Back to previous post: A simple, mildly incredulous philippic

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: An unnerving silver-gilt combination epergne and candelabrum

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

April 8, 2010

Be A Sex-Writing Strumpet
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:53 AM * 162 comments

Speaking of urban fantasies with female protagonists and supernatural creatures (as we just were), and noticing how the Accountants Who Run Publishing are all for that, how would y’all like to learn how to write the red-hot sex scenes that fill those female protagonists’ time betwixt slaying vampires and astonishing trolls? I knew you would!

Be A Sex-Writing Strumpet Allow me to introduce Be A Sex-Writing Strumpet by Stacia Kane.

How this book came about: There I was, casting about for a new cat to wax, when the thought came to me that I hadn’t published a book through Lulu.com in quite some time. Atlanta Nights was a long time ago and was deliberately bad, A Mery Play Betwene Johan Johan, the Husbande, Tyb, his Wyf, and Syr Jhan, the Preest was done to see how fast I could go from ASCII text to a printed book (an afternoon, as it happens) but is a specialized taste (so far sales has been three copies) and again was years ago, and so was The Confessions of Peter Crossman. So I posted a public request elsewhere for a text to turn into a book, just as an experiment, to see how far I could go for free.

Stacia Kane (AKA December Quinn) stepped up to the call. She had a series of blog posts titled Be A Sex-Writing Strumpet. In the years since she’d written ‘em, she’d had folks asking if she was ever going to collect them into a book or ebook or something, and had always intended to do so, but didn’t know exactly how…. So. A problem, a solution!

I decided on the 4x6 mass-market size rather than the 6x9 trade paperback size, since I’d determined by the experimental method (by having both sizes available for Crossman) that 4x6 sold better even though it cost more to buy. (And the hard copies sold better than the download, even though they were all available on the same page, and the download cost the reader a lot less..)

I used WordPerfect. First was creating the page sizes I needed. Then dumping in text. Then massaging it in various ways, such as changing the font to Palatino Linotype, the quotes to curly quotes, fixing the bold and the italic, and such. Then, or at the same time, copyediting. Eventually, I had a book-shaped piece of text in .pdf format.

All this time I was flipping back and forth to the Lulu pages to see how they wanted it. It was more complex than the last time I tried, and at every step of the way, Lulu was throwing Options That Cost Money at me. Sometimes it took real persistence to find the link to the continue-for-free path, and faith that it really existed. That’s new. Perhaps they’ve learned, as so many have learned before them, that there isn’t a whole lot of money-from-readers in the Print Anything market. Since there are only two sources of money in publishing, the readers and the writers, they’re making it very, very easy and attractive for the writers to send them money.

Eventually, and using a public-domain picture for the cover, the book came together, and we released it. (The full text is still on the blog, and will remain there, if you want to read it for free.)

The experiment wasn’t as full as I’d like: Stacia decided that rather than going for the “free” ISBN (and in consequence nearly doubling the minimum cover price of the book), she’d leave it as available-from-Lulu-only. So it isn’t available in bookstores, over at the special order desk. Still, it exists, and now the people who write to Stacia and ask if she’s ever going to make an ebook version can get told “Yes, it’s right here.”

The back-cover blurb is mine, and I’m rather pleased with it:

Stacia Kane writes novels filled with “…flaming hot sex…” (Romantic Times), “…sizzling romance that heats up every page …” (Darque Reviews), and “…spicy sex scenes beautiful enough to make you cry and hot enough to steam windows at the same time…” (Michele Lee). She has published more than a dozen romances and urban fantasies, with publishers like Ellora’s Cave, Pocket, Del Rey, and HarperVoyager. Now she opens her bag of tricks to show you how you too can write the scenes that readers crave.

From setting the scene to consummating the union, Stacia takes you all the way. She reveals the tricks of the professional author, step by step (with examples taken from her own and others’ writing), giving practical advice you can use in your own books.

Be a Sex-Writing Strumpet is like a master class in erotic fiction.

And that’s enough cat-waxing for me: Back to the word-mines.

Comments on Be A Sex-Writing Strumpet:
#1 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 08:09 AM:

Ah! Who needs such a book when one is married to a sex-writing strumpet?
("Serge?")
Yes, dear?
("What did you just call me in public?")
If you'll excuse me, fellow bloggers...

#2 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 08:24 AM:
And that’s enough cat-waxing for me: Back to the word-mines.

No, no, no! Cats are vacuumed: weasels are waxed. Happily, both are appropriate to this very welcome post.

#3 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 08:42 AM:

I think one should know that one can arrange the letters in strumpet to spell pert smut.

#4 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 09:06 AM:

Also pet murst, the significance of which is too great to explain in this comment.

#5 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 09:14 AM:

So cats are vacuumed, weasels waxed, and mursten petted?

Writers' argot baffles me.

#6 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 09:14 AM:

Alas, you can't find smurf in strumpet (although it's close, they don't have an F).

#7 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 09:17 AM:

No effin' strumpets?

#8 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 09:26 AM:

No effin' strumpets?

No, Smurfette's a good girl. She doesn't smuck.

#9 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 09:33 AM:

No, Smurfette's a good girl. She doesn't smuck

Must be why she's so blue.

#10 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 09:33 AM:

Katy Perry doesn't smuck?

Maybe there is a G-d.

#11 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 10:47 AM:

How the world has changed.

A book such as this might not be commercial, but the topic isn't some arcane craft secret. It's a topic that can be talked about.

#12 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 10:49 AM:

I have this book!

I had no idea you were involved. That's neat.

#13 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 10:59 AM:

Ken Houghton:

Quentin Tarantino is "Brainy Smurf?" No wonder he writes himself into his movies when he can: his agent is clearly Not His Friend.

#14 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 11:00 AM:

But if that's the case, why is it that there are a whole bunch of male smurfs, one female smurf, and a passel of little baby smurfs running around?

#15 ::: lelliot ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 11:30 AM:

Cat waxing? Is that anything like yak shaving?

#16 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 11:50 AM:

Is it possible to write good sex scenes without knowing much about what real sex is like?

#17 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 12:03 PM:

Gray Woodland #2: No, no, no! Cats are vacuumed: weasels are waxed.

Ah, thank you for clearing that up; I was wondering about that point.

#18 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 01:07 PM:

Grey Woodland:

Let's go to an authority, shall we?

"Teresa Nielsen Hayden on 13 Sep 2006 at 3:00 pm

How did you get tape to stick to such a well-waxed cat?"

#19 ::: odaiwai ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 01:46 PM:

Erik@16: "Is it possible to write good sex scenes without knowing much about what real sex is like?"

Knowledge of sex appears to be a significant hurdle to writing about it.

I remain concerned about the ailments Admiral Heinlein's lady-friends suffered from. Nipples which go Spung! may require safety precautions.

#20 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 01:58 PM:

> I used WordPerfect. First was creating the page
> sizes I needed. Then dumping in text. The
> massaging it in various ways, such as changing
> the font to Palatino Linotype, the quotes to
> curly quotes, fixing the bold and the italic, and
> such. Then, or at the same time, copyediting.
> Eventually, I had a book-shaped piece of text in
> .pdf format.

WordPerfect? Wow. Any particular reason for choosing WordPerfect over the competition? I'm genuinely curious... It's many years since I used WP and wasn't sure it was still available until I Googled it just now.

#21 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 02:05 PM:

But does it cover the proper uses of dinosaurs and sodomy?

Curiously, the new 826 poster, "Are You Absolutely, Positively, and Wholeheartedly Ready to Publish Your Novel?", checks for the presence of dinosaurs as a plot element but omits sodomy altogether... Quite the oversight.

#22 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 03:04 PM:

Why WordPerfect? Because it does everything that I need it to do, and is absurdly easier to set up and use than MS Word.

Word is great if what you're going to write is a two-page business letter. Anything longer, and it's a nightmare.

#23 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 03:08 PM:

I don't know how much sexual experience an author needs. There's a lot of information out there. But if you don't even masturbate you could have an exaggerated, unreal, idea of some aspects.

#24 ::: Stacia Kane ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 04:12 PM:

Hey, thanks Jim! Today is my wedding anniversary; talking about our little book here is a pretty cool present. :-)


@Erik: I don't think direct experience at sex is any more necessary to writing good sex scenes than having direct experience in murder is necessary to writing a good murder scene. It requires imagination and insight, and a deep knowledge of your characters. Reading plenty of sex scenes so you have an idea of what works and what doesn't is a good idea too.

#25 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 04:22 PM:

Wasn't James Tiptree, Jr, revealed as female partially because she got a sexual element wrong in one of her stories?

#26 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 04:26 PM:

Hey, Stacia! Best wishes for many, many more!

#27 ::: Ben M ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 04:55 PM:

> First was creating the page sizes I needed.
> Then dumping in text. The massaging it
> in various ways, such as changing the font
> to Palatino Linotype,

And to-morrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day,
To-day we have naming of parts.

Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens,
And to-day we have naming of parts.

#28 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 05:18 PM:

Ben M@27: applause.

(I think I've still got some 20-yr-old documents on a floppy somewhere, saved in Ami Pro and ChiWriter formats. Those were the days.)

#29 ::: siriosa ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 05:40 PM:

Steve C. @25
Wasn't James Tiptree, Jr, revealed as female partially because she got a sexual element wrong in one of her stories?

IIRC, her gender was revealed when she was a little too specific in describing her recently-deceased mother. There was only one woman of that age and birthplace, with those accomplishments, who had also been a mother. And that woman had given birth to a girl. Busted.

#30 ::: Dan ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 08:35 PM:

SteveSteve with a book @ 28 -- ChiWriter! I *loved* ChiWriter, especially the make-your-own-fonts feature. (Now I'm getting all sentimental, mourning over defunct software; I need to get a life.)

#31 ::: K.C. Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 09:27 PM:

Well, that's a coincidence. I just put together a Lulu book today (about chili peppers, which I plan to sell along with the plants and peppers at our local farmer's market). I found Lulu much, much easier to use than the last time, back in 2005 or so. I don't recall having to navigate through many "buy this service!" suggestions, but I also knew precisely what I wanted to do with the book so I ignored everything else. I like the new way they let you put together covers. The results are a lot more professional-looking than they used to be.

I did most of the work using OpenOffice, but I had to swap out for Word to get the page numbers to work right. I had three separate sections paginated differently, which OpenOffice doesn't like to do. Not counting writing the actual text, it only took me an hour or two max to turn the raw manuscript into a finished book (or book-like object, as a friend of mine calls self-published books), and that included wrestling with those rackinfrackin page numbers.

#32 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 09:32 PM:

Bruce E. Durocher II at #13 writes:

> Quentin Tarantino is "Brainy Smurf?"

Maybe not. It says he is at IMDB but on Wikipedia it says negotiations broke down and he won't be playing that role.

Pity - I'd be half tempted to see Tarantino playing a smurf.

#33 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 10:13 PM:

"a new cat to wax"--my 1st thought was, do cats wax and wane like the moon? Their eyes do, anyway...When I was a kid, we had a cat that let me vacuum him, and the phase of his eyes didn't matter.
In fact, the only wax I was familiar with was that used in jewelry casting...

#34 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 10:38 PM:

>pert smut

Or, what my father has half a dozen of, "trumpets", being a retired player, y'see.

We actually had them all out a few weeks ago, to see what kind of condition they might be in, to evaluate them for donation to various organizations with which Dad has been associated (Juilliard, the Chicago Symphony). He hasn't really played them in 20 years, since retiring from HS of Music and Art (now LaGuardia HS).

#35 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 01:49 AM:

It has to be "cat vacuuming," because Ivor Cutler says so.

#36 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 02:42 AM:

Earl @ 17, Bruce @ 18: Thank you for this education. A sadder and a wiser man, I rose the morrow morn. Nonetheless, on due consideration, I maintain that cats are not waxed, just as spaghetti bolognese is not eaten with one's fingers and plural's are not formed with apostrophe's.

If there are also persons who amuse themselves by vacuuming their weasels - and most especially if they've shared the video of it with the world - then, please, everybody leave me with that one crumb of blissful ignorance!

#37 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 09:44 AM:

Steve with a book@20: WordPerfect? Wow. Any particular reason for choosing WordPerfect over the competition?

Macdonald can speak for himself . . . but in my case, it's because they'll take away my Reveal Codes window when they pry it from my cold dead fingers.

Also, its word count function more nearly approaches reliability (which is not, of course, to say that it's as accurate as a good hand word-count) than Word's, which is notoriously way off target.

Writers tend to become deeply attached to their wp program of choice; I've known writers who have deliberately maintained antique hardware just for the purpose of running programs that haven't been supported since the heyday of MS-DOS 5.0.

#38 ::: Richard Hershberger ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 11:53 AM:

"plural's are not formed with apostrophe's"

Its good to see someone who watches his ps and qs.

#39 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 12:10 PM:

Word Processors: I still fondly remember WordStar, whose formatting tags were nearly Turing-complete. (And I milked that for the work I was doing then!)

#40 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 12:39 PM:

I had never used a word processor before, but when I sat down with WordStar in the summer of 1983, to start writing programs (heck, it was better than DOS Edit), I took to it like a duck to water.

#41 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 12:45 PM:

Is it possible to write good sex scenes without knowing much about what real sex is like?

Probably. Sex is an area where reality has to give way to literary convention frequently, for one thing. And the diversity of human sexual experience is so broad that personal experience is unlikely to get most people much of a sample of it, even.

It may hinge on just what your "much" means :-) .

#42 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 03:03 PM:

Certainly one can write sex scenes without more than book-learning, if one's well read enough. One does not have to have practical experience.

ddb@41 is right that knowing literary convention is more important; people are insanely picky about their sex scenes.

#43 ::: Vir Modestus ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 03:38 PM:
WordPerfect? Wow. Any particular reason for choosing WordPerfect over the competition?
I agree: WordPerfect is *the* word processor to use for long, especially multichapter, works. Its Master Document feature actually works and is easy to use. I'm looking forward to upgrading to the X5 version since it now supports Thunderbird mail client as a database.

I will hand it to MS for their OneNote program. Not a word processor but a wonderful tool for research.

#44 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 05:08 PM:

First WP program I used was Multi-Mate, meant to mimic Wang's proprietary WP software.

One wonders if Wang might have been particularly appropriate when writing erotic fiction. (Not me. I don't wonder that, but someone might.)

#45 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 05:32 PM:

Interesting to hear about WP's advantages... Word has dominated the scene for so long that it's now difficult to imagine a word processor that's very different from it.

When I was at school, back when all homework was hand-written, I got so annoyed with the labour of drafting and re-drafting essays in longhand that I tried to teach myself shorthand (various methods, whatever the library happened to have a book on: Pitman, Gregg, Teeline, even the lunatic Dutton Speedwords). I never persevered long enough to get the benefit but it was a good drilling in the phonetics of English—the different flavours of vowels and the opposition between voiced and unvoiced consonants...

Hmm, I seem to have derailed an erotic-fiction-writing thread into a defunct-software one.

> people are insanely picky about their sex scenes.

People can be deliberately and obtusely unfair about sex scenes—the Literary Review's Bad Sex In Fiction Award usually selects at least some reasonably-well-written scenes. It's possible to get a laugh out of them but that's not the reaction an un-primed casual reader will deliver. Bad Sex sometimes leaves a bad taste in the mouth (fnarr fnarr giggle titter etc.)

#46 ::: Bryan Feir ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 06:10 PM:

David Harman@39:

Me, I write my APA submissions in LaTeX. And while I'm less sure about LaTeX-specific macros, I know the underlying TeX language IS Turing-complete.

#47 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 06:39 PM:

I personally only write in a text editor. I have since I was in a position to have my documents stored in my email account, regularly editing from dozens of different computers. You can't count on the word processors, but text editors just do their thing, and then you can make it pretty some other time.

As far as printing for LuLu, though, if you're having trouble with pagination and the like with OpenOffice, it works to just split the document into several and upload them all. LuLu will string them together, and if you're already trying to typeset your book, putting it into several separate files for the print-version isn't much trouble.

#48 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 06:44 PM:

I miss Reveal Codes.

When people yell for "help" with MSWord pagination/line-numbering/etc etc.

When trying to work with .docx or any .***x files in nonhorrible software.

When MS templates mysteriously come and go.

I miss Reveal Codes.

#49 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 07:06 PM:

i gotta say--when you people write about word perfect, it just makes me all...

ooooooh....aaaaaaaaaaaahhh....

kinda hot and bothered. know what i mean? like, you sure know how to press my function-keys! f1!

#50 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 08:26 PM:

I spent three years consulting on how to attach a stand-alone word processor to a mainframe and then how to use them. I recommended Wang about 70% of the time because at that point, they were much more flexible than the others.

#51 ::: Peter Aronson ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 08:43 PM:

Oddly enough, I actually buy books from Lulu.com pretty regularly. These break down into five general categories:

1) Role playing game books;
2) Other hobby books;
3) Web comic compilations;
4) Fiction by authors I became familiar with by finding their books in stores or libraries;
5) Curiosities.

It's actually come to quite a sum over last four and a half years.

#52 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 10:58 PM:

I'm accustomed to Word and know many Secrets and Mysteries of it. I do not like that they keep f-king with it to add more bells and whistles and mostly just use the basics.

That said, I bought iWork because a client needed me to have it and I'm getting my feet under me using it. I do not have an opinion of it as a writing tool though, I still use Word.

But being comfortable with whatever program you use to write is the best thing. It should be easy for you, because the rest of it sometimes so hard.

#53 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 12:28 AM:

Alex @ 48: Amen, Brother. Amen!

#54 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 01:20 AM:

Wordstar! I miss Wordstar!

This is a lovely timely thread. I have books in my lulu basket, and for once I won't have sent my order off just before finding another book I wanted. Yay!

Is it okay to plug Tony Wolf's Lulu book "Edith Garrud: the Suffragette Who Knew Jujutsu" here?
-Barbara

#55 ::: Jenku ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 01:46 AM:

I had no idea the free ISBN made the book so much more expensive... Still might be worth it, but I am now considering making cheaper non-isbn editions, too. :) The more ways the merrier.

Also Open Office ftw. ;)

No comments about sex scenes, sorry I just write them like by magic.

#56 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 05:51 AM:

Open Office for me too. There's a pretty good chance my files will remain readable.

Sex scenes: it's more context than experience, I think. Some idea of how the intensity of events can warp perceptions. And a certain scepticism about porn-reality.

There are some disturbing asssumptions used to frame visual porn. Maybe they're shortcuts for all the rest of a book. You can't explain why, so you choose the easy, conventional, and often grossly anti-feminine, frame for the sex scene.

#57 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 03:03 PM:

Dave Bell,

There are all sorts of conventions around visual porn having to do, for instance, with who comes where and on whom. I think some of them are historic, having originated in live sex shows like Superman of Havana, who was out to demonstrate how many ejaculations he could have in a day, and wanted to make them highly visible. Some of them may be intended to appeal to men trying to assert their sexual superiority over women (no, i don't know why this would be important to "content creators", but it seems to be). And some of them are just quirks from one performer or another, passed on from one to the next as part of the lore of the job.

I worked with the original designers of WordStar (before they developed it). I wouldn't trust it as far as I could throw the IBM PC (original model) it was running on.

#58 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 03:46 PM:

This moose is fairly anti-Lulu at the moment, after buying the Peter Crossman book off them and being opt-out spammed for my pains.

Note to Lulu.com: I neither need nor want to hear about all your new releases and special offers. *I* decide what books I want to read, not you, and I will not do business with spammers.

On the Peter Crossman front: I went searching for more Stross to buy and discovered Forbidden Planet (Birmingham UK) had sold out of The Trade of Queens without my ever realising they'd had it in stock. Bah! While wandering (grumpily) around the store, I thought "I recognise that cover, surely it isn't....?" But it was: The Apocalypse Door, 1st edition hardcover and mint. I also fell foul of Scalzi's "Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded" and couldn't resist that either, nor "the Vorkosigan Companion". Fortunately the shop closed at that point before I needed to buy a wheelbarrow.

A narrow escape, but my bank manager still hates you.

#59 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 03:54 PM:

Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) #57: I worked with the original designers of WordStar (before they developed it). I wouldn't trust it as far as I could throw the IBM PC (original model) it was running on.

Well, many people who have worked in software development have a sense of how sausages are made, so to speak.

#60 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 05:38 PM:

I used WordPerfect back when it was DOS and stuck with it until the year that the local business college finally bowed to the inevitable and replaced it with that bug-ridden, counterintuitive THING known as Word.

WordPerfect was tested by secretaries. Word was tested by engineers. Word kept an incorrect spelling in its dictionary through multiple versions. When I presented letters written using Word business templates to a teacher of business English, she marked them all over in red ink. The formats are hard on the eyes and the Help file does not help. I had to use it at work for years, and with every boss, I had to explain yet again that no, the program did not really do what it said it did, that using the program defaults and wizards would not make his business look good, and so on, and so on. I love how it will accept the commands to (random example, can't remember exactly what tripped this anymore) paginate, format in columns, and insert a text box on page such-and-such, but only in a certain order, and if you ask it to do columns first and then try to put in page numbers it'll belch formatting all over the pages, and there is no warning in the documentation, and you can't use Reveal Codes to figure out where your formatting starts and ends, and AGH.

I can't afford WordPerfect at home, so I use OpenOffice. It's not as good, but I don't have to deal with Word's endless infuriating shortcomings. Not to mention the bugs.

#61 ::: K.C. Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 08:04 PM:

Jenny @60: WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS was the best word processing program I've ever used. It would do pretty much anything I needed it to do. I really really really miss Reveal Codes, too. Word shoves so much extra formatting in--I know it's there because it's messing stuff up, but I can't get at it to fix it.

#62 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 09:18 PM:

Cadbury Moose #58: This week has been my local library sale, I've been by twice. The first day, I got, inter alia, three of Debra & Jim's Mageworlds books, plus a couple of Robert Sawyer's books including WWW:Wake (that last was the only hardcover I got -- I usually don't have space for hardcovers). Today (half-price day), CDs and a few more paperbacks, plus some old kid's series books that will later be gifted to my nephews & niece. (Hardy Boys, Danny Dunn, and one I hadn't seen before -- Rick Brant.)

#63 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 11:05 PM:

Word has served me well enough for my journal these decades, the problems seeming to be mostly my own lack of knowledge, which I'm working on. I chose Word way back when because I had ideological differences with the people I thought made Word-perfect, and I went with the PC over the Mac because back then the Macs all had teeny tiny screens. I haven't investigated Open Office yet; there are certain features I need [insertion of pictures, drawing diagrams and shapes, and importation of fonts.] Too much other stuff going on.
As for Lulu...I don't do my buying online in the 1st place but had a bookstore order a couple for me [Cthulhu mythos/left Hand Path and runes], and was satisfied. Might get more some day, might not.

#64 ::: marc sobel ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 12:15 AM:

As soon as I saw the title of this post, I thought of the book I have on my shelf that I have never read The Passionate Accountant ISBN-13: 978-0373055579

Cover art http://g-ecx.images-amazon.com/images/G/01/ciu/4d/66/da9262e89da0e3555dd44110.L._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Just the title alone is worth it.

#65 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 12:26 AM:

There is a screamingly vile bug in OpenOffice.org 3.1's regular expression search/replace code -- I haven't looked for it in 3.2 -- that reduces me to foaming incoherent rage whenever I run into it.

(In a nutshell: you can group regexps egrep-style, and substitute the matched text into the "replace" string by using &1, &2;, and so on (where the numerical subscript denotes the order of the regexp group in the search expression). Unfortunately, every second replacement is a literal &1 string rather than the matched expression.)

I'd go digging for this and bug-report it but ISTR the OO.o folks are due to replace the regexp module with a rewritten-from-scratch one in an upcoming release, but it makes it really hard to write a simple macro to turn OpenDoc files into ReStructured Text.

#66 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 01:08 AM:

Worth mentioning, as an aside, is why Word doesn't have a "reveal codes" feature. The reason is that it doesn't have codes to reveal, in any readable way.

WordPerfect's "reveal codes" works very well, because WordPerfect internally represents the text as this single stream of data in which there are the letters you type, and mixed in with them are magic bits of data that tell it "start italics" or "stop italics" or whatever. It's really easy to display that to the user in a way that can be easily understood and even edited directly.

There are some reasons why it's not ideal for programming, though -- pick a random letter in the middle of the stream; quick, what format is it in? You have to pretty much look through the entire preceeding stream of text to figure out what format it's in.

So Word, by contrast, uses an entirely different way of internally representing text. IIRC, it represents things as nested chunks of text -- each chunk contains a stream of the text and links to other chunks embedded in it, and then there is associated data about the format that's applied to that entire chunk. All the text within a given chunk is the same format.

That means that, if you've got a paragraph of text and change a single word in the middle to italics, it will pull that word out into a separate chunk, set that chunk to be in italic font, and embed the new chunk in the paragraph chunk where the word was. (The rest of the formats on that chunk will say "whatever the parent chunk does" rather than repeating them, so if you later change the paragraph to bold, the italic word in the middle becomes bold, too.) Word is generally smart about recombining chunks if you do something like making the whole paragraph italics.

Anyway, that also explains one of the particular weirdnesses of Word. Suppose you make the whole document italics. Depending on how you do that, it might take the whole-document chunk and change its format to "italics". Or it might take the whole contents of the document and put them into a new chunk that's italics, and embed that in the document. Those both look the same -- but if you start typing at the end of the document, in the second case your typing will go outside that new chunk and won't be italics. Unless you went to the end of the document by a way that leaves you inside that chunk.

Anyway, that would be very difficult to show to the average user in a way that made any sense at all, so Word generally doesn't. With the latest versions of Word, you can save in a type of .docx file that's readable XML, and look at it. Just don't be expecting the angles to add up to 360 degrees, or to be retaining your sanity when you look at them.

#67 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 01:15 AM:

I write fiction using vi. (Well, honestly, I write anything but XML using vi if I can. XML I use oXygen.)

If I have to format the resulting plain text file, either it gets sucked into OpenOffice, reStructured Text, groff, or LaTeX, depending. (It would get turned into XSL-FO if there was a free XSL-FO processor worth the powder to blow it to hell, which, unfortunately, there is not.)

One of the cool things about OpenDocument (which is the XML format OpenOffice uses as an internal content representation) is that the "files" are zipped directories containing XML files. You can unzip them, and edit the innards with any decent XML editor, XSLT processor, or XML library (use libXML2; starting with it saves ever so much pain and lamentation), and zip them back together, and open them with Open Office again, if you like.

You can also use standard zip utilities on Open Document files, which means that the "what awful thing has the subject matter expert done to the styles?" problem becomes a matter of pounding the (carefully saved by itself) canonical styles.xml file into the Open Document file with zip commands. Anything truly clever will show up as the default style, which, glory be, you can search for.

It's nothing like as good as a real form/content separation system, which even Word Perfect no more than marginally approximated, but it has its virtues.

#68 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 01:40 AM:

K.C. Shaw @#61: I loved WP 5.1 for DOS too and carried it through as many software and hardware upgrades as my limited computer knowledge and funds would allow. Anyone who learned how to type on a typewriter (as opposed to keyboarding on a keyboard) could just slip right into using it. Wonderful program.

#69 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 01:07 PM:

OK, I have to confess something: one of the sites I hang out on is a gay porn portal. Went there for the pretty pictures; I admit it. But there are thousands and thousands of those, and I seldom visit them more than once each. This one has fora, and while they were originally designed for the discussion of porn, the usual process happened, and they've become a place where all sorts of things are discussed.

Of course, it IS about 95% gay men, and one thing nearly everyone there has in common is that they either like or don't mind gay porn. So the "gay stories" forum is mostly gay porn, and by Sturgeon's Law mostly pretty bad even for porn.

But now and then there are some stories that are pretty good. There's even one going on now that I think could be rewritten slightly and published as a YA novel (there are VERY few sex scenes in it after a couple of dozen short chapters).

Anyway, I wrote a story. I intended to write some paranormal porn, but the viewpoint character got hold of me, and I wound up not putting in any sex until Chapter Four. By then the viewpoint character's voice (120-year-old vampire—yeah, I know, but remember it was supposed to be porn when I started) was insistent, and I wound up writing the sex scene in a sort of close-enough-for-porn pseudo-nineteenth-century voice, which I didn't research or anything, because hell, no one on that site will notice if it's wrong.

The result was a sex scene that's quite explicit (you know exactly what's happening at every moment), yet indirect. Never a word that would be bleeped in Primetime, but almost nothing described could be shown on (American broadcast) television at any hour (as a hint, the "sword" metaphor is extended, with the narrator speculating on how his old fencing master would disapprove).

I would love to know if the scene would pass as a sex scene in a paranormal romance. Are there fans of the genre here who'd be willing to read it and tell me?

#70 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 01:12 PM:

Xopher, I'm not a *huge* fan of paranormal romance, exactly, but I love vampires, and I'm sitting over here in the slashfic corner. And I can certainly tell you whether it tallies with the Anita Blake or Merry Gentry sorts of thing. Send it my way, please? rikibeth at gmail dot com.

#71 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 01:32 PM:

Sent it, Rikibeth, with my thanks.

Any other takers? (I briefly thought of posting it here in ROT13, but instantly realized that probably would NOT be appreciated!)

#72 ::: Sharon Mock ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 01:36 PM:

Now you have me missing WriteNow for the paleoMac. (Again. As usual.)

These days I use Word because a) it's a standard; b) files transfer well between Mac and PC; c) its .rtf conversions are much better-behaved than OpenOffice's non-Euclidean horrors. Notice I don't say I like Word, only that I use it.

Also, speaking of OpenOffice and MacOS, NeoOffice is a much nicer port of the same.

#73 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 01:59 PM:

Anyone whose tastes in literary entertainment run to what Xopher's describing -- that is, paranormal romance, subcategory vampire, subcategory m/m: ASK HIM TO SEND YOU HIS STORY.

Then bug him to write more of it. It's good!

#74 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 02:14 PM:

Thanks Rikibeth.

I'm halfway through Chapter Five.

#75 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 03:19 PM:

Marilee @ 50:

The Wang Labs word processor was far ahead of its time. Too bad they couldn't figure out how to stay in business; it was years before I found anything even half as good for producing technical documents.

#76 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 03:59 PM:

Xopher @74: I'm carefully ignoring Bruce's comment at 75, so as not to seem 12yo, and offering my services as a beta reader. I think you already have my gmail address, but the aol address attached here will do just as well. I've read a fair amount of paranormal romances, although I wouldn't consider myself an expert.

Have I successfully avoided being 12? I'll never tell.

#77 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 05:41 PM:

K.C. Shaw @ 61:

Best option I've found is to cut the whole paragraph (sometimes more than one), paste into Notepad, paste back, then do the formatting I actually want. Works sometimes at least. In bad cases I've done this with the whole document and pasted it into a new, clean Word document, before adding any formatting I want in there.

#78 ::: Leroy F. Berven ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 06:31 PM:

Brooks Moses @ 66: "Just don't be expecting the angles to add up to 360 degrees, or to be retaining your sanity when you look at them."

Hmmmmm . . . is this a sign that Word was actually inspired by Azathoth and/or the rest of the Great Old Ones, or merely an indication of its particular suitability for invoking them?

#79 ::: Dr. Psycho ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 08:38 PM:

Xopher, me, too, please.

#80 ::: Dr. Psycho ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 08:40 PM:

Uhhhh... dr_psycho1960 at hotmail dot com, sorry about that.

#81 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 08:55 PM:

Sharon @72: NeoOffice was a nicer port of OpenOffice to the Mac ... except that since OO.o 3.0, OpenOffice proper has sported a native Aqua look and feel, rather than making you run it under X11. As of 3.2, it's overtaken NeoOffice in my estimation -- fires up faster, looks just as good, is ahead on features (as NeoOffice is forked off an earlier version of OpenOffice, with added NeoOffice-specific user interface tweaks).

#82 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 09:17 PM:

This is just to say


I have read
the plum
Xopher sent
in my mailbox

and which
you will probably
happily
be reading

Believe me
it was so tasty
so sweet
and so hot

#83 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 10:03 PM:

#69 Xopher

There are a number of epublishers that do GLBT m/m m/f/m etc. and expect the sex scenes to be explicit, if not demand it (e.g. Ellora's Cave, supposedly the largest X-rated commercial epublisher)

For that matter, there are mass market paperbacks out there from Berkeley Sensation or Heat by e.g. Emma Holly (e.g. Fairyville, and various other books, and there are other authors who have trade paperbacks from various publishers including Berekeley, with m/m explict scenes.... ) with explicit m/m scenes slotted in romance. It;s gotten to where people who don't want explicit scenes, have problems finding "sweet" romance novels to read!

From

http://www.jasminejade.com/docs/AuthorInfo.pdf

Ellora’s Cave Romantica® (erotic romances) must be both erotic and romantic.
~ The sexual relationship must be integral to and an important element of the storyline and the character development. Sex scenes should contribute to furthering the plot or affecting the development of the romantic relationship or the growth of the characters.
~ The story must include abundant and explicit sex and sexual tension, starting early and continuing throughout. Sex scenes must be described in graphic detail and explicit wording, not delicate euphemisms or purple prose.
~ The story must meet the definition of a romance novel: the primary focus must be on the development of a romantic relationship, and there must be an emotionally satisfying committed ending for the main characters.

http://changelingpress.com/submissions.php

Smash the Box!
With Changeling Press

Out of This World Erotic Love Stories Featuring Literary Erotic Novellas
Are your characters wild and wicked, your plots hot enough to require a fire-hazard warning? If the answer is yes, Changeling wants YOU.

Cyborgs, vampires, werewolves, dragon shifters, cat shifters, aliens, genetically altered alien cyborg dragon shifters... Chances are, they belong at Changeling.


http://www.liquidsilverbooks.com/guidelines.htm

Molten:
Intense heat/sexual interaction
Descriptive/explicit sex
BDSM/Fetish/Kink
Violence
Multiple partners
HFN or HEA
M/F w/ kink
GLBT - any heat level




#84 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 10:21 PM:

Mom let me know today that my brother has apparently gotten into the clutches of a Publish-America clone or maybe a faux agent.

Sigh. He really wanted his book published. And I have my doubts that it is even readable. And mom wants me to call him and talk about it. He obviously ignored my advice on "if they want money to read it, run away. If they want more money to 'edit it', run away faster."

I'm going to put it off until tomorrow (Monday) when I'm a bit more numb because of work. I don't want to get into it, and he IS 10+ years older than I am.

Heavy sigh.

#85 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 11:02 PM:

Is it time for Bulwer-Lytton yet?

#86 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 11:04 PM:

"What a beautiful cock."
- actual opening line for a romance novel

#87 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 11:08 PM:

She's a rich little old gal in her own name, Sheriff. Sole owner of the Millard Frymore Memorial Mining Company."
"You meanin' whoever marries her gets the mine?"
"Shaft and all!"

- an exchange between arry Morgan and James Garner about Joan Hackett in Support Your Local Sheriff

#88 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 11:53 PM:

Xopher, if it wouldn't be too much trouble, I'm interested, too. firstnamelastname at yahoo com.

#89 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 12:37 AM:

Dr. Psycho, sent.

Paula, thanks. I think I might be into the realm of euphemisms, though the descriptions are still explicit.

Cally, I got an error at that address: "This account has been disabled or discontinued [#103]."

#90 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 02:38 AM:

Leroy F. Berven @ 78: I don't think it's actually inspired by the Great Old Ones any more than any other software that's that large and old. They all get weird and disturbingly arcane in the middle, and the maps are generally full of blank areas labeled "Here There Be Dragons," and "Here There Be Things That Eat Dragons For Afternoon Tea." (This is not actually true; there are no maps. But this is what the maps would say if there were maps.)

The thing about Word's file formats is that ... well, when Word was first created, computers were slow, and it made things a lot faster to just take the contents of internal memory and dump them onto disk, raw. And the modern XML versions are not that far off of still doing that, because the last thing you want to do with a program like this is start changing the fundamental core ideas of how it works. So a lot of the squamous insides are right there where you could ill-advisedly read them.

#91 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 04:15 AM:

#86 Serge

http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=10726

My bonny moorhen, my bonny moorhen,
Up in the gray hill, down in the glen;
It's when ye gang butt the house, when ye gang ben,
Aye drink a health to my bonny moorhen.
My bonny moorhen's gane over the main,
And it will be simmer or she come again;
But when she comes back again, some folk will ken:
Joy be wi' thee, my bonny moorhen!

My bonny moorhen has feathers enew,
She's a' fine colours, but nane o' them blue;
She's red, and she's white, and she's green, and she's gray.
My bonny moorhen, come hither away:
Come up by Glenduich, and down by Glendee,
And round by Kinclaven, and hither to me;
For Ronald and Donald are out on the fen,
To break the wing o' my bonnie moorhen

#92 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 06:52 AM:

#83 Paula HFN or HEA

I didn't know what those stood for, and happily imagined several obscure paraphilias, until Google told me that stood for Happy For Now or Happily Ever After. Alas, still no market for my Hen (Bleep)ing, Nasty story.

#93 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 07:26 AM:

Paula Lieberman @ 91... when ye gang butt the house...

...do ye shed a tear?

#94 ::: Sharon Mock ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 02:08 PM:

Charlie @ 81: You're absolutely right about OSX OpenOffice 3.2. The last I'd looked at was 3.0.1, where the font rendering was still pretty ugly. (Though better than its predecessor, which was, IMO, completely unusable.) 3.2 is much nicer. And, though I haven't done extensive tests, it seems to be easier on my *ahem* less-than-canonical hardware.


Paula @ 83: So at Liquid Silver, no matter the heat, if it's GLBT it goes to the head of the Kink Line.

I just... I don't... I can't even begin.

#95 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 03:48 PM:

Ginger @ 76:

Oh, gowan! You know you want to. (I used to work with a guy who worked at Wang Labs for years. You can't possibly have come up with anything he and his colleagues hadn't already).

#96 ::: Leonid Korogodski ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 04:45 PM:

A book typeset in Word? Wow. Not InDesign?

#97 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 09:07 PM:

Bruce Cohen @95: First of all, it's too bad your entry wasn't number 96. Secondly, it was purely the result of the juxtaposition with Xopher's post that led me to those 12yo thoughts. Thirdly, I once was reading the telephone listings in Stillwater, Oklahoma and found the best listing of all: "Hung, Peter".

Yes, indeed.

#98 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 12:14 AM:

I've always liked The Naming of Parts, and it fit that piece of prose so well.

Well done.

#99 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 02:25 AM:

#94 Sharon

I was excerpting, to give examples to Xopher that there are commercial markets out there, paying rates typically that are royalty-based of around 35% of list download price, for m/m explicit erotica/romance with vampires and/or shapeshifters and/or elves and/or aliens etc. etc etc. The Liquid Silver designation of "molten" denotes non-"vanilla." Again, the run of the mill romance these days has sex scenes at a level of explicitness that would probably have gotten it bounced from the back corners of newstands where the porn was back in the 1960s....

Mainstream SF/F got away with a lot over the years, by using settings far away that weren't "real"--the same sort of thing involved in the Thousand Nights and One Night, written in Fustat (Old Cairo) but set in the location of faraway exotic Baghdad.... The misbehaviors and depravity of foreigners....

#100 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 07:59 AM:

Paula @99, I mentioned a couple of markets to Xopher, too, as I thought the story had good potential. I didn't have Circlet Press's exact guidelines to hand, but that was the first thing that came to mind for me.

#101 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 12:23 PM:

Xopher, more, more! Will you be sending more recent installments?

#102 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 04:23 PM:

Carol, yes, I have Chapters Five and Six done. Six is shading towards horror; it's essential to the plot, but not for the squeamish.

#103 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 04:25 PM:

Me at #58

muttergrumblesnarl: "the Vorkosigan Companion" turns out to be misbound and contains a signature (or two) of something by Christopher Anvil.

(Rummage)

Yerse: two signatures, pages 25 through 56 of TVC have been replaced by pages 27 to 58 of what appears to be War Games (which I need to get as well).

Oh well, I have to go back to the shop on Saturday anyway - maybe they have a correctly assembled version....

#104 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 04:34 PM:

I'm curious about Xopher's story, but know from experience that I really, really don't like vampires in erotica even if I like the author's other work.

But I will suggest that if he wants to look for markets, beyond the suggestions already made, he might check the author resources at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association

#105 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 04:36 PM:

Cadbury Moose @103:
two signatures, pages 25 through 56 of TVC have been replaced by pages 27 to 58 of what appears to be War Games (which I need to get as well).

Sounds like the beginning of a book I know.

#106 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 04:50 PM:

OtterB, you won't like it then. Even in the sex scene with no biting (the one I've written so far) the bite is highly conspicuous by its absence.

#107 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 04:58 PM:

OTOH, I suppose I could send you the story with "[SEX SCENE HERE]" instead of the sex scene. There's only a little leadup to it in the previous scene, and the two (so far) chapters following it are distinctly non-erotic backstory (almost horror).

#108 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 07:43 PM:

I am awed by the scope and imagination of Xopher's concept of the beast! Whoa! That's not canon...YAY. The stop-action visual invoked by the demise of one of the creatures was sensational. I almost got the stench as langiappe, but that's a place I'm grateful not to go.

I have read a lot of vampire stuff, and as much horror as I could get my grubby little paws on. This is top-grade.

With little interest in the guy-guy porn (and therefore not much grounds for comparison), it was still Victorian-hilarious.

#109 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 07:44 PM:

I suppose it should have been "CGI visual".

#110 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 09:10 PM:

Thanks Carol!

If anyone's interested in what Carol meant but doesn't want to read the porny parts, Chapters Five, Six, and Seven (Seven isn't written yet) a) could stand on their own and b) have no sex of any kind in them. There's one icky death, though.

#111 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 09:25 PM:

Xopher @106 - 107

I'm not your target audience for this one,alas. But it's not the sex scenes that make it so. Maybe next time.

#112 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 09:29 PM:

That's OK, OtterB. I actually would rather write this stuff than read it myself! And I write lots of other kinds of things (in fact I hardly ever write two things in a row of the same kind).

#113 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 10:59 PM:

Xopher, if I am not too terribly unknown, could I also ask to take a look at the manuscript? It sounds awesome, and now that I've cleared my latest beta read off my plate, I could read it without feeling like I'm neglecting someone else. fadeaccompli at a gmail address, if so.

#114 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 12:34 AM:

Ginger @ 97:

So Stillwater runs deep, eh?

#115 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 02:34 PM:

Good heavens, Fade, you've been here forever! You may not comment all that frequently, but I certainly recognize your name. I've sent it.

#116 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 02:45 PM:

Xopher: Me too, if you're willing (eloisebd is my username with yahoo).

I've written dark paranormal erotica, too, and people have read it and liked it. One recommended shopping it to Circlet, but I'm not sure how to take several short stories and surround them with just enough backstory/front matter to give needed context ...

#117 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 03:02 PM:

Elliott, sent.

I'm working on Chapter Seven now. It's going to be a while before this is a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end, if it ever is. For some of the markets it apparently would need more sex, for others less. I'll see what it winds up being as I go on with it.

#118 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 03:23 PM:

Thank you, Xopher!

(I sometimes feel rather small and inexperienced, when hanging out around Making Light. I mean, my villanelles are dreadful, and my sonnets nearly as bad. But everyone is so nice, I do try to remember to speak up once in a while.)

#119 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 04:06 PM:

Whereas I cannot write even the most dreadful villanelle. At all.

#120 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 04:42 PM:

Well, I'm a sex educator, and I write both smut and plotty stuff with a lot of sex in it.

I won't say that knowing quite a lot about sex in the technical sense doesn't come in damned handy if one wishes to write EXPLICIT sex and avoid howlers, because it does, but you can look that stuff up mostly, and handwave the stuff you can't.

At which point you'll realise that you were so busy calculating realistic ejaculate trajectory that you *forgot to count the hands*. ah-heh-heh-heh-oops-edit.

I suspect that writing good sex mostly requires you to know a lot about lust and desire. Your own, for sure, and other people's if you can find non-intrusive ways to find out.

I mean, plus general knowing how to write (and edit) stuff. And a reasonable willingness to let your id get all over the page to start with, and then as much as possible edit it back out again. If it never gets in there, you have a sex manual. If you LEAVE it all in there you have a highly specialist sex scene, at best. Possibly so specialist that it's of interest only to you. Plus, AWKWARD. :-)

And then you just accept that if 25 percent of your readers like that particular scene you did good, because really, aside from social stigma I suspect the main thing keeping smut from being truly mainstream is that I don't think most sexual squids exist in bestseller numbers.

I will note that focussing on internal processes rather than technical acts increases your possible audience, though. It's easier to find people who want to read about someone feeling like THAT and are happy to assume that THIS will get that character there than it is to find people who feel like THAT whenever they read about THIS. If that makes sense...

#121 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 05:15 PM:

Marna Nightingale #120: forgot to count the hands

That sounds like a viable premise for a Titanic spoof, where there ends up being one hand after another (including a gorilla hand, a classic clown glove, and a We're Number One foam hand) on the steamy glass.

#122 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 06:19 PM:

I cannot write a villanelle.
A poem would much improve this scene;
I heard this and I learned it well.

My characters embrace in hell
and whisper as they lie between
the sheets a truth they learned so well--

But here I stopped, my fingers fell
from keys, I fretted at the screen:
I cannot write a villanelle.

This demon needs a sharp farewell,
its words precise, the rhythm clean,
But no. I can't. I learned that well.

My characters are left in hell,
the cursor blinks on my machine.
I cannot write a villanelle.

It's not that I can't be obscene,
But this story won't be seen.
My demon wants a villanelle,
and I can't write the poems of hell.

#123 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 06:30 PM:

Fade #122:

Not a *damned* thing wrong with that!

#124 ::: LDR ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 06:34 PM:

Fade: that was great.

(Is it gauche of me to wish that Making Light had "like" buttons?)

#125 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 06:39 PM:

joann, the errors in form irk me somewhat--but I also determined by the point I noticed them that, given the premise of the poem, errors in form were not only justified but downright mandatory.

#126 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 07:13 PM:

#120 ::: Marna Nightingale: At which point you'll realise ... that you *forgot to count the hands*. ah-heh-heh-heh-oops-edit."

This suggests to me an lampshade for it... the viewpoint character¹ is center of a cluster, and at some point we see "... another hand began stroking across his shoulderblades -- wait a minute -- he opened his eyes and struggled to focus. Indeed, someone else had joined the group...." At which point the reader goes back to count, and sees, yep, that was the seventh hand (or whatever).

¹ Who should be previously noted as having natural numeric awareness -- perhaps even autistic-spectrum, though that viewpoint might be trickier than it sounds to write properly.

#127 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 07:40 PM:

Fade,

That was a perfectly good meta-villanelle. Nicely done.

#128 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 08:23 PM:

Fade, nice!

#129 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 08:32 PM:

Fade Manley #122: Nicely done.

#130 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 08:55 PM:

*beams* Thank you. I did have fun writing it. (And resorted rapidly to the rhyming dictionary online. How did poets ever write things before the internet was around?)

#131 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 10:03 PM:

Fade @ #130, I suspect, no, I know, that it took poets a lot longer pre-Internet.

#132 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 10:16 PM:

Earl @ 121, David @ 126:

Heh. Also, Zombies!

But actually it just happens insanely often, so I hardly even notice the comedic possibilities anymore. It's just "eh, extremity deployment error, lemme fix that".

#133 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 10:21 PM:

Again I mention the Tom Wilson Weinberg song "Threesome," which contains the line "while running your fingers through...whose hands are these?!?!"

#134 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 10:30 PM:

I can never see the word villanelle without thinking of Blofeld or Goldfinger.

#135 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 10:35 PM:

Marna #132: extremity deployment error

LOL!

Also, Zombies! ...or androids!

#136 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 11:48 PM:

Fade, #130: We bought hard-copy rhyming dictionaries, of course! I still have mine, although these days it's often faster to look things up online.

#137 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 01:22 AM:

Lee @ 136: I fondly recall spending free hours (or, okay, several free minutes) leafing through my father's enormous thesaurus. I especially loved the section that listed all sorts of different phobias. These days, I just use the thesaurus tab in the dictionary widget on my dashboard. Much faster, but it's lost some of the charm, and it's much harder to casually browse while waiting for inspiration to thud.

#138 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 01:39 AM:

Lists of different sorts of phobia (like lists of different ways to do divination) are sort of fun until you realize that they're little more than lists of Ancient Greek vocabulary.

#139 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 05:24 AM:

My dictionary widget hasn't got a thesaurus tab, Fade. Which widget have you? I'd like another widget for my digit.

LDR: perhaps as gauche as wishing for smilies.

(Although some of us secretly do.)

#140 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 07:24 AM:

David Goldfarb #138:

Lists of different sorts of phobia (like lists of different ways to do divination) are sort of fun until you realize that they're little more than lists of Ancient Greek vocabulary.

Ahem ... how is that less fun? I'll note that my high-school Latin drastically informed my English vocabulary, and Greek covers another 20% or so (to Latin's 60-70%).

#141 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 10:00 AM:

Fade: You are far from unknown. If you want to know the truth, I still felt a bit of a small creature for years. That with me being a pretty vocal commenter. I don't. quite, feel that way now. Now I just feel I am not taking quite enough part.

#142 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 10:57 AM:

I just feel I am not taking quite enough part.

I can agree with that. Everything of yours I read is informative and often very concretely useful to me; I wish you'd write more, but I probably would no matter how much you wrote!

#143 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 12:23 PM:

That list of phobias helped me enormously in the first semester of Greek, actually. I always find vocabulary the hardest part of learning a new language. And knowing a fair bit of Spanish did wonders for getting me through vocabulary lists in Latin.

...that said, I'd better get back to studying for my Latin exam this afternoon. Much as I'd rather write poetry in Latin than memorize lists of deponent verbs, I know which is more immediately useful.

Terry, Xopher, thank you both for the kind words. It makes me feel far brighter at the prospect of posting around here. I may still fumble my words now and then, but by golly, I'm not a stranger anymore.

#144 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 03:53 PM:

"Sexual squid" seems like a phrase I should know. I got to my flinch point in Google before finding anything useful. Clarify?

( ... it would certainly solve the "forgot to count hands" problem. )

#145 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 04:53 PM:

Squids in this circumstance mean, um. Viscerally-affecting things about a piece of literature one is writing. They will either grab the reader by the brainstem in an enthralling way (if they have the same squids as you) or, um. Cause great revulsion in the reader.

Also used in sentences like, "Um, (writer), your squids are showing again."

#146 ::: E. Liddell ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 08:06 PM:

Unless, of course, the material in question is Japanese tentacle porn, in which case the reference may also be literal.

(Um, hi. I'm even less known here than Fade--hardly surprising, since I don't think I've posted a dozen times, even though I've been lurking irregularly since Electrolite was a separate blog--so I didn't even bother inquiring of Xopher if he'd let me read his piece. And anyway, after a comment like the above, I might be better off slinking back into the woodwork for another decade or so...)

#147 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 09:57 PM:

E. Liddell #146: And anyway, after a comment like the above, I might be better off slinking back into the woodwork for another decade or so...

Not a chance. Suitable penance, however, might take the form of poetry. About tentacles. heh.

#148 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 10:07 AM:

Who'd think The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife
(An ancient drawing of amorous squid)
Would be a font of such fuss and strife
And cause work monitors to be hid?
For tentacle porn's achieved a life
All of its own. Off comes the lid.

I can't write villanelles, either, though I've experimented with sestina.

#149 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 06:01 PM:

Tentacle porn makes me furiously think
as the squid slides appendages out from its cape.
yet many a viewer will not even blink.

the viewer watches and doesn't shrink.
the victim writhes and tries to escape
Tentacle porn makes me furiously think

As porn, it's accepted with nudge and wink
tentacles circle and wrap like tape
yet many a viewer will not even blink.

Grabbed and held, and starting to sink
and just out sight is a maw agape
Tentacle porn makes me furiously think

Tumid and swirling right up to the brink,
the tentacles pull and poke and scrape,
yet many a viewer will not even blink.

And the tentacles wave in a cloud of ink
you can just make out the erotic shape
Tentacle porn makes me furiously think
yet many a viewer will not even blink.

#150 ::: E. Liddell ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 07:09 PM:

Is that a squid in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Seriously(?), though, I bow to the masters. Puns and the odd bit of prose I can manage, but extemporaneous versification is beyond me.

(And I think this makes post number 12 for me here.)

#151 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2010, 07:16 PM:

Talking squids in outer space
Whisper sweet nothings which no one can hear.
A tentacle's caress may leave a mark,
More gentle still than the nibbling shark.

Talking squids are not out of place
In the airless void, the celestial sphere.
Too clever by far to trick with a squid-sark,
But a Superconducting QUantum Interference Device just doesn't cut it for a romp at the water park...

#152 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2010, 02:05 AM:

The family was mortified, of course.
His wife surprised him, coming up behind
him quietly. She thought she wouldn't mind
If he was surfing porn, but this was worse.
He minimized the window, stammered out
Excuses: "Only once, it doesn't mean
A thing, and it just popped up on the screen!"
And then he turned all serious, the lout.
He straightened up his tentacles and said,
"I love you, but I love these women more.
I slip myself into their hidden caves
And Kraken-like, create such mighty waves
That they are shipwrecked, storm-tossed on their shore.
I dream at night of skin devoid of suckers
I'm one of them, my dear: the human-fuckers."

#153 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2010, 11:34 AM:

Spring rains flood the fields --
I stay indoors, clicking on
Tentacles and boobs.

#154 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2010, 11:34 PM:

phase 2

A tentacle's caress may leave a mark
In the airless void. The celestial sphere?
More gentle still than the nibbling shark:
"Whisper sweet nothings, Witch. No one will hear."

In the airless void, the celestial sphere,
Talking squids in outer space
Whisper sweet nothings which no one will hear.
Certainly they are not out of place.

Talking squids in outer space:
"A whale hunts in the lowering murk!"
Certainly they are not out of place:
The cephalopod knows just where to lurk.

A whale hunts in the lowering murk,
More gentle still than the nibbling shark.
The cephalopod knows just where to lurk:
A tentacle's caress may leave a mark.

#155 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 02:42 AM:

Oh noes! Preconception-subvertin' abi haz subverted mah preconceptions!

#156 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 11:03 AM:

156 heresiarch

All your preconceptions are belong to us.

#157 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2010, 03:45 PM:

abi wins the Golden Tentacle* for #152. heresiarch, I think it's on you now to write the final Godzilla/Cthulhu confrontation, as they fight over who gets Spock's Brain.

* Your award might take a little while to arrive, unless you're willing to accept a left-over Fickle Finger of Fate.

#158 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 07:02 AM:

On squamous sands, where blackened buboes lie
festering in the ever-present sun
I rest, beneath a crimson bleeding sky.

Craven horrors wait at visions edge, willing me to die
so that their tentacled young might have their fun
on squamous sands, where blackened buboes lie.

I crawl, remembering what it was to fly,
weak wings no longer yielding desperate thrum;
I rest, beneath a crimson bleeding sky.

Limbs fall-shattered, mouth wait-dry
I tremble with regret and wish my prideful spells undone
on squamous sands, where blackened buboes lie.

With other wrecks and remnants from on high,
half dreaming horrors faced and treasures won
I rest, beneath a crimson bleeding sky.

Although I fear and sense the beast draws nigh
and know that when it reaches me I'm done,
on squamous sands, where blackened buboes lie
I rest, beneath a crimson bleeding sky

Needs more tentacles and some humour, but it's my first ever attempt at a villanelle* so once I'd written it I figured I might as well post it ;)

*I think. If I've got the form wrong please do point it out!

#159 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2010, 09:27 AM:

New installment from Xopher is in! I can't ROT-13 on this borrowed computer and am not sure if my comments would count as spoilers.

Weird approach-avoid - I want to read the rest NOW but realize any writer doing great stuff needs to work it through and up.

So, (sob) take your time, Xopher.

#160 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 01:15 PM:

Carol@159, rot13.com will do that for you. (But I *really* miss the l33t-translator plugin for Firefox which I used to use for rot13; last I checked it hadn't been updated for the latest Firefox versions.)

#161 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 01:22 PM:

Bill Stewart @160: The Leet Key add-on has been updated to the current FireFox (3.6.3).

#162 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 01:35 PM:

@158--

very impressive!

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="http://www.url.com">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.















(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.