Sacchi Green Blog Tour – Sex Scenes Without Fear

I have to admit I was pretty excited to be asked to host a stopover on Sacchi Green’s Wild Rides Blog Tour. After all, Sacchi is famous for writing and curating incredibly intense, hot, fiery, edge-of-your-seat erotica. And I’m famous for—Well, closing the doors and giving my characters a little privacy. Still, I think hot lesbian erotica is an important part of the lesfic world and I will always celebrate those who do it well.

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You can enter to win a free ebook or some other cool stuff at our Rafflecopter giveaway HERE.

Without further ado, please welcome the inimitable Sacchi Green.


 

I’ve been kindly invited to blog here on the occasion of the Dirt Road Books publication of Wild Rides and other Lesbian Erotic Adventures, a collection of my own stories. I’ve edited about fifteen anthologies consisting mostly of work by other writers, but I’ve also been writing for other folks’ anthologies, and the chance to have some of my own grouped all together in one book is a huge treat for me.

 

But I’m not going to talk much today about the book itself. In my years of writing and editing I’ve been dedicated to making a case for erotica as a potentially worthwhile sub-genre. I’ve done panels at various conventions on how to write sex scenes, and pontificated on the subject in online groups, so in spite of the fact that you wouldn’t be reading this at all if you weren’t already at least tolerant of erotica, I’ll share part of a chapter I wrote for a friend’s now out-of-print book.

 

Sex Scenes Without Fear

What is it about sex scenes? No other section of a book other than, possibly, the ending, inspires so much flipping through the pages. Some readers will be avid to find the “good parts” and devour them first, while others will want to make sure they know which pages to avoid. It’s equally true that some writers can’t wait to get working on the erotic bits, while others, pressured to include them by editors or by their own assessments of the market, avoid writing them until everything else has been done and they can’t procrastinate any longer.

I won’t try to tell you, as a writer, that whatever method you use is wrong. If you can make it work, that’s great. But I will tell you what kind of reader you should write for: one who opens herself to your characters, gets drawn into their lives and emotions, and follows wherever the story leads because it’s so compelling that she can’t bear to miss a word. Not even words she might usually avoid.

Your first responsibility is to give this reader what she needs. Being true to your characters is just as essential, but you’ve seduced the reader into some degree of identification with your POV character, so it amounts to the same thing. And what she needs, besides an emotional bond that intensifies into a physical one, is a scene that flows naturally from what comes before and advances the characterization and story arc at least as much as any other element of the work.

Sex scenes serve many purposes beyond satisfying an editor who believes that they sell books. Erotic interchanges can be as revelatory of character as any other basic human activity, and more so than most, since they deal with heightened emotions and senses and, in some cases, heavily weighted baggage from past experience. If you’ve already developed your characters fully, aspects of their personalities and histories can be emphasized in sex scenes, but you may also find that these scenes provide ways to slip in details not revealed in calmer moments. Shyness or confidence, impulsiveness or self-control, tenderness, vulnerability, repression, unapologetic sensuality; these are only a few of the traits that can be surface in the heat of a sexual encounter. The characters may even surprise themselves with their own reactions.

The sex scene can also serve less complex purposes. Sometimes your characters (and the reader) just need to have a really good time, whether as a counterpoint to the stresses of whatever else is happening in your story or as a pacing device to vary the mood from scene to scene. And eventually you have to deliver the implicitly promised payoff to all the emotional and erotic tension you’ve been building.

You have been building erotic tension, haven’t you? It’s a huge mistake to think of a sex scene as a single obligatory lump of action inserted into your story with no relevance to the rest, sticking out like a sore thumb. (Yes, that’s an unforgivable cliché. Yes, I could think of several metaphors more in keeping with our topic, but I’ll leave those as an exercise for the reader.)

When it comes to building toward sex scenes, foreshadowing is like foreplay. It’s not going to be convincing for your characters to leap suddenly into a passionate clinch without ever having given hints, in thought or deed, of a growing sexual attraction. Even if your plot involves repression or denial, you need to find subtle ways of showing that something is simmering under the surface. The reader, as well as the characters, has to be ready for an eruption. In a novel that isn’t specifically erotica you don’t want to overdo the sensual foreshadowing to the point of distraction from the other essential elements, but it does need to be part of the blend.

So now your characters, setting, and emotional connection with your reader have been established. You’ve drawn on all or most of the senses, using sight, hearing, scent, touch, and taste wherever they might be appropriate. Erotic tension has mounted, and you’ve reached the point when a sex scene is the natural next step in the progression of their relationship (and your story). Many writers, as well as readers, would prefer to leave the rest to the imagination, but if you’re reading this we’ll assume that for one reason or another—editorial pressure, personal inclination, recognition of the importance to the story as a whole—you intend to create a fully developed and explicit sexual encounter.

Just how explicit is explicit enough? I used to say, when asked, that a story crosses the line into erotica when the writer has to make decisions about what terms to use for parts of the body. It was a stupid answer. It’s quite possible (and an intriguing challenge) to write intensely arousing and satisfying scenes without naming body parts at all. Anyone reading your work is likely to be familiar with the anatomical territory, and will understand what’s going on from the context and the reactions and dialogue of the characters (assuming that “Yes, there, please, right there,” counts as dialogue).

Nevertheless, the language you use to describe sex can have nearly as much impact on the reader as the actions you’re describing. For better or for worse, sex has accumulated so much baggage in our culture that “dirty” words carry an erotic jolt of their own, positive for some people, negative for others. All you can do is be familiar enough with your characters to know whether they’d say “pussy” or “vulva”; “clit” or “clitoris”; “labia” or “lips”, or…well, you get the picture. Even the choice between “breasts” or “tits” or “boobs” says something about the character’s personality, background, and mood.  “Tits” is a perfectly good colloquial version of “teats”, a term currently more in use in animal husbandry, but these days “tits” has a certain edge to it that might or might not be what you’re looking for. “Boobs” feels to me like a more casual, flippant usage, which can have its place as well. Just be glad that in lesbian fiction we don’t have to deal with labels for male genitalia, unless in a metaphorical sense, but really, let’s not go there.

My advice, from the perspective of just one reader/writer/editor, is to get as much mileage as you can out of non-controversial terms, and then use the others, but sparingly. Hands, fingers, tongues, thighs; few descriptions are more erotic than getting any of the first three moving between a pair of the fourth. When the focus inevitably becomes so narrowed that you do need more specific (or “explicit”) language, keep it short and non-clinical.

The one time above all others when you don’t want to throw the reader out of the scene (or have the book thrown against the wall) is in the full heat of a sexual encounter. Or a good fuck, if you prefer blunt to stilted. If you’re going to try your hand at new ways to describe, say, hardened nipples, you might come up with something creative and right to the point, but you’d better run it by an unbiased beta reader or two. (Acorns and berries and snails and pencil erasers have already been used, just so you know.) I’m not saying that you should never be creative, but you need to be aware of the hazards. All of the other advice you’ve seen about keeping adverbs and adjectives to a minimum applies here, as well, and ellipses, especially tempting in erotica since so much reaction is non-verbal, need just as firm a hand.

Another word-choice issue, one inherent in same-sex erotica, is the problem of pronouns. Which “she” is touching which “her” with whose hand? A first person point of view takes care of the problem with “I” and “She, but deciding what kind of POV works best for a story should be based on other factors.

So what can you do? Ideally the context, the individualized personalities of the characters, and their relative positions at a given time (if one is standing and the other is sitting, we know who’s reaching down and who’s looking up), will make some of the interactions clear. When these aren’t enough, don’t be afraid to use their names, even if it seems repetitive. Don’t give in to the urge to use too many adjectives, at least not in the form of “the darker woman” or “the whimpering girl”; these distance the reader from the action at just the worst time. This doesn’t mean that you can’t get away with some physical descriptions to indicate who’s doing what—“dark hair brushed her skin”, “her large hand moved faster”—but don’t rely on them too often. When you need to use a name for clarity, do it. If you’re handling the rest of the scene well enough, the reader will be too involved to notice.

This brings us to writing the scene itself. “Focus” is the key word. Focus on what your characters are feeling. People read for the sensations it arouses. The stimulation might be intellectual, or something along the lines of sense-of-wonder, but far more often they’re looking for an emotional and sensual charge, something that stirs the body as well as the mind. A romantic scene can do this as well as an erotic one for many readers. There’s a physical reaction; the heart seems to swell, the pulse quickens, the face may flush, there may even be a hint of tears. It’s no accident that something with emotional appeal is often termed “touching”. Taking it to the next, erotic, level should build on this physical response, extend it to more areas of the body, and intensify it.

There’s no single required structure for a sex scene. For one thing, the scene doesn’t stand alone, unless it constitutes the entirety of a short story. You may have got your characters (and the reader) so worked up that they go right at it the moment they’ve made it to a private corner, or the tone may not even be overtly erotic at the beginning, until some catalyst triggers a reaction that becomes an irresistible force. You’ve been leading up to this, building erotic tension at various strategic points, sometimes subtly, sometimes with more emphasis. You may have established a pattern this way that echoes the overall structure of the plot, but by the time you reach the “real” sex scene the flow should be almost entirely forward. There can be exceptions; your plan for character development might call for one or another of the lovers to show hesitation, or experience painful flashbacks, or something along those lines; but your ultimate goal is an uninterrupted stretch of accelerating heat that comes to a satisfying conclusion. You don’t necessarily want to reach that point too fast, though–getting there is a whole lot of the fun. Wild Rides promo.2.2 (1)

Don’t feel that you have to include acts that you actually find distasteful. If, for instance, the thought of using teeth on tender parts makes you cringe (and assuming that cringing is not something you enjoy on any level), or feather-stroking strikes you as merely annoying, don’t use them. There are plenty of other options. A scene where everyone remains fully clothed and the major friction comes from thighs pressing into crotches can be as erotic as naked slippery bodies performing complex contortions. You just have to do a good enough job of showing how intensely the participants are enjoying it to convince the reader and take her along for the ride. Focus on the feelings.

But what do editors look for? Don’t they require a certain amount of explicit language and hotter-than-life sex? Probably most do, but they value the story component too. I’ve edited over a dozen erotica anthologies, and I’ve never consciously established any kind of quota for sexual content. Well, if it’s an erotica anthology, there should be sexual tension, and someone, at some point, should reach orgasm, although even that isn’t always necessary. Sex has to be a significant part of the story, but it needs to have a good story around it, and I especially like it when even the sex is about more than sex.

That’s really all I can tell you in general terms about writing sex scenes. Create characters, setting, plot, and sensory details that will draw the reader into the story, and when a sex scene is the natural next step, focus on feelings. Develop it just as you would in any other part of the story, but even more so, because there really is something special about sex scenes.

 

Have I followed my own advice in the stories in Wild Rides? I really don’t know, so feel free to let me know where I’ve gone wrong.

 

Upcoming stops on the Sacchi Green blog tour:

3/27 — Women and Words
3/28 —  Cheyenne Blue

Previous stops:

3/19 — Sacchi Green
3/20 — KD Williamson
3/21 — Annette Mori
3/22 — Andi Marquette

3/25 — R.G. Emmanuelle 

 


Sacchi Green is a Lambda Award-winning writer and editor of erotica and other stimulating genres. She lives in western Massachusetts, with an alternate retreat in the mountains of New Hampshire and occasional forays into such real world spots as NYC for readings. Her work has appeared in scores of publications, including multiple volumes of Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica, Best Transgender Erotica, and Best Fantasy Erotica, and she’s also edited seventeen anthologies over the last fourteen years, most of them lesbian erotica. Nine have been finalists for Lambda Literary Awards, and two of those have been Lambda winners, while four have won Golden Crown Literary Society awards. All these awards, of course, are actually due to the fine writers who trust her with their work.

 

Sacchi has most recently edited Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year 20th Anniversary Edition, Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year Volume 2 and Volume 3, and, possibly the most fun of all, Witches, Princesses and Women at Arms: Erotic Lesbian Fairy Tales. Her very first novel is Shadow Hand, a superheroine book that puts a new twist on the genre, and her newest publication is a collection of her own short stories, Wild Rides and Other Lesbian Erotic Adventures, from Dirt Road Books. You can find her online at: https://www.facebook.com/sacchi.green and http://sacchi-green.blogspot.com, and contact her at sacchigreen@gmail.com.

At Long Last

My life seems to be steam-rolling into a long-awaited success these days. Did you ever feel that you just worked your ass off on something for years and years and sometimes, it seemed as if nothing was happening and just when you started to think you were on the wrong path, one little thing falls into place and then, so does everything else?

I’ve been pounding away at school and writing for years, almost a decade now for writing, and seven years for school. Being an adult learner has its challenges and I won’t try to pretend it was easy. I can’t count how many times I had to drag my computer and books along to a writer’s conference because assignments don’t wait for real life stuff.

After I got my first master’s, I assumed I would have a teaching job within a couple of months. I was so wrong about that. I was conferred on November 1, 2016. It is now August of 2018 and I am just starting to teach my first classes. And it never rains but it pours. I was hired last spring to start teaching for the MFA program for Southern New Hampshire University starting in October of 2018. In the meantime, Johnston Community College, under the direction of the brilliant Doctor Tammy Bird, hired me to teach a couple of comp classes online.

My sixth book came out on August 1. On August 6th, I was notified that a short piece of mine was accepted into a mainstream literary journal. Today, August 10th, as I sit here laboring over learning how to use the back end of the online teaching platform, I received notification that the first fifteen minutes of the audio version of Coyote Ate the Stars was finished.

I know it seems as if I’m bragging, but the knot of anxiety that has lived with me off and on for years finally has a little bit of ease. Struggling to pay the bills, not sure whether I will be able to keep the electric on, being sure that nothing I wrote was worth anything, wondering whether I would ever get a job in my field – all of this was such a weight and now, despite feeling desperately busy, I feel so light. Like, my goals and dreams are finally coming to fruition.

I think the moral of the story is that if you know you want it, keep reaching for it, even when it seems as if it’s never going to come. Over the years, my dreams evolved, my career plans changed a bit. I used to want to be a full-time professor, but now, teaching online is really working for me. I still have time for my writing, I don’t have to put on pants when I don’t feel like it, and my wife and I might really be able to fulfill another dream of one day chucking all (most) of our possessions and living/travelling in a motor home.

I’m just saying, if you want it, work for it. As long as you’re doing one thing every day to work toward your dream, whatever it is, you can never give up. One thing. Ten minutes of writing. One resume to a dream job. One guitar lesson. One more first date – whatever your dream is, figure out your steps and just start working them.

And if you get discouraged, message me. I’ll either cry with you or cheer you on. ❤

 

 

 

******* Next week, I’m taking a break from blogging and inviting Lewis DeSimone, a hilariously witty writer, to take over my blog for me. Stay tuned!

 

GCLS Conference

joy and beth at con 2018My partner and I got married two days before conference, so the whole thing was kind of like a working honeymoon. Despite that, the Golden Crown Literary Society this year felt like a homecoming. Perhaps that sounds odd, with over 100 new people this year, but it felt intimate, loving, and welcoming.

We had a diverse crowd, different ages, different races. It was wonderful to see so many young people. The board is getting old (I mean that lovingly – I’m part of the board) and we need young, fresh minds to shake things up for us and keep us relevant.

beth readingI read from my soon to be released novel, Coming Around Again. Incidentally, my publisher had copies of the book at the conference as an early bonus and it sold out. I’m sure it had nothing to do with me promising to write naughty things in the books that people bought.

The writing academy was a shining star this year. The whole 2018 graduating class was there and they were amazing. Such a great group of talented and smart women. I was proud of them in every way. The WA also donated a free year’s tuition to the GCLS raffle and it was won by a woman who had been in the writing academy presentation, excitedly asking lots of questions. I have a feeling she is going to do great things.

The GCLS board works tirelessly to put on this event. (Okay, not tirelessly – we are all exhausted.) This is a labor of love as the board is all-volunteer. We all put so much time and effort into bringing the best conference experience to every participant. And our reward, other than the happy faces and awesome hugs, is coming back and doing it all again for next year.

I hope to see a huge crowd in Pittsburgh next year. We just keep getting better every year and I can’t wait to see how incredible the next one will be.

 

 

A New Way to Commune with Readers

Beth Patreon Flier

My patreon platform is going well for the first week or so. I have four patrons so far and I have posted quite a bit of content that others won’t get to see – short stories that will only be posted on Patron, rough drafts with editing notes, cover reveals that others don’t get to see yet – even blurbs from current WIPs.  The engagement so far is fun…. the readers seem to enjoy the content and they like having a say in what I post.

This upcoming week, the patrons are getting a video-reading from my upcoming novel, Coming Around Again, release date fall of 2018.

There’s even a rumor I may post some of my poetry, heretofore only seen by myself and my cat.

And no one has to wear pants.

 

 

2018 New Year’s Resolutions

Every year, I try to post my New Year’s resolutions – to commit to writing the things I hope to accomplish in the coming year. Last year, I think I came close to accomplishing most of what I set out to do.

This year, I resolve to be happy with my body just the way it is. I resolve to avoid dieting, to refuse to press myself into a patriarchal construct of accepted female appearance. This year, I’d like to continue to lovingly nourish my body with mostly plant-based foods, delicious teas, and perhaps a bit too much coffee. I resolve to continue to try new vegan recipes and to continue to delight in my own growth as a cook who can create delightful meals without stress.

This year I want to move my body more, stretch more, spend more time standing up from my desk. I want to dance without worrying what people are thinking about me. I want to touch my toes and stand on one foot and do a few minutes of yoga every day so my back doesn’t hurt after a long day of working.

I want to take Brutus out for more walks so, when the time comes that walks are no longer possible for him, we’ll know we made the most of the time he could enjoy the outdoors on his own four feet.

This year, I want to cherish my partner – I want to make sure she knows that I don’t take for granted how she loves and adores and desires me exactly the way I am. I want to make sure that she feels as special as she makes me feel. This year, I want to remember how hard it has been to spend so much time apart as we deal with immigration, and I want to appreciate how deeply we value the time together.  I resolve to appreciate the natural intimacy between us, and to continue to cultivate it as the years go by.

This year, I want to publish two of the three novels I wrote in 2017. I want to write one or two more. I want to win at least one short story contest. I’d like to submit to five anthologies in 2018.

I resolve to worry less about money while still working on upping my income. I’d like to get a job teaching creative writing. I want to sell more books. I resolve to not let the acquisition of things every become my focus, regardless of changes in income. This year, I promise to continue to give when I can, even when my finances are uncertain.

This year, I want to remember that it’s okay to feel lonely sometimes and that the best way to make friends is to reach out to friends. I want to encourage connections with old friends, and spend time with new. I want to send more paper letters, give away more books, spend more time video chatting with people I love, give hugs more freely.

This year, I resolve to turn over the pages of my calendar at the beginning of the month, rather than looking up at it in December and realizing it is still on May.

Finally, no matter what else happens, I resolve to remember that I deserve this.

Happy New Year, friends.

 

My Inner Calling

I saw this on Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s facebook page today. “Where does the energy want to go? Feel it in your body, heart, and spirit. Follow where it leads. It will be easiest to face whatever challenges arise if you are honouring your inner calling.”

Well, that seems like really great advice, doesn’t it? I mean, honor your inner calling. Who can argue with that? Be true to yourself, follow your dreams, take the road less traveled (if that is your way) and live a joyful life.

The thing is, how do I really know what my inner calling is? I mean, I think I live a pretty good life. I’ve published one novel. My second novel is finished and off to the editors to be red-lined and sent back for edits. My third novel is outlined and the characters are starting to come alive for me. I have a lover who celebrates me for who I am. I have some amazing family members. I have friends who are more than friends, more than family, more than anything that can be described using currently existing words.

I try to wake up happy and grateful and I try to stay happy and grateful throughout the day. I have a car that I love, I have a fantastic and extremely patient dog, I have the books that I want to read and access to more when I want them. I eat well, I exercise, I take a yoga class, and I am taking a full time class load. I like my life.

Then why is there always this pesky little voice in the back of my head saying, “Yeah, but what’s next? What else is there? Where do you want to go? What do you want to do?” Even worse than that is the voice of “wait and see.” Wait until you finish this novel. Wait until you lose fifty pounds. Wait until you have more money in the bank. Wait until… whatever. It’s as if I am caught in an eddy between thinking I am not doing what I should be doing and telling myself that I can’t do those things right now anyway.

I read Oriah’s post today and I thought that it was so timely. Honor your inner calling. I’m going to do that. But first, I need to figure out what my inner calling is.

So I put on some Crosby, Stills & Nash (because if old hippies can’t help you meditate, who can?) and sat down, closed my eyes and started to meditate/pray/ask for guidance/look into my own soul/whatever. And I asked the universe/God/myself/The Creator/the great network of positive energy in the world “What is my inner calling?”

What is my inner calling? Well, duh. My inner calling is to be at peace with myself. That’s what I want. I want to be at peace within myself and I want to help to bring peace to others. And that voice, that pesky voice, the one that likes to throw all of my doubts and insecurities into a pot and stir them around, likes to tell me that I can find peace if only I (insert your own if only here.) If only I went to Sedona. If only I went to India. If only I took that meditation class. If only I went to that drum circle. If only I would make myself meditate every day. If only I could be perfectly centered all of the time. If only I never made stupid mistakes. If only I was never judgmental, if I never said an unkind word, if I never got mad at my partner, if I never snapped at the dog, if, if, if.

If only.

Well, this morning with the help of CS&N, I silenced that little voice for a little while and I thought about what I really need to do to find inner peace. And I realized that there is no such thing as “finding” inner peace. I don’t find it, I create it. I create it within myself. And I don’t create it by jetting off to the spiritual places of the world, I create it by realizing that what I have, right now, is exactly what I chose for myself. I made everything in my life. I am currently making everything in my life. Everything that is happening is happening because of me. And when I come to truly embrace that, I’ll learn that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Peace isn’t in some far off place, and it isn’t in some meditation classes. Those places and activities may be good for me and they may help bring me in line with others who are searching for the same things, but they are not mandatory for my inner peace. My inner peace is right where I am, right now.

Inner peace. Inner. It’s inside of me. It seems pretty self-explanatory when I get right down to it. My peace. My self. My happiness. My gratitude. Peace and joy come not from going out and searching for the secret to inner peace, but from truly having gratitude for what I do have in my life.

Inner peace. How about that?