Sunday, May 27, 2018

Fixing the Novel

Hello! My name is TAS and I’m a perfectionist. Believe me, this is not an easy thing to be; if others find it difficult to live with me, I find it virtually impossible to live with myself much of the time: no one suffers from the perfectionist’s obsession more than the perfectionist themself. Nowadays the term “obsessive-compulsive” is bandied about so carelessly as to be devoid of any clinical significance, but there is, no doubt, a powerful strain of obsessive-compulsion in perfectionism—if, in fact, the two terms aren’t actually synonymous. The thought that there might be a mistake somewhere in my work—even a tiny one—is enough to keep me awake at night, and I will do whatever it takes to fix problems that do come to light, even years after publication.

So it is with my most recent foray into fiction: The Seven Seductions: A Novel was published in February of this year, and has, to date, gone over with all the grace of a gaudy lead balloon. As far as I can tell, no more than five people have actually purchased a copy. Of these, it appears nobody has bothered finishing the book, and no one who starts reading seems to get much further than about page 80. (I am basing this on statistics from the Kindle Unlimited program.)

It would be easy to cry sour grapes or dismiss this failure as a case of readers not sharing the author’s “brilliant vision”. But that’s bullshit, and I know it. The problems with the book lie squarely with me. I tried readers’ patience, confused them almost from the opening sentence, and wasted their time endeavoring to demonstrate my own cleverness, offering a surfeit of unnecessary detail and unsolicited opinion.

I see this all now with the mad rush to complete The Erotic Writer’s Thesaurus behind me. In the “down-time” that has followed, I’ve cast about for work to do, and recognized an opportunity to go back over the novel in order to address its most serious issues. I strongly believe in this story, and want to share it with readers. I am convinced that the fixes I’m making will result in a much more rewarding reading experience, a book truly worthy of its story. 

Some of the book’s problems were pointed out to me when I  submitted it to an editor. (Still under the gun with work on the EWT to do, I thoughtlessly shrugged off some of these concerns.) Perhaps the most serious problem was a sense of temporal confusion, the story leaping back and forth in time without preparing readers for the jumps. Generally, I tried to alternate chapters between the past and the present, but, particularly in the first chapter, the temporal ambiguity was rampant and off-putting.

I have re-written the first chapter to focus it more clearly on a single point in time, with an emphasis on action, and setting up the basic “problem” of the story—the initiating event. I have gone through the book to identify and fix (or delete) other passages that might similarly confuse readers.

Other problems: again, near the beginning, the book had too many long, digressive passages aimed at elucidating, explaining or “justifying” the characters and their actions. Some of these passages have been redeployed to later parts of the book, where they appear in a more natural context.

Certain references in the novel would frustrate readers who had no way of picturing what was being talked about. All references to Arthur Rackham's Illustrations for Wagner's Ring have been removed, and references to the operas have been re-cast in more general, accessible terms. 

I’ve also tried to identify scenes or sections of dialogue that do not move the story forward. I have deleted about 8,000 words so far, including an entire chapter, to better concentrate the storytelling, and keep things moving. The Seven Seductions is still a fairly long novel at aproximatly 110,000 words, but in the end, I hope, it will be a much better—more memorable—book for these efforts.

[UPDATE 6/6/18: After one more pass through the book, I have eliminated another 1000 words, spruced up or deleted a few "worrisome" passages, and, generally, made the story a lot more concise and to the point.]

[UPDATE 6/21/18: It's done! The revised version of the novel is available in both paperback and Kindle e-editions.]

Forbidden Books

It all started when Gretchen’s sister discovered the dusty old Schwarzbuch upstairs in the attic. A witch’s black book of spells—Lord knows where it had come from. Dawn sure as hell hadn’t asked when she started fooling around with the thing, rattling off the coupled rhymes like punchlines in a jokebook. Innocent enough… until another voice began to speak, reciting the lines with her in disembodied unison. An acrid burning smell filled the air, as something—a brooding presence—took up residence in the girls’ room.
Even after all these years, Gretchen could still see the spectral outline of the thing her older sister had unwittingly awakened, the curve of its back illuminated like the sliver of a crescent moon. Livid handprints had bruised Dawn’s pale inner thighs as the creature held her legs apart, her belly rippling beneath its invisible weight like waves of wind-kissed wheat. And Dawn had been beside herself, caught somewhere between heavenly delight and unspeakable hellish terror, biting the inside of her lip so as not to cry out and wake their father in the next room.
Nor could Gretchen ever forget the way Dawn appeared afterwards, lying there naked, breathless, wanton, her flesh aglow, eerily transfigured by the demon’s lust. There in the gloom, Dawn had assumed the guise of a wayward angel, a creature reflecting the infravisible light of another world.
“It’s amazing, Gretch,” she kept murmuring as if in a trance, “just amazing… amazing… amazing…”
Bad enough if that were all, but The Nameless One had set its deathly eye on the younger sister from the start, and Gretchen’s life would never be the same. The demon had seen something in her that night, discerned potential the way a teacher intuits a spark of brilliance in a promising student, something dark and restless like itself, yet even more potent for the very flesh that contained it and fed it unceasingly. Was it her vulnerability—her doubt—that drew the creature to her? Or had her heart called out to the shadows, her desires, so long denied, like a magnet, irresistible to the darkness at the demon’s core?
The entity had been relentless in its pursuit, dogging the younger sister, stalking her, spying on her, finding her wherever she tried to hide. “You are mine,” the creature declared, and Gretchen could feel its hot breath like a breeze out of Hell rustling the delicate hairs on her neck, its voice low and harsh in her ear, pouring out an endless litany of seduction, hungry—so insatiably, urgently hungry—for her. The demon’s nightly entreaties were tinged with a weary impatience, as if it were an effort to keep its appetites in check or mask its true intentions, the petulance and cruelty that filled its unhuman heart.
At other times the incubus would try to court her, leaving small gifts under her pillow or in her “secret place” in the garden shed, odd tokens to entice her, little polished stones, agates, amethysts and quartz, gaudy glass beads and loose pieces of jewelry that Gretchen could never be caught wearing in public, pins and broaches, unmated earrings, delicate silver chains. Even books—these frightened her most of all because she could not resist them, and the demon, itself being an entity born of a book, seemed to know precisely what she wished for. Gretchen had always loved to read, though it was considered a frivolous pastime in her father’s house.
The creature still came to Dawn nearly every night, filling her head with erogenous longings, dreams of lust, seduction and surrender, or, sometimes, taking her outright as she slept. Unable to move or speak, Gretchen could only watch as The Nameless One lifted her sister off the bed, carrying her nearly all the way to the ceiling. Dawn would moan dreamily, her naked body suspended nearly eight feet above the floor, born up by invisible arms about her waist, breasts pointing skyward, head lolling back, hair streaming down like a golden waterfall. The creature seemed to make a show of manipulating her limbs, twisting and contorting her body into strange positions, all the while fondling, touching, caressing… more. And after the phantom had sated its need—amused itself with this bizarre airborne ballet—Dawn would appear to float back down to the bed. The incubus would lay the still-sleeping girl beside her sister, pulling the covers up over them, gently tucking them in.
A slave to dread her whole life, no fear had ever been greater than the one Gretchen knew on those terrible nights; the thought that somewhere, deep down in the dark reaches of her soul was a dormant seed of desire, a part of her that wanted to be ravished, taken and used the way The Nameless One had taken her sister. A part of her that wanted, truly, desperately, madly, against all she had ever been taught—against all she had ever believed—to say yes.

Gretchen had grown up to become a nun. The demon had been silent since the day Sister Mary Chastity took her solemn vows. Nearly seven years now, yet the memories still haunted her. And were those same feelings still calling out to the creature, drawing it like a beacon to her bed in the hallowed silence of the night? “My love…” the demon’s voice was a dry, rasping hiss like the far-off rustle of dead leaves. “Remember the bargain you made...” The thing hovered above the bed, its presence a perplexity, like the image of a starless night sky reflected in an ink-black pool, the surface disturbed from time to time by subtle undulations, tiny ripples, barely perceptible, belying an illusion of perfect stillness. She sensed its attention, its eyes, cold, lifeless, legion, hidden yet undeniably there within that veiling cumulus of gloom. Felt its gaze consuming her like something crawling underneath the skin, feeding on her fear, its hunger boundless, insatiable.
“Remember your promise...” The incubus fondled her breasts and inner thigh, probing and pressing through the soft linen of her nightdress. The creature had never taken such liberties with her before, and when he cupped her mound in his leathery palm and squeezed, Gretchen knew that her body had betrayed her, responding on its own in spite of all her saintly aspirations, swelling and budding, a million dormant nerve-endings awakened all at once as the first searing trickle of moisture invaded her folds.
Invisible claws tore at the front of her gown, rending it from neckline to hem. The crucifix between her blushing breasts rose slowly into the air, as if drawn by some ineluctable magnetic force, sparking and poring smoke before being torn roughly from around her neck. Phantom mouths, hot and moist, closed around her pebbling nipples, both at once, while still another claimed her clitoris, all three working in fiendish concert, sucking hard and fast. The breath was pushed from her lungs as the thing itself bore down, while something hard and smooth and cool like sculpted glass was slowly dragged across her mound. The rounded tip traced the curve of her opening, tilling the dewy furrow of her woman’s lips, pressing insistently against her clitoris with each impatient pass.
She closed her eyes tightly, preparing herself for what must surely happen next. There would be no escape this time—escape had never been a possibility. This consummation had been inevitable from the moment Dawn read the words in that awful book. Gretchen had always known that it would come, though she had dreaded it no less intensely, fought it no less fiercely. Yet now Mary Chastity wondered if it might not be better simply to surrender and be done with it. Would The Nameless One then at last leave her in peace?
“God forgive me.” The young nun bowed her head, but not in prayer. Gathering her resolve, her lips silently formed the word that had waited, poised on the knife-edge of her dreams through a lifetime of longing and loneliness. She whispered it a second time, questioningly, as if trying to convince herself. And then she said it aloud, the word her sister had spoken in another place and time. The word that would damn her soul for all eternity.
Sister Mary Chastity held her breath.
Hands invisible hoisted her from the bed, making room to remove the remnants of the ruined nightgown. The ghostly mouths encircling her nipples and clitoris let go abruptly as a billion simultaneous kisses lighted on her skin from all directions, touching her everywhere at once. A roar of release boiled up from her core like the furious chain reaction that follows an earthquake under the sea. Mary Chastity threw her head back as she rode the tidal wave, mouth open wide in wonder, though no sound escaped her lips. She arched her middle, shoving her pelvis up and up as she threw herself into the demon’s embrace.
The unseen hands held her spread-eagle in midair above the bed, her long legs splayed wide apart, her thighs open and ready. The Nameless One thrust forward in a single earthshattering stroke and, in that moment, he was all around her, enveloping her body like a halo of dark matter.
“My God!” Mary Chastity cried out as the darkness began to absorb her. But it was a cry of surrender, an orison of ecstasy.
The monster bulled forward. Merciless in his terrible hunger, he drove at her again and again, tearing her flesh, battering the walls of her womb. And suddenly his white hot seed was spilling into her, flowing like molten brimstone, melting her loins, vaporizing her organs, filling the hollow interstices of her soul. She cried out again, screamed with all her failing strength, something that might have been a prayer, before the final vestige of consciousness was absorbed into the void.
“Forgive me!”
The words returned to her across an abyss of nightmares—dark distances impossibly vast—her own screams echoing through the ether like misremembered music, tormented melodies, garbled and twisted, ground out on some backward-cranked barrel organ.
Am I... am I… am I... “naked?”
Sister Mary Chastity started up on the bed, coughing herself awake. Her throat was dry, tight and sore, its spasming cords strained in protest against the ghost of a notion—the uncanny sense memory of something that simply could not be, though it had seemed so real only a moment before. She could still feel the pitiless, claw-like things that scraped her flesh, the cold, stony pinions crushing her windpipe as she came…
Mary Chastity lifted a hand to her neck, anxious to reassure herself that nothing was there. And nothing was. “Jesus, Mary, and—” She was naked. Naked and wet, loins flooded with unbidden arousal. Her nipples, too, were stiff and sharp, puffed up extravagantly as if someone had trailed a cold hand across her breasts.
“Oh dear God! He’s found me again…”
A chill of apprehension coiled through her veins, a rush of recognition. She had known this horror before, this strange infusion of dread and fascination. Remember your promise... The creature’s parting words still hung on the air like the scorching stench of ozone, though the thing that had ravished her in her dreams was gone, if only for the moment.
Sister Mary Chastity had little doubt that it would soon return. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Official Launch of 'The Erotic Writer's Thesaurus' paperback edition!


The Erotic Writer's Thesaurus (
(also available in the UK, here)

With over 10,000 entries and more than 1,800 examples of words in ‘real-world’ context, ‘The Erotic Writer’s Thesaurus’ is the most thorough, in-depth, serious reference of its kind. Besides all the expected “obvious” words—with long lists of creative substitutes—users will also find entries representing a wide range of gesture and emotion, words to establish erotic context and setting including common expressions, expletives, “swear words” and insults with “clean” alternatives, plus many antiquated or obsolete words  and phrases of value to writers of erotic historical narrative.

The Erotic Writer’s Thesaurus differs from “traditional” reference books of this type in two significant ways. In most thesauruses, word lists are arranged hierarchically, that is, synonym lists will first show the nearest alternatives to the entry (headword) followed by more remotely-related words, all regardless of alphabetization. In almost all earlier thesauruses, headwords were arranged so as to reflect an editor’s judgment about which forms of a word were most common or useful, thus, a word like “exact” might be presented first as an adjective, and then as a verb, while in the same book,“advance” might be presented first as a noun, than as a verb, and then in its adjectival form “advanced”. All synonym lists in the EWT are arranged in strict alphabetical order. Where a word may belong to several parts of speech, those variants are always presented in the same order: verb, noun, adjective, adverb or preposition. Some words or phrases also function as intensifiers, interjections, or colloquial expressions, and these functions are indicated as appropriate. There are some words that defy synonymization, and so, occasionally, ‘The Erotic Writer’s Thesaurus’ also functions as a dictionary, offering brief definitions, which may be used as a starting point for more in-dpeth research.  

Praise for The Erotic Writer’s Thesaurus:

Believe me, if you write erotica or hot romance, you need this book
Janine Ashbless, author of ‘Named and Shamed’

Aside from its obvious utility, the tremendous fun of this thesaurus is in simply browsing its thoroughness: who knew the Yiddish word for buxom? That one of the many terms for having sex is “playing the blanket hornpipe”? So many possibilities...

LN Bey, author of ‘Blue

A landmark work, this is the last word—or rather the last 10,000 words!—in erotic vocabulary reference books
Jeremy Edwards, author of ‘The Pleasure Dial’

…an amazing achievement…‘The Erotic Writer’s Thesaurus’ is a major work of reference that also manages to be highly entertaining… It’s an aid to reading as well as writing; if you come across a term that puzzles you, just look it up here. And for we writers, whether or not we write erotica, chances are we can do it even better with the help of Terrance Aldon Shaw’s book.  

Sacchi Green, editor of the ‘Best Lesbian Erotica’ series
Every writer should have a copy of The Erotic Writer's Thesaurus on his or her virtual desktop. Not just for the writer of erotica; if sex or the erotic enters your work in any fashion, you will find this reference invaluable and just plain fascinating.
D. L. King, editor of ‘The Harder She Comes: Butch/Femme Erotica’

A truly invaluable resource, and an incredibly useful tool for my writing. I genuinely believe that this will be one of the most useful titles an aspiring erotic fiction author can purchase
Ashley Lister, author of ‘How to Write Erotic Fiction and Sex Scenes’

At last! The thesaurus I've been waiting for! Not only a definitive guide to word usage for authors of erotic fiction, but easy to navigate and brimming with inspiration for making more adventurous vocabulary choices. A must-have for veterans and new writers alike. I've no doubt that this has been a labour of love in its creation; a labour for which I'm hugely grateful.
Emmanuelle de Maupassant, author of ‘The Gentlemen’s Club’

With the American public’s appetite for erotica on the rise, Terrance Aldon Shaw’s The Erotic Writer’s Theraurus gives writers the language and creativity to publish successfully. Erotica involves risk, challenge, and non-conformity. “One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things,” Henry Miller once wrote in Big Sur. This book allows authors to conjure words, to transform them into something powerful and magical. It should definitely be included on the reference shelf of any writer of erotica serious about their craft.”
Cole Riley, author of ‘Making the Hookup: Edgy Sex with Soul’
editor of ‘Too Much Boogie: Erotic Remixes of Dirty Blues’
(Making The Hookup, Too
A delight for all lovers of words and a must-have for smart erotica writers in search of the mot juste.
Donna George Storey, author of ‘Amorous Woman’

(also available in the UK, here)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

New on-line version of 'The Erotic Writer's Thesaurus'

Today, EftBB launches a brand new, fully updated on-line version of The Erotic Writer's Thesaurus a few days ahead of the publication of the unabridged print edition (available Tuesday, May 22, 2018 (see below)). As before, this free, abridged on-line edition is available to everyone. More comprehensive and consistent than the earlier version, the new on-line EWT is divided into two pages:

The old EWT page got its 10.000th hit yesterday (5/12/18), so this seems like an appropriate time to launch the new version.

Watch for the print edition,
Coming quickly to your favorite book-seller!

With over 10,000 entries and more than 1,800 examples of words in ‘real-world’ context, ‘The Erotic Writer’s Thesaurus’ is the most thorough, in-depth, serious reference of its kind. Besides all the expected “obvious” words—with long lists of creative substitutes—users will also find entries representing a wide range of gesture and emotion, words to establish erotic context and setting including common expressions, expletives, “swear words” and insults with “clean” alternatives, plus many antiquated or obsolete words  and phrases of value to writers of erotic historical narrative. For all serious writers, editors, and fans of adult genre and literary fiction.

Available Tuesday, May 22, 2018
through Amazon and Createspace,
All other seller shortly thereafter.
510 pages, 8.5 x 11, double columns, featuring 10-point fonts.
 (Note that most dictionaries feature between 4- to 6-point type)
$22.50 USD

Availability of other formats TBA