship. The censor’s falsehood replaces the writer’s truth. Other’s beliefs and preferences control the writer, and the reader’s perception of the work is formed before it is read because of a label.


Now, I know writing need not only entertain. At its best, good writing is ground-breaking. Revolutionary. Writers should have no barriers to creativity, and no subject should be off-limits. Publishers must be braver; retailers and readers have a right not to buy or read things they have no interest in. Not to have their perspectives touched. But, again, how boring is that world?

That said, as a mom, I believe in controls over accessibility for minors and on clear labeling to inform, not incite judgment or condemn. That’s where it gets tricky.

The Free Expression Policy Project (a think tank on artistic and intellectual freedom) provides research and advocacy on free speech, copyright, and media democracy issues to protect the rights of writers and readers worldwide.

Links and Resources




Must-read Series for Erotica Writers and Readers

Several months ago, Emmanuelle de Maupassant invited erotica genre writers to share their secrets and thoughts about writing, writing erotica, their processes, and backgrounds in a very detailed written interview. 

130 responded, writing honestly of their experiences.

She's been sharing the results in an amazing series (which came out right about the time I felt compelled to post about "erotica today").

The series has been thought-provoking, provocative, and eye-opening.

It's a delight reading how various authors approach the writing process and the manner in which they focus their erotic lenses and why they do so. READ IT HERE (and see links at the end for more in the series).

Erotica Today

After Fifty Shades of Grey and countless copy-cats, I almost hate to say I write erotica. I like porn as much as the next person, so let me explain my hang-up. 

You see, real erotica is not usually about pleasure or sex, just as sex is not always about the body. Sex can leave you wanting or satiated, physically and emotionally. Sex involves emotions (even for men, despite what some would have you believe). 


Sex can make you sad, happy, relieved, or something else entirely. Sex can heal or wound. Traditional erotica explores more than desire, more than body parts, and more than orgasms. It digs deeper than surface emotions. Real erotica doesn’t necessarily require you to feel horny when or after you read it.

Good erotica often challenges you to think about yourself as a whole being. It asks you to explore the ways sex unites us, rips us apart, embarrasses us, or defines us. The best erotica shines a light into our most secret, dark corners. It can make you uncomfortable, or squirmy.

Erotica doesn’t condemn or judge or exploit. It often features people we recognize in ourselves. Imperfect people. People who don’t have movie-star looks or Christian Grey’s bank account.

Since I began writing erotica in 2005, I’ve written stories about many facets of sexuality, from the serious to the absurd, the sad to the joyous, and everything in between. I love a challenge and often write stories to push my own boundaries or to understand things that make me uncomfortable.

I love to shock the senses and do not shy away from difficult subjects. When I write BDSM, it’s about more than toys and playacting; it’s about what drives people to delve into it (and, shocker, it’s usually not because they were abused as children).

Horror is my favorite genre to read, so much of my erotica could be classified as erotic horror.

My goal as a writer is simply to create the best stories I can. No genre is off-limits. If I offend you with my fiction, good. If I turn you on, okay. If I make you think . . . nirvana. It’s all about the emotions to me. Sex is not my focus.

One of the best compliments I’ve ever received from a reader was, “This is the product of a sick and twisted mind.

My reply? “Thank you!
In a market saturated with porn calling itself erotica, and poorly written books still jumping on the Fifty Shades of Grey and soccer-mom porn bandwagon, there are still writers who offer something more than body parts moving in paper-thin plots. These are a few of my favorites:

Charlotte SteinShe’s edgy and unexpected. Her prose is razor sharp. Whether she makes you laugh or fidget or sigh with pleasure, you’ll be entertained.

Remittance GirlRG has a knack for writing believable people and lush, foreign settings with an other-worldly quality. Her work holds its own against mainstream writers. When I grow up, I want to be her.

Rose de FerRose writes lush, Gothic-flavored stories and books in a distinctive and captivating voice. 

Malin James – She describes her writing best: "Sex can be joyful, painful, wholesome or filthy - sometimes all at once. The people involved determines what kind of sex is being had, far more than the physical act alone."

10 Easy Things to Give up to Improve Your Writing

I got an email recently from a client, asking how I write so many short stories and books while sometimes working full-time, being a wife and a mom, starting a business, working with other writers, and doing a million other things (including dealing with three surgeries in two years, and not writing or working at all for a long time).

Here's my secret: Doing more didn't work (and wasn't possible most of the time). In fact, doing more almost killed me.

Doing LESS is the key to my success. By giving up the following things, my energy shifted, and I found a sense of freedom and acceptance that resulted in people, resources, and offers flowing to me with almost no effort on my part.

Words flowed like rivers and inspiration came from everywhere.

10 Things to Give up to Improve Your Writing:

1. Give up perfect first drafts.

Let go of the idea that you need to fix every mistake or worry over each sentence until it is just right before moving on. If you're stuck on anything (details about a place, a character's name, how to commit a murder), don't stop to research.

Write, and know you can go back and fix things later. Bracket items, add a comment or highlight text to remind yourself what needs attention later. Leave spelling mistakes alone. Screw punctuation.


Learning how to write, worry-free and full of mistakes, was a life changer. It gave me a creative space of non-judgment that allowed me to produce work much faster. Everything can be fixed when you edit. It's actually easier when you can see the whole picture.

2. Give up negative language.

Stop saying:

I can’t.
I won’t.
It’s impossible.
It won’t happen.


Get rid of limiting statements. They prevent you from seeing possibilities and opportunities.

3. Give up draining relationships.

Also, get rid of people who make you feel crappy or say anything from the list above to you. Stop hanging out with people where the relationship isn't balanced, or doesn't make you feel good.


Go ahead. Unfriend and unlike and block anyone who spews negativity or who never fails to make you feel like you 're not good enough. Stop wasting time on them. Breathe a sigh of relief.

4. Give up unhealthy food.

I'm an 80/20 girl. 80% of the time, I am an angel. 20% . . . not so much. Junk food depletes energy instead of filling you with it so you can perform at your best.


Try eating vibrantly colored, real food for breakfast and lunch. Or try a vegetarian diet for those meals then splurge at dinner, eat meat, and enjoy wine, beer, or even dessert.

5. Give up too little sleep and electronics.

Your body and soul need time to recharge. Get at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night so you can thrive during the day. Remove electronics from your bedroom.

6. Give up being reactive or defensive about your writing or genre.

Writing is hard enough without dealing with reviews. Elizabeth Gilbert makes a great case for never reading them here.

Some people delight in tearing others down. Stop paying attention to them. See #3 again if you need to.

If you are stuck (as I was at a neighborhood party recently, surrounded by negative Nellies and haters), just take a deep breath, find someone nice to talk with, or leave.


7. Give up trying to change how people feel about your genre or writing.

It’s an impossible task. End of story.

"Hemingway sucks. If I set out to write that way, it would have been been hollow and lifeless because it wasn't me." - Stephen King

8. Give up trying to do it all.

Pick what makes you happy, and work on that. One project at a time.

Surrender to the idea that things happen in their own time when you do something (anything) toward your writing goals daily. A watched pot never boils, but the universe is always paying attention.
9. Give up not writing for you.

You are free to express yourself any way you wish. If your intentions are cloudy, the world will respond accordingly. If you try to write a bestseller, but your heart isn't in it, readers know.

When you come from a place of love, passion for your topic, and honesty, good things happen for you and people around you. Readers feel the difference.


10. Give up believing the illusion.

Most writers never become millionaires, and that's okay. Love what you do, and it won't matter. Have fun, and use this knowledge to inspire yourself to write whatever makes you happy.


A writer's best reward is often helping other writers. We're all in this together.

If anything I said here helped you, please share this post with someone else.

Namaste, and happy writing,


"Tales of a Vampire Hunter" Omnibus Collection


Tales of a Vampire Hunter Omnibus Collection

This Omnibus Edition collects the three Tales of a Vampire Hunter novellas into a single volume. It is for those who arrived late to the party and wish to save a few bucks while picking up the same stories in a single package plus a bonus short story and an audio-story offer.

The first Tales of a Vampire Hunter story (Vacancy) was released as a standalone short story in July 2012. Due to reader demand and reviewer encouragement, the rest of the story was released over the next several months as a series of blog posts that turned into IMMORAL, the first novella in the series. 

My thanks go out to the readers who helped craft the novellas that followed and kept asking for more. Without you, I wouldn't have completed DEPRAVED or BESPELLED. Your demand and support created this novel as much as I did and turned me from a short-story writer into a best-selling author of novels.

Tales of a Vampire Hunter is the story of Oliver Ripley, a vampire hunter struggling to understand his rare powers while vampires threaten mankind and ancient and evil beings plot revenge and the ultimate destruction of humans. The world we know has grown unkind; the dangers undiscussed and unseen. But some still hope and dream despite the menace others cannot see. When worlds collide, and mankind teeters on the edge of extinction, its only hope is an unlikely team of a gifted little girl, a vengeful vampire hunter, a reluctant vampire, and a mutant werewolf.


Pre-order the e-Book version of TALES OF A VAMPIRE HUNTER - OMNIBUS EDITION now

Water me, Baby

S

One from the vaults . . . still true today.

Some people search their entire lives for a place to call home. Some, born by the shore, never feel quenched until the dry, arid heat of a desert causes their internal landscape to gush like a waterfall. Others, surrounded by wide-open flatlands, only feel unbound and free atop high mountains, cosseted by trees.

Raised by nomads, I always wanted nothing more than a stable home—any home that would not change. However, though I have been content in many places, none nourishes me like those by the ocean.

For many years, the sea was only a dream that whispered to me like an unknown lover. It was an image captured in film and in the lyrics of songs that moved me as love songs never did. I flew over oceans and drove past them, trapped in the family station wagon, unable to convince my father to pull over and let me walk along the shore to feel the waves lapping at my adolescent toes. I fished rivers, but did not find them wide or deep enough. I swam in lakes but, in their murky depths, I felt the grounding pull of the land surrounding me and longed for a crystalline blue, saltwater abyss.


When I had freedom to roam at will, I set my sights on California and, after traveling the coast like one whose task it was to map every crevice, I found the place my soul calls home—the short stretch of rugged coastline between Monterey and Carmel. It was there I sat, on a day forever etched in my memory, and decided to pick up my pen after many long years, and write again. Inspired by frolicking otters, windswept cypress trees, and the harsh surf pounding the rocky cliffs, I began notes on what was to become my first novel. I was home. I had a purpose. My spirit was awash in salted water. Life was good.

Now, I live in Chicago, on the shore of a great lake, but the ocean still beckons like a friend who is just out of reach, never forgotten, and always longed for. I see her within my fondest memories and everywhere, in my writing, is water.

From Eden


The water moves, liquid around me.

I belong to it - slippery, soft, alive. I breathe it, taste it. It fills me.

I am a mermaid, a dolphin, a goddess.

The hands on my body are worshipful, though not always gentle. Some bodies inspire me to flatten my palms, and skim lightly over their surfaces, while others seem to beg for a pinch or a rougher jerk. Some taste of the sea, while others hold the perfume of flowers on their tongues.

I go with the moments as they come, drifting from one to the next.

Buffeted by flesh, I float in pleasure.



From In The Name of The Father


The house was easy to find. It was the only one at the end of the road, perched high on a cliff overlooking the sea. Even up here, the gusty wind blew sand over Michael's boots, and he could smell the ocean's salted, fresh-fish scent.

Dropping his bag, he rechecked the safety on the snub-nosed .38 he'd bought in Ixtapa before hitching his ride.

Sheer, white curtains billowed through an open window of the inviting house, waving him closer it seemed. An old rocker painted sky blue moved a ghostly to and fro on the porch. Everything else was still. The only sound was the crashing of waves far below.

As Michael started walking again, he prayed Isabella was waiting.



From Amethyst’s Feather 


When Amethyst was told her father’s plan, she wept for days. She cried so many tears the creek twining through her garden became a river of salted water that did not evaporate until she was long dead. Every bloom in her garden withered to dust, except for the lilacs; these flowers bloomed lusher than ever before.

From Amaranthine Rain 


Rain spills from the azure sky, washing away sorrow and taking away pain. Upon an ancient river, we now float coming and coming again as our bodies cling together, eternally pleasured and eternally bound.

“Evermore, Jack…mine now,” Diane says, pulling me under the waves.

My toes skim pebbles smoothed by time as the water takes me into a dark abyss where violets bloom in currents fed by rain—never ending rain.


****

We are born in a gush of fluid, and our bodies are composed of approximately 65% water. Like life, water is continually moving, lured by the tug of the moon, and changes in our world. One moment, it is mist, then ice, then rain. It sustains us.

In my erotica, people play dangerous games suspended over hotel bathtubs. They share their wives in bubble-filled whirlpools, and they cross rivers, pausing to look at their reflections in the water below in an effort to find themselves. Water often symbolizes love, safety, and home. It lifts the human spirit, supports the body and soothes the mind. Much like sex, it allows us to drift in a special place that is almost primal in its necessity to life itself.

If you live by the water, go there today. Get your feet wet. If you are landlocked, draw a bath, light some candles, and allow yourself to float, weightless in sensuous water. Close your eyes, and be reborn.

Themes and Symbolism in Erotica - 5 Tips (and Reasons Why)

I write erotic fiction, not pornography. Often, I share my work here and ask for nothing in return because it allows me to write what interests me. I choose themes that examine the human condition. Symbolism is a way to shine a comforting light into places where eroticism intersects with the familiar in our lives or where dark and scary things lurk.

If you want to sell work to quality publishers, make more money, and receive recognition as a serious writer, your erotica must contain more than sex. Here why:

  1. People like solving riddles. Drop theme clues throughout a story, and let readers put the puzzle pieces together as they read. This keeps them interested and eliminates the need for the boring, lengthy explanations, back-stories, descriptions, or dull dialogue to tell your story. Our brains like figuring out mysteries and riddles. There’s a deep satisfaction that comes when we have a light-bulb moment, and everything clicks into place as we’re reading a story. These stories make readers say, “Wow!” when they finish them. Always good. 

    Wool
     by Hugh Howey has a killer theme woven throughout and is full of symbolism and riddles. I bought copies for everyone I know. Read part one here free on Amazon.

  2. Themes make writing stronger and give stories direction and focus. If, after you’ve written a story, you can’t pick out threads of a theme, ask why. Odds are you haven’t told a strong enough story. Once, I edited a short story for a new, unpublished writer. It was a straightforward lesbian sex scene with some D/s elements (porn), but it became a literary erotica piece with a strong theme about taking chances with a new lover, sharing secret desires when you’re not sure they’ll go for it. Once the theme was there, it was easy tweaking the story slightly to incorporate more tension, fear, and jumping-off-a-cliff moments. The writer sold her story to a major anthology publisher, and the book won a prestigious award. None of that would have happened had the writer not developed a strong theme.

  3. Amaranthine Rain (a Short-Story Collection) by Zander Vyne
    Themes and symbolism color your story and add to mood and rhythm.
     Colors help with theme development because they evoke similar responses in people and can define a mood. They are easily recognized symbols. Colors inspire feelings and set the tone for your story. Colors can capture the theme of your story without explanation. Red is my favorite because I write a lot of erotic-horror stories. Purple is soothing, Gothic, and poetic. Black is edgy and mysterious.


    For examples of color used to enhance a mood and carry a story, check out my latest collection of short stories, 
    Amaranthine Rain. The title story (read it here) uses purple to bring together third person, past and present tenses, and to give a lush, exotic feeling to the whole piece. In Souvenirs, red is splashed over everything and contributes to the twisted, scary horror of the mind-bending story. In the noir tale, Tricked, I use blue. Red pops up again in La Belle Mort.

  4. You’ve convinced me. How do I develop a theme? Before spending hours writing a boring story about sex (insert A into slot B and enjoy), ask yourself these questions—what’s the purpose of my story? What do I want the reader to feel when they finish reading? Lead with the theme and the plot will follow. An excellent writing teacher once told me, “Average writers lead with plot. Advanced writers lead with theme.” Great stories are born when a writer has something meaningful to say and they are willing to work to make that meaning clear.

    Decide what central problem your protagonist faces at the beginning of your story, and culminate in a choice that illustrates acceptance, change, or denial. If your problem is based on a protagonist’s weakness (or perceived weakness, like in my story 
    Red House about a gay priest who enjoys cutting), you can create a theme thread throughout your story, ending with a revelation tied to the theme. If an issue strongly motivates the protagonist throughout the story, good. If it conflicts with others too, even better. With a strong theme, symbolism becomes easy to add, like herbs and spices to a stew once it has simmered.

  5. Moral of the story—every story needs a solid theme, and symbolism is to words what paint is to an artist's canvas. Theme are stepping stones to guide your reader's imagination.




Book Reviewer's Cheat Sheet

Many readers tell me they'd love to review more books, but since they are not writers, the whole idea makes them nervous. Reviews mean so much to writers, and so few real readers leave them.

Feedback keeps us going and gives us direction. Reviews allow our work to be seen in places like Amazon and BookBub (which is why so many writers resort to paying for reviews).

Here's a brilliant cheat sheet someone came up with to help if you are one of those real readers who'd like to write more reviews but just doesn't know what to say:

Book review template

My First Time

When Kay Jaybee (winner of the "Best Erotic Book Brand" and "Best Erotica Writer" awards pretty much every year) asks you to participate in her erotica-author interview series, you say,"YES!" 

Then, the questions arrive and (if you are like me) you ask, "Do I really want to admit some of this truth about what writing erotica has been like for me?" Then, you do it, because what's the point of writing edgy subjects if we can't be honest about it?


Zander Vyne Interview by Kay Jaybee

Kay is not only a first-class author, but she is a true supporter of other authors. Her interview series is one I have long enjoyed, and I was honored to participate despite my initial, introverted reaction. The questions she asked brought me to places I had long buried, and I am grateful to her for dredging them up so I could look at them once more and make peace.
When you're finished, poke around a bit. I've discovered many fabulous new writers through her interview series. And, of course, Kay's books kick ass.
My favorite is The Best of Kay Jaybee, because it's filled with short fiction (what I love best), and when it comes to erotica, the more the merrier, right?
Buy The Best of Kay Jaybee here: 


From Amazon UKAmazon US and all good eBook and paperback retailers.


"Immoral: Tales of a Vampire Hunter #1" . . . Then and Now

Immoral: Tales of a Vampire Hunter #1 early cover idea
Immoral: Tales of a Vampire Hunter #1 (early cover idea)
Today, someone "liked" this 2013 cover idea I posted in a Facebook group way back then and gave me such a thrill. How lucky I am to have had the support of readers for all this time. You made the book #1. You turned it from a short story into a trilogy, and you have kept it in the top 100 on Amazon since 2013. The Omnibus Edition comes out soon, and IMMORAL (the first in the series) is . . . and always will be . . . free as a "thank you" to readers. None of this magic could have happened without you.

Just for fun, here's the old, original description:

Vampires, Vampire hunters, forbidden love, thrilling adventure and hot sex. Readers say, "What a fast paced, roller coaster ride of an erotic adventure. I had a hard time putting this book down. As the reader follows Oliver Ripley on his coming of age adventure, there is sex, death, romance, and plot twists to keep the action moving forward at a rapid pace." 

Click the link to download it today - http://amzn.to/1dO7gF7