Archive for Ebooks

Paralyzed By Too Many Choices

I’m blocked.

I’m still a big believer in doing whatever I want as an indie author, and I know none of ya’ll give a fuck, so I’ll keep my whining brief. :)

It’s not that I don’t have any ideas, it’s that I have too many. I have the third and final novel in my other name’s trilogy I need to write. I’m only an outline and two chapters in.

I have a half-written erotic version of Romeo and Juliet waiting to be finished, Romeo, Juliet & Mercutio.

I have the first in a planned series ready to go- Claimed By The Cowboys, with plans for a second and third.

But I can’t seem to write them. I sat down about a week or two ago, with a few fingers of whiskey and an intent to write part 2, and whipped out a very short, 2,600 word, 4th of July fireworks, taboo, public, menage story instead. Then I adapted it into a non-taboo version as well. It is free right now, from July 4th through July 8th:

The Taboo Version, click to get it free on Amazon.

The Taboo Version, click to get it free on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

The Non-Taboo Version. Click to get it free on Amazon.

The Non-Taboo Version. Click to get it free on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I haven’t been able to write anything since.

So I looked around, reading, trying to find what my muse wanted to write. I discovered milking stories. I read a couple by an author I respect and enjoy on one of my social sites. I thought, “I can do that, too!”

And I read some more, discovering shifter stories- your werewolf, werebear, and dragon shifters. Man did I have an interesting 4th of July weekend. I liked them, too!

I thought I’d prefer dragons, because, well…dragons are awesome! But my favorite was a wolf story. The animal need, the mating, the protection of the pack, the…well… the everything.

I want to write that, too!

Should I get a new new pen name or two? Milking and shifters are way different than my norm, and from each other. Or just hope that readers like to read a bit of everything and keep to just the two I already have?

I couldn’t decide. I still haven’t. And I still haven’t written anything new. So I did what anyone does when they are putting off doing what they should be doing- played some more on the internet.

Wow, did you know you can buy dragon dildos? That squirt? So, I found this new site, thanks again to my author’s forums, way to keep me productive, guys.

Bad-dragon.com

Bad-dragon.com

Check them out- Bad-Dragon.com. And I still don’t know what to write next, but man, am I catching up on some reading.

 

 

 

Guess What? No One Gives A Fuck!

Ok, so I’ve been at this self-publishing thing for about a year now, and I figured I’d share my wealth of knowledge. Here is everything I’ve learned, in no particular order:

NO ONE GIVES A FUCK!image

Yep, that’s it, guys. Thanks for reading, see ya back here in two weeks.

But seriously, some of the things I have learned:

You should always put your click-able Table of Contents at the beginning of your book, of course. Duh!

And, you should never put your Table of Contents at the beginning of your book, because when readers hit “Look Inside,” they should be able to jump right into the story, getting hooked, so they buy. Besides, if anyone wants to use your Table of Contents, they can always just click on it on their device.

(But in reality, once they are done looking at your book, they don’t really give a fuck.)

You should always have reviews and an excerpt in your blurb. How else is anyone going to know how good you are at first glance?

And you should never have reviews or an excerpt in your blurb, cause that irritates the hell out of people.

(Really? The placement of reviews is going to determine my entire career? Umm, nope. No one really gives a fuck.)

You should always have a small summary at the beginning of your book, so people who downloaded you months ago can be reminded very quickly of what your story is about when they get around to actually reading it.

And you should never do that, cause again, it irritates the hell out of people.

(Say it with me guys, who gives a fuck?)

You should definitely put your book in Kindle Select, because that is where the money is. And you should never put your book in Kindle Select, because you are leaving money on the table by not having your book available at B&N, Kobo, etc.

(And again.)

You should totally write pseudo-incest, because that genre is swimming in cash. But you should never write pseudo-incest, because it creeps people out, and no one will carry your book.

(You know the drill.)

I’ll stop, although I could go on FOREVER. The whole thing reminds me of that guy who finally wrote the manual on understanding women- it was blank. Here’s the thing- everyone is different, and you can’t please everyone.

I frequent a writer’s forum that is a wonderful mix of authors, in many different genres, all helping, learning from and fighting with each other. It’s awesome 99% of the time, although people do get testy. But even that is fun to watch.

Anyway, the other day someone asked one of those, ‘how do you get out of a slump when nothing is going right, and you can’t even give your book away for free because life sucks?’ kind of questions. I tried to help, by giving her my way of looking at things, but I think it just made her day worse. She responded to everyone else’s answer except mine. Oops. :)

I knew it was a risk to answer her the way I did, and I struggled with hitting ‘post,’ cause I am a people-pleaser at heart. But I truly wanted to help.

So here it is: (the word fuck wasn’t in the original post, because of their censors, but this version is how I really felt)

“Just know you are in good company. Everyone gets that way. And, this is either going to be very freeing or very harsh, but NOBODY GIVES A FUCK.

Telling myself those words breaks me out of my slumps.

I mean it in the very freeing way, not the harsh way. I don’t do harsh, I am the least harsh person on the planet. So, if there are two ways to take anything I say, take it the well-meaning way. I learned this early, thank God. I’m trying to teach it to my teen as well. NOBODY GIVES A FUCK.

That huge zit you fixate on when you look in the mirror, not seeing how awesome the rest of you is? No one else cares. They are just grateful they don’t have one. They probably don’t even see it. They see you, not the zit. Or they think, wow, sucky zit, and then they move the fuck on. You are not the center of anyone’s universe.

When your hair does that weird thing? Pull it back, no one else gives a shit, honest.

My favorite author waited five years, FIVE YEARS, to release a new book. Guess what? I don’t care. I’ll read it.

If this is my last post ever, and ya’ll never hear from me again, guess what? You won’t even notice. Nope, not suicidal. Nothing scary here, I promise. Just odd  :) Just a ‘we are all ants on this tiny little planet’ observation.

What the writer next to you does, doesn’t effect you! Their 250,000th sale, doesn’t effect you. Wait, is that effect or affect? Guess what, beyond the 2.2 seconds someone thinks ‘it should be the other one,’ no one gives a fuck.

Everyone cares about themselves. And that can either hurt, or open the entire universe up to your fingertips. (I choose the second one)

My kiddo heads off to face her day, depressed that her face is redder than normal. I tell her, you guessed it, no one cares. They are your friends, or your enemies, but no one cares if your face is redder than normal. They love you or hate you as is, regardless. Your red face won’t change anyone’s opinion.

Write what you want, revel in the sadness when you need to, revel in the joy when you can. Some will love you, some won’t. The ups and downs are inevitable.

Rant and commiserate. We do care. We feel your pain, not cause it’s happening to you, specifically. Hell, we don’t even know ‘you’. But cause we get it, we understand, cause it happens to us. No one looks closer at your successes or failures than you do. No one looks closer at my successes or failures than I do, cause guess what? Yep, you don’t care.

Run with that. Don’t write if you don’t want. Take a day off, take a year off. No one cares but you. Do what makes you happy. Write what and when you want to. Those that love you will find you. But not if you aren’t out there.

I write porn for God’s sake. No one cares if I ever put out another book. I will never be a bestseller, I will never change the world, I will never win an award, but I am happy, writing what makes me happy. If I stop being happy writing porn, you won’t care. If I go get a job at McDonald’s, you won’t notice. The world will rotate just fine, no matter what I do.

And guess what? Everything will be fine, no matter how it turns out!

Ten years from now you won’t remember what today felt like. You’ll either have ten years of work published, or you won’t.

That is so freeing to me. If I don’t hit ‘post’ you’ll never know I wrote this. If I do, some will take it the way I intended- as freeing and awesome, and some will think I’m an ass. But I can’t control that. So I carry on, making me happy.

So make you happy. People will buy your work, or they won’t. You can not control the sales numbers, you can only do what you can do. So let it go.

I know people hate the cliche, but it is what it is. You can not control the world, your sales, what others think about you, or damn near anything.

So be you. Write you. Be depressed when you feel depressed. Cry at weddings, laugh at funerals. Drink too much, be bitter when you must. What is that other cliche? You can only be you- every one else is taken.  But revel in it, cause there will never be another you, not ever.

So write what you want, what makes you happy, cause no one else can. This knowledge gets me out of the slumps. I hope I just made your day better, not worse. I promise, better was my intent.”

That is what I’ve learned about self-publishing. It is a lot like life- no one gives a fuck about you, but you. I mean that on the grander scale, of course. I love my child, I do. Very much. But do I give a shit if she grows up to become a doctor or a bar tender? Nope, don’t give a fuck. I’ll love her and be there for her either way. It’s her life, not mine.

I’ve found that there are two kinds of people that emerge once they realize that in the grand scheme of things, they don’t really matter- those who find that terrifying, and those who find it freeing.

I find it freeing. Cemeteries are full of people who lived, loved, cried, laughed, tried to make a mark on the world, lost children, lost jobs, were happy, were miserable, were human. But do we, now, really give a shit? Nope, we care about us, now.

Free on Amazon, today only June 24!

Free on Amazon, today only June 24!

One hundred, five hundred, a million years from now, no one will give a shit if I wrote a book. Or not. Or even know my name. And I love that! It gets rid of the self-imposed microscope we think we live under, allowing me to do whatever I want, knowing that whatever I choose- no one else gives a fuck, but me.

So live your life, for you, cause you guessed it- I don’t give a fuck.

Oh, and Shared 3- Our Anniversary is out now, if you care. And today only, Occupied! Is free!

Censorship, the End of Erotica, A Hope?

Despite our best efforts to play by Amazon’s rules (their rather unhelpful “about what you’d expect” rule that is) our publishing account was suspended this week. We watched in horror as our whole livelihood — my full time job — was threatened before our very eyes, leaving us powerless to do anything about it.

yellow censorship tapes

Just a month ago Amazon had given us the option to change and tweak our books covers/titles to meet their acceptability standards. Then this week they decided without warning that if they deem something out of their standards, there’s no second chances at all.

So that’s Amazon, their store, their “rules”. If you can truly call a statement so vague as “no offensive material” a rule.

We can publish our material again with them, but only after a written promise not to repeat our actions. Oh, and extra review processes for all our books.

So what does that mean for us and our readers going forward?

It means we can never have a set book launch date, even for our romance novels. The extra review period will take an unknowable amount of time after all. It may mean fewer book promotions, as this review process has been known to kick in whenever you try to update a book price even.

Censorship concept with books and chains on whiteMore than that though, it means self-censorship. We think — and I stress THINK — we know that they were upset about some psuedo-incestual themes. But they’ve also been cracking down on so-called “dubious consent” erotica.

We can’t chance ticking them off again; Amazon is over 80% of our income. So that means we will have to stand so far back from Amazon’s ever changing line in the sand that we don’t risk running afoul of them again. The next time we might not be able to provide a written promise and apology to get our account back.

So while our erotic-romance novels will likely remain the same content-wise, (albeit now without an ability for us to time promotions with book launches) our erotic shorts — the big seller that makes up so much of our income — will likely die off.

There’s nowhere else to go. As we said, Amazon makes up too much of our income to compensate elsewhere, and the other ebook vendors aren’t much better anyhow, if at all.

However, that does not mean we’re done.

Writing is a passion for us, and long before we started selling our stuff, we just provided it freely to our fans on our own website. In fact, we still give out our books freely to our fans when they ask. We’d still give it out freely on our website or through torrents even, except if we did Amazon would punish us.

Since we can no longer write and sell the erotic-shorts we enjoy, however, we’re looking at new options.

We’ve set up a Patreon account, and through it if you wish to support us, we’ll produce a regular flow of dirty, kinky shorts that we’ll provide directly to you. Will it ever make up for the loss of Amazon sales? Nearly impossible. Might it be enough to justify us taking the time from our paid work to follow our passion? That’s the hope!

We wanna write the stuff our fans love. And hey, maybe this could even be a blessing. If we can give our writing directly to our readers thanks to their funding, we can go back to doing the hardcore incest and dark consent-lacking content we always did before.

Support Patreon

If it doesn’t work out? Well, the downside to making a living off your passion, is that you have to make compromises. Self-censoring to such a degree is one we really hope to avoid.

We’re truly hopeful, though, that we can continue selling our erotic-romance novels on the big stores, but get back in closer touch with our readers and fans to provide them with the stuff that really gets us going when it comes to erotica.

Even if it doesn’t work out, don’t be surprised if you see the occasional freebie popping up on our site that’s too kinky to sell, however. We love our readers, we love the dark themes. And we’ve never been great at committing ourselves to what makes the most financial sense. This is a passion of ours still, after all.

“I Am So Tired Of Fluffing. I Want A Damn Hard Dick.”

My family is very open, and kind of weird, about sex. Well, let me rephrase that. The females in my family are very open, and kind of weird, about sex. The men just roll their eyes and put up with us.

My kid is probably the most informed teen ever, in regards to sex, because I answer anything and everything she asks. And I tell it like it is, the good, the bad, and the ugly, as age appropriately as I can, and I always have.

She told me a story recently about the few minutes after dance class, changing in the locker room at school, where someone asked something about tampons. She pitched in an answer. One thing led to another, and before she knew it she had the entire dance class enthralled as she taught an impromptu sex-ed class, dispelling myths, clearing up rumors, and teaching a few biological things they don’t cover in the ‘your body will go through changes’ type crap they teach in school right now.

Now she is still a young teen, and has never had sex, but the questions were basic, like ‘if you use tampons, are you no longer a virgin?’ and ‘if inserting a tampon doesn’t feel either good or bad, then how is sex, which is kinda similar on the insertion issue, supposed to feel good?’ Both questions we had already covered, because she felt confident enough to ask me.

I was proud, but scared at the same time. The last thing I need right now is a phone call from her principal, especially in today’s sue-happy, zero tolerance times where little boys get suspended for saying pew-pew with their finger guns.

At the other end of the age swing- my mom was married to my dad for decades. She married him at 17, and he was her only partner, until he died. She is now in her 60′s, and for a few years now she has been living life kind of backwards. Her wild 20′s and college-age experiments are occurring now, in her 60′s, since she was married during her actual 20′s.

I honestly feel like I’m mothering both of them, talking to them both about men, sex and dating, only my mother’s conversations are way more graphic, as she is most definitely trying to make up for lost time.

So, it was a conversation with my mom that actually brings me to this blog post. She was venting to me about the dating scene as a woman in her 60′s (who has, since dad’s passing, dated men ranging from younger than me [oh God, so very creepy] to those in her own age group.)

I’ll spare you the graphic details, but her general gist was- do it as much as possible while you still can, because even with Viagra, sex after a certain age is hard. Well, I guess I should say- sex after a certain age is difficult, because it seems that not hard is the problem.

She made me laugh when she said, “I am so tired of fluffing. I want a damn hard dick.”

She said that even after taking the pills, and “fluffing and blowing to some semblance of hardness,” they still usually can’t finish. Which led her rant towards “I no longer care if people think whoever I’m with is my kid because of the age difference, I’m going back to the young ones. At least they are eager, willing and can actually fuck.”

Then she lamented that as women find their groove, no longer worrying about pregnancy, they get the kids moved out and wanna get down to dirty business, men slow down and can’t keep up. She closed the rant with “Sex is so wasted on the young, impatient and unknowledgeable.”

But, having the young, impatient and unknowledgeable in my life as well, in the form of the a fore mentioned teen, and personally remembering those days, as well as also being in a loving, happy marital situation myself, and seeing the full range of sexual phases spread out all around me- I told her my thoughts.

Sex is a cruel joke.

Very generalized- in your teens and twenties, when the hormones and the need are the strongest, you have to worry about your parents finding out, inexperience and not ‘doing it right’, not knowing your body, possibly not knowing how to orgasm as a female, learning to please yourself and the other partner, getting pregnant too young, being seen as a good girl or a slut, diseases that not only can grind your reproductive system to a halt, forever, but can also kill you.

Then, between say your thirties to your sixties, ish, generally- you are either married, having faithful, boring married sex, or trying to bring the spark back, while raising time-and-energy-sucks called children. Gone is the rush (and thankfully also the stress) of the first kiss, the first time, the first naked, the learning each other, the ‘of course I’m up for anything, baby.’

Or in this same time period, you are never-married singles, or newly divorced, trying to navigate the dating world, where everyone has baggage- exes, kids, etc., to work around. The bar scene sucks, internet dating sucks, it’s Sex In The City for real, heartbreak, confusion, highs and lows, but still with the ever present sex-can-kill-you threat always looming.

Want to do the hot UPS guy? Probably not a good idea in real life, damn it. Wanna try that threesome-swinger’s bar-orgy you see in porn? Also probably not a great idea. Diseases, stalkers, ‘oh fuck’ moments are way too possible.

And then in your 60′s and on, well mom’s words said it all, “I want a hard dick, damn it.”

Sex is a cruel, minefield strewn, game of Russian Roulette, at every age. The highest possible erotic, pleasurable highs, matched by the equally possible and opposite- the most devastating, life-changing emotional and physical lows imaginable.

Which I think is one reason computer porn sites and erotic books are so very popular. Granted the high highs aren’t quite as high as if you experienced the video/story yourself, but neither are the lowest lows.

Somehow this whole thought process made me remember that one scene in Demolition Man, with Sylvester Stallone and Sandra Bullock. Remember that? It was set in the future, where procreation was relegated to the lab, and sex was had with virtual helmets?

His reaction was WTF? Where is the hands-on? The old fashioned doing the dirty? And her reaction was Oh gross! Exchanging bodily fluids?

Now I’m a big believer in the sweatier the better. If you aren’t sore, exhausted, hot and sweaty, with just fucked bed-head hair and a glowing sheen to your panting bodies, collapsed on each other recovering in a pile- you aren’t doing it right.

But I’m also very married, with kids. So I got to thinking- if that machine existed now, and you all know it is just a matter of time before it does, would I buy one?

Yep, I’d one-click-buy that baby in a second! Not the dual one in the movie, where you both sit near each other and have virtual sex with each other, no I’d still want the hubby for that one, all up close and personal like.

But a single unit? Where instead of, or in addition to, watching internet porn, or reading about some horny slut getting it on with hot twin brothers, you could actually be virtually in that situation? Oh yeah, bring it on.

A way to experience any fantasy you had, be it being pulled over by that hot cop and handcuffed to his light bar, (I wrote that one- Please Officer, I’ll Do Anything :)) to well…anything? Without the possibility of pregnancy, disease, cheating, guilt, reputation or consequences? No fluffing, Viagra, or dating someone people think is your son? (Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!)

Of course, nothing is perfect, right?

There is a saying, “If men could lick themselves like dogs can, we’d never see most of them again.” People would be even more tied to their devices and never go outside. But honestly, if some people never left their house again, I’d be good with that. :)

And if it’s good enough for the goose, right? That means you’d have to be OK with your significant other using it as well. Maybe experiencing things you never even knew they thought about? Without you? But you could also link them together, right? Explore things together that maybe you wouldn’t really do in real life?

Maybe it would keep the sicko child molesters or rapists leashed to their machines? Or would it instead release a need for the real thing?

I don’t know. Any thoughts? If a virtual sex machine was readily available, like an erotic Xbox or something, would you get one? Pick your poison, your characters, your scenarios, plug it in, put on the helmet, brain stimulator, etc and experience everything you’ve ever watched, read about, fantasied?

Ok- quick plug: If you enjoyed Shared On My Husband’s Birthday,

Click to get the freebie on Amazon

Click to get the freebie on Amazon

I wrote a quick little follow up, Shared 2-On My Birthday. It’s available now, and free on Amazon, through today, Tuesday June 10. Go get a freebie, on me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to the Smut

After about two months as the milder-mannered Patience Hellsmith, wrapping up .001 Two Player Games, the second book in the planned Memoirs of a Vanilla with Sprinkles Trilogy, I needed a good dose of pure smut.

So over the past few days I’ve started another Jamie Klaire short- Claimed by the Cowboys. I’m about halfway done with it, and so far I like it. I think the back and forth of writing both the erotic romance and then just plain erotica makes it better.

My personal favorite short as Jamie Klaire so far, Shared on my Husband’s Birthday, image (which I just also released as a paperback) also came about after a long stretch writing as Patience Hellsmith. Shared is about 11-12K words, with a story, and three good, escalating sex scenes. But honestly, I kind of cheated writing it.

The very first book I ever wrote was the full novel, One Swinging Summer, as Patience. Then I invented Jamie, and went on a short story spree, but with Shared, I took my three favorite sex scenes from Swinging, linked them together, raunched it up, and had a great short. I did put in a disclaimer- something like, ‘parts of this short were taken from my milder, longer work, blah, blah, blah,’ just in case someone read both and said, wait, this seems a bit familiar. But they really are two very different titles.

It is also selling pretty well right now, which I like, because it is my personal fav, and I feel like it has been discovered somewhat.

Ok, back to the point of all this, I needed to write plain ole smut, so I started Claimed by the Cowboys, only something weird happened. The two months I’ve spent writing the milder stuff showed through. I didn’t seem to be able to pop off the 3-5K word, down and dirty little diddy I had planned. It had back story, and pacing, and might end up also having love. Go figure.

But I think it’s going to end up another favorite of mine- about 12K, with escalating sex scenes, a la my other fav, Shared. And I think I already have a sequel in mind for it. Another stand alone short that grows organically from the first one. I am very excited. I think I might be zeroing in on where I love to be. Down and dirty short meets romance and story.

I feel I’m finally finding my niche, at least for now. I enjoyed writing the novels as Patience, and I enjoyed writing the quick and dirty, as Jamie, but honestly- Jamie Klaire is all over the damn place right now.

Kitchen Capers is as far away from Shared as you can get, and both are somehow triangularly as far away as you can get from Taboo- Massaged and Shaved by my Stepbrother.

As a Texas analogy to sum it up, I feel like I’m just learning to shoot. At first the spread of bullets hit far and wide, some on target, some not, with a wide spread and wild grouping. But as you shoot more, and learn to control the gun better, the grouping gets tighter and smaller, zeroing in bit by bit on the bulls-eye.

I think I’m zeroing in on my personal bulls-eye, or at least tightening my grouping and learning to handle my erotica weapon a little better. I guess we shall see.

Umm, oddly enough, the two favs, Shared on my Husband’s Birthday and the soon to be out Claimed by the Cowboys, have another commonality between them- MMF menage with a group sex/swingers component. Interesting. Learning about myself every day :)

Also, on another side note- this one for my fellow writers out there- I found an awesome cover making website, and it is free! So far to make my covers, I buy a stock photo, and use either Createspace’s or KDP’s cover making tool to produce a cheap but good cover. (See the two covers above) But with the new website I found, I can now blend two photos, color wash, and do all kinds of neat stuff I see on custom covers that I’ve never been able to do because I don’t have photoshop, or well…skills.

It’s called www.ipiccy.com, and I found it from this tutorial: http://tirzahlaughs.hubpages.com/hub/Create-Your-Own-Book-Cover-Without-Photoshop

That website, paired with her tutorial, allowed me to blend two pictures, to play with what may be the cover for Claimed by the Cowboys. (See below)

Also, I’m finally dragging Jamie Klaire, kicking and screaming, into this century. So by the time you read this, you should be able to find me on facebook, and on my fledgling website jamieklaire.com. Come say hi!

claimed3

Promotional Consideration Provided By Oh Who Cares

” . . . when you decide to walk the challenging path — when you pull a stunt — you better own it, and rock it like only you can.” — Chuck Wendig

I’ve gotten some incredibly good news lately, about my writing life. And I’ll not be “sharing” any of it here or anywhere, really. Because braggy-brags are fucking annoying. I have far more effective ways to be annoying, dahling. [/AliceCooper] And I like to break “rules” and I also want to see if non-promotional-promotion works for me; that is, do people notice my things if my things are worth noticing in and of themselves, without a lot of promotion? We shall see.

So this post is about … self-published authors and promo. Or even non-self-published authors and promo. Is all this promo a necessary evil? MUST we do that shit? Rilly? If yes, why the fuck is that so? Who made these rules? Why? Can this be changed? Must we all do things the way “it’s always been done”?

I’ve been pretty successful in my life, in a bunch of other areas, by NOT doing things the way “everyone else” does them. The herd is kinda … herd-y. Salt lick. Moo. And things that have happened in the last couple months have reminded me that no, I don’t want to follow the herd in this either. That weird cow over in the gulch by itself? With the clump of mud boogers up its nose? That’s me. I’m gonna go my own way on this too. That’s a song. Nice knowin’ ya.

cow_hi

I’m interested in being read, duh, of course I am, and noticed, of course, for my writing. I’m here every other week, writing whatever this is that I write for One Handed Writers, aren’t I? For free. I’m not selling books or getting my name out at all by doing this, either, I assure you. (If the comment count is any indication, anyway.)

But yeah, this fucking hypocrisy thing. I mean, if I wanted to be truly “pure” of motive, as a “writer with a capital W,” I’d just have a little cloth-covered paper diary full of my scribblings, with a cute lock on it, in my desk drawer or stuffed between my mattresses, wouldn’t I?

So it’s been my own hypocrisy that’s been eating at me. More and more. Weirdly, I started a blog hop [no link, heh] for BDSM-related stuff and I can’t even bring myself to participate in it myself most weeks. I like doing it for other people, I guess, for now anyway.

I want to have people say I’m a good writer, and I guess a side-effect of that is that they would buy my stuff so I’d see some tangible evidence of their worship (heh), and then they’d all run around telling everyone else how fucking great I am. But at the same time, the ridiculous, fucked-up shit that authors do in the name of self-promo totally makes me wince.

Hi mom. And thanks.

” . . . whatever makes your grapefruit squirt . . . — Chuck Wendig

Adventures in Cover Land…

Hi,

If you write and you self-publish, there’s one piece of advice that you will have read at least a million times if not more – use a professional cover designer or your book won’t sell.

Me? I’m a rule breaker. A maverick. Dangerous to know… (That’s a whole different post – Imaginary Editor)

Okay – it’s a pretty tame rule to break but the number of times I’ve been warned off it, I’m fully expecting to go to hell in a handcart for what I’ve done.

You see, I’ve just designed my own cover! (clap of thunder in the background)

It’s not that I don’t want the particular book in question to sell. It’s more to do with the fact that I’m planning to put out a free short on Smashwords and Amazon, so spending $40-$60 dollars on a cover, even a pre-made one, just can’t be justified.

So here’s the story of my adventures in cover land, which might come of interest to any other self-publishers who are thinking of putting their design skills to the test. And to set the scene, I have no background in art or design (as will become very apparent) and as for designing on the computer, well, let’s just say that my technology skills are not all they might be!

So here’s cover design for dummies in 5 easy steps!

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  1. Find a suitable cover image. There are various factors that come into this decision. First, and most obviously, you’re looking for an image that reflects your story and sets the tone of the book. The cover image you choose will have the greatest impact on whether a potential reader investigates further. Obviously, writing erotica, I needed an image that would reflect this – the last thing one needs is complaints from outraged readers who are shocked by graphic sex that they’ve stumbled upon by accident. However, I didn’t want something really tacky and because I wanted to put the story up on Amazon and the other big distributors serviced by Smashwords, nudity and anything to graphic was out of the picture. But you also need to remember, throughout the selection process, that you will be adding text to your image – and as your jacket will primarily be seen as a thumbnail, the text needs to be large, so your name and the title of your book can easily be read. How will your chosen image work with several large words splashed across it? Ideally, you need an image that has at least a third available for your title and name without compromising the picture. Look for dark areas and blank space that you could use. If it’s a giant headshot, you’ll end up with your name tattooed on their forehead – maybe not quite the image you’re looking for?
  2. So much for the artistic considerations of the cover image. The technical details are just as critical. Most importantly, are you allowed to use your selected image for a book cover? You can’t simply grab a picture you like from Pinterest and then stick it on a book. The best way is to use a reputable picture library and then check out the licence agreement when you download to make sure it is acceptable to use the image on an e-book. Yes, you will have to pay to use the image – but not nearly as much as if you have someone else design your cover – and certainly not as much as if you get taken to court for copyright infringement because you just helped yourself to someone else’s work. If you’re in doubt whether you’re allowed to use the image on an e-book, email the picture library to make sure. The other technical consideration is the size of the image. Mark Coker, of Smashwords, gives the details in his brilliant free e-book Smashwords Style Guide (which also makes formatting your text simple and foolproof!)  According to Coker, the image must be at least 1,400 pixels wide and the ratio of height to width should be approx between 1.3:1 and 1.6:1. He suggests 1,600 pixels wide by 2,400 pixels high as being ideal. So you will probably need to download a large version of the image you choose. Coker also points out, bless him, that it would be far better to get someone else to design the cover for you. Thanks, Mark!
  3. Ah – we’ve got to the tricky bit. Adding the words. So what needs to go on your cover? The title, obviously. The author’s name, obviously. And a tagline. This can really help to make your cover look at least a little more professional. Open up Smashwords, take a look at the covers on the front few pages and decide which ones look most professional to you. The ones that simply have an image with the title and the author’s name centred above and below the main part of the picture – well, they look self published, don’t they? Add a tag line or a logo and they look more like something you might see from a professional publisher.
  4. So, you know what you want on the cover but how to add it? I Vanilla1started out experimenting with PicMonkey, a brilliant online tool that makes photo editing child’s play. It’s free to use, though you can pay to gain access to more sophisticated features. Anyway, here’s my first attempt. Pretty basic, isn’t it? The horizontal lines on my image made it hard to read the text and I thought that ‘Vanilla’ and ‘Dreams’ needed to be closer together. I wanted to fade the lower third of the picture to make the title easier to read and change the line spacing – but I couldn’t work out how to do it on PicMonkey.
  5. More sage advice from Mr Coker: if you’re going to ignore my advice and create your own cover, try using paint.net. This is another free program you can download onto your own computer. It’s about a thousand times less intuitive than PicMonkey but does offer more in the way of features and a much bigger range of typefaces. So, I loaded my image into paint.net and gave it another shot. It took a while to figure out what I was doing and get to where I wanted – remember, I’m super technologically challenged – but I came up with an end result that’s good for me.

So, instead of paying, say, $40 for a cover, I got one just for the cost of a photo download and a couple of hours of my time. It’s not the world’s most brilliant cover and I certainly won’t be giving up the writing to produce covers for other people anytime soon. But it’s good enough for a free story.

See, I told you I was dangerous to know…

VanillaDreams cover

Could Bella Really Have Ended Up With Jacob?

I ask only because I’m wrapping up a trilogy, as my other pen name Patience Hellsmith, where I find myself asking a similar question about my characters.

When I started, I knew who she’d end up with. But when I sent the completed second book to my beta readers- I was surprised to see them divided. Half likes Caleb, the bad boy, way better. The other half wants to see her happy with the new guy, Roger.

I really didn’t see that coming. Granted, I tried to write Roger as a real possibility and not as just the new boyfriend in the corner. A Prince Charming, if you will, the guy you settle down with after you play with all the Calebs’- the Mr. Wrongs.

In book one, One Swinging Summer, the main female walks away from Caleb, wanting more than he can give. (Sorry, little bit of a spoiler there.)

One Swinging Summer

One Swinging Summer

In  book two, Two Player Games, (not out yet) I give her what she thinks she wants, and watch her try to decide between the bad boy (she walked away from) and the fairy tale (new nice guy.)

So my question is- if it’s going to be able to be called a romance of the new adult or erotic variety- does she need to end up with the bad boy she started book one with? Or is either man game?

I keep thinking of Twilight’s team Edward/ team Jacob, and I think I’ve done well if my Beta’s are divided- but in romance, can you really end up with a team Jacob type ending, or do you go home with the one that brought ya?

One Swinging Summer is on sale, under erotica. As a single title, I couldn’t put it in Romance< Erotica, because of the spoiler I already gave. Now if I keep the whole trilogy in erotica, I know my options are wide open. She can end up with Caleb, who loves taking her to the swinger’s clubs, and in book two the S&M club as well. He just doesn’t want the forever she wants, and he can’t quite be trusted yet.

Then there is Roger, the perfect marriage material who wants to give her the fairy tale, except he is very Vanilla, and doesn’t get her need for the Sprinkles.

Of course, being erotica, my choices don’t end there. If she could get them to play well with others, so to speak, she could end up in a nice, happy threesome. But that would take some personality adjustments. Caleb might be persuaded, but Roger not so much.

But, as one of my beta readers pointed out, she is trying to line up her happily ever after, not a happy for now, and with the predicament I have her in at the end of book 2, I need to pick one.

On the other hand, book two’s tone has changed. With her knowing and going after what she wants, I think the trilogy will ultimately end up in the Romance< Erotica, Romance< New Adult categories, as even the club’s sex scenes have changed as the character has changed.

So back to the question- after everything in Twilight, would Jacob really have been an acceptable forever after all of her angsty torture over Edward?

Also, generally along the same lines- I am currently running an experiment.

As I said, One Swinging Summer is on sale, in erotica. Two Player Games will also go there somewhat soon. But the way I wrote them, they also lend themselves to the series formula I discussed last post.

So as an experiment- I’ve broken the trilogy down into a series of twelve parts. Parts 1-4 are One Swinging Summer, parts 5-8 is Two Player Games, and parts 9-12 will be Three And Forever. (Maybe, still playing with three’s title)

I’ve titled it Memoirs Of A Vanilla With Sprinkles Series, placed the parts in Romance categories, and am releasing a part every other week. Parts 1-3 are out, part 4 will be out in a few days, and part 5 (the first quarter of Two Player) will go up around the first.

Memoirs 9of a Vanilla with Sprinkles, part 1

Memoirs of a Vanilla with Sprinkles, part 1

The full novels (well, novel right now) are in erotica, at 3.99 each. The parts are in romance at 0.99 each (part 1 is free). The point being- which will sell better? Are serials hot for me too? Or are the novels the way to go? Now for full disclosure for my readers- at the end of the free first part is an author’s note stating the pieces are 0.99, released bi-monthly, or you can buy parts 1-4 now as One Swinging Summer over here, and I provide the link, etc, for the novel lovers vs the series lovers.

Once the experiment has run its course, I’ll let you know how it goes. So far it is divided. Some, upon finishing the freebie, pick up part 2, willing to risk 0.99, but some jump over and buy the book. Either way though, right now at least, they still have to wait for book two (or parts 5-8).

Any thoughts, concerns or questions? Either on a team Jacob type ending or on my romance serial vs erotic novel experiment? Can ya tell I’m learning as I go, making this shit up on the fly? Ah, the freedoms of an unknown in the new self-pub world. Gotta love it!

Dark Erotica in Fantasy or Contemporary Settings

I have a really difficult time reading dark erotica in contemporary settings. It’s fairly popular (if you know what you’re looking for) to find kidnapping, and sexual slavery, and rape erotica. There’s a lot of absolutely fantastic authors like Skye Warren, Pepper Winters, Kitty Thomas.

Their stories make you feel. I mean, they take your guts and twist them until you just can’t read any more – but you can’t stop, either. They are horrific and arousing and sexy and sad all at once. The heroes are complicated and you hate them at the same time you want to heal them, for them to fine peace, solace.

I love these author’s plots, but I find them so emotionally draining because of the baggage I carry in, and just how realistic they sometimes seem. They’re not fluffy, feel good reads.

My partner and I have a hard time writing contemporary novels in general, but it becomes an impossible task when you throw in these dark elements of society. We end up feeling so guilty and terrible that it just gets put in our scrap pile. We start and discard, start and discard, never able to stomach that first horrible scene when everything is at its bleakest.

This isn’t to say anything against the authors I named above, of course. In fact, it makes them more amazing to me because they were able to write such powerful, heart-wrenching work. They’re able to put aside their feelings and tell a story that is beyond compare. You can tell that a lot of them went into their books, and they’re just amazing.

But J.E. and I have to scale things back, and that’s one of the reasons we love writing in scifi and fantasy universes. There’s less baggage, there’s less emotional triggers, and while that can be both a good and a bad thing, for us it gives us more freedom.

Not just the freedom to write these dark erotic stories, but to really make the world something that would contribute to the setting. I know grim-dark is often a word used in fan-fiction for it, but I like to use it anyway. It conveys a mood and atmosphere to a work, and it’s one that definitely suits dark erotica.

This is also what we want to read. Fantasy and scifi is the perfect setting for these dark sexual slavery, rape, kidnapping stories. There are so many books out there that hint at the seedy underbelly of these fantastical societies, but there’s still so few authors that are writing fantasy and scifi erotica. It’s something we want to read, and have been looking to read for years, so for us it’s just the natural step that we should write it.

Often times, in our writing process, I’ll come up with an idea I want to write. Sometimes it’s something simple, like I really want to write about a dominant male. We’ve written tons of books with dominant men, mostly because of me, and the further it gets from reality, the darker it gets, typically.

For instance, our Tiffany series, which has just been republished under our new pen-name, Candy Quinn, deals with a lot of taboo relationships. 18 year old student/teacher, daddy/daughter, brother/sister, gang-bang, sexual harassment, dubious consent all plays a role, but it’s lighthearted. It’s still sexy, it’s still dark, but it isn’t as gritty as it could be. Part of this is because of certain vendor’s limitations on what we can write, but part of it is also because of our own hangups.

We wanted it to be lighthearted, we didn’t want our ‘heroine’ to be tortured and hurt. Just a little bit of roughness, and she loves it.

The Vixen TornThen we have The Vixen Torn, following the character of Anjasa who likes her sex hard, and her men dangerous and plentiful. The first one includes her getting off while a man threatens her life, and her sleeping with multiple men. It ends with her in the bed of a vampire who is more dangerous than anyone else she knows, and she’s happier than ever. The second novel, coming out on May 14th, follows a similar vein.

Meanwhile, Outcast contains outright rape, including gang rape. Threats of death. Violence and angry men. It packs in a lot of really dark fetishes, set in a fantasy world inspired by Dungeons & Dragons and Skyrim. We’re currently writing the long awaited sequel and the torture of the main character, Elin, is a constant.

Into Shadows is a novel that we’re in the process of editing that explores a world ruined by war, and class warfare. It’s a hard hitting story that really explores very human, contemporary issues but in a fantasy setting. I think it allows us to more honestly criticize society without getting drawn into the realities of politics and criminal activity and gender roles in specifics.

For us, it’s just easier to explore these things when the characters aren’t in a contemporary setting, and it allows us a lot of emotional freedom. We can bring up issues without needing to provide solutions, or just start a conversation about the things going on in our world that we can or should change.

So yes, for us, dark and taboo erotica in a fantasy setting is what we’re truly passionate about. What about you? Do you prefer the realism of contemporary, or the separation and enjoyment from fantasy?

Romance Serials- Love ‘em or Hate ‘em?

If you’ve read H.M.Ward, you know what I mean. I haven’t read a lot of her work, as I’ve only recently discovered her, but I like what I’ve read so far.

The Arrangement, from my understanding, is her first reader driven work. It started out as a four part?? series, and due to reader response and requests, is now up to 15ish. I’ve read parts 1-12, and enjoyed them, but boy are they pricey at 2.99 each.

I actually discovered her because I had an idea and looked around to see who else had already done it. My other pen name is 2/3 finished with a trilogy, and of the two books already done, I had written them in quarters, with a natural cliffhanger ending to each quarter, and had toyed with the idea of releasing 12 parts to the serial, later bundling the 12 parts into the three books of four parts each, and then by Christmas, releasing a boxed set of all three books/twelve parts all together. That’s how I stumbled upon The Arrangement, which when I found it, had twelve parts.

I read all twelve parts when I was on that naked cabin retreat I mentioned a few weeks ago, to see if hers was structured similar to what I was planning, only to read part 12 and have it also end in a cliffhanger. So I researched more and discovered that there was no end in sight, and at some of her cliffhangers she had asked for reader opinion somewhere- things like is this character gay, and did this character really sleep with that character?

Having researched after I’d read twelve parts, I knew the answers to those questions already, and personally haven’t read parts 13 or beyond. I may continue, I may not. I was intrigued by the division of thoughts by her readers though, they were either very addicted, wanting more and more, and were very willing to pay 2.99 every few weeks for the continued entertainment of the saga, along the lines of a TV series of episodes, or they were pissed at being ripped off for something that may never end.

Serials are also often discussed over on Kboards, but usually it’s more like mine- a planned, plotted story with an end point in mind, released with part one free as a lead in to the series, and the rest either at .99, or the second and/or third at .99 with the last one or few being 2.99. Then, for those that don’t like series, you wait for the bundles, which usually comes out price-wise somewhere in the range of what you would have paid individually, but you get everything all at once.

But sometimes, when fans realize a bundle is about to be released, sales on the individual parts drop off drastically. Why buy this now, when I can get the bundle next month? That sales drop drives the author back down into the cellar, where no one now sees her books, or then even knows about the bundle later.

Personally, as a newer author with no major following, the free first part with .99 parts to follow makes the most sense. And looking at how Hugh Howey’s Wool was originally similar, being continued because of reader demand and success, the .99 price point could still make someone a very comfortable income. Right up until you realize as a writer how Amazon pays.

As a reader, your decision is free, 1.99, 2.99 etc., you see what is available at whichever price, and weigh. Do you know/love the author? Do you risk .99 because you don’t know/love the author yet, and .99 is an easy gamble?

But as the writer- the pay is hugely different, keeping to Amazon for simplicity. .99 makes great sense, it is a smaller chunk of time/effort for both the author and the reader to try out a new series, and maybe you will sell a lot more at .99 than at 2.99. But the way Amazon is structured- the author only makes 33% at .99. So you have to sell three copies to make a dollar. Now if you jack your price up to 2.99, you make 70%. One sale at 2.99 makes you about 2.00. You have to sell six at .99 to make what you would make selling one at 2.99.

So do you go for titles sold, or money made? Some author’s say selling cheap or free brings everyone down. You used to go to the bookstore, and novels were all similar. Paperbacks generally $6-$12, hardbacks $20 and up. If you wanted cheap you hit a garage sale and hoped, and if you wanted free, you went to the library. So now offering for .99 or even free, they think, means authors are undervaluing themselves and making it harder on others when they train an audience to think, “Why should I spend this much on a novel when Amazon is crawling with free/cheap reads?”

Then you have the whole I HATE CLIFFHANGERS VS. I LOVE CLIFFHANGERS thing. Book sales are based on visibility, if you don’t know it’s out there, you can’t buy it. Visibility is boosted with rankings- the more people buy your title, the more it climbs the ranks, the more Amazon pushes your book in front of people, so the more people see and buy your book. But reviews also help with the reader’s decision. One star reviews ’cause “I hate serials/cliffhanger even though I loved the story,” can drop you like a rock.

And so we writers wade in, testing the waters, raising and lowering prices, seeing what happens. Yes, I want the most people to be able to see/read my work as possible, but I’d also like to be able to feed my kid. Would you give away months and months of your work in the hopes that one day…? Risking that your books will never be read, because people grab freebies they never get around to actually reading? Or do you price it a little higher, knowing that at least whoever buys that title has a greater chance of actually reading it, because they liked the blurb enough to lay down money for it?

Do you seek out or avoid series and cliffhangers?