Let’s Talk Shop: Evoking Imagery

All Mad Here  200x300Guest blog by Brantwijn Serrah, author of All Mad Here

Imagery. By golly, imagery is one of my all-time favorite literary devices. I’ve been told I have a very “immersive” writing style, because when I get on a kick with imagery, I can go on forever. My editor has even had to cut down some of my imagery, to keep the story moving.

Imagery is defined in the dictionary as “the formation of mental images, figures, or likenesses of things, or of such images collectively: the dim imagery of a dream.” A creative writing teacher of mine once added a very important detail to this description, and I have taken it deeply to heart. The teacher told us that imagery appeals to all the senses.

Many times I read authors who forget about three of the five senses. Usually, sight and sound imagery are easy to come by. We won’t bother discussing them today. Touch gets a bit more screen time than taste or smell. I, however, try to utilize at least three, if not more, of the senses in any extended description. In erotica, this is both extremely immersive, and fun.

Smell

Scent and smell can be some of the sexiest images utilized in erotic fiction. The way a man smells of cigars or of a woodsy cologne. Go look up some men’s colognes and imagine the scent you interpret from the description: is it mellow or crisp? Mild or strong? The scent of skin—even sweaty skin—can be tantalizing as well. Most literary erotica I read contains a reference to the smell of a person’s sex…and I find it very hot. A few good words for describing smell can be “delicate” (nice for people wearing perfume or something like baby powder), “sweet” (definitely good for perfume wearers or very tender, more innocent characters), “exotic” (this one usually needs a modifier; exotic like what? Tropical flowers? Incense? Opium smoke?), “sharp” (someone recently involved in exercise or sheened with sweat, or also a good one for someone aroused), or “mellow” (think of someone wearing a milder, subtler scent or recently bathed with vanilla body wash).

These are only a few examples to get you thinking about smell, of course. Smells should match character as well as circumstances: someone just out of a hectic fight scene is probably not going to smell like roses. That doesn’t mean they can’t have a scent which is somehow attractive or arousing; sweat and body heat can cause a very primal reaction in potential mates.

Smell is one of the most evocative senses we have. You can create a very organic reaction in your readers with even a one-sentence image appealing to the sense of smell. For more examples, try searching online for suggestions on wine-tasting or coffee-tasting (yes, tasting). I find they can be powerful descriptors, and in many cases, the smell of wine and coffee play a big role in describing its character. Just as it should be for your characters.

Taste

Lips, skin, fingers, breasts and sexy southward regions all have a taste. When you’re writing erotic romance it had better be a pleasant taste, but keep in mind that many, many different kinds of taste can be pleasant. Some folks have complained about the description of “salty“; I personally find it incredibly sexy and true-to-life, when describing skin, especially if a person has recently engaged in activity or exertion. Other ways to describe it, of course, are “sweet” (wonderful description for someone freshly showered or conscientiously prepped for something like a date or a formal appearance), “bittersweet” (a more “au naturel” description), “earthy” (also “au naturel”, good for characters who are more rugged or less prone to gussying themselves up), or “savory” (I find this one to be a more masculine descriptor, though that doesn’t mean it is only appropriate for men). I also think a person can be described as “tasting hot” or “of heat“. If you’re talking about pheromones as part of your sensual description, I think “piquant” or “spiced” are good words.

Just like with the sense of smell, you can find good ways to describe and interpret taste by looking up wine-tasting. Some of the most evocative words I’ve ever found come from those descriptions. It can also tell you how taste affects the “character” of something. I wouldn’t describe a femme fatale character or a James Bond type as tasting “sweet” like cupcakes are sweet, though they could be “sweet” like spice cake is sweet.  Remember modifiers as well: “her lips tasted of frozen raspberries” has different connotations than “her lips tasted of fresh raspberries”.

Touch

One can never downplay the importance of the physical sensation of touch! Especially in erotic romance, the type of touch, pressure, texture and emotion of touch are paramount to good, immersive imagery. The way someone touches you, as well as the feel of their contact, can significantly guidethe tone of a sex scene.

What is the character of a touch? How does the toucher feel towards the touchee? A “soft“, “tender” or “gentle” touch is good for lovemaking, sweet romance scenes. A “hard grip“, “rough” or “demanding” touch is good for rougher sex or BDSM. Of course, those are easy to determine. So how about texture?

Texture greatly affects sensation, and both create deeper character of the image. Consider how a rough or callused hand might feel as it caresses your skin. Feelings that come to mind for me are “rasping“, “warm” (like a deeper inner heat transferring from skin to skin), or “firm“. In contrast, consider a smaller, more delicate hand. I consider this sort of touch to be “fleeting“, “soft“, “cool” (less body heat transfer from lighter touch), or “teasing” (think of the sensation of slender fingertips lightly brushing your skin).

A touch can make your skin “tingle” or “ache” or “yearn“. These are the inner sensations that result from a certain type of touch (as well as outside factors such as environment or tone of the interaction). Other good words for internal reactions might be “sting” (good for BDSM scenes), “heat” (think blushing or flushing with desire), “swell” (use this one correctly and you’ll evoke a sense of rushing pleasure, not a physical swelling as in from an injury, like a broken ankle), or “thrill” (another good one for rushing/climbing pleasure, a bit briefer and quicker a sensation).

Synesthesia

Another of my favorite literary devices is synesthesia, and I think it ups the ante on descriptive sensual imagery. The dictionary definition of synesthesia is “a sensation produced in one modality when a stimulus is applied to another modality, as when the hearing of a certain sound induces the visualization of a certain color.”  An easier way of thinking of it is, when you use a descriptive modifier for one of the five senses to describe something perceived by a different sense. “This tastes blue” is one my husband recently used, to describe a particular kind of candy. It solicited some giggles among us but he was right: the only way I can think of to describe the taste of that particular candy was blue.

This is where I get some of my descriptions such as “she tasted the heat of his skin” or “his hand moved like a melody along my skin“.  A very common use of synesthesia that we don’t really think of is when we say something “looks delicious“.

I find synesthesia to be extremely powerful in use with imagery. It can seem strange at first but if you get a little poetic with it, it’s amazing.

Don’t neglect the emotional and evocative power of sense imagery, and don’t forget we have five senses, not just two. As you conceptualize a scene, close your eyes and try to really experience the things your characters are hearing, smelling, touching, feeling. Create a whole, surround-sound experience for your readers.

Practice with this. I guarantee it will kick things up a notch.

bserrahBio:

When she isn’t visiting the worlds of immortals, demons, dragons and goblins, Brantwijn fills her time with artistic endeavors: sketching, painting, customizing My Little Ponies and sewing plushies for friends. She can’t handle coffee unless there’s enough cream and sugar to make it a milkshake, but try and sweeten her tea and she will never forgive you. She moonlights as a futon for four lazy cats, loves tabletop role-play games, and can spend hours watching Futurama, Claymore or Buffy the Vampire Slayer while she writes or draws.

Brantwijn has published two full-length erotic novels with Breathless Press: Lotus Petals and Goblin Fires. In addition to these, Brantwijn has had several other stories published by Breathless Press, including contributions to the 2013 Crimson Anthology and 2014 Ravaged Anthology.  She’s also had a short story published in the Cleiss Press Big Book of Orgasm and the anthology Coming Together Through The Storm. She hopes to have several more tales to tell as time goes on.  She has author pages on GoodReads and Amazon, and loves to see reader comments on her work. Her short stories occasionally pop up at Foreplay and Fangs, her blog at http://brantwijn.blogspot.com.

Excerpt from Brantwijn’s New Release, All Mad Here:

Nineva and Nerissa have planned a big surprise for Finn’s twenty-first birthday. Before he knows it, Finn finds himself in a version of Wonderland, racing the Red and White Queens for his fondest birthday wish—of course, his Ladies can’t know his true desires…can they? Will he best the Red Knight, find the White Rabbit’s missing token, outsmart the Cheshire Cat, and win his princesses, before he gets turned into a sheep?

“You are almost free,” Nineva said. “But alas, for riddle number three.”

Finn had no worries. The first answer had been tied to Spring and Autumn, the second to Winter. She had but one Court left to draw from.

Nineva swept up close to him.

“What did my sister give you, which I now wish for you to give to me?”

“Wait, what?” he asked.

She seized him, pulling him to the grass with her, drawing him into a kiss. Finn flailed a moment, caught off-guard, but he planted his hands on either side of her, holding himself above her. The erection Nerissa had stirred to life became rather obvious between them.

“Bloody hell, lass! What do my Ladies mean by all this?”

“Finn,” she said. Her hand stole down, sneaking to his groin, where she teasingly caressed him.

What did my sister give you, which I now wish for you to give to me?”

He stared.

“Nina,” he whispered. “The rules of this game are…very unclear to me.”

“Ah, well…allow me to make them clearer,” she said.

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The Mad Hatter was Framed! (Or Ten Things I Never Knew about Alice in Wonderland)

Reclaiming the Rabbit Hole 200x300Guest blog by Torie James, author of Reclaiming the Rabbit Hole

#1 The author, Lewis Carroll, whose real name is Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was very meticulous and had this habit of making lists and keeping records of everything that he did. He even kept records of all the letters that he wrote – a total of 98,721 letters, from January 1861 until his death in 1898!

#2 Mock Turtle soup IS REAL! It was a popular dish in Victorian times. It was made from parts of a calf.

#3 Alice Liddell is the little girl who inspired this story.

#4 In the 1930s Alice in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass, were banned from publication in China because the Chinese authorities objected to the animals in the story talking like humans.

#5 Before it was called Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the author named it Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. (The characters in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland called it Under Land.)

# 6 Did you know there is a special day which celebrates silliness called Mad Hatter’s Day? It’s celebrated on 10/6 (10th June in Great Britain, 6 October in the US), after Tenniel’s (the illustrator) illustration of the Mad Hatter’s hat which says 10/6, although it is thought that 10/6 was actually the price of the hat (ten shillings and sixpence in old English money.)

#7 There is an actual mental disorder named AIWS (Alice in Wonderland Syndrome). It’s a disorienting neurological condition that affects human perception. Sufferers may experience micropsia, macropsia, or size distortion of other sensory modalities. A temporary condition, it is often associated with migraines, brain tumors, and the use of psychoactive drugs. Eat Me and Drink Me? No thank you!

#8 In 1998, Lewis Carroll’s own copy of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was sold at auction for $1.54 million to an anonymous American buyer, making it the most expensive children’s book ever sold at the time!

#9 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland actually tanked on release! The book received poor reviews and didn’t gain popularity until the publication of “Through the Looking-Glass”.

#10 Alice Liddell, the young girl Carroll used as his muse for his Alice was actually a brunette with short bangs!

So tell me, Dear Reader…if you could, would you take a tumble down a Rabbit Hole?

Book Blurb: Reclaiming the Rabbit Hole

One lost world. A dreamer full of secret sins. A man running out of options. Tick tock goes the tinker’s clock when delusions mirror illusions.

Madly erotic and impossible dreams have turned Edee Carroll’s waking hours into an embarrassingly nightmarish reality. Carnal passion and a curious nature lead her through the doorway of a doctor specializing in her problem. There are some doors that should never be opened and when the road is paved with crooked desire and dangerous secrets, it doesn’t matter which direction the truth leads. Time is running out and there’s a thin line between satisfaction and suffering.

Buy: Wonderland Tales

Excerpt:

She smelled of pure arousal, the spicy scent filling his head with hunger and a potent need to devour her with greed. Oh, Harey had been right about this one. Despite her plain face and boyish body, she harbored a vast, untapped libido he and the others could live on for a couple years to come until nothing remained but the fragile husk of her delicate humanity. No mind, no soul, merely a vessel of hollow madness.

We’re all mad here.

Find Tori James on Amazon

Torie James lives in Southern California physically but spends more time inside her head where the voices are real, the dreams are bright and the stories keep unfolding. Ms. James’ debut novel, “Timeless Night” hit the public in September 2013. If you want to follow along on the bumpy Whirl-a-gig that is her life, you can follow along at: https://www.facebook.com/WriterGurl216
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The Challenge of Limits

The Queen’s Heart 453x680Guest post by Jo March, author of The Queen’s Heart

Hi there,

I’m so excited to be here today to promote something new. In August, Breathless Press is turning five and in celebration of their birthday, they commissioned a range of Flirts based on the characters from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. It certainly sounded like it could be a lot of fun and so I decided to try my hand at it.  I’m far more comfortable writing longer stories, but sometimes “stretching” yourself actually means limiting yourself.  The challenge, was to craft a story with a range of emotions and a full arc in 2,000 – 10,000 words. For many, this would seem simple enough, but I have a tendency to write long, descriptive passages and I knew that this wouldn’t work for a short.

The next challenge was to figure out what I would write about.  After all, we all know the story of Alice, we’re familiar with the characters and the basic storyline… what on earth was I going to do with it? Throw it out. Take the cast and re-imagine them in new roles, stripped of their previous costumes and scripts.  It was a liberating experience and once you start to play… well, let’s say that a fertile imagination is a dangerous thing.  I found myself with a plethora of ideas and in the unique position of having to limit myself to just one.

The interesting thing is that of the fourteen stories that have been written, none are even close to each other.  We’ve all been inspired to write fun, different, sweet, hot, sexy stories and as an extra celebration, they’re being published in a limited edition hardcover print book!!

Below is a teaser from my story, The Queen’s Heart.  I hope that you will be intrigued enough to read more!

Best,

Jo March

Blurb

Clarissa could never have foreseen the magic a simple hatter could bring to her life.

As queen of Wonderland, Clarissa should have been secure in her position, but Alice sought to change all that. A clause in the dead king’s will only serves to spur on their childhood rivalry. Alice will stop at nothing to take the throne for herself.  The best laid plans can go awry though and it’s only a matter of time until the true queen of Wonderland will be crowned for good.

Buy: The Queen’s Heart (Wonderland Tales)

Excerpt:

“Who are you?”

“I’m just a simple hatter, miss. Newly arrived here to ply my trade at court.”

“Interesting. Well, don’t let me keep you…”

At her dismissive tone, the hatter raised his eyes and stared at her for a moment. “Did anyone ever tell you that you’re awfully bossy? I’m sure the queen herself isn’t as bossy as you!”

“Not lately, no, and since you are new here, you may want to wait until you meet the queen to decide what she’s like.” Stepping to one side on the path, she cocked her head at the exit. “I believe you were just leaving?”

Slowly he walked toward her, closing the distance between them until he towered over her. Realizing that it might not be safe to be alone with this stranger, she was tempted to take a step backward, but one look at the expression on his face showed that he was expecting her to be intimidated. Resolutely she stood her ground. Staring defiantly up at him, she crossed her arms defensively across her chest.

“Am I in your way?”

“Not at all.” And with that he dropped his lips to hers. The kiss was gentle at first—their mouths the only point of contact between them—but within moments, his tongue had teased her lips apart and his hands were buried in her hair, drawing her nearer. Of their own volition, her hands explored the planes of his chest through the cotton shirt he wore, and her fingers memorized every detail.

Without warning he pulled away, his breathing ragged. His gaze bore into hers and she felt as if he were reading every thought that flashed across her mind. Her heart fluttered like a trapped butterfly in her chest—the sound so loud that she felt sure he must be able to hear it. With extraordinary gentleness, he ran the back of his hand slowly down her cheek before stepping quietly past her and leaving the garden.

Buy: The Queen’s Heart (Wonderland Tales)

Bio

Jo March lives in her own Wonderland—a place filled with books, animals and plenty of ways to exercise her imagination and creativity. She cannot remember not wanting to be a writer and indulges whenever she can. She lives in Cape Town and considers it the most beautiful place in the world to live.

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Review: Alice in Zombieland by Lewis Carroll and Nickolas Cook

by Isabel G., guest reviewer

Alice is on a slightly altered adventure in this twist on a childhood classic. The accident that sends Alice to Wonderland makes her question more than just her surroundings; it makes her question if she’s still alive. She finds herself craving meat from both the living and the walking dead. Yes, it seems most of our favorite characters have either perished, are in the process of dying, or killed as the story progresses. Could there be an upside? They come back as zombies!

I liked how the story began and it had a lot of potential. The idea of Alice being in the graveyard and following the black rat was brilliant. The part with the baby turning into a zombie, however, was creepy even for this story. It’s interesting that some of the material can be considered humorous while other sections are too gory and dark to be part of the same story. By the way, Alice is a bit of a hypocrite about the other characters eating each other, when she herself, indulged in some cannibalism at the Tea Party. The best part is how Alice’s own sister thinks of her. At the end of the story, Alice’s sister was as rotten a person as any zombie Alice dreamed up.

Besides the nonsense that’s normally attributed to any version of Alice in Wonderland, the Alice in Zombieland story had a few adjectives that seemed out of place. Some of the wording chosen didn’t make sense in certain sentences. For example, on page 236, “Its rotting head collapsed around her huge horny fist…” What is that? How does the word horny factor into the sentence?

Weaknesses: Getting past the back-to-back run on sentences was an uphill battle. The book came perilously close to taking flight…straight into my bedroom wall. The hope it would improve was still alive…and so, I continued. To my relief, the story and writing improved enough to keep me reading.

Strengths: Hello! Zombies, Alice, the Mad Hatter, all of our childhood favorites. Well zombies were part of my childhood at least; I loved/still love those horror movies.

Recommendations: If you generally read mash-up novels such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and Little Vampire Women, then you’ll find this an enjoyable read. But if on the other hand, you don’t read mash-ups, and are a stickler for good grammar, you may choose to bypass altogether.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Buy: Alice in Zombieland

Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc.
ISBN# 978-1-4022-5621-9
Copyright 2009, 2011
Genre: Humor
Pages: 240

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Movie Review: Alice starring Caterina Scorsone, Tim Curry, and Kathy Bates

I saw this in the library the other day and snagged it from the new releases shelves. It’s a 2009 television miniseries inspired by Alice in Wonderland. The show is two episodes spans 240 minutes (4 hours). Everything you know will be turned on its head.

Twenty something Alice (Caterina Scorsone) lives at home with her mom. She has a black belt in karate, a missing father, and a new guy in her life. He’s pretty dreamy. On the night Jack Chase (Philip Winchester) proposes and is rejected he is also kidnapped.

Determined to rescue him, Alice chases after the bad guys. Interjection here—what girl would do this black belt or not? Maybe Buffy, where odds no matter how they’re stacked against her count for squat. Anyway… Alice runs into a glass mirror and wakes up in Wonderland.

There she finds out just how creepy Wonderland has gotten since the children’s book was written. Wonderland is a totalitarian state ruled by the Red Queen. To Alice’s annoyance she is repeatedly called an Oyster by the inhabitants of Wonderland. (An Oyster is a human from the Real World whose emotions will be harvested to make Tea. This Tea is how the Red Queen controls her subjects. It’s all about instant gratification.)

The 411:

  • The Red Queen wants the magic ring that will open up the mirror between Wonderland and the Real World because without it the mirror shuts down and she’s without a way to harvest humans and control the world economy.
  • Jack Chase is not what and who he seems but then again he is. The whole is he, isn’t he is done very well.
  • Hatter (Andrew Lee Potts) is adorable and not insane in this version. He and Alice form a romantic attachment to one another over the course of the mini-series which starts and stops as Hatter fights against his selfish nature. I was very pleased with the ending to this show. It made me happy.
  • The White Knight (Matt Frewer) is a bit overmuch. I really couldn’t stand him… or maybe his beard. His performance was a cliché on that particular character type.
  • Dodo (Tim Curry) is hardly in this at all. I honestly don’t know why his name is even listed on the top of the DVD.
  • Duchess (Charlotte Sullivan) is another character whose motives are hard to grasp. I can’t decide if she’s meant to play the role of the Chesire Cat or not.

The Costumes: A lot of time and effort went into creating the costumes. I especially loved casino girls’ and suits’ outfits. Very go-go girl and James Bond.

The CGI: Was pretty excellent in my opinion. I loved the city on the water with all the fog. Very pretty.

The Sets: My goodness — who would think falling apart cities could be pretty? Well of course they can be pretty when set high up in the air. I loved the city especially when first introduced to it because it looked like Roman aqueducts meet Venice canals ran through the whole city.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Alice (2009 Miniseries)

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