Monthly Archives: March 2018
Although I don’t try to make my living through my writing, I consider myself a professional author. The Internal Revenue Service agrees. Every year for the last decade and a half, I’ve dutifully tallied up my royalties, subtracted my expenses, and reported my income on Schedule C.
Every year, I’ve managed to make a small profit—until 2017. When I finished the computations for this past year, I discovered that for the first time ever, my writing business is in the red. I spent more on promotion and publicity than I received from sales.
Strangely, I’m not upset by this. For one thing, I know that independent authors everywhere are seeing their incomes decline. Plus I haven’t had as many releases as I’d like, mostly due to outside demands on my time.
Also, I realize that I’ve been less than frugal in my expenditures. For instance, I spent over $200 on gift certificates and books used as prizes for my fans and blog followers. What can I say? I get joy from giving things to people who take the trouble to read my stuff. Next year I plan to cut back on this. I’ll offer free books that don’t cost me anything as prizes where I can. I will also reconsider some of my advertising choices. This past year I devoted quite a bit of cash to promoting two major releases. It’s not at all clear that the costs justified the benefits. I’m sure that with more judicious management of my funds, I can turn my red ink to black in 2018.
The main reason I’m not depressed, though, is that I’m having more fun writing than I have in years. My main difficulty is finding the time to write, given my real world responsibilities. When I do manage to sit down with a work in progress, my stories seem to flow—perhaps not effortlessly, but with far less friction than a few years ago. I’m writing in a variety of styles, each one aimed at a different audience. My intuitions are stronger. I revel in my sense of control over my craft. I’m not sure whether my readers would agree, but I feel as though I’ve become significantly more skilled as a writer.
I’ve moved almost entirely to self-publishing. Why not? The work I’ve released in the past through established publishers has never done particularly well, and I have sufficient editing and graphics skills to either do things myself or barter for editing and art services. Of course, the profits are higher on self-published books, as well, and the turnaround time a lot faster.
Meanwhile, I can now write what I want, even if my books don’t fit neatly into the established genre categories. I find this freedom truly exhilarating.
No longer do my lusty heroines need to restrict themselves to only one lover—even if they ultimately end up in a committed “romantic” relationship. No longer do I need to worry that an editor will object to my mixing lesbian or gay or even transgender content in with straight sex. I can write dark sex, taboo sex, silly sex, or deeply meaningful sex, depending on my mood. Not every reader will be comfortable with my erotic visions, but that’s okay. At least what I’m producing now is genuine, not a compromise based on genre “rules”.
I never planned to be an author. When I published my first novel, almost as a lark, I didn’t expect I’d become addicted to the thrill of sharing my fantasies with the world. Sure, the money is nice, a concrete validation of my talent, but the real payoff is the occasional rapturous reader email or breathlessly enthusiastic review.
I can’t afford to treat writing as an expensive hobby. If I started to lose a lot of money, I’d have to stop. As long as I can break even, though—or close—I’ll do it for the joy.
(My latest releases, in case you’re interested, are Butterfly: Asian Adventures Book 4, and Hot Brides in Vegas. The former is romantic literary erotica with a transgender theme. The latter is a light-hearted, smutty romp with very little redeeming social value, set in the world of swingers created by Larry Archer.)
If your sexual partner didn’t have an orgasm, would you want to know?
It probably depends on who you are. If reports from the high school and college heterosexual hook-up scene are any indication, mutual satisfaction is not the focus in most encounters. In Unscrewed: Women, Sex, Power and How to Stop Letting the System Screw Us All, Jaclyn Friedman reports that men are three times more likely to have orgasms than female partners in a casual college hookup (p. 194). She describes a Saturday night liaison where the woman gave the man a blowjob and he reciprocated with one lick of her labia.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that many young men believe a woman feels the same level of pleasure from vaginal intercourse that he does, and given the abysmal state of sex education, the blame is not all on them. But you’d think anyone would realize there’s an imbalance between a blowjob and a single flick of the tongue. Is it ignorance or indifference? Neither speaks well for a man, but then again by the traditional rules of heterosexual male conquest, only his pleasure matters. She has been “conquered” no matter what she feels.
In a long-term relationship, add fear to the reasons for the pleasure imbalance, from fear of wounding the lover’s ego to worse. Friedman tells how her beloved first boyfriend, Andy, “taught me about my clitoris and threatened to rip out my uterus and shove it down my throat if he ever discovered I’d been faking orgasms with him” (p. 50). Friedman loved Andy, but, faced with evisceration, just never get around to telling him that she’d never had an orgasm, not even with herself. Unfortunately for Andy, wherever he may be, he may have known about the clitoris in theory, but his prowess was built on lies.
Women might hesitate to offer the truth even when the threat is less explicit or dire. The first partner I was truly in love with thought my genuine moans of pleasure meant I was climaxing over and over. I wish! I didn’t have the nerve to tell him the truth either. Fortunately I figured out how to have real orgasms with him before the lie by omission became too uncomfortable. The first time with was oral sex, but one fine day, by being on top, it happened during intercourse, too. Ironically, he commented that I came very quietly that time, but I didn’t set the record straight. My joy at achieving the “right kind” of orgasm was mine alone. After we broke up a few months later (officially I broke up with him, but as is often the case, he made it easy by having a fling with another woman), I vowed I would always be honest about my orgasms with my future lovers. And I was. Who says anger can’t have a positive result?
Beyond the hook-up scene, Friedman reports that straight men are almost 50% more likely to have an orgasm with a partner than straight women are (p. 3). Every sex survey I’ve read claims that one-third of women have orgasms every time they have sex, one-third have them sometimes and one-third never do. There may be reasons for the latter situation that are beyond anyone’s control and there may be no easy solution.
But it also might be true that if a man makes a point to ask about what gives his partner pleasure—and is willing to listen to and act upon her/his answer—this will lead to more intimacy and hopefully more pleasure. At least it would cut back on the lies. And again, wouldn’t any responsible, self-respecting adult want to know the truth?
I’d also like to humbly suggest that if you know you’re having orgasms, but it’s unclear if your partner is, it’s on you to do the asking.
Friedman puts it well:
“Those of us who sleep with men pay every time we encounter a man who treats us like interchangeable vending machines that will dispense to him sexual pleasure if he inserts the secret coin. Because these men think they know What Women Want, they pay little attention to the needs and desires and boundaries of the individual woman in front of them, and women’s sex lives suffer for it. And if we have the temerity to refuse to play along with the script in his head, we know we’re risking him reacting with violence or abuse” (p. 51-52).
I wonder how many men are afraid to even ask? Talking about sex, particularly your own “performance,” is scary. We’re too busy admiring the players to recognize such courage publicly. So I’d like to do just that right here and now.
If you ever asked, with sincerity, what you could do to please your partner and listened to the answer, you are awesome! Really awesome!
If you ever had the guts to explain what you need even though everything you ever learned tells you to shut up and do it like they do in the movies, well, I think your courage in communicating honestly and your respect for your partner’s pleasure—because sexual pleasure includes the pleasure of giving pleasure—is equally awesome!
While we’re on the topic, here’s another question for you:
When did you lose your virginity?
Now suppose the official definition of “losing your virginity” changed. You could only claim graduation to the status of the sexually experienced if you were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs in any way and your partner definitely had an orgasm because you could trust him/her to be truthful.
By that definition, does your answer change?
The time difference between the first and second definitions for me is two-and-a-half years.
For those sexually active years, I was pretty excited just to be desired by men, and I was having plenty of orgasms on my own, so don’t feel too sorry for me. However, it does make me sad for all of us that such an amazing aspect of the human experience is silenced, sometimes by directly saying “don’t talk about this, it ruins the mood” and sometimes because we just don’t have the examples, the practice, and the knowledge that it can be different or better if we just express what’s really going on.
We don’t have to reserve sex talk for our lovers. While always keeping a sense of what’s appropriate in any given relationship, I wish we could talk about it honestly with friends of every gender. I’ve had the honor of doing so, although I wish I’d done it more. How much could we all learn if we share our experiences, our joys, and our confusion about sex and listen to what they have to say about theirs? What if we all treated sex as a complex and important part of the human experience, not as a dirty joke or a shameful thing to deny?
I remember as a child giggling with my friends about the meaning of “knowing” in the Biblical sense. Now as an adult, I think reviving the verb “to know” about our sexual encounters is a pretty good idea. In the twenty-first-century sense, everyone would know if their partners are experiencing pleasure, and everyone would know how to express it and receive it on their own terms, not those of the media or anyone else.
For me, this is the ultimate sexual conquest of the twenty-first century: vanquishing our society’s fear and loathing of sexuality by talking honestly and respectfully about this very important part of the human experience. I believe erotica writers are well-positioned to take the lead.
What do you think?
By Ashley Lister
It was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who said, “There is nothing insignificant in the world. It all depends on the point of view.” These thoughts were echoed by Harper Lee who noted, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.” And, it is following these thoughts on the importance of point of view, that this month’s writing exercise looks at this most vital subject in the craft of writing.
There are four distinct points of view that a fiction writer can use. These include first person, second person, third person and omniscient narrator. There are some people who will tell you that there are disparate types of third person narrator – suggesting there are objective, omniscient and limited third person narrators – but these nuances are more academic than practical, and these writing exercises are all about practicality (which is my way of saying I’m going to ignore them here).
I’m going to tackle one each of these over the next four months, starting with my favourite: first person.
We’d been drinking vodka…
Isn’t vodka brilliant? The best stories I’ve ever told always start with the words, “We’d been drinking vodka…” and this one is no exception.
We’d been drinking vodka. Mel had found the bottle in the kitchen cupboard of my third floor apartment. It was next to a mouldering loaf of bread and a rusting tin of spaghetti in tomato sauce. The bottle wasn’t anything special – one of those made up Russian names (Glasnost, Prada, Kevorkian, or something) that are meant to make it sound authentic and as though it has been shipped direct from behind the Iron Curtain. The main thing I remember is that it was cheap, the aftertaste wasn’t too unpleasant, and it mixed well with the dregs of the Dr Pepper Mel had brought to our impromptu girl’s night in. The washing-up situation meant we had to drink from clunky coffee mugs rather than elegant glasses but neither of us was in a mood to be concerned by such trifling details. We had more important things on our agenda.
“Here’s to becoming lesbians, sweetie,” Mel toasted.
She raised her mug.
I clinked mine against the side and we both drank greedily.
I wasn’t sure if we were genuinely going to become lesbians, or if the toast was meant to signify that we were both pissed off at our boyfriends. Mine had elected to spend the night with drinking buddies, playing pool and watching the game on a fifty-inch screen at the local bar. Mel’s latest boyfriend had clearly upset her in some serious way because she had scoured the house like a bloodhound in her search for the vodka. When she found the bottle she had whooped in delight, made some disparaging remark about booze being better than blokes, and popped its cap with unseemly haste.
“Are we really becoming lesbians?” I asked doubtfully. “What does that involve?” I sat next to her on the settee and warily sipped my mug of vodka.
These lines are from the opening of my novel Once Bitten – an erotically charged tale of vampires and sexual intrigue. I decided to use first person for this particular story because I liked Tessa’s voice. She sounded carefree, not particularly bright with her obvious sexual naivete, but sufficiently savvy to know her own mind. I thought it would be fun to hear her tell the whole story.
The first person narrator, as we all know, is a character-narrator who is telling a personal story. It’s easily identified because we recognise the use of personal pronouns (I, we, my, me, etc.) and the viewpoint shows us the world through the eyes of a single person. As a bonus, this allows us to get to know the character-narrator in more depth than other characters because we (the readers) are inside that character’s thoughts.
This is a point of view commonly seen in diaries and personal exposés and it is this sense of being told secrets that makes it an ideal voice for a narrator of erotic fiction because, what could be more arousing than the idea of being inside someone’s thoughts?
As always, it would be good to see a few lines from your first person narratives in the comments box below.