Learning to Love My Inner Editor

Learning to Love to My Inner Editor

Hi,

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years of writing fiction, it’s that writing isn’t simply about putting one word after the next. Writing is a process. A long and complicated process for most fiction writers, and one that we all do differently.

5834034_sFor me, the writing process has distinct stages, and as I’m becoming more experienced at my craft, I’m finding that there are more stages than I initially thought. If you’d asked me how I did it when I first started out, I’d have said, “I write it, then send it.” Ha! The naivety! Okay, I’m being a bit disingenuous there—I would proof read my work as well, before sending it.

But gradually, the write-and-click-send turned into a longer, multi-stage process. The whole exercise has become drawn out as new elements have been added. This has resulted in me understanding the craft of writing far better than I used to, which has been in turn, I hope, reflected in the quality of my writing.

What are the stages? Typically, if the WIP (work in progress) is a novel or a novella, my process might go something like this:

  • Germ of an idea
  • Develop into a workable premise – when A happens, character does B
  • Move to a story outline
  • Re-interpret outline in Hero’s Journey format – yes, I do use the Hero’s Journey model for plotting my stories. I’d be interested to hear if other writers also use it for erotica…
  • Character development. (The order of this might suggest that my writing is mainly plot-driven and to a certain extent it is – but character development actually goes on in parallel to outlining.)
  • Chapter breakdown – a detailed summary of what happens in each chapter. This stage will run to many pages and this is the actual act of creation as far as I’m concerned.
  • Writing the first draft – using the chapter breakdown as my roadmap. This is when I get to have fun with words.
  • Then the agony begins – the editing. I can’t even talk about my editing process because it’s an activity I hate so much. All that work in the earlier stages – it has one, single purpose – to keep editing after the event to a minimum. I rarely make plot alterations at this point – that’s the point of that heavy burden of plotting in advance. But even so, words gotta be edited.
  • Sending out to my gorgeous and treasured beta readers.
  • Responding to and making amendments in line with their comments. (Sometimes!)
  • Hit SEND!

Ah – if you remember back to the dim and distant title of this post, I alluded to learning to love my inner editor, didn’t I?

Yes, I do exactly as my inner editor tells me to!

Yes, I do exactly what my inner editor tells me to!

Right – up until recently I didn’t even realise I had an inner editor. I hate the editing process so much that the poor creature was probably in hiding. Curled up into a little ball somewhere in the outer reaches of my brain. But over the last couple of months, as I’ve been writing, this shy creature has started to show herself – and thank God she has!

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you might have seen the odd post about my progress on the current WIP – Alchemy. It’s an epic story that I’ll be serialising over the course of 2015. My magnum opus, if you like. And you may have spotted the occasional tweet in which I admit to deleting huge swathes (by which I mean a couple of thousand words at a sweep) that I’ve written the day before. Ruthlessly cut. Delete button mayhem. More brutal than the Texas chainsaw massacre…

How could I do this to my work? How? This is the question I’ve been asking myself, because it’s a pretty new departure for me. And I can put it down to one thing. The emergence of my inner editor into the light of day. She has the guts to do what I can’t. She can sniff out a plot twist gone awry, a character behaving, well, out of character. And she’s not having any of it.

So she and I have gone pruning. And in every case, she’s been right. It might set me back a day on my schedule but the new words that replace the victims of the purge are invariably better – the right words that should have been there in the first place. And this is all happening during the execution of the first draft. When I’m still playful and optimistic about the story. Hell – I couldn’t hack it during the editing stage, the period, for me at least, of doom and gloom. So far, though, she’s got her timing absolutely right.

Damn! Got to love her!

But what does it all mean? It means that, as a writer, I’m growing. I’m finally learning my craft. And it’s a process I know won’t stop until the day I finally stop writing. And that won’t be for a long time yet.

Tamsin

xxx

Setting erotica free

Why should you look out for authors and publishers who give their work away?

At first glance, the answer would appear obvious: Hell, it’s free.

But there’s a little more to it than that. Standards in erotica can vary hugely. With publishing so easy these days, there are often very few quality controls involved in the process, which contributes to this. Also, erotica can be profitable, and this draws in those who just want to use the genre to get rich quick. These ‘authors’ aren’t necessarily interested in erotic fiction, or even writing as a whole: a couple of years ago they would have been creating websites that were nothing more than link farms designed to send you through to online shopping sites, with those responsible raking in advertising and affiliate fees. For these authors, the bottom line is to publish anything that can get through – often either badly written, badly produced, and/or stolen – and all optimized to get people to part with their cash as quickly as possible.

It can be hard to spot this kind of thing until you’ve paid up, but one indicator is to look for freebies.

Giving our work away for nothing is a sure sign of confidence. I have several free titles available – two have gone permanently free in the past month – and for me and my publishers this is a sign of faith in a body of work. The only way for this to work is if enough people read the freebies and like them enough to go looking for more.

And, of course, for obvious reasons, this is a strategy that doesn’t work for the internet marketers because it would mean they had to be operating to higher standards.

I know there are flaws to this argument: for instance, schemes like Amazon’s KDP Select allow you to set books free for a few days at a time and this can give books greater visibility for when they’re paid-for again.

But setting a book permanently free is another matter: the publisher is giving the book away on the basis that its quality will sell other books.

So, confidently I hope, I’ll provide a few links here for free books that might just introduce you to a new favorite author.

First of all, a couple of mine:

Swinging in Amsterdam Swinging in Amsterdam by Polly J Adams
“What haven’t we done yet?” On a whirlwind tour of Europe this is a question Martin and Selena often ask. It’s their way of reminding themselves not to miss out on the sights. But in Amsterdam, a city famous for its relaxed attitude to sexuality, the question leads to a visit to a sex show and an invitation impossible for the adventurous couple to refuse…

The Object of His Desire 1: Wanted by PJ Adams
When Trudy goes to her estranged brother’s wedding, the last thing she expects is one of those moments: a handsome stranger, their eyes meeting across a crowded room… a tempting, but dangerous stranger. Determined to find out more, she discovers that dark secrets bind him to her brother; she also learns that he’s the kind of man who gets what he wants, and what he wants right now is Trudy.

And now for some others that have caught my eye:

His Need Her DesireHis Need Her Desire by Malia Mallory
On the beaches of Oahu, Tabitha gets more than just a tan. Executive assistant Tabitha Quinn didn’t come to Hawaii to be spanked. But when vacationing businessman Marcus Granger saves her from drowning, they begin an affair that moves from the beach to the bedroom and straight into an experience Tabitha’s never had before: dark-haired, blue-eyed Marcus is a dominant, and spanking is just the beginning. The relationship is intense, the emotion even more so, until they both must decide if this is a holiday fling or the real thing.

Fill Me Up!: A Forbidden Taboo Erotica by Saffron Daughter
When Lexi is stood up on her date (and to just a nice guy no less) she’s particularly unhappy. She could have been out with one of the football stars instead! But she has always heeded the advice of Matthew, the man who raised her, the man of the house. He says stay away from the bad boys, because they’ll just use you and lose you. Of course she listens to him… she’s secretly in love with him!

The Curvy Vet and the Billionaire Cowboy (He Wanted Me Pregnant!)The Curvy Vet and the Billionaire Cowboy (He Wanted Me Pregnant!) by Victoria Wessex
Curvy veterinarian scientist Amanda has never been comfortable with her body. She hides away in her lab in Atlanta, burying herself in her work…until a call from a stranger drags her out of the city and into the wilderness. Former oil man Russ Tyler has made his billions and bought himself a stud farm in Wyoming. He needs Amanda to treat a feral horse high in the mountains…but that means persuading the timid beauty to trek there with him on horseback. Amanda’s used to soy lattes, not camping out under the stars with a gorgeous, muscled cowboy. Can Russ convince her that he loves her curves…and wants her to have his children?

Kept Women: Two Fertile Submissive Stories by Nicole Snow and Kelsey Charisma
Some women seek adventure and careers. Others just want to be kept. This erotic romance set spotlights two strict, wealthy Doms, and the submissives who become their dark obsessions. Curiosity brings them into their boss’ embraces. Lust, hard pleasure, and pure baby making heat keeps them there forever… Under His Control by Nicole Snow and Whatever He Wants by Kelsey Charisma.

TakenTaken by Selena Kitt
Lizzy’s friendship with her boss, Sarah, turns into something deeper and much more exciting one rainy day after work, and Lizzy finds herself drawn into a world she never knew existed. Sarah has a dominant streak, and as she leads Lizzy into the role of a submissive, the two women become closer than they ever thought possible. But while Sarah, hurt too many times, wears a ring, and tells guys she’s “taken,” Lizzy knows she secretly longs for a man. Determined to find one for them both to share, Lizzy is just about to give up when a dark, handsome, virile answer shows up right under her nose. Lizzy may think she and Sarah are going to seduce David–but she underestimates their handsome co-worker, and David turns the tables on them both. But will he be able to tame the untameable Sarah?

Please note: the pricing of free ebooks can be erratic and beyond the control of the authors and publishers, so do be sure to check the price before downloading!

Erotica: Stories About Women

Erotica is a funny genre to find yourself in, sometimes.

Its precarious and hotly-debated position is utterly unique. Can you even imagine anyone worrying about whether booksellers should carry mystery novels, literary fiction, biographies, what have you, the way they do with erotica?

Individual works might get questioned from time to time (Mein Kampf, for example), but their existence doesn’t prompt anyone to suggest the eradication of an entire genre or subject matter.

Erotica gets a unique (and largely unwelcome) attention in that regard, and not just from the easy caricature of hypocritical Bible-thumpers. Plenty of people on the left, as well as the right, have spilled ink defending the fairer sex from the oppression of being thought of as erotic.

fragonard-a-young-woman-reading-1776And when you come down to it, that’s what we’re talking about, really. Because that’s the other unique thing about erotica: it is probably the only literary genre (without delving down into niche subgenres) where the subject matter and characters are predominantly female.

Setting aside the thriving but still relatively small male-male niche, erotic books basically have to involve women, and not just in token roles. Their bodies and their action are front and center, or else you don’t have much erotic going on.

That’s depressingly uncommon in the rest of literature. We’re improving, to be sure, but if you scroll through the top Amazon sellers in just about any genre, the vast majority of titles are about male protagonists. In some categories (Action & Adventure, for example), it’s a 90%/10% split or worse.

Erotica, alone, is dominated by books about women. Outside of the previously-mentioned gay male subcategory, erotic novels and short stories are typically driven by female protagonists, with male characters as secondary figures. Female points of view also dominate the narration, whether first- or third-person.

Certainly, it would be a stretch to say that erotica is an inherently feminist pursuit, simply because of its generous inclusivity. And correlation is not causation. But you do have to wonder why it is that, of all the activities we consider it taboo to write about, the one that you basically have to have a prominent female character for tops the list.

Treating Hysteria- The Invention of the Vibrator

imageI’ve searched and searched though any relevant keywords I could think of, because I thought I first learned of this here. I didn’t find anything, though, so my apologies if it has already been covered.

I read somewhere, a while ago, (here? not here?) that the vibrator was first invented as a labor saving device for doctors. It seems that going to the doctor to be treated for ‘hysteria’ back in the 1800′s and early 1900′s was as common for women then as flu shots are now.

It seems that the doctor’s hands got so tired and cramped, from rubbing vegetable oil into women’s nether regions all day, that they tried to make a mechanical model to do the dirty work for them.

image

Steam Powered Vibrator

My understanding is that the steam-powered version turned out to be particularly dangerous.

Then electricity came along, and bam, the vibrator was like the fifth thing ever to become electrical.

Can’t really wrap my mind around it personally. I mean, the fact that every time something new comes out in the world of technology, it is immediately used for sex, like say the camera, the moving pictures, the internet, etc, I get that. What I can’t wrap my head around is going to my family doctor for a medically advised hand job.

I found this article in Psychology Today, “Hysteria” and the strange history of vibrators, where quotes like, “…Not surprisingly, these beliefs left an enormous number or women sexually frustrated. They complained to doctors of anxiety, sleeplessness, irritability, nervousness, erotic fantasies, feelings of heaviness in the lower abdomen, and wetness between the leg. This syndrome became known as “hysteria,” from the Greek for uterus…” are sad and kind of funny now.

imageThe article is a fun read, mainly because of the author’s sense of humor as he puts forth the dry facts, like in these sentences: “But ironically, women’s sexual pleasure was the furthest thing from the minds of the male doctors who invented vibrators almost two centuries ago. They were interested in a labor-saving device to spare their hands the fatigue they developed giving handjobs to a steady stream of 19th century ladies who suffered from “hysteria,” a vaguely defined ailment easily recognizable today as sexual frustration…”

At least I think the author has a sense of humor about the whole thing, either that or my dry sense of humor makes it funny for me. But whatever, it’s still a great read.

It also got the creative juices flowing. I wrote a quick little short about my version of what might have gone on back then. It was a fun write, but I’m not expecting any major sales on it. It is free today, Tues September 16th though, for anyone interested. And it’s in Kindle Unlimited, so if you subscribe, you can pick it up whenever.

Free on Amazon, just click the pict.

Free on Amazon, just click the pict.

Amazon: The Good, The Bad, The Anxiety

If you hadn’t noticed: we authors talk a lot about how bitter we are over Amazon, or at least specific actions they’ve taken. When pursuing our whole careers– our dreams for many — hinges on the good graces of a giant like Amazon, and even their slightest slumbering twitches can destroy an authors livelihood, we’re not left with a terribly pleasant feeling.

You can feel powerless, which leaves you anxious; and anxiety impacts both your creativity and your productivity.

Authors vs. Amazon

Authors vs. Amazon

Of course, the flip side of the coin is that Amazon was what gave so many authors the opportunity to actually become authors in the first place.

For those of you too young to remember the period before eBooks and Amazon swept in to completely shake the foundations of publishing: getting your work of passion and dedication published was a near impossibility.

In the 90’s all the big publishers shut down submissions, refusing to take anything from random authors. The only means to get their attention was a convoluted, crapshoot of submitting to journals and magazines, hoping your short stories would get accepted, and that subsequently enough of them would that you might get noticed by someone.

Or maybe if you were one of the lucky few: you had connections, knew a prominent agent who could get your work considered.

Of course, all of that only got you a shot at consideration. Then your work was put before someone whose arbitrary and subjective taste determined whether you would be a best seller or a bin filler.

There was a time (and for some that time still exists) when the big publishers were exalted. They were the “gate keepers”, though heaven forbid you point out how arbitrary and shoddy they were at selection. Twelve publishers turned down Harry Potter before it found a home! Some of the worlds most acclaimed and adored authors never received much in the way of publication.

Theodoras-DescentFor instance: though he has a large fan following today, H.P. Lovecraft never was able to publish much more than some shorts in periodicals in his time, and even then it took other more successful authors who loved his work and had editorial connections to get him that. Like so many, the man who inspired our latest work of horror never received many accolades in his life time.

The eBook revolution that Amazon kicked off brought the power of choice to the reader, and freedom of self-publishing to the author. It has resulted in immense successes, like Fifty Shades of Grey, and it has led to countless mid-listers who can cater to their small but adoring group of readers.

Amazon did that against the grain of the industry, because the opportunity was handed to them. The big publishers — which had for so long dominated readers and writers alike — spurned eBooks, fearful of upsetting their own control over the industry. They passed on a medium which lets readers get what they want with ease and convenience, what would have let them produce books at a much lower cost. And the result was someone else stepped in to do it for them.

Even today, the big publishers do their best to hold back the industry. Have you seen the price of eBooks from most of them? They exceed the price of hard covers in most cases! The best they can offer up is limp excuses about “formatting costs”, a ridiculous excuse to hide the real reason: because they can.

Taken from a randomly selected new release.

Taken from a randomly selected new release. One of many examples.

Amazon even recently upturned their own apple cart, by launching Kindle Universe. And while I haven’t formed my own opinion on how I feel about that yet, I’ve gotta admire their willingness to dive head first into a new business model, rather than risk being obsoleted by the passage of time.

So what’s the takeaway from all this? Am I saying Amazon is great?

Sure, I won’t rob them of that acknowledgment. They’ve given me the opportunity to pursue a dream I never thought possible growing up in the pre-eBook era.

Though I still feel like a tick making my home upon a sleeping elephant. At any moment some twitch might throw me off, some subtle shift might crush everything I’ve built. Heaven forbid, the elephant might even wake up some day!

As great as Amazon has been for readers and authors alike, the most epic fumble of the big publishers has been depriving us of options. So blinded by greed — greed for money and greed for control — they never got their shit together enough to give us a genuinely alternative platform.

Amazon is where the sales are, and you’re a member of a very elite club if you manage to make a living anywhere else.

So forgive me if I’m not often grateful enough for what you’ve done for us, Amazon, but the anxiety of this tick upon your hind quarters causes me to worry. To fret. My future is uncertain because it all rests on you laying perfectly still.

Hot … or Not

We (as authors) all want to write ‘hot’ scenes, scenes that will leave the readers gasping for breath, and tearing off their clothes even as they read in order to take part in the action. We (as readers) want our authors to present scenes that take our breath away and allow us to fully enter into the story, pleasing ourselves even as we read.

Ah, if only we (as writers) could accomplish that with every scene; if only we (as readers) could find the works we read full of such scenes.

But, of course, this is impossible, for what one person thinks of as Hot, another will think of as Not. Yet, there are certain attributes that pertain to hotness: engagement, surprise, enthusiasm, spontaneity, and emotion are a few of them.

I recall, during a European vacation, taking a guided tour of Hamburg’s nightclubs – back in the 1980s. We went to several, the last of which happened to have live sex on stage. Saving the best for last, I suppose. Though I admit having an interest what would be going on, I had joined the tour more to gain information than to live vicariously. In other words, I went more as an observer than participant.

Observers stand apart and catalogue. For them, a willing suspension of disbelief rarely makes an appearance; they don’t become a part of the scene. Ever been the photographer or videographer at a wedding? You think more in the technical than the emotional. Will this shot look good? Do I have the right angle? Is the background too bright? Other guests become emotionally involved, thinking of the life to come, shedding tears at the giving of the vows, giving forth cheers at the kiss that seals the deal. The observer stands off a ways, with an entirely different perspective and very different priorities.

Ah, yes, the Sex Club. It had a stage that jutted out into the audience, such that we sat on three sides. And it was crowded! Mostly men. And I sat, slightly apart, though jammed into my seat, observing.

The couple came out and I observed how they played to the audience. They shifted orientation and position in a rather clockwork way, such that the people on each of the three sides, would get a view of the action. Early on, they began a 69 routine, man on bottom. I noted at one point, the man tapping the woman on her hip. At the tap, she got off him and they began to have intercourse.

I immediately connected the dots. The tap was to say, “I’m ready. I’m hard enough, now. Let’s do it.” And they did it, again shifting orientation such that each group – stage right, stage left, and stage centre – would see the actual penetration.

Was it Hot? For me: Not. It felt too calculated, too unemotional, too much a routine. Thinking back, I understand. How does one go on stage night after night to do such a routine in front of hundreds of strangers? And how does one do it such that all the paying customers feel they’ve gotten their money’s worth? For me, the show wasn’t worth the money. But observing the show was; I learned something important.

Fast forward a quarter century, and I (as Echo Chambers) had a similar scene in “Sliding into the Abyss” (Episode 1). And all the things I didn’t see in Hamburg, came alive – as well as a few of the things I had seen, like the signalling. Matt and Sue weren’t jaded performers, but were engaged with what they were doing. Their own excitement, their ability to perform in front of an audience surprised even them, and I hope my readers felt their surprise and enjoyed their enthusiasm. The spontaneity they showed in adapting their scene to circumstance should have led the readers to wonder what came next, as the show seemed to run away with them. And certainly their emotions came to the fore.

And all that, at least for me, made the scene hot.

Just as in real life, the mundane fails to excite. If you have a job as a ‘fluffer’ – someone who keeps porn stars hard for their upcoming scenes – giving a blow-job to one of the stars isn’t going to excite that character. It probably won’t even excite the reader, who feels her lack of enthusiasm for the job. Pulling her out of her comfort zone might excite both, turning Not into Hot.

Depending upon your kink, having her forced (perhaps by just not wanting to lose her job) to fluff someone she doesn’t like might excite you – especially if he’s a particularly difficult client to keep hard, and really especially if he wants her to fail (what can I say, he’s a bastard). So, our poor fluffer must use all her skill and feign enthusiasm she doesn’t feel in order to both satisfy her bosses and keep her job. In other words, it is something out of the ordinary. It becomes a contest she doesn’t really want to be in, but contests are inherently exciting. And if she finds – possibly to her dismay – that exciting this guy against his evil intention excites her, turns the feigned enthusiasm into real enthusiasm, so much the better. It’s a surprise she – and we – didn’t see coming. That makes it Hot.

You can have the most mundane of scenes burn the reader if you set it up correctly. If your back-story informs the reader that the protagonist doesn’t like to be touched at all, if the lead up to the scene shows him (or her) to be at a crisis point, a simple treatment of an injury, with no overt sexual implications, can become emotionally draining and blisteringly hot as the character overcomes self-imposed taboos. It’s both the surprise of the character stretching the limits that the author has imposed upon him, and the engagement of the reader with the character that can make this happen. Our emotions (if the author has the talent) become entwined with those of the character, and we want for the impossible to happen, for the character to find release/fulfillment/whatever. The spontaneity, or lack of planning by the character for this end, will excite us. If it’s all a planned, clockwork-like, contrived-by-the-character situation, it won’t succeed. If it ‘just happens’ [though it is planned, and contrived by the author] it just might.

Hot is not always where you expect it, and Not often shows up in scenes where outwardly you’d expect Hot to reside.

And there you have it, another view from the Deltonian Universe. Funny thing, just thinking up the situations above makes me want to write the ‘fluffer’ scene, write the ‘inhibited character’ scene, just to see how hot I can make them. And, perhaps I will – one day. A few years ago (or maybe it was several years ago – after 40 it seems the years all run together) I contrived an example to explain a facet of writing. Today, I’m working on a novel that uses that exact situation. I found it too good to just toss away, to leave as just an example. So … who knows?

Delta.

* * *

Echo Chambers’ books

Delta’s Books

Amazon urges you to read banned books… while banning books

Sorry for the lengthy title, but I don’t know how to put it any better than that.

Back in June you may recall that we had our Amazon publishing account suspended. The reason given was that we had tried to republish books that they had previously blocked – fair enough. Last September they’d asked all erotica authors to republish their books with more subtle titles, covers and blurbs, so when we had a couple books blocked, we figured that’s all it was. Republish with cleaner terms, and all would be fine.

Unfortunately, they were blocked again, and several months later we got an email from Amazon stating they had suspended our account.

I could argue until I was blue in the face about how unfair it was that they didn’t give us clearer guidelines, or more transparency. I could complain about the fact that this is our living that Amazon is screwing with, and taking food out of hungry mouths (mine) by continually shifting their rules on acceptability.

Hell, I could probably write a book on my outrage about the very concept of blocking erotica titles for sale because of the content or title, or because one customer complained about it. It’s a sick way of doing business.

But we, the content providers, all just equal a small bucket of water for them. Amazon is in this for the long haul, and if they don’t give a fuck about their investors, they certainly don’t give a fuck about the taboo erotica authors.

However, at the same time that they suspended a couple other author’s accounts, sending erotica authors everywhere into a tizzy, they sent out this email. Perhaps you got it.

Banned Books $0.99 & Up, it proclaims.

“Celebrate the freedom to read with this collection of previously banned books starting at $0.99.”

Amazon Banned Books - 9-03-14

Yes, someone at Amazon wrote that. I’m presuming while cackling maniacally.

But oh, what do these banned books have in common, the ones that Amazon recommends you purchase?

Well, they were all banned before Amazon became a storefront.

These aren’t just books, dear reader. These are literary pieces of work. There’s no casual and explicit use of language here, oh no, because these stories were written for another time, another audience.

Madame Bovary is a French novel published in 1856 that deals with adultery and consumerism. It was attacked for obscenity and is now considered a masterpiece and a seminal work of realism and one of the most influential novels ever written.

The Picture of Dorian Gray was another novel in the 19th century, this time in 1890, and was considered to be a social and cultural criticism. It was primarily loathed because of homo-eroticism in the novel, as well as people attacking the author for being a hedonist.

The Prince goes back further, to the 16th century. Again, this novel was translated into English from its native Italian. It was considered an innovative political short, and is claimed to be one of the first works of modern philosophy. Though others claim it as satire.

So all of these books were, at the time of their publishing, considered obscene. Ban-worthy. Clearly they attacked the social mores of the time, and all three stood as stark criticisms or commentary on society at large, in our forward thinking reckoning.

But you know what they are now? They’re now ‘formerly banned books’.

They’re literary classics that are tame and mild and even boring to our current sensibilities.

So on the one hand, Amazon is encouraging you to see the value in some banned books, while currently banning other books – and their authors.

But this is a purge unlike what could have been seen in the 16th or 17th or 18th or 19th or even the 20th century. People, regular, ordinary people, are able to write. To share their stories with the world, to challenge and arouse and titillate and infuriate us, to threaten the status quo, to make the world something different.

Perhaps I have some delusions of grandeur, in that I feel that our work does what so many great, threatened pieces of work in the past have done. Our stories, they are challenging. They have messages. They have purpose, and criticisms, and parallels to our own reality.

They are stories that deserve to be told, and read, by those that are interested in reading them. And maybe our stories will be studied in two centuries by scholars and misfits. Maybe in 400 years there will be some of the books from the great erotica purges, brought to the surface from the annals of history and touted as being innovative, and curious, and obscene in a quaint sort of archaic way.

Or perhaps not. Perhaps, because so much of our lives are electronic, it will get buried in the rubble along with everything else. Perhaps people will look back on this time, at the filthy erotica, and feel nothing but scorn and derision at our blasphemous ways. Four hundred years is, after all, a very long time. Or perhaps they just aren’t that good, I’m humble enough to consider that! Routinely in fact.

But one thing I know is this: It isn’t right to pretend like you are a champion of banned and challenging fiction, bringing it to the consumers, while at the same time striking down others based on the content of their stories.

I’m not necessarily of the mind that either everything is banned or nothing should be banned as I believe that generally harmful things such as instructions on building bombs, or incitement to hurt people, should not likely be available. But Amazon sells Mein Kampf. It sells The Anarchist Cookbook. It sells Lolita and Tampa and Justine and The Woman and American Psycho and The 120 Days of Sodom.

And if you can sell all of those things, then why can’t we sell Outcast there any longer? Or Led Into Temptation? Or Bad Wolf, Be Good?

What else, other than time and prestige, separates our stories from the classic banned books? It takes a much braver person to stand up for books being banned now rather than celebrating those that were banned over a century ago. While I agree that we should appreciate formerly banned books, I support it with a vision to the present and the future. The understanding that social norms are frequently changing, and that in order to not be looked back upon with disdain we mustn’t ban books now.

Isn’t that the entire point of celebrating banned fiction? Or is it really to just celebrate and pat ourselves on the back for how enlightened we are now? Because that was what justified banning these books in the past – the idea that our morality is so superior and powerful that we understand what people should have the right to read and what they should be prevented from reading.

So I am going to draw a line in the sand. You can support all banned books, or you can support none of them, because picking and choosing is just what those who ban books do. They impose their morality upon others, upon society, and upon the very culture of our nations.

When you call him the wrong name. In bed. That.

 

You just called him the wrong name in bed! Oops! You know that moment in the throes of passion with Bob and you yell, “Fuck me harder, Bill!” Or Jim. Or Jo. Or Zoe! It happens to us all, doesn’t it? (It doesn’t happen to you? Oh…maybe it’s just me.) And his cock goes down like a lead balloon in the awkward silence that follows. Sometimes it’s safer just to stick with calling your beloved ‘babe’ or ‘tiger’ or whatever comes to mind that doesn’t identify as the ex-boyfriend you can’t leave behind, can’t forget about, still dream of, still take a different route home from work on the off chance of bumping into… (Does that sound a bit stalkerish? Forget I ever mentioned it.)

And, yes, guys do it too! It’s happened to me. But the less said about that particular incident, the better…14767176_s

But this danger isn’t confined to real life. Damn it, if the other day while writing, I didn’t call the hero of my current WIP by the name of the hero in my previous WIP! I was supposed to writing about the gorgeous and feckless Harry in Alchemy and I went and called him Jack. Jack happens to be the uptight and ruthlessly sexy spymaster in the WIP I’m currently editing, Honeytrap. Two characters who couldn’t be less alike. Luckily, though, Harry’s a pretty laid-back guy and he didn’t care. If I’d called Jack the wrong name…there’d be hell to pay!

The slip-up made me laugh but it got me thinking about the differences between my fictional men folk. And the similarities. The fact that Jack and Harry are so different really thrills me. As a writer, one of the toughest things is developing realistic characters that are distinct individuals, with their own voices, thoughts, mannerisms, quirks and values. And that goes for both the male and female protagonists. There’s always a danger that you might write the same character over and over again. And that character you repeat endlessly is actually a better version of you. The ‘you’ you want to be, who behaves as you would behave if you were the heroine or hero of a piece of rollicking erotica. Or whatever genre you happen to write.

I’ve just checked my list of works and to date I’ve written more than 70 pieces of erotica, ranging from flash fiction (only three of them!) through short stories to novellas and novels. That means approximately 140 hero/heroines – assuming two per story, which is generally how it goes. There are a few menage pieces in there, and one or two solo situations. But I’d say it averages out at 140, give or take! (And these are just the main characters, without even considering all the minions in the subplots.)

8420909_sAre some of them similar? I suspect it might be so… You see, across that cohort, not everyone is equal in terms of the care and lavish attention bestowed upon them by their creator. Jack and Harry – hell, I love both them. Seriously. What good is it being a writer if you can’t create characters that you actually become obsessed with yourself? And their girls, Christie and Olivia – yes, okay, I want to be them. Of course I do – they’re boffing Jack and Harry, aren’t they?

These are well rounded characters due to the fact that they feature in full-length novels. With an 80,000 plus word count, you get the luxury of fleshing out your characters, building realistic men and women with all the contradictions and idiosyncrasies of actual individuals. But doing that is a whole lot tougher when it comes to shorts. If you only have somewhere in the region of 3,000 words to set up your premise, introduce your characters, get them into the bed or wherever else it is they’re going to perform and then actually leave enough of that word count for the act itself – wow! – there’s not a lot of room for backstory and quirks.

So what happens? You have to use shortcuts. If you’re writing in the first person, you can give them a strong, distinctive voice. But even in the third person, you can make a forceful character shine through with an economy of words – but remember, show, don’t tell.  A small action, a telling prop, a particular turn of phrase when they speak – these can add up to enough to make them an individual in your readers’ minds. And these small details can make all the difference in a short story, where there’s always the danger of making the fuck the star and the two participants nothing more than cardboard cut outs. A convenient cock and a cunt for you to stage direct.GDP008-Huddle_Cover

The difference between stunt porn and people porn, as my dear friend, erotica writer par excellence Malin James so eloquently put it in a recent post.

I like to write stories which would fall into the people porn side of her categorisation. And the stories of mine that I love the best – “Lucky Mascot” in Huddle: Sex With Sporty Queers (actually free on Amazon this weekend, so grab it now!), “Sweet Bird” in South Bank Seduction and “I Hate Sex” in Best Women’s Erotica 2014, to name but three – I think do fall into that category. In these stories I’ve created memorable (to me at least) characters despite the constraints of the word count.

But, yes, of course, I have some stories in the stunt porn camp as well. The down-and-dirty, all-about-the-sex fuck fests! But the characters that inhabit these, they’re not the ones whose names I’ll be calling out when I’m supposed to be in bed with Harry. No, sir, no danger of that!

 

Straight Women and MM Erotica

I heard somewhere that MM erotica was really popular right now. Silly me, I assumed that meant that gay men were getting their read on.

Now maybe they are, but I was surprised to hear/read that it was straight women that were devouring the man on man stuff. What? Why?

I thought women read sexy stuff to put themselves into the main female character’s shoes. Or panties. Whatever. How do you do that if there isn’t a female character to become?

Before reading it myself, the only experience I had with MM erotica was by accident. I was selling something on Craigslist, and started goofing off. I like goofing off in the missed connections tab, where people say things like, ‘To the girl with the dark ponytail in the yoga pants at Starbucks in front of me in line, I was too shy to say hi, but you got my attention,’ or something.

I clicked on one once that was more like, ‘To the smoking hot guy I saw at the local gym. I really enjoyed watching you shower, I’m glad you didn’t seem to mind when I started rubbing my cock as I watched you. Imagine my surprise when you started doing the same. The way you soaped your…’ and it got quite hot and explicit from there.

I didn’t get disgusted or click out of the post. Oh no, I read every bit of that one. At least twice. It was hot as hell. But why?

I still don’t get it. Why did I enjoy it so much?

Is it because all sex is hot?

I live somewhat out in the country. Seeing cows get mounted by bulls as you drive home from the grocery store doesn’t happen every day, but it happens often enough. I laugh, point, and say, ‘Get you some!’

I recently saw two dogs doing it near where I work, and weeks later, two cats in my neighbor’s yard. I admit it, I watched. It was oddly hot, in its own way. So maybe watching and reading about anyone or anything is just hot, whether or not they are your gender or even your species.

But then reading or watching two girls doesn’t do it for me at all. I need a guy. A girl and a guy, hot. Twelve girls and a guy, still hot. But I’m watching whomever the guy is with, however many that is. The extra girls doing each other? Nah.

I get why guys like it, but it does nothing for me. I need at least one cock in there, somewhere.

So maybe that’s it? The more cocks the merrier? Is it because MM is extra cocks, extra biceps, extra abs? Maybe.

I don’t know.

I know a lot of these posts ask the question, and then give what they think is the answer, but not this time. I still have no clue either why I liked it or why MM is so popular with straight women.

So of course, I had to experiment. I got Scarlet Cox’s Doctor, Doctor.

This one is free!   Click to see on Amazon

This one is free! Click to see on Amazon

It’s an erotic short that is the first in a five-story collection. You can get them individually, or in the bundle of five. It was hot! Not a woman to be seen, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. I loved the little twist at the end, too. No spoilers though.

Click to see it on Amazon

Click to see it on Amazon

Then I tried Mona Lottze’s Weekend With My Boss. The third one just recently came out, but I’ve only read the first one. So far. This one is less quick, down and dirty, but is more romantic, will they/ won’t they? I loved the humor and human-ness in this one. But it’s  still hot!

I still had no idea why MM was doing it for me, so I kept going. This time it was a MM Werewolf Shifter story.

Amber Ridge’s Heart Of The Alpha was completely different from the first two, but I loved it, too. The animal need and soul mate connection of a good shifter story, with some smokin’ hot sex. Alright, I seem to have a bit of a thing for shifters- I read all three of this series.

Click to see on Amazon

Click to see on Amazon

And I still don’t know why two men was so good. Is it the same reason MF is good for me, and probably what I would enjoy about FF, if the sex did anything for me- meaning the emotional connection? Or was it hot because of the sheer power of two men?

I think power is sexy as hell. Not billionaire corporate power, that does nothing for me at all. No, power power. I like watching airplanes take off and land, the sheer force and power is hot. I like flying, but it is the take-offs and landings I enjoy, not the boring middle. (Yes I’m weird, animals doing it and big powerful machines are turn ons.)

So is it the forceful need of two strong, sexy men coming together? Still no clue.

There was a link in my face book feed showing gay men reading passages from Fifty Shades of Grey. It was hilarious. My favorite comments were, “I know I’m personally scared of the vagina, a little bit…Heterosexuality is weird.” And, “It’s actually kind of gross, if you think about it…”

Click to watch. Hilarious!

Click to watch. Hilarious!

I totally understand that! What I dont understand is why straight women DON’T seem to think along the same lines when it comes to MM.

I still have no idea.

Since I seem to have a thing for shifters, I also read Amelia Faulkner’s Wolf In Geek’s Clothing. I loved this one, too. Not nearly the sex of the other MMs, but the story was a fresh, unique take on the genre.

Click to see on Amazon

Click to see on Amazon

So, basically, even after reading and enjoying quite a few out of my norm MM stories, I still have no idea why they are so popular right now with women in general.

Any ideas? Do any of you read MM? Why? What do you like about it?

Ok, enough pondering for today. And enough plugging these fabulous authors. I have my own to plug. It’s not MM, but it is free through today, Tuesday 9/2. If you like your public menage with taboo step brother relations, pick up Taboo Times Two- Amusement Park. If the taboo part doesn’t do it for you, the same story is available without the step aspect, just pick up In Public- Amusement Park.

Taboo Version Click to get it free on Amazon

Taboo Version
Click to get it free on Amazon

Not Taboo Click to get it free on Amazon

Not Taboo
Click to get it free on Amazon

 

Branching Out

Every author needs to branch out now and then, write something a little different. Escape the comforting confines of their chosen genre(s) to dabble in things more diverse. Stephen King embarked on his Dark Tower series to try his hand at some western-fantasy. Anne Rice did both tawdry erotica like Sleeping Beauty and Interview With A Vampire.

For Micehlle and I, branching out is kind of a full time occupation. Even in our comfy genres of erotica and fantasy we tend to twist about conventions and try to surprise readers with interesting new takes.

However, sometimes it’s just nice to break entirely from what’s expected of you. To write without the old genre conventions hanging over your head.

Well, we kinda fucked that up too.

Our latest novel is Theodora’s Descent, our first foray into genuine horror. We know you’re probably thinking, “Why would I care about horror? This is an erotica blog!”

Theodoras-DescentWell, if it helps, know that it turns out our horror novel has more sex than your typical novel of the sort. The dark stuff. Too much for some horror readers judging by the reviews, not enough for some erotica readers, but there you have it.

Reviews have been mostly excellent, exceeding our expectations! So much so it deserved a bit of alliteration.

Theodora’s Descent has been described as having shades of Alice in Wonderland (on some much harder drugs), to “uniquely deranged” in another five-star review. Comparisons have been drawn to a girl-power version of Odysseus, with elements of Lovecraft’s dreamworlds.

So in other words: we’ve stepped outside our pen and still managed to make a story that sits there, uniquely odd. Worth checking out perhaps? It’s only $1 for now. You can also enter to win a paperback copy of our book or $15 in gift certificates.

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