Monday, November 30, 2015

The Sunny Side of Deceit

 Sacchi Green

 The great part of blogging here on the second Monday of each cycle, pretty much right in the middle, is that usually I can see enough of what others have posted to get a good idea of the shape the conversation is taking, and still see enough unexplored options that I can find something new to say. But this theme, “deceit,” has me stymied. Fiction’s natural role as deception of sorts has been well-covered, and so has the use of pseudonyms, while self-deceit and flamboyantly deceitful identity-revelation have been done in awe-inspiring detail.

 I could go with truthful confessions of deceit on my part, but I won’t. What's so bad about deceit, at least some kinds? Don’t we all have secrets we only reveal to those with a valid need to know, or to no one at all? Is it deceit when you simply don’t spill every last detail of your life? Or when you’re selective about who you tell what? Does it make a difference when, as a writer, you’re in some sense a “public” figure, even when your public is limited to a small circle of readers (and other writers if you’re also an editor) with, of course, exceptionally good taste in literature?  Maybe it is. I resorted to looking up definitions of deceit: “The action or practice of deceiving someone by concealing or misrepresenting the truth.” “a statement or act that is meant to fool or trick someone. The quality of being dishonest.” I suppose “concealing” could apply to simply not telling all.

 I do, in fact, tell pretty much all, just not to everyone. Some of my publishers have known, for instance, my age, and some, who I suspect would take it negatively, don’t, even if they’ve met me. Sometimes it’s kind of fun to play the age card to startle folks; at one of my first readings in New York, for one edition or another of Best Lesbian Erotica, I announced that I was there to confirm that there is life after fifty. That got a laugh and applause; I was tempted to go on and say, “and life after sixty, too,” but I wasn’t quite there yet, so I refrained. That was quite a while ago. I do enjoy subverting expectations by reading my explicit erotica to kids who think their own generation invented sex—haven’t they ever heard of the 1960s? We invented sex back then!

 Anyway, back to definitions. I also looked up the word “conceit,” which I recalled having a meaning beyond the usual one of an inflated sense of self-worth, one not all that far off from “deceit.” How about “a fanciful expression in writing or speech; an elaborate metaphor.” “A fanciful idea.” That’s pretty close to fiction, right? Fiction as deceit has been mentioned before, but let’s play with that connection a bit more. “A fanciful idea” is, essentially, imagination, and what could be more essential to fiction? And for some types of fiction, that “conceit” absolutely requires “deceit.” Mystery stories come first to mind. It may be possible to have a good mystery story where the reader is told everything at every stage, but it’s rare. In many if not most kinds of stories, not just mysteries, some level of deception of the reader is vital, because without such deception, how can there be discovery? Erotica isn’t as reliant on the deception/discovery model, but it can certainly be used in erotic stories. Romance tends to be heavy on it, sometimes too heavy. Plots that use too much in the way of deceptions, or characters concealing things that lead to misunderstandings in order to justify keeping the lovers apart long enough to make a novel-length story, tend to give the romance genre a bad name. Not that it seems to affect sales of such books, so who am I to complain?

 I guess I can’t complain about having nothing to say about deceit, either. I was thinking of resorting to riffing on the pseudonym thing, too, but it's late, and I'm tired. Maybe I'll do that in a comment instead. Or maybe I've already done it here and there on other posts from time to time. Let's just say my decision to use a pen name for erotica was meant only to deceive underage minds, and sometimes that's not such a bad idea.

Friday, November 27, 2015

My Confession

I pride myself on my honesty and, for as much as is practicable given the world we currently live in, my openness. But I’ve been carrying a secret around with me since 2006.

I’ve been lying about my name all this time! It’s not REALLY Willsin. Go figure!


Okay, I’m being a tad silly there. But Willsin Rowe doesn’t really feel all that much like a pen name anymore. I’ve been him since 2006, as I mentioned. And everything Willsin says, does and thinks is essentially the real me. As Alfred Hitchcock reportedly said, “What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out?” Similarly for myself, and I’m sure for many other authors… what is Willsin but the real me distilled?

There is, however, a side-secret I’ve been carrying with me since early 2013. And it’s a side-secret which I’m in the process of revealing. Another pen name I operated under for a couple of years, and which is still out there a little.

The back story of it all is that, by the end of 2012, I’d seen very little action as Willsin Rowe. My books seemed well-written (to me, at least). I had friends and supporters and beta-readers and reviews. I just couldn’t find my niche. I was convinced the main issue was my gender, in combination with the genre I’d come to focus on; commercially-oriented erotic romance. It seemed to me few readers wanted to know what boys thought when it came to romantic nookie.

So I did what many others have done. I made a female pen name and put out a couple of stories. Neither title went particularly well on their own, although I put one of them in a e-rom comedy bundle and achieved some success that way (the bundle reached #34 overall on Amazon, and I technically achieved USA Today Bestselling Author status, as did every other author in that bundle).

Research- and results-wise, the jury was, essentially, out. I had achieved basically exactly the same level of success (on my own, not counting the bundle) as a girl that I had as a dude. Hence, it rammed home to me some of the essentials. That it was, as it always had been, my marketing, advertising and promo skills which were my biggest weakness.

Willsin Rowe was set up to write “erotica with a touch of grit” (my original tagline). As I’ve written in here before, it was through the Curvy Girl Romance group on Facebook that I had my epiphany, and realised what I wanted to do more than anything was to write curvy/plus size/BBW erotic romance, from the perspective of a man who adores curves. And I feel I achieve this well, even when I write in first-person female.

This, of course, gave me a dilemma. If Willsin was suddenly writing the more romantic stuff, then what was my female name supposed to do? The answer? Die slowly.

She had a Facebook presence (both page and profile). She had a newsletter set up (but had never sent one). She was a member of many groups. You might even have interacted with her. And the longer it went on, the less comfortable I was about her. Everything I wanted to say, everyone I wanted to interact with, was linked to Willsin. Some folks were also, by extension, linked to my female name. I strove more than anything not to interact with Willsin’s friends on the other account because it would have felt as though I was somehow cheating (unless it was one of the dozen or so folks who knew the connection). And it all got too much.

I unpublished her books in about May this year from memory. Last week, I wiped her off Facebook. She’s still out there on Amazon because she has some co-written books.

I’m still hedging as to whether I’ll actively reveal her name. But people are welcome to guess. And if they guess correctly, I might just admit it!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies

by Giselle Renarde

Here's the truth: I lie about what I do for a living.

I lie about it all the time. You know what I do, because I'm honest on the internet. I'm an author. I write books.

But if we were acquaintances or you met me at a party (well, first of all we wouldn't meet at a party because I don't go to parties), I'd lie to you outright.

What would I tell you I do for a living? Depends on the day. Depends on the context. Usually I pick a job I held, once upon a time, when I still punched the clock. I've had so many jobs in my life. Holy Moses, so much retail! So much admin work! Warehouse worker, military test subject, farmhand. No, I'm not lying to you. I've done all this. Oh hey, I was a mystery shopper at one point. Totally forgot about that one. I've had jobs I can't even name. I would have to describe them to you. And that would take forever. But it would be really funny.

When random people ask me what I do, I pick the most boring of my many, many past occupations. Why pick the boringest one? So people won't ask any follow-up questions. It works pretty well.

Why don't I just tell people I'm a writer?

Glad you asked.

See, I used to tell people. There's a possibility that, at one time, I was proud of my career. Not that I'm NOT proud now. I love what I do. I'm always telling family members to quit their stressful day jobs and write for a living. (The response is usually, "But you're poor." And my response to THAT is, "Poor, but happy!")

So if I love my job so much, why do I lie about it?

Well... a lot of reasons. Cameron sort of touched on one the other day when he mentioned people's perceptions of erotica authors--that we must want to jump everyone's bones. Let me tell you, there are a LOT of people I don't want to have sex with. Most people, in fact. I don't even want to talk about sex with most people. That's just not how I was raised.

Of course, this assumes the first question someone asks when you tell them you're a writer is, "What do you write?"

But it is, 90% of the time.

What reactions fall into that other 10%?

"Oh, you're a writer? Are you published?"

(Uhhh yeah or this wouldn't be much of a career)

"Oh, you're a writer? Self-published?"

(Love that condescension, buddy. Keep it up)

"Oh, you're a writer? How much money do you make?"

(Not nearly enough)

Or instead of asking any follow-up questions, people just laugh or roll their eyes. Or laugh AND roll their eyes. That's actually my favourite reaction, because then I don't have to talk anymore.

The worst, for me, is when people have endless questions about my work. This might be hard for you to believe, since I bang on about every aspect of my existence here and elsewhere online, but in real life I don't like talking about myself at all.

Being a writer seems interesting. That's why people ask. If I weren't a writer, I'd probably think this was the coolest career EVAH. But I do it every day, so to me it's just a job. Not saying I don't love it. I wouldn't trade this life for anything. But I'm not the kind of author who wants to talk about process. I'd rather just do it.

I talked to my sister about all this stuff a few months ago and she said to me, "If those are all the things you DON'T want people asking when you say you're a writer, how DO you want them to react?"

That's just it: I don't know. I guess I'd want them to be like, "Oh, you're a writer? That's interesting. I have 400 chickens and now I'm going to tell you all their names..."

But that almost never happens.

So I lie.

Although, truth be told, when I tell people I have some boring job, they usual say, "That's weird. You seem like you'd have some kind of creative career... like a writer or something."

Giselle Renarde is an award-winning queer Canadian writer. Nominated Toronto’s Best Author in NOW Magazine’s 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards, her fiction has appeared in well over 100 short story anthologies, including prestigious collections like Lambda Award winner Take Me There, edited by Tristan Taormino. Giselle's juicy novels include Anonymous, Cherry, Nanny State, and Bali Nights.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"Wabi Sabi Woman": A vignette of hidden beauty

I'm looking for something on the take menu at this Chinese joint my family likes.  It's all pretty familiar, sturdy Chinatown stuff.

In the kitchen a tired looking guy is glancing up at an order slip.  He squirts something into a wok, reaches down and the fire suddenly explodes to satanic heights, flames lighting his face up like a devil.  I study how he works the wok. I have this feeble electric stove at home.  I could never get that kind of terrifying heat going.

The woman in line ahead of me is finishing up her order. There’s something about her. I can’t see her face yet.  From the back she is slightly shorter than me.  She wears sweat pants that droop over her sneakers.  She has longish blond hair with streaks of gray hanging lankly to her shoulder blades; her ears poking out.  Her red flannel shirt is darkened on the shoulders by rain from walking across the parking lot without an umbrella.  How would those fragile shoulders feel with my warm hands gently caressing them under a blanket?  I'm wondering what she would be like standing placidly in the shower with me rubbing soapy lather on her nude back, and reaching around and spreading soap under her breasts until her nipples tense out.  I'm wondering if she would taste like Hunan Seafood with Spicy Garlic Sauce down there.

I get a sudden whiff of old cigarette smoke when she turns around.  Her face is worn, lines around her thin lips and the corners of blue eyes.  The sides of her jaw line sag a little and there are wisps of hair with gray roots draped ahead of her ears.  There is strength and character in the way she carries herself, in the quiet aura of peasant stubbornness that radiates from her. My shower fantasy - yes. Definitely. Then I’d rub her feet for an hour in front of a log fire then a long, luxurious back massage, to console her spirit. This careworn thing is gorgeous beyond words to me.

I order my Hunan Seafood to go with an egg roll and some chicken wings.  I sit down across the aisle from her table where I can sneak looks at her face while pretending to look at my phone.

If I could only go over, look into her eyes and ask her story. Maybe she would tell me about her darling little granddaughter, the love of her life, who has been dumped on her by this useless asshole who knocked up her daughter and left her with this kid.  Or maybe her third husband who had a heart attack just when things were starting to get good for them again.  I would invite her for a beer and a look of fear would cross her eyes, not because of me but because alcohol was a curse on her.  No, mister.  Not anymore. Not since she accepted Jesus as her savior. Can't kick the cigarettes though.

 But that deep, complex, crone's face, desperation has given her, that tough face. I want to kiss that strong face with my lips; open my mouth and lick those map lines of her life and steal her pain,  inhale the ashes in her hair and tickle with my breath inside her ear as I whisper that I want her.

I reach back and take out a very small, brown leather notebook, worn down and a little greasy and flip it open. The steel rings inside have pressed their shape into the leather as I've sat on it continuously for thirty years in three different countries. I reach into my jacket pocket and take out a black Esterbrook L-Series fountain pen which I bought with my last dollar at a little stationary store in Milwaukee Wisconsin in 1975. The faded engraving on the barrel says “Lord and Garcia” a reference to God. The raw heat of beat down small towns and highways in the deep south have warped the shape of it and the cap doesn’t screw on straight anymore.

In Japanese art and Zen there is a concept called "Wabi Sabi".  I'm not sure there is a concept like this in western art or even in modern western culture.

Wabi Sabi, or “Omoshiroi”, is the beauty of being interesting, imperfectly repaired, and that includes the heart.  As though beauty itself were a patina to be refuted by the truth of inevitable brokenness. 

It is about the movement towards or away from becoming, such as the melancholy impermanence inherent in relationships between imperfect people, especially the ones you try so hard to keep.  A loved teddy bear with an eye replaced by a button.  A chess set with a salt shaker in place of the white queen. Or a woman with the eyes of a tired angel waiting for her take out.

She’s talking into her phone now, looking down with a hand over her ear, annoyed.  “This is starting to sound like another broken record, Annie,” she says.

I hear the cashier call her name.  A Russian name ending in something - "cevic".  I think.  She stands up and glances at me, holding my eyes for a second and I feel an electric zing as though she’s cast a spell on me. She knows. I don't want to seem like a creep, but she knows my eyes have been on her, quietly evaluating her.  A woman knows.  But does she know how she really looks to me?  Is this how a demon regards the vulnerable, with odd affection and lust?

The cashier calls my name.  I’m still writing in my old notebook with my old pen.  I just can’t stop. The notebook and pen won’t let me stop.

I remember.

We were never taught how to fail in those days, to fail well, which is an art a young man has to learn.  And how to disappoint people.  Especially women. 

I was in spiritual bondage to strange ideas.  The best thing we ever did was to fail, so that others didn’t have to believe what we did. 

And yet.
And yet and yet and yet . . .

Wasn’t that the time when I had it all?

I had my God. My God and I loved each other. I had the people and things I needed all around me, all the time.  And best of all, most rare of all – Life made perfect sense. 

We all got broken records, sweetie.

There must be, then, that quality of Wabi Sabi in faith and love most of all.  Broken beauty which silently accumulates as you learn how to fail gracefully and your heart opens to the beauty of ordinary people because everybody fails.  Maybe the eulogy you want when you die isn’t that people should say “He was a great writer” or “He was a successful man.”  Maybe what you want is - “He was an idiot.  He was lonely.  He was foolish.  He had terrible regrets that couldn’t be fixed.  He loved and everybody knew he was an idiot and they loved him right back.” 

I want to wait until she passes so I can linger on her a last minute more.  She hesitates in front of me, puts the brown bag on the little table beside mine, inches away. I can smell her smoky funk as she peeks inside to make sure the stuff’s all there. Close enough I could reach my arms around her skinny waist and pull her hard to me.  Bury my face in the cheap flannel shirt that hides her breasts and hug her tight as I search for her belly button with my tongue. 

She closes the bag, pushes the glass doors and disappears in the dark and drizzle.  The man at the register calls my name again.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Lying for Fun and Profit

All authors are deceitful.  The whole idea behind writing a novel or short story is to tell stories that sound believable to your audience.  But I think with some genres, the deceitfulness runs a little deeper.

I’ve found with writing erotica, people assume that I’m writing about real life experiences.  (Honestly, if I fucked as much as my characters do, I wouldn’t have time to write about it.)  But with creating a pseudonym to write erotica, it certainly helps to give readers the impression that I’m a man-slut.  Would you rather read an erotica book from a party-loving man-slut or from a quiet, shy guy that likes to read Star Trek books?

It’s a little odd that this deceit seems to be required in erotica — if I were to write a sci-fi story, I wouldn’t have readers wondering if this was based on my lived experiences fighting off alien hordes on some distant planet.  If I were to write a thriller, I doubt anyone would wonder if I really had chased spies through Croatia.  Yet if I write about a hot sexual encounter — say, two guys in the back alley behind a gay club — I get readers wondering if it’s based on my sexual history.

Really, it would hurt my sales if I wrote dirty stories, but anywhere I was active online I kept saying, “Oh, I don’t do anything like what I write — I could never lower myself to such base desires.”  And it would also hurt my credibility as an erotic author.

Again, that’s a little odd since mystery authors don’t lose credibility for not actually being detectives, fantasy authors don’t lose credibility for not being wizards, and paranormal authors don’t lose credibility for not being vampires.  (That being said, there are some mystery authors who have a history in police, military, or forensic science, and I think it works in their favour — but it’s certainly not necessary for their success, since they are skilled writers to begin with.)

So is my whole persona a lie?  No, actually.  I present a slice of myself online, the slice that I believe appeals to readers of erotic fiction, and leave the rest of me offline.  I do twink-watch at Starbucks, like flirting with hot guys, and I really am a man in his thirties that looks rather twink-ish.  And while my stories are not based on lived experiences, I have had some experiences that parallel some of my stories.  Some, not all.  I confess I have not been involved in a bukkake… yet.  The rest is up to you to determine.

Cameron D. James is a writer of gay erotica and M/M erotic romance; his latest release is Go-Go Boys of Club 21: The Complete Series.  He lives in Canada, is always crushing on Starbucks baristas, and has two rescue cats.  To learn more about Cameron, visit

Monday, November 23, 2015

I’ve Been Lying to You All This Time

By Lisabet Sarai

For more than fifteen years, Lisabet Sarai has been a fixture in the erotica community. Elusive, exotic, highly educated and widely traveled, Lisabet has published stories in almost every erotic sub-genre, often set in foreign locales. She has edited collections of BDSM tales and vampire stories. She runs several blogs. Still, she’s difficult to pin down. She won’t say exactly where she lives. She avoids personal appearances. She won’t even do podcasts for fear someone will recognize her voice. When prodded to be more public, she cites the fear that the conservative government of her adopted country will link her real-world identity with her off-color literary persona and deport her. Despite her online presence, Lisabet is to some extent a woman of mystery.

It’s time for me to come clean. I’ve been lying to you all this time.

I’m actually a fifty three year old white male, a backhoe operator with a high school education from Queensland. I’m married with three kids. Aside from a couple of holidays in Bali, I’ve never been outside Australia.

But I do have a formidable imaginationas evidenced by my successful charade of more than a decade.

I created Lisabet Sarai in 1999 when I submitted Raw Silk to Black Lace. I’d read my first Black Lace book six months earlierPortia da Costa’s Gemini Heat, as I’ve explained in my many biosand decided to see if I could publish my own erotic novel. But Black Lace wouldn’t accept submissions from men. Pissed off (justifiably, I would argue), I set out to create a female alter-ego convincing enough to fool Virgin Publishing and the world.

I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.

Lisabet’s first name was borrowed from our Queen, her last from the star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Since my novel takes place in the Orient, I wanted something that was ethnically ambiguous. Originally, I created an outrageous life story for Lisabet. Her mother was a Lebanese belly dancer, her father a French diplomat. She grew up in a dozen countries around the world. She’d been the mistress of sheiks and millionaires. Eventually I scrapped all these particulars. I opted for vagueness instead.

When you’re building a falsehood, too many details can trip you up.

And then, some of the bits and pieces about Lisabet’s life are true. I spent my twenties sleeping with lots of women and hanging out in university libraries. I guess you could say I’m self-educated. When I first encountered BDSM (in Anne Rice’s Beauty trilogy), I knew I’d discovered my true sexual self. I read everything I could find about power exchange. I started writing fantasies I could use to jerk off. By then I was dating the woman who’s now my wife. I proposed that we try some of the stuff I was reading about. She was not enthusiastic. Our few timid experiments were minor disasters.

I took refuge in composing more sexy stories. Then I discovered I could publish them.

Sometimes I think it’s better than the real thing. In fiction, there are no limits.

Some of you may find my confession hard to believe. How can a guy write so convincingly from a female point of view?

Have you read my stuff with male narrators? Just as convincing, I believe. A real author can put himself in any character’s head. Arousal is a universal experience. At least that’s my view.

Then there are the (very) few of you who can claim to have met “Lisabet Sarai” in person. I have to apologize for deceiving you. In the few situations where Lisabet needs a physical presence, I’ve called on my cousin Helen to take on that role. She’s a top manager for a multi-national corporation and flies all over the world, so it’s quite convenient to get her to impersonate me. As open-minded as I am, but a good deal more experienced, Helen loves my sexy stories. She’s one of the only people who knows the truth about Lisabet.

And what about my headshot? A girlfriend from my wild period. She agreed to pose for me, in return for a long session of cunnilingus. Needless to say, I was more than willing to oblige her.

Come on, you didn’t really think someone who looks like this would be a shy and retiring author, did you? A model, maybe, but an author?

This is the real me.

Wouldn’t sell many books with this mug, would I?

Anyway, I’m not in this for the cash. I make a good living in the construction business. I write for fun (as Lisabet always tells you), and to turn myself and my readers on. In eight or ten years, I’ll retire and turn my full attention to creating erotica and romance.

Meanwhile, nobody outside the limited audience of this blog will know the whole story about “Lisabet Sarai”.

And even if they read this post, they’ll never really be sure. Will they?

Truth is a slippery beast.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Hard to be Hip

by Jean Roberta

“Mom,” said my daughter as only a popular twelve-year-old can, “I need something with the right brand.” (She named it, but I’m not sure any more what it was: Someone and Someone Else. Lululemon clothing wasn’t available in our town in the late 1980s, but there was some other brand, based in California, that was a serious social marker for young fashionistas.)

I was a single parent living on a variable income. Did I put my foot down and give her a stern lecture on economic reality? I did not. What I couldn’t tell her was that sometimes a gust of cash came into my bank account from the men I served through an escort agency. I was supporting my daughter by doing something that would surely give her a stigma by association if it became known to her friends. The least I could do, I thought, was to provide her with at least one upscale item of clothing that would enable her to compete (more-or-less) with the more pampered kids in her crowd, including the daughter of two medical doctors.

So we went shopping, and looked at brand-name clothing. I didn’t see why it had so much more appeal than the second-hand and reduced-to-clear items I usually bought for myself. (This is how I acquired items designed by Adrienne Vittadini and Donna Karan.)

My daughter would have liked to have more than I bought her, but I had to set limits. In a probably doomed effort to look like the well put-together mother of a fashion-conscious daughter, I bought myself a pale turquoise-coloured leather belt. That was all, but it was an Esprit, and it matched an outfit I already had.

We came home from shopping to our two-bedroom apartment in a co-op for low-income single parents. Of course, most of my daughter’s friends lived with two parents in family-sized houses. For better or worse, our co-op of four small apartment buildings was an island of poverty in the town’s South End, known as Snob Hill. All her classmates (except the other co-op kids) came from a higher tax-bracket than ours.

I hoped that providing my kid with one suitable brand-name outfit would be enough to compensate for our circumstances. I knew it wouldn’t.

Since then, I’ve been told about the necessity for writers to brand themselves. Well, okay, I had that done on a physical level when I got the turquoise-and-mauve lizard tattoo on my shoulder in 2002, but that doesn’t seem to have given me a cult following as an erotic writer. After reading something about skinks (a type of lizard), I was tempted to call myself “The Skank with the Skink” on my website, but I resisted temptation.

Actually, the reference to skinks came from a thread started by a post by Hanne Blank on Facebook, where she regularly posts glamorous photos of herself in red lipstick, with generous cleavage. Both her image and her writing (literary erotic fiction and scholarly non-fiction) are distinct and easy to recognize, not to mention her trained voice. (As a favour to interested listeners, she posted a free recording on-line at about this time last year. Her voice is as opera-worthy as I had imagined.)

Somehow, Hanne’s multiple roles/identities don’t seem to detract from each other. (Among other things, she advocates against fat-phobia and the unhealthy obsession with weight-loss in North America.)

Well, then, could I brand myself in multiple ways too? But here’s the catch: branding seems to be about creating an image which appears to be unique, even if it really isn’t. So I could hardly follow anyone else’s lead in an obvious way, and expect not to look pitiful.

It’s a catch-22. I’ve been told that one way to acquire a Name is to claim that one writes like someone better-known. To give an example of this theory, in about the year 2000, an editor for Black Lace Books in England (an imprint of the Virgin publishing empire) sent an email to Adrienne Benedicks of the Erotic Readers & Writers Association, asking if anyone in the group could write lesbian erotica like Carol Queen or Pat Califia. Adrienne recommended me, and I was thrilled. I was more thrilled when I got four stories published in Black Lace anthologies, but I couldn’t see how “writes like Carol Queen and/or Pat Califia” could be a useful tag-line to propel my literary career. Why wouldn’t readers prefer the real thing?

I’ve seen websites and on-line newsletters that brag about the breath-taking sexual magic of So-and-So’s work, and some of this promotional material makes me cringe. This is not to suggest that braggarts always lack talent for anything else. I’m sure there are skilled writers who are undeservedly ignored, and who would like to find ways to emerge into the spotlight. Maybe I just can’t get past the values of my middle-class upbringing, in which bragging was considered uncouth. Friends were supposed to brag about friends.

So apparently I have no clear brand, and probably never will, unless a brandless condition can seem to be a brand unto itself. In my teaching career, this seems to have worked. When asked, several years ago, to define my "philosophy of teaching,” I surprised myself by realizing that I actually have one. I said, “It’s not about me, it’s about the material. I’m only the messenger." I explained that I learned to overcome the stage-fright of a new teacher by trying to present the material as well as possible to the students, much like a matchmaker introducing two good friends in the hope of igniting a strong new relationship.

Maybe that’s my brand on the page as well as in the classroom. If so, I could do worse than to be a mouthpiece for the characters, or the subject-matter.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Branding: The Masochist's Ultimate Fantasy

by Annabeth Leong

Right now, I feel deep regret that I’ve already written about my experience being (accidentally) branded. In case you missed it, here’s a link to my post Branded By My Craving, AKA I’d Do Anything for a Woman Dressed in a Latex Nurse’s Outfit.

Since I’ve already used my juicy real-life experience, I’m going to have to tell you about my fantasies instead.

I’ve previously observed the odd fact that my erotica writing does not generally line up particularly well with my fantasies. Part of that, I think, is a self-protective instinct. We are writing about such personal, intimate subjects when we write erotica. I do turn myself on when writing, but I also hold a bit of myself apart.

I’ll also give a quick nod to the marketing type of branding. I’ve always feared that my actual fantasies are too dark to sell.

I am a real-life masochist (as will be quite clear if you read the post I linked above). In my fantasies, my masochism is even more extreme.

In real life, pain does a number of things to me that I crave. It disarms me and makes it possible for me to let go enough to orgasm. It provides a type of intensity that I need, both in and out of bed (I feel I am not seeking pleasure or pain specifically as much as I am seeking intensity, and there is hardly any sensation as intense as pain). It calms my mind. It makes me feel strong. It flips a switch, sometimes, that makes pain feel good, but I want and need pain even when it doesn’t feel good.

I am always looking to negotiate the difficult line between pain I want that’s difficult for me to take and pain that’s just too much. I generally need some sort of pain to come, but there is also a thing I experience that I’m not sure how to name. It’s a climax, like an orgasm, that feels sexual, but isn’t exactly a genital rippling. It satisfies me the way an orgasm would, and I often feel done with a sexual encounter after I have it. Lately, I’ve been exploring defining my sexual encounters based on what I actually want to do. I find that a good session of being hurt can satisfy me sexually. I don’t even always take off my underwear anymore.

So, that’s real life. And the pain I’m talking about is usually taking some sort of beating (though I also like wax, electricity, and various sorts of clamps).

In my fantasies, however, I’m obsessed with more extreme and permanently marking types of pain, specifically piercings, tattoos, and branding. I linger on the idea of pain so extreme I’d have to be tied down to take it.

(In real life, I prefer not to be restrained when taking pain because being restrained makes me panic, which makes me more likely to stop a scene. In my fantasies, however, I am being hurt by people who do not care that I am panicking, and I am hurt badly enough that the pain takes me past my normal experience, through to a place I could never reach by my own will. To me, that’s at the heart of all nonconsensual fantasies—what I desire is being taken beyond anywhere I would ever willingingly go.)

I remember the fire of my accidental branding, the way the world went white, the overwhelming orgasmic sensation of that. Then I imagine that multiplying as the brand sears into my skin. Instead of the light, incidental scar I have on my back, I imagine something deep and angry-red, the smell of burning flesh, the moments of struggle followed by abject, helpless surrender. I imagine flying on endorphins beyond anything I’ve actually experienced.

In my fantasies, I also caress the sensation of anticipatory fear. I love that, too. I love knowing that something is coming that I’m not going to like. I love asking for it and then experiencing deeply mixed feelings that it is actually happening—excitement tinged by the certainty of regret. Regret that’s already starting. The first blush of pain accompanied by disbelief that I ever would have wanted this.

I imagine that I’m going to be branded on the face, somewhere horribly permanent. I imagine lying still, watching the brand coming toward me, all too slowly, knowing how very much it will hurt, knowing that it won’t just hurt in the moment but for days afterward, while it heals.

When I got my accidental brand, the woman in the latex nurse’s outfit told me that if I wanted it to scar, I could rub lemon juice into it every day. I did not do this in real life, but I imagine that, too—taking an existing wound and reawakening it every day in a terrifyingly intimate ritual.

I love being hurt by someone who is being sweet to me while they do it. I imagine being told it’s for my own good, being soothed and shushed when I protest, being stroked gently on the forehead while the lemon juice is administered and it begins to sting.

I get the sense that my deeper masochistic fantasies only make sense to other masochists, but I hope this is at least interesting for those of you who don’t identify as such. As I write this, I’m making myself tremble and squirm. Dwelling on the details of pain gets me going like nothing else.

I don’t know if I would do something permanent like this on purpose, but I think about it often. I think about my lover doing this to me or watching it being done to me. I imagine fingers in my cunt while I’m transported by pain.

I have a story on my hard drive in which I try to write my honest fantasies as erotica. I can never bear to work on it very long, but it’s pages and pages like this.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Brand X

By Daddy X

It’s not like I planned it. I didn’t actually pick my pen name. It was given to me by the United States’ first legal dispensary for a certain medicinal herb. I’d go over during the holidays with my white beard and brown sack over my shoulder. They called me “Daddy Christmas”.

When I started writing erotica, it wasn’t such a leap to Daddy Xmas—name under which my first short story (An Undercover Christmas) was published by Naughty Nights Press in 2012. That also happened to be my very first submission. Hell, for a while there I was batting a thousand. Needless to say, that average has fallen off considerably.

It all sort of fell into place. “X” denoting what it does.

But how to tie that history up into a neat ‘brand’? My stories are mostly hetro, but perhaps not what one has seen before. They’re hard to predict. I tend to rely on systems of values that may not have been explored before. For the most part, you wouldn’t want to take my characters home for dinner.

It seems that I can’t even predict or plan a type of story. I’ve never done an outline. Hell, my unruly characters seldom comply with any plans I make for them. How could I predict a way of writing when I often sit down at the computer with nothing but a first line, hoping that line will evolve into something more substantial.

I still think Brand X has a future. It has a certain ring to it, don’tcha think?

For the time being, here’s another take on a brand. And branding.


 Falling for His First… The Reality © 2015 Daddy X

What an initiation it turned out to be.

I was reveling in my first piece of ass. Taking the wanton girl on all fours from behind.  Deeper and deeper I dug into her splayed-open cunt. If not every woman could provide such pleasure, what would my life become? 

She lowered her torso, tipped her ass up a notch. “Fuck me harder,” she gasped.

What to make of the tattoo? “Property of Hell’s Angels,” it read in blurred Olde English, her twitchy rear end flipping around in tight little circles. As I slid in and out of her depths, I realized this girl must rock the world’s sweetest pussy. Could I ever be satisfied with anybody else?

And how much more wonderful than masturbating alone. The wet, wild grasp of her slick cunt felt like heaven almighty had arrived on earth. How wonderful to finally share. Closer and closer approached my release. Would I be the cliché who fell in love with his first fuck?

Then one of the others shoved me aside. “My turn,” he said.

You’d think a new member would be allowed to finish before the rest would have her.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Going Brandless

Sacchi Green

I’m no good at this branding/platforming stuff, and at this point I’m not sure I care. Sure, I wish I were wildly successful, but there’s something to be said (in a sour-grapes sort of way, but sincerely just the same) for not appealing to vast numbers of readers, not being hemmed in by expectations, being free to go wherever my inconsistent imagination leads me—and then hope to find somewhere to publish my stories.

That, of course, is the tricky part. I have, in fact, been hemmed in by expectations, casting my lot with a publisher who had a pretty well established brand so that my work could ride on those coat-tails, coat-tails that could take my work into actual, wide-spread book stores (which are now almost non-existent). Now that new ownership has changed that publisher—I’m still not sure how much, and I haven’t yet been entirely cut loose—there’s a certain sense of freedom, even though I haven’t taken a lot of advantage of it. Well, maybe I have, with two different anthologies just out or about to come out from other, much smaller publishers. I may not make a cent from these, but I get to indulge interests I hadn’t been able to “sell” before, chiefly historical themes, bringing me some new as well as more familiar writers. That feels good.

What little brand value my name may have accrued over time, like scant wisps of moss, is in lesbian erotica, by its nature a small niche within a niche. I’m not abandoning that, but hoping to expand into other areas. Any recognition that name has is almost entirely due to being an anthology editor rather than a writer. Those who recognize it are mostly writers who want to have their work in anthologies, which is fine because having good writers contribute to my books is essential. In a way I hope my anthologies are branded, if at all, by variety as well as quality. I look for a wide range of work, no matter how limiting a publisher-decreed theme may seem to be. Mostly I get away with it. But readership might well be better if I were better at figuring out what more people wanted and then letting them have it. Apparently I haven’t outgrown my adolescent resistance to going with the flow, even though I don’t always stay true to it.

I’m at a stage in my life where I don’t have to depend on my writing for basic support, just for extras like travel for conventions and readings and donations to charitable and political causes. That’s just as well, because I’ve come to realize that committed book-buyers want novels, not short stories, and generally not erotica. I’m never going to be able to overcome the perception that erotica is nothing but plotless sex, no matter how many stories I write or choose for anthologies with as much to offer in characterization, setting, originality, plot, and voice as anything to be found in any genre, so I’ll just continue to do what I enjoy.

But I still wish that I were better at this branding business. I keep on discovering, or being discovered by, so many fine writers who are just starting out and deserve more readership than I can provide. The best I can do is provide encouragement, and at least some exposure, and that’s something. The publishing world is changing so fast that I don’t know how long I’ll be able to do even that, but I’ll try.

Writers who have already established enough of a “platform” to make it in self-publishing are inspirational, but I’ve already discovered that my name is not a “brand” that could make that work. Publishing a collection of my own work with a good but smallish publisher got neither of us anywhere, even though the book was a Lambda Award finalist. A new anthology with that same publisher, with some of the finest writing I’ve ever encountered, isn’t doing much either, although it’s a bit soon to tell.

Anthologies in general have been on the fringes for as long as I can remember, and they’re getting even fringier. I’m seeing reports from some other editor/writers that bear this out. A few new publishers have sprung up lately and seemed to gather a following—some of them have even indicated that they’d like to work with me—but a report today, from a friend who is as close to having a “brand” of quality in both writing and editing as anyone I can think of in our niche, tells me that things are even worse than I thought. I suspect that one reason anthologies are hurting is the proliferation of short stories and novellas offered online at low prices. People would rather pay $.99-$1.99--even $2.99--for a single short story than $15 for an anthology with twenty stories. That may make sense, since they can choose a story that nails their pre-established preferences and not have to wade through the kind of variety that I like to assemble. Fair enough. But do those writers get “branded” enough to be noticed just because of their subject matter? Probably. If there are other ways, I wish I knew about them.

I may yet try to move with the times and self-publish individual stories, although my tech chops are almost non-existent and I’d have to invest in covers, formatting, and so on, which hardly seems worth it. Some of my older anthologies have recently been offered on Amazon in Kindle form at $1.99 for limited periods, and those have zoomed right up to the top of their category, so there does seems to be market for anthologies (already “branded” by the reputation of the publisher) at those prices, but writers have to be paid, so doing new anthologies that way doesn’t seem like a possibility.

Well, I’ll keep on for a while anyway, and maybe adapt bit by bit. I won’t be a “brand,” but I’ll be enjoying the freedom of going brandless.                

Friday, November 13, 2015

Visual Branding and Getting Around It

I love these kinds of topics. Not necessarily the topic itself, but the openness of it. The shorter the subject, often the more open it is.
For the past couple of blogs, I’ve been discussing a story I’ve been re-working. And in the context of "author as a brand", it actually comes into play here, too.
At time of writing, I have only three stories published. They’re all erotic romance, and they all feature plus size/curvy/beautiful big women. As such, since I’m also a cover artist, I’ve made certain to keep a consistent look across the three covers.

The second book, “Indigo”, is actually a paranormal erotic romance, whereas both “This, I Can Do” and “Her Majesty” are contemporary real-world stories, hence the difference in font choice there for the title.

To me, the important job of branding in this way is to act as a visual aid to the buying and reading public. Though these three books aren’t related in the sense of being a series, or even unconnected stories set in the same world, I’ve used fonts, shades and tones to help create a oneness across them. Of course, in the hope it will lead people to reading the other two books once they've read one!
Now here’s where it gets a little trickier, and sidesteps need to be used.
My next story, which I’ve renamed “The Last Three Days”, has some commonality with the first three, but is overall quite a different beastie altogether. It’s erotic, it features a plus-size heroine, but it’s definitely not Romance. So I wanted to find a way to convey those differences without forcing it to stand entirely apart from my other work. In part this is because, while this new story does break a bunch of Romance rules and tropes, it's still pretty damn romantic. I think it's conceivable that the people who enjoy the other books will enjoy this one. Both people! Heh.
My way of branding this work as being a cousin of the other works was to start out by positioning the text in the same places. Author name at the top, title at the bottom. The imagery, naturally, falls between them. Good so far.
The next step was to strip away a little of the sophistication from the type (this is, after all, a more visceral style of work). Nothing too much, just the good, common, tried-and-true method of using sans-serif faces instead of serif. And no scripts (though I toyed with them in the creation process with the intention of using them as a contrast).

So while the dark tones and the sparse typography are essentially consistent with my more romantic tales, I’ve gone for a different set of fonts and colours. Rather than using any distressed fonts, I've manually distressed them with textures and masks, which I always prefer. Distressed fonts leave me a little cold on occasion, especially when they don't cater for double letters, such as the Es in THREE. I always think it works against the entire concept of using a distressed font when two letters sitting beside each other are entirely identical. Some distressed fonts get around that by having two or three versions of each character. But I digress...

Another little point of note is that with the original version, called “The Three Day Hump”, I was already striving for the same kind of dealio. The font I used for my author name there was the font I used for my other title released around the same time (also now unpublished).
The other notable point, I think, is that when I made that cover, it was the very first book cover I’d ever made. I don’t think it’s terrible, but it certainly is quite basic compared to a lot of the work I’ve done since!