Monday, September 30, 2013


By Lisabet Sarai

(Based on a dream)

It has been growing for the past three months, silent but deadly, like some tumor eating away at my soul. Lila noticed, I'm sure, when I came back from my trip, that I was quieter, more inward-focused than ever. I guess she chalked the changes up to the fact that I'd been visiting my mother. In any case, she didn't ask, much to my relief.

I fell back into her arms with a feverish desperation she probably found gratifying. “Seems like you missed me, baby,” she'd tease, gazing up from her favorite spot between my thighs, her café au lait cheeks smeared with pussy juice. She wiggled the fingers buried in my cunt and I spasmed into yet another furious climax, forgetting, for a few seconds at least, my betrayal.

With uncharacteristic roughness I flipped her onto her back, burrowed into her bush, gnawed on her clit, until she thrashed and screamed and begged me for a bit of mercy. I drank deeply of the wine that poured from her tender flesh and sought oblivion in her helpless fluttering around my fist.

Not since our first wild days together had we come together in such frenzied passion. Our fiery couplings left us both drained and sore. In the aftermath of these conflagrations, as we lay tangled in the soaked sheets, still interpenetrated, I'd rake my fingers through her tangled curls and think about how much I loved her, how desperately I needed her. The words I knew she wanted to hear stuck in my throat, though, like some half-chewed chunk of meat I could neither swallow nor disgorge. 

Our bodies spoke, in the most direct of languages, but as the weeks wore on, it became harder and harder for me to say anything at all to my lovely Lila. At dinner, she'd try to draw me into conversation, chattering about the Murakami novel she was reading, or the new Almodovar film down at the Lido, or the latest office scandal at the ad agency where she worked. Even my monosyllabic replies took enormous effort. All I could do was gather her into my arms, fondle her ripe ass, suck her earlobe into my mouth until she shuddered with desire, and finally, drag her off to bed.

Until tonight.

She wants me. She pants as I twist a plump nipple through her teeshirt. Her skin is moist and warm under my wandering fingers. If I can just worm my hand into the front of her jeans, I know I'll find her wet and ready. Right now, I need that more than ever, the wordless certainty of her surrender. But tonight, she pushes me away.

“No, Gretchen. We've got to talk.” She sits back down in front of her dirty plate and swallows the last of her wine. “You've got to tell me what's bothering you.”

I sink to my knees beside her chair and try to unzip her fly. “Tomorrow. I'll tell you tomorrow, baby. Let's go to bed.”

She slaps my hand. “Stop it!” Then she clasps my fingers in her own and raises them to her lips. “Trust me, Gretch. Talk to me. What's wrong?”

She raises me to my feet, then propels me into the chair next to her. I don't resist. I'm too busy trying to breathe. Guilt is smothering me.

“It's  nothing, baby. Let it go.” I don't want to tell her. I can't tell her. She'd never forgive me.

“Damn it, don't lie. Something happened on your trip west, and it's driving you crazy. You've been like a zombie ever since you got back.”

“Come on. Zombies don't fuck the way we do.” I try to chuckle, to turn it all into a joke. My voice cracks with the strain.

She shakes her head, making her curls bounce. “Did your mom start in again, about you being eternally damned? A daughter of Satan? You should know better than to listen to her...”

“No, no – it's not her...” I want to sink through the floor. I consider the possibility of dragging myself from her grip and storming out the apartment.  A half-dozen beers at Sandy's Pub might dull some of this pain... But the look on her face, focused concern and real distress, keeps me pinned in place.

“What, then? I know you're a very private person, Gretch, but if you can't share this with me – I'm your lover, for Christ's sake! You'll feel better afterward. You know what they say about  burden shared...”

A glimmer of hope. Was she right? But then, she hasn't heard the story yet...

“I – I can't...”

“You can. Take a deep breath and begin. Pretend I'm not even here. I promise I won't say a word.”

I extricate my hands from hers and swallow the lump in my throat. She's so earnest, so beautiful, so terribly in love with me. I'm about to shatter her.

“It – it happened on the way back. Somewhere on I-80 – Kansas, Nebraska, one of those places. I was planning to stop in Kansas City for the night. About sunset. I needed a bathroom. The rest area seemed empty. Didn't bother me, not at the time...”

I stop. It's coming back, coming up like vomit. I can't fight it anymore, and I think it will choke me.

Lila keeps her promise and stays silent, but her eyes beam encouragement.

“He – he was hiding in one of the stalls. Waiting.” I stop again, trying to swallow the panic and the self-disgust.

“Oh, my god...” she whispers, pure pity in her eyes. 

 “He let me pee, then dragged me out of the stall and pressed me up against the sink. Young guy, skinny, with hair like straw and blond stubble. But he was strong, stronger than me, and he had a knife...”

“Oh, Gretchen, darling...” Her arms are around me, but I can't feel them now. I'm back there, in that grubby rest area toilet, the cold tip of his blade nudging the underside of my jaw. 'Take down your pants, dyke,' he'd ordered and what could I do but obey, with his steel teasing my skin? 'That's a good girl. Wouldn't want to have to cut a pretty gal like you...'

I shivered. The blade slid down along my throat to my carotid. He smelled like sweat and diesel. 'Gonna give it to you good,' he'd crooned as he rubbed his slippery knob over my bare ass. A bit of a drawl, but compelling, too, oozing with self-confidence. 'I'm gonna show you what you've been missing, dyke. Gonna fuck you till you scream and beg for more.'

I remember the instant he pushed into my cunt from behind, the feeling of being sliced open, even though he held the knife steady. I wanted to scream, I did, but I was afraid of his oily power and his sparkling blade so I let him fuck me, let him, let him, rough and hard, slamming my hips against the cold porcelain of the sink as he fucked, fucked, fucked, the knife like pricking my skin in time with his thrusts...

Lila holds me tight. I bury my face in her breasts, soaking her tee shirt with my tears as I remember it all. The way he left me, in the dusk-dark ladies' room, crumpled on the floor with his spunk all over me and the shape of his fingernails carved into my ass.  The way I scoured my skin raw later that night in the motel, unable, it seemed, to wash his stink from my flesh. The terror and guilt that wracked my dreams, where again and again he commanded me to bend over and I still couldn't say no...

“Go ahead, baby, go on and cry.” Lila's voice sounds a hundred miles away, as she rubs her cheek over my crew cut and peppers my forehead with soft kisses. “It's okay now. You're safe. And I'm here. I'll take care of you.” “

She's soft, seductive. She thinks she understands.

“I'm so glad you told me. Everything's going to be all right, darling.”

You're wrong, I want to tell her. You don't know the worst of it.

I should follow through, tell her the whole truth. It's strangling me.

I'm weak, though. I let her cuddle me, let her believe that her comfort can save me. Just like I let him fuck my traitorously soaked cunt, until I came as hard as he'd promised, piss and disinfectant in my nostrils and the taste of blood in my mouth.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Into the Ether

by Jean Roberta

Like several of my fellow-Grippers, I don’t expect to earn a living from my published work, but I can’t honestly say the money doesn’t count. Getting paid is the sign of a professional rather than an amateur, and I treasure every little payment.

The frustrations I’ve experienced can be classified thus: 1) editors from Jupiter, or some other planet than the one I live on, and 2) mysterious selection process (more than one editor, submission being considered for many months, possibly stolen by aliens), and 3) publishers that go bust.

Examples of Issue #1 include an editor who highlighted every use of “she” and “and” in my story, and told me the story could not be accepted with these words included, and an editor who insisted that my story was not “up to” the literary standards she expected because the characters did not make a clear-enough distinction between polyamory and bisexuality. (They were arguing, and emotions were running high. In my experience, emotional heat is inversely proportionate to intellectual clarity.) Then there was the editor who told me never to write fantasy erotica ever again because she didn’t like it. (She also didn’t like BDSM. Go figure.)

Then there was the exciting anthology of erotic horror edited by a male-and-female team who accepted my story as well as several by writers who specialized in horror or spec-fic. This introduced me to a whole new community of writers, and I enjoyed our conversations in the Yahoogroup set up by the editors. But we waited for publication. . and waited. . and waited. Eventually, so many of the other writers withdrew their stories that I knew the anthology was doomed. It never saw the light of day.

I’m glad to say that most of my submissions are answered nowadays, one way or another. This was not always the case. When I first began sending out erotic stories (and I was not an unpublished writer, just new to this genre), I got no responses whatsoever for the first year. None. I had no idea whether my story submissions, or my bulky novel manuscript (snail-mailed at my expense, of course) ever arrived.

I still have a copy of a letter I fired off to an editor in 1999, after a year of silence. I wrote it in heat, let it mellow overnight, revised it the next day, then sent it off. I pointed out that I wasn’t expecting acceptance or a critique, just timely communication. I explained that most of my friends and acquaintances had a fairly mainstream opinion of erotica (that it was mostly written and published by porn-addicts in dirty raincoats) and that unprofessional behaviour by an editor did nothing to dislodge their prejudice. I pointed out that I was neither ungrammatical nor unwashed nor completely unpublished, and that I deserved at least a postcard with a formula rejection message on it. I explained that the town where I live is accessible to the Canadian postal system.

Finally, I got a written response: a scrawled note from the editor, saying that all her papers had been lost in a house fire. My sweetie asked if I believed that. I told her it didn’t matter. I had demanded a response, and I got it. However, I never sent anything to that editor again, lest her whole city go up in smoke.

Regarding Issue #3, I now have a Dead Publishers shelf in my office in the local university where I teach, and I’ve discussed some of the dearly departed in my post for the blog of the Erotic Readers and Writers Association, here:

I could easily expand on this topic. I have more anecdotes in store, for anyone who wants to hear them.

The publishing biz in general has seemed unstable for quite a few years now, yet small niche publishers continue to be launched like brave little rowboats on a choppy sea. In general, publishers have my gratitude, since I lack the sheer courage or recklessness to self-publish.

So far, the frustrations of being a freelance writer are outweighed by my hope and satisfaction. These emotional conditions are visually represented: in my new office (as of summer 2013) my Dead Publishers shelf holds a modest pile of paper, but my brag shelf--which holds all the books to which I’ve contributed--stretches from wall to wall.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My Many Hats

by Amanda Earl

I am both a writer and a small press publisher. I work in both the erotica and literary communities. Like a few of my fellow OGGers, I submit work for publication and I also select work for publication. So I get to experience many different aspects of the publishing world. These varying experiences tend to alleviate any frustrations I might have about being published.

I'm not particular efficient or organized about sending either my fiction or my poetry out for publication consideration. If I see a call that resonates, I sometimes write something for it or find something in my files that fits the call or needs a bit of a rejig to fit the call. Otherwise I am quite content to plod away at my work, to read it  in public  in my home town as a featured reader or as part of the open mic. 

If I really want to see something of mine published in print in a timely fashion, I'll publish it myself in a limited edition that I send out to dear friends and attentive acquaintances. I believe in making my own opportunities. And I am not going to self-publish crap. It has to be well-designed and properly edited. I rely very much on my first readers, who are proficient at editing, and workshop groups, such as the Erotica Readers and Writers Association Storytime list.

I do have an ambition to have a poetry book published by a Canadian small press publisher that I admire some day, if the stars are in alignment. Currently I have two poetry manuscripts being considered for publication by publishers and I've had several rejections of book-length manuscripts so far. All this in a period of thirteen years of sharing my writing publicly rather than just keeping it locked up in scrawled journals. I'd love to have a collection of my erotic short fiction published by an erotica publisher that I admire as well. I also have a novel and a novella and a collection of linked erotic stories that it would be nice to see published, but I've done very little about it.

If publishing these works becomes a burning desire, I'll do the legwork myself and self publish. For the erotica, I still haven't taken the time to explore online self-publishing opportunities such as Kindle or Smashwords. I find the whole thing a bit daunting, frankly. When you're a small obscure fish, getting the word out about your work is a major challenge. I don't want to spent most of my time promoting my work.

As far as erotica goes, the publishing world seems to have changed a bit since my previous time involved. Between 2004-2007 I received numerous invited calls for submission based on my erotica published in the Erotica Readers and Writers Gallery and Treasure Chest. Since my return in 2012, I haven't had that too much yet, a little bit, but not as much. I've sent out a handful of submissions in response to calls and received only one acceptance so far, from Maxim Jakubowski for my story, "the Graffiti Artist," first published in 2012 on the ERWA Gallery and also in the Treasure Chest. The story will appear in the next "Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica." But perhaps this will happen in time. At the time of writing this, I just received another acceptance, albeit awaiting publisher approval.

Furthermore the length of time between my submission and an editor's response is longer than it was six years ago, and editors are communicating less than they used to as well.  But the wait time is still much less than for literary fiction and poetry  where even a submission to a literary journal can take a year or longer to hear about.

Is it possible that the FSOG phenomenon is causing erotica publishers to be inundated with submissions from every wanna-be E.L. James out there as Sacchi suggests in her post earlier this week? I suspect so. It doesn't concern me, but I can see how it might dishearten an emerging writer who wants to see her work in print. I was fortunate to have my erotica published by ERWA the first year I joined and by publishers such as Cleis Press, the former Alyson Books, Logical-Lust, Carroll & Graf etc only a short two or three years after I began writing erotic fiction or fiction at all for that matter.

The publishing world is very difficult. In Canada there are some small grants available to literary publishing houses to help them afford the expense of physical books but these grants come with very stringent rules and it isn't always possible to adhere to these rules, such as the Canada Council of the Arts' requirement that a publishing house has to have four books published in a year to qualify for funding.

As a small press publisher, I am sympathetic, nay empathetic to the difficulties publishers face with regards to financing and distributing literary works. I have been saddened to see some of my favourite publishing houses cease operations in the past few years and independent bookstores in my hometown are almost completely gone now. So I'm not particularly frustrated that I haven't been able to find a home yet for a lot of my work. It'll come in time, if it is meant to be.

In the meantime, just writing is enough to absorb my time and attention. To be honest, I'm not really sure I'm ready for all the folderol that goes with book promotion. And I think it is the responsibility of the author to help flog the books so the publisher can get back their investment at least. So I won't send out book manuscripts with a view to getting them published unless I believe I can commit to promotion, which includes raising money for touring, being available for interviews and self-promotion on my various sites and other people's sites etc. This is going to take me away from my writing, so really I'm not in any rush to be published.

I am in charge of two small publishing endeavours, I guess you could call them. One is, which publishes poetry online by current and former Ottawa residents, students and workers. We have been running for eleven years and have received funding from the City of Ottawa to pay our artists, which have included poets, musicians and visual artists. We do a lot of other things, but this is the part that is germane to the current topic. We receive between 30 and 100 poems a month. We have a selection committee of between 10 and 12 poets who see the work alone. They do not see the names of the poets or their biographies. Upon submission, poets receive an automated acknowledgement e-mail with a user id and a password allowing them to make sure the formatting is correct, check for any typos and revoke the poem if it is accepted elsewhere. We have a three month evaluation period. If the poem hasn't been accepted within that timeframe, the poet receives a rejection e-mail.

I have found that these rejection e-mails have to be absolutely clear. Often simply receiving an e-mail from a publisher will cause a person to become excited and assume her work has been accepted. It is very hard to have to send another e-mail to the poet explaining that no, your work hasn't been accepted. We also don't offer editing advice. With 30-100 poems a month to read through, we simply don't have time. There are plenty of workshops and courses for those who wish to improve their writing.

The other publishing endeavour I run is AngelHousePress, which publishes poetry, prose and art online and in print via limited edition print runs of 50 copies of chapbooks, and receives no funding. We publish raw talent, rebellious text and ragged edges. We don't consider unsolicited manuscripts. Usually I happen upon someone whose work is exceptional and I want to publish it. I send them an invitation to submit a chapbook manuscript. A chapbook is a 32 pages or fewer booklet which is either stapled or sewn. It is usually published in small print runs up to about 200 copies. For AngelHousePress there is no committee evaluating the work, just me. I don't always accept every manuscript that I've asked to see. Sometimes I offer editing suggestions.

What frustrates me as a publisher is when people don't read the guidelines and send work that has nothing to do with what is asked for; they haven't taken the time to read through the website and get an idea about the publisher's esoteric; they don't know how to write a biography; they send links to their site and ask the editor to choose something;  they become upset when they receive rejections and send back mean and personal attack e-mails.

I urge every writer to be respectful and to pay close heed to the publication requirements of a publishing house or journal or what have you when you send work in. I also recommend that you query the publisher if you have questions after reading the guidelines and familiarizing yourself with their titles or magazine. I am very happy to answer intelligent queries myself. Don't forget that although these publishing houses are corporate entities, they are represented by actual people who are just like you. And some of the smaller presses are just one-person run operations. Many editors are also writers with their own stack of rejection slips and novels hidden at the bottom of their desk drawers.

My advice to those who have an urgent desire to have their work published is to slow down. Work with a group of writers you trust to help you refine your writing. Don't listen to or rely on family or close friends who will most likely be complimentary regardless of what you write. Learn about the publishing industry of the genre you are interested in writing in and at all times be respectful and patient. Don't take rejection to heart. It's going to happen over and over again.

After you've achieved a level that isn't causing you embarrassment, submit it. Once you have a few credits under your belt, you can always self-publish. Make sure the text is well edited before you unleash it.  If you have some kind of dream to be the next E.L. James, stow it and do the heavy lifting to make your work as strong and as unique as possible; don't think about blockbuster hits or bestsellers, fame and fortune. I realize this advice isn't particularly sexy or glamorous, but it's realistic.

The other piece of advice I have is to do more reading than writing. The more you read, the better your writing will become, the more it will be publishable, and even more important, the more it will correspond to your artistic vision.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


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.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The more things change the more they stay the same

If I had to sum up my feelings about being a published author ‘d say—satisfying, enjoyable and…frustrating. The obstacles never seem to stop multiplying.
I have to say the world of publishing has changed drastically since I first put pen to paper to try to write. Yes, I did say “pen to Paper.” Long before computers made their debut there were many of us who, if we didn’t have typewriters, used notebooks and wrote our stories in longhand. (No wonder my handwriting is so bad now!) In those long ago days there were far fewer authors competing for every publishing slot and for the attention of readers.
Fast forward to today and you have an entirely different world, though just as frustrating. Maybe even more so. Today we have the exploding digital world that has created more opportunities than any of us in those bygone years ever thought possible. But sometimes I’, not sure if it’s made publishing easier or more difficult.
Writing a book is a labor of love, however long it takes you. You put so much into it emotionally and intellectually and when you write “The End” you feel a sense of accomplishment. But folks, that’s just the beginning. The really frustrating part of the journey is just beginning.
Submit to a publisher or self-pub? Which publisher? How long does it take to get an answer? And just as choosing a book to read is a subjective thing, for an editor accepting a manuscript is also subjective, so a big part of the search is finding the right editor to sub to.
And even then your journey is just beginning, and I’m not even thinking about edits and scheduling. The marketplace has expanded so much, there are so many more options for books to buy and so many more methods to buy them that finding your place in the sun can be very difficult.
One of my cohorts on this blog mentioned the frustration of a good book not selling. I think we all feel that, for ourselves and for others. Especially when you throw into the mix the genre that all of us on this blog write-erotica and erotic romance. For many many many years erotic books were whispered about behind closed doors and delivered in plain brown wrappers. Now, although erotica has become an established genre and there are many authors writing it, succeeding is still a challenge.
Why? Because although erotica is more widely accepted there are still people who won’t take the chance and dip their toes in the waters as readers. Then there is the problem with the elephant in the room, Amazon, who has taken it upon itself to censor book covers. And without even any guidelines. One book cover is salacious and another, almost identical, is acceptable.
Fanny Hill and The Story of O have been accepted as literature but today’s erotica is not. And why not? Sometimes I just want to grind my teeth or scream out loud. We—erotic authors—write really great stories about well-developed and appealing characters and their relationships yet it’s still a battle for acceptance.
I think the advent of ereaders has greatly expanded the market for erotica. More buys, more opportunities. But we’re still fighting for our share of the marketplace out there.
So if you’re reading this, take a minute to browse the digital book stores, check out the erotica category and find a book that interests you. You’d be surprised what treasures are out there just waiting for you.
And despite the ever increasing challenges, I wouldn't give up being an author storyteller—for anything

Monday, September 23, 2013

Notes from a Dinosaur

Publishing these days feels like that old lumberjack sport of walking on logs in a river as they toss and turn and roll under your feet. The playing field keeps changing, and so does the audience. It seems sometimes as though there are more people publishing their work (in one way or another) than there are people who read any of it.

In the specific context of our niche of erotica (I was going to say “field,” but “niche” sounds so much more intimate, doesn’t it?) I’ve heard mutterings from several publishers that the boost in readership spurred by the Shades of Gray phenomenon has now been more than overwhelmed by the flood of wannabe writers and publishers trying to catch the wave. There’s too much dross out there now for the really shiny works of kinky goodness to catch the reader’s attention, and too many potential readers have given up in disgust at the poor quality of what they’ve sampled.

I’ve seen people complain that they can’t find any erotica worth reading, but I haven’t figured out how they’re choosing the books they’ve sampled and found wanting. I suspect that being free and online is a major factor. The overlap of people who want to read erotica and people who will actually buy books is pretty limited. My personal experience doesn’t count for much, but I’ve noticed that a quarter to a third of the Google searches that bring people to my blog are for lesbian cop sex, while my book Lesbian Cops has been the poorest seller of my nine anthologies. The free lesbian cop story on my blog is consistently among the most viewed, but the people interested in that theme are not so much into buying books. Or maybe that particular story turns them off; who knows? The theme itself turned off some of my usual contributors, but others did wonderful work that melded complex, believable characters and a generally noir tone with hot, intense sex, and the book was a Lambda Award finalist. I suspect that the searchers on Google weren’t looking so much for believable characters as for cartoonish stereotypes.

Enough straying from today’s topic. There’s another aspect of publishing erotica these days that I’ve been pondering. Kinky sex is in, but what do the majority of new readers think is kinky? Maybe I’m getting jaded as a reviewer—well, sure, I’m getting jaded with any writing less than excellent—but I’ve been surprised several times lately at what some readers (and writers) think is at the cutting edge. I’m reading a book for review just now with a title that includes the word Deviant, and by halfway through nothing more deviant than anal sex has appeared. And a review of my latest anthology, Wild Girls, Wild Night: True Lesbian Sex Stories, raves about all the stories being kinky. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful for the review, but I wouldn’t call more than maybe a third of the stories kinky. Haven’t we got past the time when anything with LGBTQ characters was considered kinky or even deviant? But I shouldn’t complain.

The other side of this coin is what Giselle dealt with in her post about themes so taboo that Amazon won’t carry them, specifically incest. What are the really extreme limits of what can be published in any marketable way? Since the lure of sex has been for a very long time, if not literally always, bound up with the lure of the forbidden, how dependent are we on taboos for our kicks? As I commented on her post, I really don't know what we erotica writers will do if society reaches a point where nothing about sex is a source of pleasurable guilt.

On an entirely different tack, more about publishing, reading, and writing in general than about any particular genre, I heard a startling and very scary statistic the other day. The newest version of the video game Grand Theft Auto brought in much, much more money on its first day on sale than any movie has ever done in its first—well, I don’t remember the exact figures, but it may even have been a year. If video games are earning vastly more than movies, and more people watch movies than read books (which I think has been an established fact for quite a while now,) no wonder such a small percentage of the population is willing to spend the money—or time—to read books in any form. Sigh. You youngsters may be able to adapt to writing video game scenarios, but I’ll have to subside as gracefully as possible into confirmed dinosaurhood.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Get Frustrated... Me?

By Lily Harlem

To be honest I don't get frustrated very often, I'm a really laid back person, easy come easy go (maybe not the right expression to use here, but hey ho!) so not much gets to me. Not to say I don't have other snarky emotions, I do, but luckily frustration isn't one of them. People changing plans at the last minute is probably one of the things that does irk me the most, but I try not to snap down the phone or grimace these days and take it in my stride and agree to the new plan.

Frustrations when it comes to publishing are few and far between. At Ellora's Cave I have an awesome editor who I get on really well with and have been working alongside for years. We're a finely tuned machine now when it comes to the writing, editing and publishing process and it's not only fun but also incredibly satisfying  and a constant learning curve.

I don't just publish through Ellora's Cave, I have other houses representing my books. I'd love to write more for them, get all the stories out of my head and onto the screen/paper but there isn't enough time in the day - that's frustrating!

I did have one incident recently when an editor asked for something specific. So I wrote it, and then it was decided after hours of work that it wasn't the style they wanted at all. Mmm, that was frustrating, especially when I'd gone to great pains to get it reading a certain way. But never mind, I was still pleased with the end result even if I did have to go the long way round to get there.

I would say one of the most frustrating things about publishing and writing is when a bloody good book just doesn't sell. I've had a couple like this, the most recent one being Breathe You In (okay, maybe I shouldn't describe my own book as bloody good, but I love this story and self-published it because I didn't want any editors or publishers trying to change a word of it). It's frustrating when nearly everyone who reads it gives it 5*'s, and only last week I met a colleague who'd read it and welled up with emotion when just the title was mentioned and then she declared it to be a book everyone should read. So yes, I would say that's frustrating, having something that does have an impact on readers who enjoy the erotic romance genre just sitting on a virtual shelf gathering dust.

But ask the biggies, authors I mean, and some of the best-sellers have sat around for years before being noticed, so I guess there is hope for all of these books, and let's face it, if they're not even written then they don't stand a chance of being read. It all has to start with Once Upon A Time...

Thanks for reading this and I hope you have a frustration-free day.

Lily x

Thursday, September 19, 2013

You Can't Write That

by Giselle Renarde

My first ebook was published by Dark Eden Press.  They went out of business a year later, but I learned a hell of a lot in that time.  They published quite a bit of M/M and menage fiction, including a phenomenon that was new to me: twincest.  Incest, with twins.

People wrote that?  Oh mercy, won't someone fetch me the smelling salts!  I was scandalized.

But I forgot about that pretty fast.

Years passed when I wasn't scandalized by anything. And then last year I realized the market was changing in a way that shocked even my hardened smutter's heart.  Suddenly, it seemed like the only erotic ebooks that were selling were... gross.  When I was granted access to a publisher's back end (no comment), the only books flying off the shelves had titles like (I'm going to try to make these up, but they might be real) "Fucking My Family" and "Daddy Spank Me Good" and "Sucking Mommy's Tits."

I remember having a phone conversation with my mother at that time.  She asked me, "How's the writing going?"  Dangerous question, because the answer's never glowingly positive.  I told her, "My work all stopped selling, all at once.  Nothing sells now, except this... stuff...  It turns my stomach.  I could never, NEVER write that."

Should we fast-forward to the part of this story where I eat my words?

Yes, let's do that.  

One afternoon, I took a hot shower and then crashed on my bed, in a weird sideways fetal position.  I don't think I was asleep.  I don't think I was dreaming.  It was more like watching a movie in my mind, remaining conscious all the while.

That movie followed a brother and sister as they gave in to forbidden temptation at Gramma's remote cottage.  Ultimately, it became my novella Adam and Sheree's Family Vacation.  We're talking serious hardcore incest erotica. Exactly the stuff that used to turn my stomach.  Exactly the stuff I said I'd never write.

And you know what?  Adam Sheree's Family Vacation is probably the best erotica I've ever written.  On that hazy afternoon, when my hip joint locked so badly I actually cried trying to squirm off the bed, I asked myself if there was any way I could write this book a little more... mainstream?

Nope.  Couldn't be done.  Well, sure it could, but I didn't WANT to write it differently.  Something shifted in me.  I don't know what changed, but I went from being grossed out by taboo erotica to actively wanting to write it... just like that.

Since then, I've written a sequel, Adam and Sheree's Family Business, and two more taboo books that haven't hit the market.  I'm very lucky to have ties with a publisher that accepts well-written taboo content, but that's not common.

Those of us who submit a lot of stories to anthologies can probably name the "no-no"s without even looking them up.  Let's see... no underage characters, no sex with animals or dead bodies (but undead are okay), no scat, no incest, no... what am I forgetting?

I've seen some publishers with "no infidelity" on that list.  If I see that, I don't submit.  Infidelity is kind of a staple, for me.

But back to taboo: even if your work is embraced by a kindly publisher, that's only Stage 1.  There's no getting around the fact that Amazon doesn't sell incest erotica.  They're the giant of the e-publishing world, and they won't carry your work. Nope. Censored. Sorry!

Same goes for sites like All Romance and BookStrand.  Thank goodness for Barnes & Noble or I'd be screwed.

But your book's available for sale.  So what?  How are you going to tell people about it?  You think your go-to marketing spots want their sites cluttered with shameful, embarrassing incest sex?  Maybe some are cool with it, but not all.  And do you want to burn bridges by trying to showcase your taboo work there if you're really not sure?

Taboo erotica used to squick me, big time.  I don't know why it doesn't anymore.  I don't know what changed, but suddenly my favourite topic is forbidden love between consenting adults.  I'm lucky to have a supportive publisher, but there are readers out there who want this type of fiction and will have a hell of a time finding it.

If it were easier to purchase taboo fiction, would we authors write more of it?

Hey, maybe that's Amazon's trick: stem demand by cutting off the supply.  Yeah. That'll work. Because people never want what they can't have...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Getting It Right

I don't really feel old until I try contorting myself into these unfamiliar positions.  It was my wife's idea, like proving I've still got something left.  At first I was nervous and found the whole thing about getting down on the floor and twisting around in that tight wet spot kind of intimidating. until I can put my tool in and start working that mother, but I thought "You;re a man.  Grow a pair and get in there cowboy.  It's just basic screwing.  Put that little  rubber ring on,slip it in that hole where it goes and  do like your daddy would have done."  But I've never been any good at this sort of thing.

Water drips in my face and I see a cockroach go skittering defiantly across the bathroom floor, probably sensing my helplessness and inability to reach over and just goosh him. I know where the leak in the toilet is coming from, the screws and the rubber seal should slip right to where the water tank fastens to the stool, but water is still dripping through.  It drives me crazy.  I'm an inferior human being.  I'm not a man.  I'm not good at this.  I'm not good at a lot of things men are supposed to be good at by weight of evolution.

My kid sticks his head in the door.  "Done?"

"No.  Getting there."

"It's just a toilet."

"I know."

There are things in life like fixing toilets, and fixing car engines and maybe brain surgery that require a sense of manly commitment.  You can't just throw your tools down and say to everybody in the operating room "I don't want to do this anymore." 

In our competitive culture mediocrity gets a bad rap.  But the ugly truth is that most all of us are mediocre at most everything except whatever single brilliant gift we're not mediocre at.  If you're very lucky, the thing you're not mediocre at may also be something you can earn a living with.  But even that's a minority of us.  If you're not so lucky, the thing you're good at might land you in jail.  Most of us are working jobs or spending most of our day at tasks we're not so great at.  

I know as a father I'm supposed to tell my kid and anyone who comes to me for encouragement "If you work hard and believe in yourself you can accomplish anything you put your mind to."

When you get older you realize what a load of happy horse puckery that can be.  The odds of me being a rock and roll star with young women gathering like cats outside my dressing room I think I can say have faded away.  I'm not likely going to be a football star or the hero who gets a high school named after him for saving the planet earth from a rogue asteroid.  Like Popeye says "I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam."

I do like yams.

I've been published fairly often by now for a short story writer of only the most basic education and talent.  I love being published, but it hasn't changed my life or especially changed people's minds about me.  I still yam what I yam.  I can't imagine the financial or creative burden that must be born by someone who earns a living at writing fiction of any kind.  Some people make it big after their first novel, maybe not even a very good novel, while others go slogging on all their lives barely getting anywhere. 

What I like about myself is not only what small things I have accomplished so far, like helping my family survive, but also what I have thankfully failed to do.  Back in my religious days we were told to be leaders, to get out there and win many new people to the religion we belonged to which in recent years has clearly failed and disintegrated into chaos.  I'm so glad I was never leader material, only follower material, and mediocre material at that.  Never a good missionary or winner of souls.  Those in my old religion who were and stayed on as state leaders and church ministers are currently mired in poverty.  Though I admire their outstanding faith, I'm grateful to have slipped their fate, so far at least.

I think one of the greatest gifts life can give you is to be very good at something you love doing and then go out and make a pile of money doing it.  That's what I wish for my kid.  You have to be where the random elements are.    You have to prepare yourself to be lucky.  When you study about people, especially creative people who have made it, you start to see the randomness, the sheer luck.  The right combination of people converging in the right moment.  Or else the sheer stubbornness of faith.  Faith is scary.  You read about the people who refused to give up in the face of failure and eventually succeeded by believing in themselves, but you never hear about the people who maybe should have given up and kept mindlessly beating the door after it was closed and locked against them.  You can't tell which group you fall under.  The line between genius and madness, failure and success is very often just luck. And obsession.  Obsession helps.

Meanwhile the toilet is waiting.  If I had a lick of sense I'd give up.  But I think I'm way past that.  Besides, toilets are one of those things. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

To typo is human

Self publishing used to be called Vanity Press, meaning I suppose that you thought your book was so damned good it deserved to be published and if you couldn't find a publisher to do it, you'd bloody well do it yourself. In those days it cost a bundle to do - as much as $10,000 because you had to guarantee the printer a goodly amount of copies before he'd print 'em. I wonder how many garages and storage cupboards were stacked with boxes of those books, lost forever there, after the first few were handed out to friends and relations, who didn't want to read the thing in the first place, and the number of bookstores who'd actually stock them were few and far between.

Then came the age of digital printing and suddenly you could self publish your work for a measly $600, if you wanted to self edit, self line edit, self proof and design and pay for the cover. I know, because I did it. After sending the manuscript of my first book, A Portrait of Phillip, to dozens of publishers and receiving the big thumbs down I put it aside and tried to forget that no one recognized my true genius - and wasn't that their big fat loss?

Then one day a friend called and asked if I'd read the article in our Sunday paper about companies that actually would publish any book, ANY book, as long as the author paid the bill. Several companies were listed but I chose iUniverse because they were partially owned by Barnes and Noble, and I in my innocence and naivity thought that the giant bookstore chain would also SELL my books. Ha!

Not being terribly au fait with computers then - still not - I had a degree of trouble getting the format right for the upload, but eventually got it done. I was sent a digital copy and an editing sheet that allowed me 50 corrections of mistakes I might find in the original. What tosh, I thought, there won't be anything like the need for 50 corrections. Oh. My. God! It was more like 500! And for every word over the fifty there was a substantial fee per word to correct. Maybe I needed their professional editor. Yes, that was possible for close to a thousand dollars!

Then there was the cover. I had no idea of the existence of iStock Photo or the myriad other photo companies that for a few bucks you could get a copyright free image of just about anything, so I painstakingly described in great detail what the cover should look like. It's a portrait right? On an easel, but it's unfinished, the artist having been clubbed half to death and in a coma for three years.  I received images that were so hilariously bad that I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing. I lost count of how many times I emailed the 'design' department asking for a redo until I was snippily told I had better accept one of the designs or go it alone. So I settled for an eerie representation of a man's eyes peering out of a blue darkness.

I hated it, but what's a starving author to do?

So the great day arrived. My book was published, 'twas in my hands...ugly cover and all. Breathlessly, I read page after page marveling at my narrative and peppy dialogue, then my eyes fell upon the first typo, then the next and the next... The best one was when I had mistakenly scribed AOL instead of AWOL. And all of this mess was already on Amazon and B&N and Booksamillion and on and on.

My friends of course were supportive. "Oh, I've read tons of books with typos in them." If I heard that once I heard it a dozen times. But I didn't want a book filled with typos! And so, A Portrait of Phillip second edition was born, anxious emails sent to Amazon to please delete that offensive copy - they wouldn't of course, and if you'd like to purchase a copy of my first edition it can be had for the bargain price of $250.00!!

Someone said, can't remember who, 'The great thing is that today just about anyone can get a book published - the awful thing is that today just about anyone can get a book published."
I like to think that I have improved over the years and the fact that I am published by two reputable publishing houses gives me confidence that my work will go out to the public typo free - but of course it doesn't always happen. To err is human they say, and when I read a book printed by say, Random House , and see "He retched for her to cradle her in his arms," I smirk, just a little.