Mar 052015
 
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by Suz deMello

Anyone else notice a distinctly hostile environment toward sex and sexuality on the net?

I’m not talking about the porn sites. I’m talking about mainstream sites and providers censoring content.

I recently received the below from Google:

Dear Blogger User,

We’re writing to tell you about an upcoming change to the Blogger Content
Policy that may affect your account.

In the coming weeks, we’ll no longer allow blogs that contain sexually
explicit or graphic nude images or video. We’ll still allow nudity
presented in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts, or
where there are other substantial benefits to the public from not taking
action on the content.

And I’ve ranted before about Amazon’s policies in this blog and elsewhere.

Between them, Google and Amazon control quite a large proportion of what we see, hear, read and buy.

It’s often been noted that Americans are repressed sexually. This repression seems to create an unhealthy aversion to the naked human body. A person, regardless of gender, can sunbathe topless on most European beaches. Not so in the USA, where many view a woman’s breast as pornographically rather than naturally beautiful.

I can appreciate that Amazon and Google do not want to become porn purveyors. However, there’s a slippery slope on the way from literature to pornography, and erotica clings to that slope. Erotica writers are digging in our spiked heels and holding on for dear life with our cuffed hands.

Jaid Black, the founder of Ellora’s Cave, one of the biggest online purveyors of erotic and erotic romance novels, said she spends her time thinking about “new ways to create income for Ellora’s…that don’t involve Amazon.” According to an interview in New York magazine (2/23/15), EC’s Amazon-generated income plummeted in 2013 by more than $2 million and has never recovered.

It’s hard to pinpoint a culprit, though. Advances in technology have thrown self-publishing to the forefront. Many of the newbies are so desperate to be read that they’re giving away their work for free or for rock-bottom prices. Anthologies or boxed sets of romance and erotica are most commonly priced at 99 cents, a price point that makes it virtually impossible for a professional writer to earn a decent living.

Of course parents should be empowered to determine what their children are exposed to on the internet, but “protecting” the rest of us is condescending and outright offensive. Parents have tools they can use to block content they may deem harmful to their children, such as NetNanny or CYBERsitter.

What can be done to combat the forces of repression? Organizations such as the OpenNet Initiative exist solely to inform the public about web-based censorship and surveillance efforts. The ACLU, Reporters Without Borders, The Censorware Project and peacefire.org have similar missions. Checkout out and supporting these organizations is one venue.

Another is registering our concerns, not as writers, but as consumers. According to article after article, Amazon is all about the customer, not the content creator. “Former executives all have stories about Bezos’ obsessive focus on the customer.” (Jeff Bezos is the famously obsessive founder and CEO of Amazon). Bezos explains that his company’s success is due to his focus on the customer, not the competitor.

Thus, approaching Amazon with concerns as consumers will be more effective. Querying Amazon for the reason we can’t find our favorite authors’ books may be a more productive approach.

As for Google, their corporate approach is, “Focus on the user and all else will follow”.

We’re all users. Some of us want to use Google to find erotica.

Focus on our status as consumers rather than creators of content and all else will follow.

Those of us writing have generally spent years honing our craft. Depressing, isn’t it, to be so little respected?

***

About the Author:

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written nineteen books in several genres, including nonfiction, memoir, erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms Totally Bound, Liquid Silver Books and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.

–Find her books at http://www.suzdemello.com

–For editing services, email her at suzdemello@gmail.com

–Befriend her on Facebook, and visit her group page.

–She tweets @Suzdemello

–and posts to Pinterest

–and Goodreads.

–Her current blog is TheVelvetLair.com

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Jan 312015
 
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By Suz deMello

Amazon is known for its ruthless business practices—it doesn’t merely squeeze competition, it strangles it until it dies.

Amazon currently sells 40% of all new books sold in the USA. Their percentage of the market in ebooks is even larger—perhaps 66% according to the above-cited Salon.com article.

Amazon is not only a bookseller, but a publisher, and it favors its own imprints and minimizes the ability for readers to find its competitors. The most famous example is that of Hachette. Check out Stephen Colbert’s clips on the issue.

Well-known is Amazon’s dislike of sexy covers, adult-oriented books and erotica; it seems to especially target purveyors of steamy books. Though Amazon touts its independent publishing program as a boon for writers, many indie published authors, especially in erotic romance, complain that Amazon’s search engine has made it difficult if not impossible for readers to find their books. The Kindle Unlimited program has cut further into their book revenues. Ellora’s Cave, one of the most prominent publishers of steamy and erotic romance on the web, has downsized radically, citing a massive drop in Amazon sales of its books as the reason.

Well-known erotic romance author Selena Kitt had this to say (and a lot more):

If you’re an erotica writer, you know that Amazon has a double standard. If you publish a title and put it into the “erotica” category, there are certain things that aren’t allowed in the title or on blurb. But if you put that same title and blurb into the “romance” category, it’s fine. Half-naked couples in a hot, torrid embrace are just fine in romance, but strangely, in the erotica category, they’re often filtered and sometimes even blocked.

The loyalty of many customers to Amazon is misplaced. For example, Amazon often does not feature the best online price for a book or other item. A couple of cases in point:

On 30 Sept 14, the price of one of my shorties, Highland Vampire, on Amazon was $2.51. The price at Harlequin’s site was $2.39.

Being the daughter of Brits, I’m a tea drinker and lately have been into using loose teas (they really do make a better cuppa). Initially I had been purchasing from Amazon—isn’t that the place we’ve all become accustomed to checking first? Then I went to the Twinings Tea site and found that I’d been grotesquely overpaying.  My fave Darjeeling at Amazon costs $8.24 and it’s an “add-on item,” which is some sort of irritating practice at Amazon—I couldn’t get the tea without buying other stuff, and I couldn’t find a work-around for that bit of Amazonian weirdness.

The same tea is almost half the price—$4.49—at Twinings.

Like many, I have come to rely on Amazon for so much! I listen to music on my Amazon music player on both laptop and cellphone, and download music from Amazon as well. I’m an Amazon affiliate. I also buy books for my Kindle Paperwhite, which I love, from Amazon.

But maybe it’s time to cut the cord. Why should I fund an entity that seeks to exploit me, maybe even put me out of business?

I’ve taken down my Amazon affiliate ads—that won’t hurt, as they’ve never earned me a penny. I’ve changed my email signature line, which used to direct folks to my Amazon author pages, to instead include my website and blog. Other changes will be harder.

I’m an Ellora’s Cave author. I also have books placed with two other publishers that have disappointed me in myriad ways—see these links:

www.harlequinlawsuit.com  and scroll down to #9 at

absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=194729–scroll.

So I’m going indie. But Createspace and KDP are fabulous platforms for self-publishing. How ethical is it, given my concerns, to use those platforms?

And beyond my personal worries, there’s the greater problem. Amazon sells a huge number of books, films, music and other creative and factual works.

Should one entity control so much of what goes into our minds and thoughts?

Will Amazon destroy erotic literature with its changing algorithms and prejudices? Will Amazon make it impossible for some books to flourish?

Does Amazon threaten our freedom of speech and thought?

***

About the Author:

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written nineteen books in several genres, including nonfiction, memoir, erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms Totally Bound, Liquid Silver Books and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.

Find her books at http://www.suzdemello.com

–For editing services, email her at suzdemello@gmail.com

–Befriend her on Facebook, and visit her group page.

–She tweets @Suzdemello

–and posts to Pinterest

–and Goodreads.

–Her current blog is TheVelvetLair.com

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Jan 172015
 
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By Nobilis

This week, I collected the fifth draft of the Monster Whisperer novel into one manuscript and sent it off to an editor at Circlet Press to consider for publication. My feelings are, as I’m sure you can understand, complicated. I’m relieved to be done with this phase of the story, anxious about starting the next, puzzled about what to work on afterward, and eager to get rolling on it. All at the same time, or in any combination. But I’ve been through this enough to know that the relief will fade, the anxiety is temporary, the puzzlement is natural, and the eagerness will, in time, need to be nurtured.

I’m enjoying the relief of being done with this novel. Finishing any novel is not easy, and the fact that this is my third hasn’t really made it any easier. But I can’t afford the urge to sit back and rest. There’s more writing to be done, and I know from experience that if I go even just one day without writing, it can easily stretch into two, or three, or a week, and I don’t want that. So I’ve set a goal for myself—to write at least five hundred words a day, every day, in the year 2015. No excuses, no exceptions.

Monster Whisperer is now at a stage where there is nothing I can do about it. It’s out of my hands. Anxiety won’t do me any good, so it’s really best to let it go. Dwelling on it will only lead me to do stupid things like check in with the editor daily on whether she’s reading it. So I need to let it go. The best way I know how to do that is to let myself feel it, acknowledge it, thank my subconscious for its opinion, then go about my day.

I don’t need to work very hard on the decision of what to work on next. I have a story I really need to finish, a novella for a box-set that I’ve been invited to participate in, but it’s not an immediate one and I can afford to spread my efforts around a little. I can’t afford to do that very much though, especially writing only five hundred words a day, so I need to maintain focus. Distractions need to be kept at a minimum. Monster Whisperer took a year to finish; I’d rather not have the next project take that long.

That eagerness to be writing, that desire to feel the intense satisfaction on finishing a manuscript, will need to be preserved and nurtured. Luckily, that gets easier with each finished story. My confidence improves every time, especially when I get positive feedback from people whose writing I admire. But the time will come, somewhere around the late middle of the next story, when I want to just give up. I know it will happen. So I need to fix this feeling in my mind, remember it, come back to it again and again to maintain my enthusiasm. I need to hold onto it the way some people hold onto grudges.

Essentially, my emotional state is very important to my success as a writer—and therefore I need to be able to manage that state, control it, shape it so that it serves my purposes. That may sound like a strange idea. Much of modern culture portrays people as helpless to control their feelings, even victims of them; or else that our feelings should be respected over other modes of thinking instead of in concert with them. I disagree. Our feelings are ultimately under our control, though sometimes only with great difficulty, and only if we maintain a respectful relationship with them rather than pitting them against our rational thought processes or trying to “fight” them. When understood and managed, these feelings can help us achieve our goals.

***

Stories that don’t stop at the bedroom door—or the castle gate—or the airlock.
http://www.nobiliserotica.com
Podcast: nobilis.libsyn.com
Twitter: @nobilis

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Jan 112015
 
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By M.Christian (Guest Blogger)

Currently I’m involved in a very special publishing endeavor – sorry for the tease; I’ll come to it shortly – that has gotten me thinking quite a bit about writing, especially about what it could meant to be a successful writer.

An odd word, that: success.  In some cases it can be a very clear-cut.  Getting from point A to point B?  Success is just making the trip.  Balancing your checkbook?  Success is making it all add up (and, one hopes, remaining in the black).  But for writers … well, it can be rather, shall I say, slippery.

For example: finishing a book or a story.  That can be a form of success – though too often it feels like there’s always more that could have been done.  Selling a book or a story?  That can be successful – though many times there’s the nagging doubt that it could have gone for more money, higher status, etc.

Then there’s the big form of that word.  What does it mean to be a successful author?  Excuse me for evoking my inner Cranky Old Pro, but far too many authors seem to think that being a successful author is not just finishing books and stories, selling books or stories, winning awards, making money – but making sure everyone, everywhere, knows about it.

In other words, the world of professional writing – or creating anything, it seems like – has become about who you are and not what you do.

Okay, that’s a broad statement, but bear with me.  This new endeavor – which I still won’t talk too much about … yet – involves a lot of looking backwards.  I’ve never been a fan of nostalgia … my childhood wasn’t exactly a pleasant one … but it has been a real eye-opener when it comes to reevaluating what, for me at least, success actually means.

Let’s talk about science fiction for a moment – but, rest assured, the message is the pretty much the same not only for every genre but every form of artistic creation as well.  Right now being a science fiction writer is a big deal: one story, one sale, one award, and everyone’s awash in self-congratulatory promotion.

Yes, PR is more important than ever, what with the evolution of ebooks and self-publishing and all. Going from (yeah I know I might be exaggerating) 1,000 books published a month to 10,000 books a day means that getting your name out there is crucial … but there’s a big difference between trying not to vanish, trampled under the hordes of other writers, and losing sight of the what being a writer is all about.

Part of this project I alluded to in the first paragraph is stepping into a wayback machine to look at many early SF authors and their works.  Back in the 1940s and 50s, and up to the 60s or so, was when many of the SF legends began their writing lives.  If you haven’t, you should definitely pick up a few old SF digests or pulps or cruise a few select sites and check them out.

Sure, far too often their covers were beyond pulpy (half-naked women, Green Men from Mars, stalwart heroes firing blasters, Green Men from Mars holding half-naked women high in the air while stalwart heroes fired blasters at them, etc.), but look at who was slowly making their way up the mastheads of those tawdry pages: Arthur C. Clarke, Alfred Bester, Philip K. Dick, Edmond Hamilton, Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, and (later) James Tiptree, Jr.
 (AKA Alice Bradley Sheldon), Octavia Butler, and so many others. 

Oh, sure, it’s worth a giggle or two seeing authors that we now consider to be legendary on these covers – but doing so is what changed the way I, personally, consider a measure of success … and, perhaps, will change the way you think about it, too.

Back into the wayback machine: no internet, damned few bookstores that would carry digests or paperbacks (they were mostly sold on newsstands), almost no reviews (except in other SF magazines), and pretty much zero, nada, zilch in the way of respect.

Being a science fiction writer back then was a low-paying, quasi-shameful, writer’s life.  You were lucky to get your name spelled right on the cover, let alone have that cover depict anything to do with the book you wrote.  Adding insult to injury, how much you got for your next book had everything to do with how much your last book sold: if it didn’t … well, then you took what you could get.

But these authors kept on writing.  They didn’t have even the possibility of attracting anything but scorn from big publishing houses, let alone movie deals.  They didn’t have a way of reaching out to fans – or even fellow authors – other than writing actual letters or attending what few early conventions existed back then.

So … no money, no fame, only a small cadre of fans, humiliated and the source of almost constant derision from authors in other genres … sure, we know them now, after 50+ years, but what kept them going then?

They were writers: they loved – beyond all else – to tell stories.  Sure, for many of them churning out stories and books was a way of making at least some money but, let’s be honest, there were better ways of doing that.

This is what I mean by success.  Now we look back at these authors as being successful because their names – even beyond science fiction fandom – are well known and even respected, and even a few of their properties are valued in the millions.  But it wasn’t always that way.

Yes, that was then and this is now, but they got from where they started to where they are now because they lived to write stories … and managed to keep at it long enough for the rest of the world to finally catch up and take interest in those stories.

No, it’s not a guarantee – those same pulp pages are full of authors who didn’t last long enough – but the point is still pretty much valid: these celebrated authors began their writing lives not because of winning awards, raking in the cash, or the adoration of legions of fans, but because they lived to write.

And that is what I’ve come to consider to be a personal definition of success: to live for the writing, to remain passionate and dedicated … while the rest, as they say, is gravy.

***

About M. Christian
Calling M.Christian versatile is a tremendous understatement. Extensively published in science fiction, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and even non-fiction, it is in erotica that M.Christian has become an acknowledged master, 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.

In addition, he is a prolific and respected anthologist, having edited twenty five anthologies to date. He is also responsible for several non-fiction books, notably How to Write and Sell Erotica.

M.Christian is also the Associate Publisher for Renaissance eBooks, where he strives to be the publisher he’d want to have as a writer, and to help bring quality books (erotica, noir, science fiction, and more) and authors out into the world.

He can be found in a number of places online, not least of which is mchristian.com.

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Dec 182014
 
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By Nobilis

A speedbump slows you down for a bit; a setback is a loss of progress. Preparation keeps speedbumps from turning into setbacks.

This morning when I got my stuff together to go to the office, I discovered that my netbook needed an update. This is not uncommon, as the Ubuntu OS it runs, along with the apps I have loaded on it, are updated regularly. The problem arose when the update got stuck partway through and I needed to get on the road to be on time for work.

I did the exact wrong thing and interrupted the update.

Needless to say, the netbook is now not functional. I am composing this blogpost on my tablet, which is a good deal slower than I like but that’s how it goes.

I’m not worried, though. Even if the device is permanently kaput, I know I will not lose ground, because each day’s work was automatically uploaded to Dropbox.

That’s the kind of thing that keeps a speedbump from turning into a setback. Backups are the key—not just to saving my work to a secure location, but also to having backup hardware to work with until I can get my primary device back into service. This preparedness is what gives me the room to be flexible.

The same preparedness is necessary at every stage of the writer’s operation. For example, if Amazon were to suddenly remove all links to erotica titles, so that anyone who wanted to buy it would have to link directly to it,  if search and author pages and all of the other methods readers use to find books no longer worked, what would you be able to do? How much control do you have over that part of your business?

If your favorite publisher, the one you’ve been working with for years and have a strong relationship with, were to suddenly announce they were closing their doors, do you know what would happen to the rights to your books? Do you know where you would take them?

If your blogging platform were yanked out from under you, how quickly could you recover?

Taken all together, these questions can be pretty daunting. I know I am not prepared for all of these contingencies. But writers, erotica writers especially, need to be ready for the ground to shift under their feet. It happens too often to ignore.

***

Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

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

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Nov 242014
 
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By Colin

There are certain questions every writer is asked sooner or later.  “Where do you get your ideas?” is the one everyone thinks is the biggie, but that one has never actually been posed to me.  “How about I give you some ideas and you write the stories and we split the money?” is, I’m sad to say, one I actually have heard.  Guy I went to high school with.  Had all kinds of great ideas, but…you know, he just didn’t have the time.

There’s one question, though, that’s unique to writers of erotica, usually delivered in a hushed—even fearful—tone of voice.  “Does X know the kind of writing you do?”  For “X” pencil in your parents or your co-workers or your pastor or possibly even your spouse.  Seriously, though, I don’t think Dan Brown or James Patterson gets that question a whole lot, and I’m comfortably certain J.K. Rowling doesn’t.

Naturally, everyone will have a different answer to that question.  In my case, the members of my family who are closest to me know what I write, and don’t seem overly uncomfortable with it…but it’s also a don’t-ask-don’t-tell kind of thing.  None of them are particularly interested in reading any of my books or stories, but I doubt they would be even if I wrote cozy mysteries or sword and sorcery.  Most of my friends know, but there aren’t too many of them to worry about.  My co-workers at my Beloved Day Job definitely don’t know, and if I have anything to say about it, they won’t find out anytime soon.

Another question sometimes comes up, this time from the writers: “Is it a good idea to keep your erotica a secret?  Can you really manage your writing career effectively if you’re not able to reveal your true name?”

It’s true that there are certain disadvantages to going beyond a mere pseudonym—plenty of writers use those, even those working well outside of genre fiction—to actually hiding your true identity.  It can put you in the odd position of almost trying to avoid publicity, and that ain’t good.

But it’s a good idea to remember that, in the minds of a great many people, writing erotica isn’t okay; in fact, for those folks, it’s very much the opposite.  Even if they have a stack of back issues of Barely Legal hidden under their bed, or are practically paying the mortgages of the good folks at clips4sale.com, chances are they don’t have much personal investment in their smut.  Which means that in any public debate on the subject, they’ll likely agree with the loudest voice at the table.  Which is often a negative voice, unfortunately.

Even if you completely hide your identity, outing yourself as an erotica writer to friends and family can be problematic.  Double that for co-workers; people do mysteriously lose their jobs.  That economy, boy, we thought it was looking up, but…hey, you know how it goes.

Okay, fine, you say.  But isn’t it sort of dishonest to not be totally open about your writing?  Doesn’t it imply you have a paper-thin commitment to your art?

If you’re the kind of person with a cast iron ego and/or nothing to lose, or one who relishes a fight, or if you’ve built your life (income source included) within a sex-positive subculture, then that kind of total honesty might just be for you.  For the rest of us, a good first step might be to make a list of those things in your life you can’t realistically afford flack on: custody of your children, say, or your job, or your family’s good opinion.  Gird your loins and proceed accordingly.  And remember, there are worse things than working behind a pseudonym; your identity is one of the few things in life you control.

***

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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Oct 192014
 
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By Colin

I might be jumping the gun a little with this month’s column, but with the air turning frosty (here on the East Coast, anyway), and everyone’s thoughts turning to winter, getting a jump on taxes might not be the worst idea. And if your first thought on reading the above is, “Taxes? What do taxes have to do with writing?” you’ve just proved my point.

When I first started publishing, taxes were one of the things I was thoroughly clueless about. I mean, I understood that money I made in royalties and payments for stories was subject to taxation, but that was about as far as it went. Was I supposed to pay taxes for everything? What if I was working for some big New York publisher? Wouldn’t they handle at least part of it? What if my publisher didn’t send me a tax form?

Ah, youth. If only I could go back and give myself a good firm slap upside the head. But in lieu of that, let’s lay down a few ground rules, just in case you’ve ever wondered about this stuff. As a quick caveat, and with apologies to our colleagues in other countries, the info below applies strictly to US Citizens.

First of all, yes, the one thing I seemed to actually know as a newbie was that money you make on your writing is taxable. All of it, including the five bucks you got for that poem in your friend’s webzine. If there are publishers anywhere—either book publishers or those buying material exclusively for magazines and anthologies—who handle taxes for their writers, all I can say is, I’ve yet to meet them. One of the downsides of making even a little money writing (and it all too often really is just a little money) is that you can’t use the old 1040EZ anymore. You’ve now got income as a freelancer, which technically can’t be included under “Wages, Tips,” etc.

The really nice publishers will, sometime in January, send you a 1099 form, which breaks down how much money you made from them the previous year and is meant to be included with your taxes. Some publishers don’t send a 1099, for whatever reason. You can always ask them, but it’s a good idea in any case to keep a running tab on how much money you make during the year. That way you’ll prepared for that lovely spring day that comes to each of us, no matter how successful.

So how do you declare your taxable income as a freelancer? I’ll tell you what every writer I’ve ever met has told me: I ask my tax preparer. Having your taxes done by a professional is not strictly necessary, of course, but the more you’ve made during the year,  the more of a relief it is to thrust a handful of 1099s at a qualified professional, then go out for cheeseburgers. I highly recommend it, myself. If you’re set on doing your own taxes, you’d be well-advised to get as much information as you can beforehand. Advice from knowledgeable friends is always welcome, and if you’re the bashful type, this internet thing they’ve got is an absolute marvel at pulling together information; I swear, it’s like you just push a button and boom! There it is.

A final remark: some writers might be nervous about talking through earnings for publishers known to deal in erotica. But keep in mind, you are under no obligation to tell your preparer you write smut, only that you do “freelance writing.” Besides, the preparer is not likely to know or care if a particular name on your 1099s is smut-affiliated. They just want to get home and watch the ballgame; they’re not going to put you on the hotseat and demand to know exactly why your publisher is called “Loose Id,” or “Sizzler Editions.” Trust me on that.

***

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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Oct 122014
 
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by Suz deMello

From my writing treatise, Plotting and Planning, available November 1, 2014:

Scenes are the building blocks of your story, for acts are comprised of scenes. They’re nothing more than events, most often interactions between your characters. Scenes should fulfill at least one or two of the below purposes—best if you can include all four.

•Advance the plot

•Reveal or develop character

•Complicate or resolve conflict

•Express setting, mood, and/or theme

Everything in your manuscript should have a function, even every comma or em-dash.

How does this apply to the writing of erotica?

Too often, sex scenes are shoehorned into a story to increase the word count or the heat level, while those scenes don’t fulfill any other function. To quote from Plotting and Planning again: Everything in a story should contribute to it, from the biggest monster to the tiniest comma.

If a scene doesn’t contribute to the story, it doesn’t belong there. It doesn’t matter how well-written it is. It doesn’t matter how hot it is. It doesn’t matter how much you, the author, may love its beautiful prose or its scorching hot, kinky sex.

There’s a piece of writerly advice out there: Kill your darlings.

No one’s quite sure where this phrase originated, but it’s been repeated often, including by such notable authors as William Faulkner and Stephen King.

But it doesn’t matter who originated the phrase—it’s great advice. We often fall in love with our prose and are loath to cut it, especially when we may have slaved over a particularly well-turned clause or exhaustively researched, say, the eating habits of the lesser lemur of Madagascar.

But fiction is no place to be a smarty-pants. Leave that for term papers, book reports and theses.

In terms of writing sex scenes, what do we leave in and what to we cut?

We leave in those scenes that fulfill at least one of the purposes in the list above. Ideally, a well-written, thoughtfully planned encounter between our protagonists will fulfill more than one purpose.

Here’s a brief example, from a futuristic erotic romance I wrote called Queen’s Quest. The backstory is that the heroine is losing her virginity in a public ceremony that’s traditional on her planet for royals.

Tears in his eyes, my father squeezed my shoulders and murmured brokenly, “My little girl…” I hugged him, my heart full of love and gratitude.

“Blessings on you, my darling dear.” He turned to the front of the terrace and raised my hand, shouting, “Blessings on Princess Audryn!”

The crowd responded, “Blessings! Blessings!” This was the traditional call for a fertile union as well as an acknowledgment of my status as a royal.

My father wiped his damp eyes with a handkerchief and joined my mother on the Golden Throne.

Alone, I walked to the bed. I could feel the cool breeze flutter my chemise, which brushed against my breasts. My nipples firmed.

Frayn waited, already naked, already hard. He stroked his cock, and a cheer rose from the watching men and giggles from the females. He turned his head and winked at the crowd. I laughed.

Now at the bed, I took his hand. We smiled at each other and kissed.

A murmur rose from the crowd, a murmur that rose to moans as I took his face in my hands to kiss him more deeply. He reached for the front of my chemise and ripped it away, tearing it from my body. The crowd roared, as if they knew that real action was close. But Frayn had other ideas.

He eased me back onto the bed so I lay with my hips at its edge. He knelt before me and, reaching up, he parted my legs so my blond muff and pink quim were fully presented to the onlookers. Mutters of admiration filled the air, and to my surprise, I wasn’t frightened, anxious or shy. My pussy seemed to blossom open from the sounds of acceptance I heard from my people.

Lifting myself onto my elbows, I looked over the crowd, fixing my attention on the first row. Most were watching me, but all seemed to have very busy hands. Either they stroked themselves, or more often, caressed a partner. The fancy embroidered codpieces were open and feminine hands grasped a multitude of rods. Some ladies were already on their knees, while other women had exposed their breasts, tempting the males to taste their nipples.

Frayn leaned forward and fastened his mouth to my quim. Lightning shot through me and I wantonly pushed my pelvis forward, seeking completion. Already swollen from the attentions of the guards, my clit twitched between his lips as he sucked and licked. I drew a long, deep breath and allowed the pure joy of this day to flow through my being as Frayn’s talented tongue, the lovely scratch of his beard, took me higher.

He stood, his face shining with my pussy juices, and bent over me. “The important aspect of this ceremony is that the people see me enter you, see me take you thoroughly, again and again, and see the blood of your virginity spilt over my cock. How do you want to do it?”

I blinked, called out of my erotic cloud to do my duty. I managed a grin though I was annoyed. I was already aware of the event’s significance. “We should do it…visibly, I suppose.”

He caressed my pussy and fingered my slit. I took his tool in my hand. His cock had swelled thick and red with desire, and I wanted him inside me. “Lie down,” I said, pulling on him to enforce obedience.

“Yes, your royal highness.”

“Oh, hush up,” I said. “You’re as royal as I am.”

“Not quite.”

“Jealous?” Pushing him down, I straddled him and teased him with my body, bending my knees to dip low, letting my quim caress his cock-head. My breasts brushed his chest.

He gasped, his previous arrogance gone. “Audryn, please. I’m about to burst.”

So what do we learn from this passage? In regard to character, we see that the heroine, Audryn, is a princess beloved by her family and her people. She is fearless, aggressive, passionate and strong, stronger than her lover Frayn, who belittles her intelligence. She’s aware of her position and resents his arrogance, which foreshadows an external conflict.

In regard to the setting, we learn that public sex is not merely accepted but enjoyed. The references to clothing, particularly chemises and codpieces, tell the astute reader that perhaps this futuristic civilization partakes of some aspects of past human history. This allows the reader to visualize the setting and the garb as well as helping the reader to feel grounded in a very different society.

If you like what you read, you can find the book at Ellora’s Cave or Amazon.

I am a romance novelist and believe firmly that erotic scenes should never be gratuitous. If, while writing, an author bears in mind the purposes a scene must fulfill, the sex is never out of place; it is a seamless part of a well-written story.

* * *

About the Author:

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written seventeen romance novels in several subgenres, including erotica, comedy, mystery and suspense, historical, and paranormal, as well as a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms as Totally Bound and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.

Check out Suzie’s site at suzdemello.com, and her blog at TheVelvetLair.com.

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Oct 032014
 
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by Nobilis

I don’t sprint when I write, not anymore. It used to be that I could get 1,600 words down in an hour if I really put on the power and concentrated on nothing but how many keystrokes I could apply to my story. Nowadays, an hour’s worth of work results in something more like 800 words. It’s not impairment that has caused this slow-down, it’s a recognition of how my creative mind works.

At some point I began to pay attention to how much time and effort I actually spent on a piece of writing—and it became clear that 1,600 words an hour was less effective than it sounded. Did most of those words end up in the final draft? No. I ended up cutting about a third of them, and completely rewriting another third. As it turned out, it was more efficient in the long run for me to slow down a bit and pay more attention to what I was writing. Better for me to write eight hundred words that are already in fairly good shape, and build on those, than to quickly churn out a story I will end up breaking down and rebuilding anyway.

I’m not saying that sprinting isn’t a good practice in general. I’m saying that it doesn’t work well for me. I’ve analyzed my writing process and made the conscious decision to think more carefully about what I’m writing on my first draft. Overall, I’ve tried a number of different ways to get from first draft to final, and found that slowing down works best for me.

There are all kinds of decisions a writer has to make when they set out to write a story. How deep will the outline be? How much planning will go into character and setting? What software will they use? How much time will they spend on it in one sitting? How long can they set it aside? What time of day, and day of the week will be “writing time”? When will beta readers see it?

It’s rare for a new writer to answer these questions with intention and forethought, and yet it’s a crucial first step. No one else can answer them, ultimately; only you can.

And those answers will probably change over time, as you learn more about your writing process. If you’re a new writer, you ought to be trying out many different things. You can’t really call yourself a “discovery writer” if you’ve never tried writing to an outline. You can’t call yourself a “binge writer” if you’ve never tried setting aside an hour a day, every day, for writing.

These experiments can’t be evaluated until they’ve been taken to some kind of conclusion. If you just measure your productivity at the first-draft stage, then sprinting always looks better—but if a sprinted novel takes a major rewrite every time and a more carefully composed manuscript doesn’t, then the gain from sprinting is lost in the editing process. On the other hand, you may find that you wrote your first draft too tightly, didn’t let your ideas flow as freely as they could have, and need to develop much more of the story in the next draft. If that’s the case, maybe a looser, faster style of preliminary writing will prove better for your next book.

Likewise, if a writer completes an outline and feels like the story is told and there’s nothing left to “discover,” (a description of the outlining process I’ve heard from many self-described discovery writers) but has never actually written to the outline, then the writer isn’t giving the technique a fair shot.

The only way for a new writer to determine what techniques work best for them is to try them out, and pay attention to the results, both in terms of quality and efficiency. It’s work, but it’s work that needs to be done sooner or later—preferably sooner, if you want to spend the majority of your writing career working with, rather than against, your own creative process.

***

Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

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

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Sep 082014
 
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By Colin

So you’ve written a book—not a story that crapped out after four thousand words, but an actual novel. And you think this book might be the one. Whether you use beta readers or go with your own gut, all the signs are right; this thing might actually sell some copies. You’ve decided to go with a publisher rather than putting it out yourself (and the joys of “putting it out yourself” are something I might go into in a future column). Now the question becomes: which publisher?

Because—just in case you’ve had your head in the sand during your book’s gestation—there are an awful lot of them. Even if you’re going with one of the electronic publishers (which, if your book is erotica, you most probably will), you’ve got an amazing number of choices. This month, I want to throw out a few helpful precepts, garnered through way too many years of my own mistakes, on how to go about shopping for a publisher.

First of all, just in case you have had your head in the sand for the past year, and are interested in an overview of the contenders, you’ve got a number of options. Google is not the least of these. A simple search on the words erotica publisher novel guidelines will get you started. If you’d rather look at more specific information right away, check out the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, specifically the Authors Resources page, and, for that matter, the ones at this site (on the right-hand sidebar below Roundtable Posts. Updated Calls for Submissions coming soon! —ed.). Both contain lists of erotica markets, with links to the publisher’s sites.  If you’re willing to spend a little money ($5.00 a month, or a discounted rate of $4.17 for committing to a year up front), I’ve found membership at Duotrope to be both affordable and very useful, not just for erotica, but for pinpointing opportunities in a wide variety of other genres, from steampunk to Bizarro. They also collate response times reported by members, to give you a better idea if your manuscript will meet with a quick answer or a slow death.

Of course, the first thing you’ll be looking for are publishers who put out the kinds of books you’ve written and want to go on writing, but this will also be an opportunity for you to look into areas you might not have thought of before. You might also find markets for material you thought was terminally unsalable, so take the time to really look around.

Alright, now you’ve assembled a shortlist of possible publishers. It’s time to look over their websites and their wares. You can judge a book by its cover, and you can often judge a publisher by their books. Do the covers jump out at you, and make you wonder what kind of story they represent? Or are they muddy, indistinct messes that just make you go, “Meh?” Would you buy their books? Because if you pick them and actually make a sale, your book will be right there among all the others you’re looking at now.

How about the website? Is the ad copy well-written…or at least competently written? Misspellings, tangled syntax and clichéd phrases on a publisher’s site are a red flag; remember, these people will be representing your work. If you’ve landed in a site full of clip-art covers and bad writing, it’s time to move on. If you Google a publisher and nothing comes up but a Facebook page or a Smashwords profile, then what I just said goes double.

If they’ve posted a sample contract (some do, some don’t), read it carefully, making note of things like royalty rates, and how you would go about pulling your book from their catalogue if they (perish the thought) turn out to be a shady operation.

Speaking of shade, reputation is another big factor to consider. Google the publisher—sometimes adding words like “complaints” or “problems” to their name will bring up some very interesting results. If a publisher treats its writers badly, there will be blog entries—usually a lot of blog entries from a wide variety of writers—about it, as well as mentions on sites like Predators and Editors (another one for your web-browser’s Favorites list). You have to take some of this with a large grain of salt, because a single writer who feels she’s been stiffed on her royalties can 1) be awfully loud and 2) recruit a handful of friends to help boost their signal out of nothing more than personal loyalty, and it’s true to say that sometimes “problems” with a publisher are simply the result of misunderstandings.

Some writers make a point of ignoring new publishers (which seem to crop up every week) until they’ve been in business at least a few years. This is generally sound advice; several years in business means the publisher is not just successful, but also has a certain stick-to-it-iveness. But you have to be a little careful here as well; recently, several publishers who had been around for a while and built up solid track records in that time suddenly went belly-up, literally overnight. Obviously, if you’re good at reading warning signs, these are businesses to avoid. Many publishers are iffy about taking previously-published books when the publisher dies; there’s always self-publishing, but that should be an option, not something you’re forced into to get an older manuscript back into print (probably with a less-than-glorious cover).

So now you’ve narrowed your list down and you’re pretty sure you know which publisher you want to submit to.  What happens now?  Come back in a month and we’ll talk.

***

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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