Apr 172014
 
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By Marissa St. James

We have a bad habit of writing the way we speak—and most of the time our spoken grammar is incorrect. Do we want to write the same way? Not if we can help it. Writing the way you speak can make your text look foolish and clunky, and can turn readers off to your book before they’ve made their way through Chapter One. To avoid this fate, pay particular attention to the following mistakes:

 

1. AND/THEN

One of the most common errors I find is the use of ‘and then.’ When you think about it, those two little words are a contradiction in terms.

Can you pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time?
Here, two actions are done (or attempted) simultaneously.

John yanked open the door, then ran through the corridor.
Here, however, sequence is important. There is no way John can run through the corridor while yanking open the door. He’d either go through the door, like a ghost, or knock himself out. ‘Then’ is used to show two actions performed in sequence.

2. ALL OF

This is another one of those terms that can appear to be contradicting.

John wanted all of the employees’ names added to the list.
All means every name. When sticking ‘of’ in there, you not only hint at only a portion (which contradicts ‘all’) you also create a useless prepositional phrase.

John wanted all the employees’ names added to the list.
This sentence may sound like it’s missing a word, but it’s actually the correct one.

By making it a habit to correct our everyday speech, we set a pattern to write proper grammar. Writing proper sentences will become automatic. We won’t have to stop and think about what’s right and acceptable, or what an editor will do to our work. Believe me, it’s no fun having a manuscript returned for fixing, and finding it heavily decorated with editor’s marks and comments.

3. WORD ABUSE

There are a few words we tend to overuse, or misuse. The word ‘that’ is one I would personally love to remove from the dictionary —permanently—or at the very least outlaw. I admit, there are times where it should be legitimately used, but other times…

He called the newspaper knowing that he would have to leave his name.
‘That’ is unnecessary in the sentence.

He called the newspaper knowing he would have to leave his name.

If you use the word often, try reading the sentence without it. Most of the time you’ll find it can be deleted.

‘As’ is another word which belongs in this category. For a two-letter word, it runs neck and neck with ‘that’ as being the most abused.

Harry set the table as Sally finished mashing the potatoes, then put them in a bowl.
This can be changed a couple ways:

Harry set the table while Sally finished mashing the potatoes.

or

Harry set the table. Sally finished mashing the potatoes, then put them in a bowl.

If you use ‘as’ too often to connect separate actions in your sentences, consider breaking up those sentences into smaller ones.

4. AND, THEN, BUT

These three words are conjunctions and were never meant to be used to start sentences. They connect parts of sentences, show additions, exceptions. The only time they’re used to start a sentence is when you want to emphasize a point. More often than not, a short sentence will do the trick.

Make copies of the report for the board meeting. Then you can take your break.

Take your break after you make the copies of the report for the board meeting.

Mary heard noises downstairs and picked up the phone to call for help. But it was too late. Someone cut the phone line.

Mary heard noises downstairs and picked up the phone to call for help. It was too late. Someone cut the phone line.
In this second example, you not only eliminate unnecessary conjunctives, but you build a little tension with the shorter sentences.

5. WEASEL WORDS

‘Just,’ ‘only,’ ‘simply,’ ‘barely,’ ‘very,’ are some of the words that can be done without. I know, many folks say, “If the words are in the dictionary, then I should be able to use them.” There’s also an expression that says, “Less is more.” By keeping your sentence structure straightforward, you don’t need a lot of words to get your point across. Weasels are sneaky little critters, little thieves; weasel words steal the gist of your thoughts.

You want your writing to be strong, make an impression. These words, used at the wrong time and in the wrong place, will make you appear noncommittal (and sometimes even whiny) as a writer.

He simply refused to obey orders.

Mary just wanted to be left alone.

If John had only known about the interview…

In each case the sentence loses something. If you think about it, weasel words make each sentence sound more like gossip than a statement of fact.

Fact: He refused to obey orders.

Decisive: Mary wanted to be left alone.

Choices: If John had known about the interview…

Like any other rule, this one also has its exceptions. The smart use for weasel words is when you want to build some tension into the scene. The trick is to know when to use it. Here’s an example.

John had a death grip on the shrub growing out of the cliffside. One foot slipped and he tried desperately to gain a toehold once again. If only he could get a grasp on the cliff edge and pull himself up. He tipped his head a little to see how far he was from the top. Dirt rattled down and struck his face, forcing him to look away. It was now or never. Very carefully he reached up, stretching as much as he dared, without jeopardizing his position. His hands slid lightly upward over the dirt, loosening more of it, until he’d reached his limit. His fingertips just barely touched the top of the cliff, but left him nothing to grab onto. So close, and yet so far. He might as well be back at the bottom of the cliff. John screamed out his frustration.

While you can get a sense of just how tenuous his predicament is, the word ‘just’ shows how close he is to saving himself, yet not being able to. ‘If only’ shows him to believe the situation is nearly impossible.

This is the kind of situation where you want to build the tension and keep your reader following every word. These words bring your characters and readers so close to a solution, but maintain a sufficient distance to keep the story going. Use them sparingly, and see how much your writing can be improved.

***

From Marissa St. James’ Doing it Write: Putting the Final Polish on Your Manuscript, Copyright © 2006 PageTurner Editions, available at Amazon.com for Kindle, Barnes & Noble for Nook and iTunes for Mac-based devices. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Guest columnist Marissa St James writes sweet romance. Her books include Lady in Black and Other Tales of Paranormal Romance, The Legend and the Laird, Liberty’s Belle, and many others. Find them all and keep up with Marissa’s writings and doings at www.msjbookshelf.blogspot.com and www.marissastjames.blogspot.com.

 

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Apr 142014
 
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By M.Christian

It may come as a surprise, but far too often authors—people who are supposedly very comfortable with words!—have days when they just don’t want to write at all.

It’s a common mistake writers make when they begin to think about social media, marketing, and all that other fun stuff: this idea that words are the be-all and end-all for them. They force themselves far too often to script tweet after tweet, Facebook post after Facebook post…until they just can’t write another line of original content, even if only to say “Look at my book!” Worse, they come to feel that because they’ve burnt out on writing tweets and posts and marketing copy, they have failed. They think about all the potential readers they have lost; markets they haven’t tapped; piles of beguiling words they should have written—because are they not supposed to be endless fonts of text? (Spoiler: no.)

Fortunately for you if you’re one of these writers, there are some great options for social networking that don’t require you to write a word. They are wordless yet powerful, simple yet evocative, easy yet poignant.

In short, Facebook and Twitter are not the only games in town when it comes to keeping yourself and your writing in the public eye.

I’m talking about using pictures rather than words. Using Flicker, Instagram, Pinterest or Tumblr to make your point, catch your Twitter followers’ imaginations, engage them emotionally in a way that leaves a favorable impression of you in their minds. An image-sharing tool like these can help you reach out to others, and save you a thousand words of writing, every day.

There are quite a few image-sharing venues out there—and while your mileage and social media needs may vary, in my experience they’ve basically boiled down to just one. Allow me: Flickr is ridiculously clunky and doesn’t share well with others—just spend a few minutes trying to either find an image or a keyword, or pass along a photo. Pain. In. The…youknowwhatImean. Instagram is fine and dandy for taking snapshots of your dinner, your dog, your kids, your whatever…but when it comes to sharing what you snap, or using images from other sources, it’s not exactly user-friendly.

This basically leaves us with two choices, if you want to save those thousands of words: Pinterest and Tumblr. I’ve tried both and the choice was extremely easy to make—it comes down to one thing: sex.

Let’s face it, when you’re an author of erotica and erotic romance, you are dealing with—in one way or another—characters having sex. Like lots of erotica authors, I’ve learned to (sigh) deal with platforms like Facebook that will wish you into the cornfield for showing—or in some cases even talking about—something as threatening as a nipple. We deal with Facebook because we have to. But an open-minded image-sharing social media venue is a bit like Twitter: the more the merrier.

Pinterest doesn’t like sex…at all. I used to have a Pinterest account but then I began to get messages, here and there to start, but then tons: each one about a posted image of mine that was removed due to the dreaded Terms of Service. A few were obvious, but then the images they were yanking became and more innocent. Bye-bye Pinterest.

Tumblr isn’t perfect—far from it—but even after being purchased by the search engine deity Yahoo, I can count on the fingers of one hand the times it has caused me any kind of headache. Mostly they will reject anything that really pushes a button—think of the deadly erotica sins, but with pictures, and you know what I mean (hate speech, rape, bestiality, incest, underage, pee or poo, etc).

In a nutshell, Tumblr is easy, fun, and—best of all—a rather effective social media tool that also neatly and simply integrates into Twitter and Facebook…and, no, I do not own stock.

The way it works couldn’t be less complicated: you can create any number of Tumblrs—think folders—(even with an “age appropriate” warning if you want), and then design them with any one of a huge number of themes. From your master dashboard you can see—and tweak —all the separate Tumblrs you’ve created. The themes are a blast, and the interface takes very little skill to navigate.

As for what Tumblrs you should create…well, that’s up to you. Like food? Make a nice edibles Tumblr (and they have an app that lets you to take shots of your meals if that’s what you’re into). Like history? Create a vintage photo site. Love sex? Well, it’s pretty obvious about what you can do with that.

Where do you get your pictures? You can certainly take them yourself or upload them from your various devices, but where Tumblr becomes a real social media machine is in reposting. Once you create your account just look for other Tumblrs by interests or keywords and then hit that little follow button. Then, when you look at your dashboard, you’ll see a nice stream of pictures that you can like, share, or repost to your own various Tumblr incarnations. Plus, the more people you follow, the more people will follow you.

Just to give you an idea, I started—rather lazily—my dozen or so Tumblrs four or so years ago and now my main one, Rude Mechanicals, has close to 4,000 followers. You can imagine the reach you could have if you really put some work into it.

And if you want to see how far that reach extends, you can go back and look at your posts to see how many times they’ve been liked or reposted. It’s harder to tell when it’s a reposted picture but it can also be very heartwarming to see that, for instance, when you post about a good review or a new book announcement, dozens of people liked your news or, even better, shared it with their own vast audience.

What’s also fun about Tumblr is the auto-forward feature. It’s not perfect, as there are some periodic glitches, but all in all it works rather well. When you set up your separate Tumblrs you can then select an option where—if you choose—you can also send any image to Twitter or to Facebook.

That increases the number of people your image will potentially reach. It can even go to a Facebook page you’ve created. Neat!

One trick I use is to click the handy “like” button to create an inventory of images and then—once or twice a day—go back into my list of likes to repost them to my appropriate sites…with or without Twitter or Facebook reposting as I see fit. Tumblrs also feature RSS, which means you can subscribe to one of them through an aggregator like Feedly.

What’s also neat about Tumblr is its flexibility: you can post images (duh) but you can also embed video (from YouTube or wherever) and post text, quotations, links, chat streams, and audio.

Let your eyes do the walking and let the images they find do the talking. Image-sharing tools like Tumblr are a super easy way to fulfill your need for social media presence without having to write anything.

 

M.Christian has become an acknowledged master of erotica, with more than 400 stories, 10 novels (including The Very Bloody Marys, Brushes and The Painted Doll). Nearly a dozen collections of his own work (Technorotica, In Control, Lambda nominee Dirty Words, The Bachelor Machine), more than two dozen anthologies (Best S/M Erotica series, My Love for All That is Bizarre: Sherlock Holmes Erotica, The Burning Pen, and with Maxim Jakubowksi The Mammoth Book of Tales from the Road).  His work is regularly selected for Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and others. His extensive knowledge of erotica as writer, editor, anthologist and publisher resulted in the bestselling guide How To Write And Sell Erotica.
He can be found in a number of places online, not least of which is mchristian.com.

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Apr 102014
 
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by Jean Roberta

Erotic writers, including the most talented, sometimes reach burnout. A feeling of exhaustion or boredom with writing sex scenes seems parallel to the sexual burnout that happens in some long-term relationships: the thrill is gone; the body of the Significant Other is no longer an exciting new territory to discover.

Having too much to do can dim the spark, both in a sexual relationship and in a relationship with one’s Muse. Writers at every stage of their careers can feel overwhelmed. Newly-published writers contend with the need to prove themselves over and over again, while those with multi-volume contracts can feel as if they have a series of mountains to climb by a series of looming deadlines.

The antidote to burnout, in my experience, is to relax, breathe, and feel. Physical activity can give the brain a rest. Guided meditation usually begins with instructions to feel the temperature in the room (or outdoors), feel the seat, the grass or the floor under your ass, and feel the position of your limbs. While sitting alone in a favourite writing place, you can wiggle your toes and fingers, tense and relax your muscles, focus on breathing in, holding the breath, and letting it go in a long whoosh.

Living in a human body is sexual. As a writer, you can seduce yourself by doing things that feel good: stretch and bend, reach for the stars, scratch an itch, pet the cat or the dog. Don’t think about sex, and definitely don’t think about chores or obligations. Play hooky, at least for an hour.

If a hot shower or sunlight on skin feels good but you can’t get to your bathroom or go outside, try stroking your own arms or legs. Find out what your skin wants after being neglected for too long. Your scalp might like a massage. After a while, your more sensitive areas would probably like some attention. Nipples are sensitive, and so are testicles. There is no rush. You can tease them gently until they demand more.

You can see where this is going. Bodies are capable of waking up after being on automatic pilot for awhile. They don’t respond well to criticism, so avoid telling yours that it is too fat, too thin, too lacking in muscle tone (besides which, you’re a writer. No one expects you to be built like an Olympic athlete).

When you give yourself pleasure, pay attention to the images that flash through your mind. You may even remember some words: yours or someone else’s. What inspires you? The seeds of story that lurk in your mind may have nothing to do with your current work-in-progress—this just means that your mind contains multiple possibilities. Try to hang on to the feeling, the pictures, the music, the sounds that add to your bliss even after you have (ahem) reached release. Jot down what you remember, whether it makes sense or not. You now have something to work with.

I think it is crucial for writers, especially those who write about sex, to occasionally write about something deeply personal, even something that only makes sense to themselves, or something that seems unpublishable. Writers who spend every moment of writing time trying to follow a formula for success are likely to find that 1) no creative person can turn out fifty versions of a certain popular novel series without going into creative drought, and 2) formulas don’t work well for long anyway. What is trendy this year will be undoubtedly be considered stale in the foreseeable future.

Whoever you are, you only have one body to live in, and it is the home for your brain. If you think your nerve endings, your muscles and the blood in your veins have no new stories to tell, you haven’t been listening.

***

Jean Roberta writes in several genres. Approximately 100 of her erotic stories, including every orientation she can think of, have appeared in print anthologies, plus three single-author collections, including The Princess and the Outlaw: Tales of the Torrid Past (Lethe Press, 2013. ). www.jean-roberta.livejournal.com

 

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Apr 082014
 
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By billierosie

A while back, I wrote a story called “Will You Be my Mommy?” It’s in my Fetish Worship collection. The tale explores the fetish of infantilism. I talked about the despair and isolation that I imagine having such a fetish can entail—the sense of being the only person in the world who could possibly feel like that; of having no one to communicate with. The shame of being found out; of being laughed and sneered at. I think the story struck the right tone, judging by the comments it’s received. So I followed it up with another story called “I’m Sorry, Mommy!” where I continue to explore the deepening sexual and emotional relationship between my two protagonists. In this latter story I introduced a lactation fetish—a desire to suckle and drink milk from a woman’s breast. The two seemed to fit together. And there were more excited comments.

“Paraphilic infantilism,” explains the Wikipedia entry on same, “is also known as autonepiophilia , or adult baby syndrome, and it involves role playing and regressing to an infantlike state. Behaviours may include drinking from a bottle or wearing diapers. Those involved in the role play can engage in gentle, nurturing experiences; an adult who only engages in an infantilistic play is known as an adult baby. Others may be attracted to wearing diapers; the Infantilist may urinate or defecate in them.”

Some may want to be punished and be attracted to masochistic, coercive, punishing or humiliating experiences. While infantilism—like BDSM and role play in general—requires the consent of both partners, it is often said that the one receiving the punishment or humiliation ultimately controls the way the scenario is played.

Little research appears to have been done on the subject of infantilism. It has been linked to masochism and a variety of other paraphilia. It has been confused with paedophilia, but the two conditions are distinct and infantilists do not seek children as sexual partners. Rather, they want to roleplay as the children; the adulthood of the other people involved adds to the relative “littleness” of the infantilist, and the appeal of the scenario as it plays out.

It seems that the motivation is around the need for a parental figure, usually that of a mother, who will look after the adult baby’s life and make the world feel safe—though as we’re talking about adults, it’s usually sexualised as well. This sexualisation can be expressed through scenes that play with the tension between permissiveness and discipline: the adult baby transgresses some kind of rule and is spanked or smacked for it; the adult baby can do absolutely anything in their playpen or cot, including soiling their diapers—at least until “mom” finds out.

When I wrote about Infantilism, I focused on the needs of a high-powered businessman desperately seeking the woman who would play the part of his mommy. When Joel walks into his home at the end of a stressful day, he kicks off his shoes, relinquishes his control and plays the role of a twelve-year-old, relying on Sally to make everything safe and okay.

And then there is the “Daddy” fetish: Daddy is strong and warm, a comfort, a source of strength and power that doesn’t have to come from within. He takes away the responsibility that the sub, or the little girl/boy, has grown weary of having to handle.

Psychologists and psychotherapists sometimes deal with repressed memories; the return of the repressed. Perhaps infantilism is a way of returning to a childhood—either the infantilist’s own or the one they wish they’d had—through an actual physical therapy that allows, through role play, the ability to relax into a world that involves little to no responsibility and a great deal of loving physical intimacy (compare that to the state of far too many lives in our world, love-starved and burdened with stress). Maybe it’s an effort to reboot one’s entire process of socialization; if you were taught all your manners and potty training and other social restrictions at the hand of an impatient, ill-equipped parent, maybe you want to go back and learn it all again with a good one. Or maybe infantilism is a response to an incest fantasy, or even a memory of incest which needs to be processed. Perhaps it’s a basic, human, long-buried desire to have one parent, a mommy or a daddy, all to oneself in the closest possible way.

 

billierosie has been writing erotica for about three years. She has been published by Oysters and Chocolate, in The Wedding Dress. Logical Lust accepted her story “Retribution” for Best S&M 3. She has also been published by Sizzler, in Pirate Booty and in their Sherlock Holmes anthology, My Love of all that is Bizarre, as well as Hunger: A Feast of Sensual Tales of Sex and Gastronomy and Sex in London: Tales of Pleasure and Perversity in the English Capital. She also has a collection of short, erotic stories, Fetish Worship, as well as novellas Memoirs of a Sex Slave and Enslaving Eli, both published by Sizzler Editions in 2012 and available for purchase at Amazon.
billierosie can be found at Twitter, @jojojojude and at her blog.

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Mar 312014
 
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By Nobilis

Every author has strengths and weaknesses. If we’ve been working toward growth, then we know what those strengths and weaknesses are. When we work with editors and good beta readers, over time we’ll start hearing the same problems that need fixing, the same overlooked and under-addressed areas that need strengthening. And if we’re lucky, we’ll also get some positive feedback informing us of what we do well, but that’s rarer. Suffice it to say that if some aspect of your stories rarely receives criticism from your editors and beta readers, then it’s probably a strength. Once you’ve identified your strength and weaknesses, what do you do with that knowledge?

My own weaknesses pop up again and again when I get stories back from first readers. Most of the time I need to add more descriptive details, especially in how things sound or feel. It’s not that I’m not capable of setting a scene more vividly—once it’s pointed out I can easily produce the prose, but I don’t tend to think of it while I’m writing.

Lack of detail wasn’t always my only flaw. I used to overuse some words. “Begin” was a big one for a while, and its sister, “start.” I also overused “just” a great deal. After a particularly intense edit, I found that I was noticing when I was using those words, and I could stop myself right there in the first draft. That made editing later drafts much easier, because I didn’t have to fix that particular problem throughout. Since then, I’ve found I can strike the overuse of those words from my list of weaknesses.

So with what I’m writing now (the next story in the Monster Whisperer series) I’m trying to pay more attention to those descriptive details that I know my beta readers will watching for. I’ll make sure to put them into the first draft, and I’m going to pay a lot more attention to them while I’m doing my first round of edits.

Even when I’m not actively writing, I’ll learn more and faster by studying other authors’ work as well, when those authors know more than I do—or even if they just do things a little differently. I’m certainly going to watch how they use descriptive details in their scenes: what they draw our attention to and why; how the details affect character development and interaction, how they contribute to the eroticism of the story; how they’re described, etc.

Some people might worry that by focusing so much on my weaknesses as a writer, my strengths will be eroded somehow, but that hasn’t been my experience. My strengths come naturally to me, whereas the more practice I get dealing with the otherwise undeveloped aspects of my writing, the more strengths I can add to a list which, if I play my cards right, will keep growing for the rest of my life.

—–

And now for your News from Poughkeepsie:

A man shows up to a blind date to find that the woman across the table from him is a six-foot-tall female bodybuilder. She’s not really his ‘type’ but she’s friendly, intelligent, and charming. She’s not what he’s always told himself was his physical type, but they hit it off, and before too long he finds himself in bed with a very unusual woman.

—–

Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

Website: www.nobiliserotica.com
Podcast: nobilis.libsyn.com
Twitter: @nobilis

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Mar 282014
 
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By Ardath Mayhar, reprinted from Writing Through a Stone Wall: Hard-Won Wisdom from Thirty Years as a Professional.

There are a number of elements that can make your life as a writer much easier, if you know about them from the beginning instead of having to stumble into them by accident as you stagger through the creative maze. I will list here some of the things I have learned by hard experience:

1. Read widely, not only in the field in which you are interested, but also in many different areas, from children’s books to classics, from science fiction to mysteries. I also suggest strongly that any writer read psychology, anthropology, archeology, and ancient history, getting some idea of the multitudes of ways in which our kind has lived, what cultures have existed, and how our minds work. A deep understanding of humankind and why we are who we are will give every character you ever write about much more reality than you would believe possible.

2. Don’t pay too much attention to books and courses that teach you how to write (including this one). They can be helpful, useful, and they can save you a lot of bumbling around in the dark, but every writer has his own best way in which to approach his craft. Don’t let anyone tell you, “This MUST be done in this manner,” or “Nobody works that way!” Believe me, there isn’t a way in which somebody doesn’t work successfully.

3. Study the English language. This is your bag of tools, your element, and an understanding of its grammatical construction is a powerful ally. But in addition, savor the words you have at your command. As you read work you admire, study the ways in which the author uses words to express his meaning in a unique manner. Read poetry to learn how to add rhythm and depth to your writing by the uses of unusual nouns and verbs. Think in unusual terms. And if it lies within your capacities at all, learn to spell!

4. Don’t misunderstand the old adage “Write what you know.” This doesn’t really mean “never write about anything you haven’t experienced or observed.” That would mean that nobody would ever write creatively at all, simply reporting what came within his/her purview. No, this means that if you write about an alien world, SEE that world inside your mind. Visualize the things that you write about, learn to know all about the places and people with whom you tenant your tales.

If you do write about the sorts of things you see from your kitchen window, do it in unusual terms, with original insights. You can make poetic or philosophical conclusions arise from the most mundane situations, if you understand how to look at them with the creative eye.

5. Learn the techniques of writing and then follow your instincts. Rules are made to be broken – but know the rule and break it intentionally, not accidentally. If you use a technique that defies the canon, and it means arguments with editors and copyeditors, even if it means loss of a sale, if it works for you and you know it will work for readers, stick to your guns. It is the writing that is your reward. For money, you should have become a plumber.

6. Don’t rewrite just to be rewriting, because you have read that writers MUST. A good rule of thumb is to do one draught as well as you possibly can, and then go back for a second that is BETTER. Any third and fourth and fifth draught writing labels you either sloppy or afraid to finish and measure your work against the market.

Use your critical judgment, after the work has had a few weeks to cool off. Or get a knowledgeable acquaintance to read it for flow and coherence. It is possible to omit something really vital, simply because you know it so well that you think you have it down … and you don’t. People who work for thirty years polishing a novel have other jobs that support their dependents.

7. Do your best to keep in touch with other writers, if only online or by mail. This is a lonely field, and even the most devoted and understanding spouse doesn’t really understand how you feel when something you know is good gets rejected by all the suitable markets in existence. Another writer, with whom you can share triumph and frustration, can keep you writing.

8. Don’t be discouraged by rejection. Remember that it is this specific piece of writing, not you as a human being, that is being rejected. And don’t rewrite every time your brainchild comes home from the wars. If two or three editors mention the same apparent flaw, it’s time to look at that element of the story/article/book and reassess its clarity. If you begin to see loose spots and ragged edges after a time, that, not earlier, is the time to begin a rewrite.

Principally, selling is a matter of sending the same piece out and out and out until it sells. When you have used up all the good markets, put the work in a file cabinet for a couple of years and then start the process all over again. Editors change with remarkable regularity, and you can hit an entirely new batch after a reasonable lapse of time. Upon resubmitting, however, it is a good idea to change the title, for companies sometimes keep logs of manuscripts coming and going.

9. Don’t be sidetracked by literary fads. The sort of writing that lasts is that which finds a response in people who are neither academics, nor writers, nor critics. Writing is for people, not for those who practice artistic one-upmanship or academic obscurantism.

Any mode undecipherable to anyone except a professor of creative writing or another avant-garde writer is going to die soon and completely. Modern fads do not last.

10. WRITE! After work. While the washer runs, during fire drills, while driving or sitting in the dentist’s office or the bathroom. Write in your mind if you don’t have a pencil and paper.

Make notes of every person you find interesting, every place you live or visit, all the odd facts you come across. Retain flavors and scents and the feel of specific places. Everything you have ever known is going to come in handy to you as a writer, so write! And write! And write!

Too few professions have any inherent joy, nowadays. Ours is one that includes skill and love and reality and imagination. We have something inside us that we must put onto paper, in order to communicate it to our fellow human beings. We live with the demanding and frustrating elements of the business, simply because we love what we do.

***

Ardath Mayhar (1930-2012) died on February 1. Mayhar began writing science fiction in 1979, although she had been publishing poetry since 1949. During the course of her career, she published more than sixty novels in various genres, often using pseudonyms, including John Killdeer and Frank Cannon (for Westerns).

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, she and her husband, Joe Mayhar, owned The View From Orbit Bookstore in Nacogdoches, Texas; she sold the store after his death. Her novels, many of which mixed science fictional and fantasy elements, included the four-volume Tales of the Triple Moons series, the Kyrannon Shar-Nuhn series, and Battletech: The Sword and the Dagger. Her 1982 novel Golden Dream was based on H. Beam Piper’s “Fuzzy” series. In 2010 she published Slaughterhouse World.

Perhaps even more important than her own poetry and fiction, Mayhar served as a mentor to numerous other science fiction, fantasy, and horror authors. She provided editorial advice, taught workshops, and often worked as a book doctor. She was a fixture at Texas science fiction conventions for more than 30 years, although a decline in health limited her attendance in the last years of her life. A poem published in the anthology Masques earned her the Balrog Award in 1985. In 2008, she was named the SFWA Author Emeritus during the Nebula Award Weekend in Austin, Texas. —SFWA, February 13, 2012

In addition to her contributions to the field of science fiction and fantasy, Mayhar is the author of over sixty books and has won or been nominated for over two dozen awards including Margaret Haley Carpenter Prize, the Omar Award, the Mark Twain Award, the Spur award, and the William Allen White Award, for her historical novels, character studies and poetry. —WriteSex Ed.

 

 

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Mar 242014
 
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By Colin

I’ve said in my previous column that writers are, by and large, not terribly greedy people.  I’ll stick by that, but it should be said that there are some things writers do covet to the point of greed or even obsession. One of those things is attention, and, more specifically, favorable attention. Most of us, after all, began as readers, for whom good books were the most amazing, inspiring things in the world. Whether it was Tolkien or Barbara Cartland or Zane Grey or Tolstoy, there’s that moment where you said I wanna do that. And it’s completely understandable that you’d want to produce something that hits someone else the same way. It’s not always about aiming for the stars, either; I have stacks of horror and sword-and-sorcery paperbacks that did as much as any literary classic to get me writing, and I look at those old writers with great respect. If I can give someone the pure pleasure they gave me, I tell myself, I’ll be happy.

For erotica writers, that impulse to take on the role of master is mixed up with something more complicated—we’re trying to excite, to titillate, to seduce. So if someone does post a favorable review of your new ebook on Amazon or Goodreads, it can be a remarkably sexy experience. You find yourself wondering about this person, this “FatalKittYn79”. You look up other books they’ve reviewed, you linger over their online profile. You fantasize that this reader truly “gets” you, and sees your work in the same light that bathed your favorite books when you were young. Since any book from your hand is an extension of yourself, reading that review can be a bit (just a bit) like meeting a potential new lover. But in that frame of mind, a bad review can be, as the kids say, a real buzzkill.

The biggest problem, though, is that most books garner neither songs of praise nor the sneers and bad comedy routines that too often pass for negative online reviews. Most books come out to a crushing silence.

Sometimes—when I really should be doing something more constructive—I will google one of my pseudonyms along with the word “review.”  This is guaranteed to bring up dozens of online bookstores where my books are for sale, along with canned text along the lines of “Read a REVIEW of Colin’s SWORD OF THE DOMINATRIX Here…” Needless to say, there’s never any review on those pages. It’s crickets, all the way to next Tuesday. Even if your book attracts a number of favorable remarks from your friends and people in your network, you always hope for more, from people who didn’t know you existed yesterday—the FatalKittYn79s of your reading public.

Now, it doesn’t take long for most writers to realize that the silence is part of the job. That realization is healthy; meeting the Silence squarely and spitting in its eye can be a great help for a writer. It can move you away from fantasies and ego to the essential business of getting on to the next book or story. Most of all, it can help you realize that quality isn’t always measured in backslaps and superlatives. It can inspire you to help build your network and develop ways of making things—including reviews, good or bad—happen for yourself.

So next time you’re faced with the Silence, try making some noise.

 

Colin is a fetish writer and the single most prolific professional author of tickling erotica working today, with dozens of books to his credit. www.gigglegasm.com and www.ticklingforum.com.

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Mar 202014
 
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By Sherry Ziegelmeyer

Publicity does not start and end with a press release. It certainly doesn’t end with your social media feeds, either. The one thing that no one selling “social media marketing services” will tell you is that the press doesn’t go looking for Twitter feeds and Facebook pages to fill their publications with content. I can say a hell of a lot of bad things about “social media” as a marketing tool (and will in the future), but for now I’ll refrain and tell you about what does work to get press attention, namely media kits and review kits.

You send out a media kit or press kit to get the initial attention of media outlets and introduce writers to you—and whatever you may be selling. It’s a friendly way (and in the case of media kits, a proactive way) of saying Hey, I want you to get to know me and do a story on me, so your readers or viewers will get to know me too.

“Media kits” are a general term for a package put together by you to give to the media. It is a prepackaged set of materials distributed to members of the media for promotional use. Media kits should contain both printed and digitally formatted images, your biography, a fact sheet about your book or series of books, and a copy of recent press releases or some other type of document that tells the press about your most recent newsworthy accomplishments or activities.

There are two common types of media kits: the press kit and the review kit. There is a slight difference between the two, but they both have some things in common, so let’s look at each one individually. We’ll start with press kits this month and take a look at review kits in Part 2.

 

Press Kits

A press kit contains information about you and product. It should include a “sales slick” (a printed page with images of book covers, synopsis, distribution and price information) or a sales catalog of the various books you’re selling, and other items that help the media consider running a story, or arranging an interview, with you about your books.

Here’s a list of what items should be in your press kit and explanations of what they are:

A One-Page Biography Sheet

Think of this as a cover letter. You can include photos of yourself, and you should include a header or footer with your email address, phone number and mailing address. But overall, the Bio Sheet is intended to present the press printed information about you.

The bio and personal information sheet should include a full biography, touching on everything from your life story to why you originally started writing smut—and do include where your ideas for your book(s) come from. The more information you can offer about yourself, the better.

However—and this is an important caveat—don’t drivel on for three pages! Keep the content of this biography focused and in bite-size, easy to read and digest, “sound bite”-type statements. You really want to give your whole story in about four paragraphs—you’re not writing your memoirs. Don’t get sidetracked with the yellow crayon incident and how your best buddy pulled you back from the brink of destroying the world by re-telling it for you. (If you don’t get that reference, google it!—your pop-culture history knowledge is lacking. ;) )

Include a “Company Information” Sheet

This should be a separate sheet from your bio! Make sure that your Company Information Sheet includes all of your business emails, phone numbers, addresses and any other contact information the press could possibly need to get in touch with you and your publisher(s).

The Company Information Sheet is also where you can give the media your website URL, your social media feed information and information on anywhere else you “hang out” regularly online.

An “Art Disk”

A professionally packaged press kit always includes Art Disks, so the media has all the graphics they will need to complete the story or interview for publication. Art disks should have multiple, different, photos of you, your book jackets, your company logo and any other graphic elements you are using in your publicity campaign. If you are including any video or audio in that campaign, it should be included on the art disk as well.

Many people forget that all entertainment—especially adult entertainment–is a visual medium. Most websites and publications make heavy use of photos to attract and retain viewer attention.

Make sure the artwork you provide in press kits is capable of being reproduced in a print format. This means that images, logos and photos included in your art disk are all capable of being printed at a minimum size of 8.5 inches by 11 inches (the dimensions of a standard piece of printer paper) when set at an image resolution of 78 dots per inch (DPI) or higher (ideally 300 DPI). You will also want to include web resolution artwork in your art disks, so that an editor can immediately use the image on the publication’s web site. Web resolution is usually 78 DPI or less (generally 72), and should be sized at a minimum of 600 pixels by 800 pixels.

If you have Adobe Photoshop, do include the .psd files of all photos, logos and book covers with all of the original, unlocked layers you ended up using in the final image. This gives the publication the ability to resize and reformat them in any way they may need to run them in print.

Digital Copies of Everything

Always include a CD or DVD with digital files of every page you created for your press kit! You may be able to fit this on your Art Disk but if you can’t, include a separate disk that contains them. So many editors copy and paste for news stories, you want to give them something to work with quickly and easily.

***A Word about File Formats: Please make sure that all your files included in art disks and the digital copies of your other press kit pages are created and saved in standard file formats. And always try to include file formats that will work with both Mac and PC systems. So create your page copy in Word—and, especially, do your best to use a “compatible” version of Word, so if the person at XYZ magazine is still running Windows 98, they can open your file! Don’t assume that just because you’re sending the kit to a magazine, everyone at its office will have the newest software. Some writers won’t even be able to open a .docx file! Above all, never include a PDF of anything—it just frustrates your recipient.

The same goes for image files . . . While you should include images and logos that are created in Adobe Photoshop, don’t assume every reporter has Photoshop (or that their versions are up-to-date, if they do). You’ll also need to include JPG files of all the images associated with your press kit contents, so the writers can use the files no matter what software they have. And be careful about including PNG files, as lots of online publications have older software that can’t read them.

Supporting Evidence

If you feel you need to substantiate your place in the pantheon of erotic writers, you can also include photocopies of any publication’s reviews of your books, or other published news stories about you and your books.

However, it is best to err on the side of caution and include less of these types of enclosures than more of them. No editor wants to feel like they are out of the loop on a big news story other publications have already covered. There is also a natural feeling of competition between publications, which could make the editor receiving your press kit feel like you are comparing them unfavorably to a rival publication that already covered you. You want to avoid pissing off any editor you approach in all aspects of your publicity campaigns!

Making a Good Impression

Always package your press kits as if they are a gift to the person receiving them. First impressions are so important . . . you can’t afford to slack off on how the package you’re sending to an editor looks, smells and feels. While you may have a limited budget to work with, your press kit should be as beautifully packaged as you can possibly make it. This is the time to spend the $150 or so to have stiff, coated paper folders with your logo or other suitable images printed. Alternately, use one of the clear acrylic cover, sheet folder, binders that are available at all office supply stores. This makes a nice presentation for minimal cost.

Make sure you label your Art Disk not only with your name and book title(s), but also with exactly what is included in it. You should list things like “box covers”, “author photos”, “Bio in Word” and so on, so when they see the disk, they know what’s in it!

Put your Art Disk in a CD/DVD envelope. Whether it’s a “teabag” paper cover or a thin, plastic case. You may want to take a look at the local office supply store and purchase the plastic, stick-on, CD/DVD wallets to attach your Art Disk to the folder. Having everything attached together makes it more difficult for a harried reporter to lose a crucial piece of your press kit!

The outside of your package should look as good as the inside, so this is a great time to invest in specialty envelopes to enclose your materials. There are a wide variety of them available for minimal cost, everything from coated paper envelopes with full color images, suitable for sticking a mailing label directly on the front along with postage, to colored plastic envelopes that are opaque enough—and strong enough—to stand up to Postal Inspector standards. Be creative! A stunning packaging job arriving in the mail will get noticed among all the crappy flat-rate USPS envelopes.

And don’t forget—all press kit mailings must include your full name or company name, full address and a “regarding” line on the front of the envelope. Media members tend toward paranoid types, with good reason. Tell them on the envelope who you are, where this package came from, and write “[Author Name/Book Name] Press Kit with Art Disk Enclosed” on it. You’ll be much happier with the response your press kit gets if you don’t have Homeland Security knocking on your door because a reporter thought you sent Anthrax to their office and wants you investigated.

 

In the April WriteSex publicity column, we’ll focus on Review Kits, because while they are similar to press kits, there are some differences in the content you will need to include.

 

Do you have specific questions concerning how to generate publicity for your books? Please email questions and comments to Sherry; answers will appear as future WriteSex blog topics.

Sherry Ziegelmeyer is a professional publicist and public relations representative, who happens to specialize in adult entertainment (in all its various forms). She resides in Chatsworth, California, affectionately known as “ground zero of the adult entertainment industry.” When not working on writing press releases, arranging interviews and putting together review kits for her clients (among dozens of other career related activities), she reads a LOT, loves cooking, appreciates beefcake eye-candy, spending time with friends, family and with her assortment of furred and feathered “kids”.

Get to know Sherry at blackandbluemedia.com or www.facebook.com/sherry.ziegelmeyer.

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Mar 172014
 
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By Elizabeth Coldwell

Writers are constantly bombarded with advice, much of it about marketing, promo and developing an online presence—to the extent that it can become difficult to focus on the thing they actually love: the writing itself (and if you’re not writing because you love it, then why are you doing it?) But here are three pieces of advice I feel all writers, whether published or not, need to hear more often.

 

1) You Don’t Have to be Writing all the Time

This probably goes counter to what you’ve always been told, that you’re not a writer unless you’re writing, and that someone who wants to be successful and improve their craft should be devoting every possible moment to putting words down on paper. That’s all well and good, but the danger is that you end up writing for the sake of it, in order to meet some self-imposed deadline in the rush to get the next book on the virtual shelves. And events such as NaNoWriMo, which encourage people to meet a certain word count in a certain time, can end up promoting the concept of quantity over quality. Sometimes it’s better to wrestle over 100 good words than churn out 1000 that will be deleted when you read them back, and forcing yourself to keep writing on those days when the words aren’t flowing can be counter-productive to your art. On those days, it’s better to go for a walk, listen to music, or spring clean the house. Recharge your batteries, and don’t let yourself feel like a failure if you’re not continuously bashing out story after story.

 

2) Reviews Don’t Matter

Of course good reviews can make a difference to your book’s reception, as can that endorsement from Oprah or the Richard and Judy Book Club. Before the ubiquity of the internet, reviews were harder to come by—a magazine or newspaper would only have space to mention a handful of books a month, and often only the biggest publishing houses had their product featured—but now you can offer your book to dozens of review blogs, and decorate your own site with the buttons and whizzo graphics they provide if you’re a top pick. But reviews can also be penned by people who may not even have read your book, routinely handing out one and two stars on Goodreads because they don’t approve of women writing male/male fiction, or whatever their particular bugbear may be. Don’t obsess over—or respond to—anonymous criticism of your book. Never forget that one reviewer’s opinion is only that, and don’t send out books for review expecting (or even requesting—yes, it does happen) only four- and five-star reviews in return. You are more than your Amazon sales rank.

 

3) Edits Are a Necessary Evil

I’ve yet to meet an author who genuinely enjoys the process of going through edits. Sometimes, it’s hard not to believe the “track changes” function was designed purely to cross out half your novel, or allow final line editors to make nit-picky queries about hyphenated words. Some editors, it’s true, are almost fanatical about excising what they see as every last extraneous “that”, “was”, or “she” from a piece of text, or seem devoted to removing the adverb from the English language. But, at heart, they all want to present your work in the best light, and even as you curse them beneath your breath, you may discover when you’ve gone through the dreaded edits that your work is sharper, less repetitive—and those typos you didn’t notice, even though you thought you’d polished your work to a sheen, have been removed. That, of course, doesn’t mean you should blithely accept every last change (if you’re a US author being edited by someone in the UK, or vice versa, there will often be legitimate points of language and grammar to argue over), but even though it not may seem like it sometimes, editors are your friend, not your enemy.

 

Elizabeth Coldwell is Editor-in-chief at Xcite Books, where the titles she has edited include the National Leather Award-winning anthology, Lipstick Lovers. As an author, she has 25 years’ experience in the field of erotica, having been published by Black Lace, Cleis Press, Sizzler Editions, Total-e-bound and Xcite Books among many others. She can be found blogging at The (Really) Naughty Corner – elizabethcoldwell.wordpress.com.

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Mar 132014
 
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By P.M. White

Often, a quick scan on Amazon’s selection of erotica reveals one very hard-to-miss fact: there are a lot of women writing in the genre these days. You’ll also notice dozens of author names which obscure or mask the author’s gender. It’s always refreshing to see a new name—be it male, female or tbd—enter the erotic fray, and many of my favorites write from the female perspective—which they do, mostly, because they’re female writers.

There are, of course, the popular male writers: authors like the incredible Maxim Jakubowski, the awesome M. Christian, Terrance Aldon Shaw and others, not to mention age-old standbys like Vladimir Nabokov and Marquis de Sade, each providing their own unique voice to the genre.

And, few in number though they may appear to be, there are also contemporary and emerging male erotica writers out there. I’m one of them. And whether I want to admit it or not (and I must, since I’m writing this piece), I do occasionally pay attention to gender when it comes to my peers in the field. Having written erotica since 2008, my attention to others in the industry led to a number of conclusions.

For one, the illustrious golden goose is a shy little thing for writers seeking a payday in sexy literature, no matter one’s gender. For another, we male writers might almost be an endangered species when it comes to an apples-to-apples head count. This isn’t to say there isn’t a good sampling of male blood in the field. In fact, there may be more male writers than some might think.

According to author Gregory Allen, some male writers actually pen under a female pseudonym due to their fear that a masculine name might alienate readers.

“I’ve heard people say they prefer the way men write and I’ve heard people say they prefer the way women write,” he said. “I’m surprised when I hear people voice a preference like that. Short of reading every book ever written, a person can’t really say they don’t like the way women write men or the way men write women without making unfair judgments about a lot of authors. I know there are male writers who use female pen names for fear of alienating readers who prefer female authors. I don’t begrudge any writer trying to gain readers. Readers are gold. Writing is a lonely life. I used to hear that and think it was because writers are alone when they write, but now I think it’s because writers communicate intimately with a blank page.”

Allen, who specializes in female domination erotica, wrote in other genres for a number of years before turning to stories that focus on romantic, monogamous, female-led relationships.

Allen said. “When I started, I realized I had already sculpted my ideal mistress from my own fantasies in Kimberly, from Courting Her and Serving Her.”

Allen makes it a point to shut out gender stereotypes when he’s writing.

“I avoid considering my characters as male or female. I think of them as individuals, who obviously are male or female, but that subtle shift in how I think of them enables me, I think, to keep gender stereotypes out of my writing. I’m not obligated to keep my female characters ‘like’ other women, or my male characters ‘like’ other men. That frees me to focus on creating characters who feel authentic and unique, at least to me, and then I can hope readers find them to be, as well,” he said.

Author Willsin Rowe, meanwhile, got his start in erotica after he joined a project designed to mass-produce books and graphic novels. He was brought on board to produce horror stories with an edge of black comedy, but soon learned of another group on board the project tasked with producing erotic romance.

“Then, a matter of months later, I found out about a contest to write an erotic romance story. I submitted mine, and was lucky enough to win. That scored me a contract with a small publisher, and I’ve grown upward and outward from there,” Rowe said.

He describes his own work as “gritty romance.”

“It doesn’t always fit into the capital-R Romance category, but I strive to make the connections intense and rewarding,” he added.

A big difference between male and female writers of erotica, Rowe said, are descriptive terms.

“Being lateral and literal creatures, we males often write erotic scenes from a sequential, and even geographical point of view, I think. So, we’ll often spend time describing what appeals to us, which may not be the same as what appeals to a female writer,” Rowe said. “For example, a male writer may focus on the sweet way that fulsome breasts wiggle when we make a woman laugh, whereas a female writer may take that same moment and describe the twinkle in his eye as he delivered the witticism.”

Rowe said there are likely more female readers than male readers interested in erotic fiction at the moment.

He said, “All the anecdotal evidence I’ve seen tells me there’s a far higher contingent of female readers than male. And where one perspective is chosen, it’s more commonly the female. I believe that, for the most part, men are more interested in reading female POV (point of view) than women are in reading male POV. At least as far as erotica and erotic romance are concerned.”

No matter what, Allen said, writers need that human-to-human contact to grow in their craft.

“So many of us are aching for that, or asking for more of that, because a gap always exists in communication, but especially when the communication is so delayed as it is between writer and reader. But, for me, the opportunity to reach someone who thinks only female authors can be romantic or can create authentic-seeming female characters is too tempting. It’s bigger than me or my books, and if someone whose mind isn’t made up about male authors—which must be the case if they’re giving me a chance—feels differently about them after reading me, then that may be worth sacrificing a wider audience.”

Is it harder these days to be a male author these days? Rowe offered a resounding yes.

“I do think it’s harder, but it’s probably one of the softest kinds of hard you’d ever find,” he said. “We’re basically facing an automatically reticent general buying public by remaining male (as opposed to taking on a female pen name). I’ve had more than one woman tell me (without having read my work) that they don’t enjoy male-penned erotica. But as I say, it’s a pillow-like hardness. We’re not fighting for emancipation or civil rights, here.”

There are benefits as well, he added.

“It’s easier to stand out in people’s minds when you’re part of a subculture,” Rowe said. “First, there’s the physicality. I’m 6’ tall, 200 lbs, shaven-headed; I play in a band and ride a motorbike. I don’t look like most erotica/romance authors. But more than that, there’s the rather low bar that has been set by some members of the male gender. In real life and online, I’m polite, respectful and complimentary. Adding a Y-chromosome to those characteristics seems to make a world of difference.”

 

About Willsin Rowe
Willsin Rowe is the author of Submission Therapy, as well as a number of other titles co-authored with author Katie Salidas, including Occupational Therapy, Immersion Therapy and others. For more information, visit his website at willsinrowe.blogspot.com or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

 

About Gregory Allen
Author Gregory Allen can be found on Facebook and FetLife, as well as on Twitter @GregoryAllenPF. He’s the author of Courting Her, Protege Mistress, and Serving Her ­– all published by Pink Flamingo. He’s also the author of Bottoms in Love, published by 1001 Nights Press.

 

About P.M. White
Writer P.M. White has toiled on a number of sexy stories over the years, including his newest novella Volksie: A Tale of Sex, Americana and Cars from 1001 Nights Press. His previous publications include the Horror Manor trilogy from Sizzler Editions: Eyeball Man, Desire Under the Eaves, and You are a Woman. White’s short stories have appeared in Sex in San Francisco, The Love That Never Dies, Bound for Love, Pirate Booty and many others.
For more information, visit him on Tumblr at pmwhite.tumblr.com, at his Amazon author page, on Twitter @authorpmwhite and on Facebook.

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