Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ramblings



By Daddy X

Writing was the only creative endeavor I’ve ever shown any skill at besides cooking and art installation. I admire artists of all stripes and always wanted to be a storyteller even as a little kid. In my antique business I wrote descriptions of objects in my own catalogs and promotional pamphlets, and contracted to write descriptive copy for various auction houses. Besides the odd pain-in-the-ass letter to the editor, or writing/editing an occasional PR piece for a local group, that was about the extent of it. Unless I was trying to expose some political deception, nothing had a plot. At least nothing I had to make up.

Back in the early 90’s, I began a non-erotic novel, a ‘last man on earth’ scenario. I guess I had about 50k written before realizing how much I enjoyed writing dialog in the flashbacks. Not much chance for dialog in a ‘last man’ tale, an epic that was intended to move forward in the present and encompass a future. Ultimately life got in the way and there was no time for writing. I think there’s still a copy of that manuscript on a floppy disk around here somewhere.

In 2009, at 64 years of age, I did wind up with the time, inclination and happily lasting libido to write what I’d been enjoying all my life. Erotica. At first I had high literary ideals, lofty concepts of sex as an almost religious experience akin to mescaline or psilocybin mushrooms. I wasn’t going to write B&D, S&M, or anything that wasn’t ‘sex-positive’, whatever the fuck that is. I wasn’t going to write porn; I wasn’t like that. Why would I write something I had no experience in?

So I started writing a book. I envisioned a society, no… a town. An entire town devoted to sex and the ultimate orgasm, featuring theaters, parks, performances, outdoor sports and concessions. Some characters lived in the town as residents. Others were ‘clients’ who paid the bills for this sex-positive society’s existence. But a problem soon arose with my characters. They turned strange—perverted—and by the way—totally lovable for all their warts and scars. Christ! I didn’t want to be writing smut but I couldn’t get these people to quit doing all the stuff they were getting up to. They just became farther and farther out the more I wrote. At some point, I just decided to run with what was working.

Soon I had the good fortune to meet some professionals in the genre and take a few erotica writing workshops. In turn, I was steered to ERWA where I really had the chance to take the temperature of the erotica community. Turns out what I had been writing wasn't that far out after all (and not very good either). My stuff was terrible compared to some and somewhat stronger than others. At that point, I told Momma X I’d like to be a published pornographer some day. She was ecstatic! … Not.

The concept that we, those of us born around the middle of the last century, have the best of all sexual worlds has often come to mind. We grew up, early enough in the ongoing sexual revolution, instilled with the concept of dirty, perverted—going beyond a particular theoretical tolerance as to what may be titillating. We now get to scratch that tenacious itch and explore those lines of transgression a little more each day as obscenity conventions evolve. Let’s face it: if a concept didn’t cross some line for us, it wouldn’t be as intriguing, would it? Heheh. Perhaps a big thanks is in order to those bible-thumpers who have inadvertently prolonged the titillation they so abhor.

With the mores comparatively loose today, do the young have the same take? I wonder.

So far my experience in the erotica publishing world has been comparatively narrow. Momma X worked in publishing close to 30 years, but more in the production end of things than editorial. The pubbing world has changed drastically since then, most production duties now in the hands of writers themselves. (kinda like checking out our own groceries at the super market). Editors either want an error-free finished product, or, at the other end of the spectrum, quality takes a back seat and works go to market in varying degrees of imperfection.

What does it mean to an author to now be equipped to outline, write and edit a complete novel without using a single sheet of paper? When writers had only typewriters to work with, a simple misspelling or punctuation blip would render a page unacceptable. It would have to be done over. Now, all we do is highlight then hit the ‘delete’ button. Can anyone imagine what it would take to work like that today? Rearranging a few paragraphs would be a major undertaking. Can you see the piles and piles of paper drafts,  misplaced pages, coffee spilt?  

Were writers of old better at the craft than we, or are modern tools helping us to be better at what we do? Is it all making us lazy? Crazy? More driven? It is certainly easier for more folks to experience their inner writer.

As for me, I’m still learning the ins-and-outs of the business, always looking for more opportunities. I’ve just had a story picked up by House of Erotica for their Halloween anthology coming out the first of October. That makes two publishers I’m now with.  

So what did this rambling post resolve? Nothing. Did it bring up some questions or thoughts? I hope so.


6 comments:

  1. I finally got around to trying to write for publication around 1996, so I've got the jump on you, DaddyX, but I'm four years older than you are. I started out writing science fiction and fantasy, and yes, I began with my old (very very old by then!) college typewriter. Even when word processors came along--hallelujah!--most markets required paper submissions, and self-addressed stamped envelopes for them to reply. Or some would take postcards instead if you didn't want your paper copy back. And we had to trudge five miles through the snow uphill to even get them mailed. Writers in those days had true grit!

    I'm pretty sure the ease of submitting manuscripts these days has a lot to do with the glut of writers. That doesn't mean I'd want to go back to the days of yore when a manuscript really was a handwritten document; my handwriting is foul, and I might not have made it through college at all without a typewriter.

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  2. True words, Sacchi. In my own defense I've always said that my mind works faster than my hand can write, hence sometimes even I can't read what I write. Cursive? I lift the pen in the middle of words, and don't bother in between sentences. My family calls it hieroglyphics. Fortunately Mom took secretarial classes when I was in grade school, and she made sure that I taught myself how to type quickly without looking at the keys, before I got to junior high. I had piano lessons for years, so it wasn't that hard to transfer the finger-dexterity. As an English major, I typed 25+page papers in one night on my old manual typewriter, with carbon paper and a bottle of White-out nearby. Now I can type as fast as I think, fairly accurately.

    I don't know if I'd have ever gotten published before e-Books. From the amount of rejection letters I got from "regular" publishers, probably not. But a small indie publisher gave me my first contract. A few books later, a slightly bigger one did also. Then another much bigger one. I'm still laboring in obscurity, but as long as the stories keep presenting themselves to me, I'll keep writing.

    And Daddy X, you raise an interesting question: If you've never been taught about right and wrong, does doing things that others consider "wrong" have any special thrill? Probably not, since part of that thrill is knowing you're breaking the rules. But back when I was in high school during the 70s, I was sure that by the time I had kids who were teens, pot would be legal and sex would be accepted as your own business, with slut-shaming a thing of the past, and birth control accepted as a natural part of a woman's health care. Since none of those is true and my kids are now in their twenties, I'm mightily disappointed. I raised my kids with my ideas, as everyone does. And they now hope for the same things that I did, to be true for their kids. But none of us is very hopeful, since the intractable crowd of "people who want to judge and control everyone else's lives because their own is so boring and dull" seems to be a permanent part of societies everywhere.

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  3. Well Sacchi. that means you're at least the second person here older than I. Seems I go through life as the oldest guy anywhere. Ha! My hand writing hasn't changed a single bit since first grade. I can look at my scrapbook and it's the same chicken scratch now. Instantly recognizable, if not legible.

    And Fiona-
    Back in the day, I would have bet on the same outcomes as you did. Yes, it's true, the strength of reaction should not be minimized. Those who own the ideological ground a society stands on are reluctant to leave. It's the 'Territorial Imperative' of convention.

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  4. And Fiona again-
    I think a lot of us are lucky to have e-books come along. I'm not depending on writing to make a living, and I know I'm lucky to say that, but it frees me up to write what I want, not particularly what might sell. My first acceptance (also my first submission anywhere) was from Naughty Nights Press who were new at the time and have been very sweet to me.

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    1. Writing "for the market" doesn't work--at least, not for me. Everything I've written that should have sold well didn't, or received a unanimous BOO from readers. I have no idea what straight women want. I'm not even gonna try anymore. Queer and quirky all the way.

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  5. Interesting thread: 'Being all things' ... on aspects of this subject currently on ERWA 'Writers'

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