Monthly Archives: March 2018
When I first started publishing twenty years ago, there was no such thing as social media. The only way to promote your books was to pay for it or hope your publisher did a damn good job for you.
Much has changed in that time, for better and for worse. With the advent of social media, authors found that they could do their own promotion by building a presence online. That presence could be used to connect with readers and network with other writers and potential publishers.
That was before social media outfits like Facebook and Twitter began to rely so heavily on paid advertising, authors were able to have successful marketing campaigns that cost nothing upfront simply by posting to social media channels. Today, it’s a lot harder to get your books to go viral.
The Social Media Giants
On Facebook, posting about your newest book to your fan page results in very few people actually seeing it, regardless of the number of followers you have, unless you shell out money. If you do, Facebook will deign to let a selection of your followers see your message in their feeds—if they don’t deem your ad to be in poor taste.
If you’re in erotica author, there’s a high likelihood that some random person on the Facebook staff is going to think your book is in bad taste, even if it does include the most inventive uses of maple syrup and whipped cream. So you’re out of luck on both accounts. People can’t learn about your books unless you pay Facebook, and Facebook won’t let you pay them so you can let people know about your books.
On Twitter, the marketing pipeline isn’t so strict. But posts by real people often get drowned out by the voices of bad actors—people who open multiple fake accounts to amplify their own voices and make their opinions seem more popular than they actually are. (And lest I be accused of bringing American politics into this blog, I was actually talking about Kenya, where misinformation campaigns meant to sway elections were orchestrated from outside the country, with Twitter hashtags playing a role.)
Twitter recently changed its policies to take away the megaphone from these bad actors. The new policies prohibit one person from publishing the same message to multiple Twitter accounts or using a hashtag on multiple Twitter accounts to make it seem more popular than it actually is, and seem to discourage coordination among users who are working together to get a particular topic or hashtag trending.
These changes could help authors, but Twitter’s vagueness over the last part of its new policies could also harm them. I know plenty of authors—including erotica authors—who depend on group tweeting tools like Triberr and Thunderclap to get the word out about their books. But Twitter leaves it unclear as to whether those tools violate the new rules.
Other social media
Facebook and Twitter are the most established players, but sometimes authors use other social media channels to reach their readers.
Instagram, a photo-based social media platform, is popular with millennials but not an ideal marketing platform in terms of direct book promotion because any links that you put in your post won’t work. Instagram does not allow hyperlinks in personal accounts, only business accounts— and because Instagram is owned by Facebook, you can be pretty sure that it will soon follow Facebook’s steps and hide posts from businesses on readers feeds unless the businesses pay advertising fees.
I’ve heard from romance readers that Pinterest can be a great marketing tool. How? I have no idea. But self-publishing genius Mark Dawson offers a free download, Pinterest for Authors, that promises to explain the process.
Teens and preteens make up a huge segment of Tumblr users. Older users tend to be diehard fans of specific television shows or movies, and very rarely engage with anything on Tumblr that doesn’t directly relate to their fannish or political interests. So despite the plethora of Russian porn bots plaguing the site, it’s not a great place to share erotic unless it’s of the fanfic kind. But if you’re a YA writer, sign up!
What’s a writer to do with social media?
Still, many publishers expect authors to be active on social media. It’s not uncommon these days for publishers to include a contract requirement that authors have a social media presence.
That’s why I got on social media when I started publishing fiction again a few years ago. It wasn’t the most comfortable move, as I had intentionally or closed down most of my social media accounts over privacy concerns. But it wasn’t completely foreign, either. Despite my own qualms about the technology, I’d actually managed social media for several small businesses even when I wasn’t playing with it on my own.
Does social media work as a book marketing tool?
Now that I’ve been intentionally interacting on social media as an author for a few years, probably spending around an hour a day on it, I’m in a place where I can start to evaluate its effectiveness.
Does social media work as a book marketing tool? Directly, no. Gone are the days when it was easy to go viral. If you are looking for a quick return that is proportional to the amount of time and effort you put into it, social media is not going to help you.
It takes an enormous amount of energy to rise above other voices on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest—or even to get heard at all. And Facebook sabotages most attempts at connecting with readers by actively hiding them from readers’ newsfeeds.
It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. If readers have never heard of you, they’re not interested in hearing about your books. And if you don’t tell them about your books, how will they know who you are?
Creating effective social media…
To become known on social media, you have to offer something unique to your followers. An endless stream of advertisements is not unique. You have to make friends with them too, at least to a degree. You don’t want them to feel like they’re nothing to you but dollar signs. So share some things within that you care about. Your cats, your horrible puns, your favorite paint colors.
What does this have to do with writing? Nothing directly. But over the years (yes, years), your online presence starts paying dividends. At first, this will probably be through the connections you build with other authors. You’ll scratch each other’s backs by sharing each other’s book news. Then you’ll start to genuinely like some of them, and they’ll start to genuinely like you. Maybe they’ll gush about your book on their Facebook or Twitter feeds, and a few of their readers will check it out. And a few more years later, when those readers have told their friends, who told a couple of their friends, and so on and so forth into infinity, you might have a decent-sized readership.
…and social media that bites you in the ass.
In the meantime, you’ll alienate other readers with your political rants, your pictures of your cat, or the fact that you used the word “moist” in a tweet. You’ll have gotten emotionally caught up in a few online dramas that seemed very important at the time, but were really only important to those following a specific hashtag—and you can no longer remember why you cared so much about them. These emotional dramas will take your focus away from writing. So will the time you spend responding to tweets and commenting on photos of other people’s dogs and pinning inspirational photos on Pinterest.
And no matter how many followers you have, it’s unlikely that relying on social media as your only marketing platform will lead to so many books sales that you can make writing your full-time job.
So, Dale, should I be on social media?
Social media marketing can work, but there is a cost. you need to figure out how much of that emotional and time cost you can bear. If you do engage in social media, be intentional about it:
- Try not to get caught up in arguments and drama that end up taking away from your writing time.
- Before you open that Facebook or Twitter page “just to see if I need to respond to any tweets or comments,” set a timer for ten minutes. When that timer goes off and catches you watching a video of the cutest little capybara clan grazing next to the Amazon River, close the browser, even if you didn’t get around to responding to any of those tweets or comments. Sooner or later, it will train yourself to use your time wisely. (Of course, if your latest project is a paranormal tale centered on capybara shifters, keep on watching that video. Research is important.)
- Install an app like StayFocusd on your browser to limit the amount of time you spend on social media each day. If you direct it to limit your time on Facebook to half an hour, Facebook will disappear from your browser at the thirty-minute mark, and you can go back until the next day.
In other words, if a new author asked me whether they should get in involved in social media, this would be my answer: “Yes, but …”
by Jean Roberta
On the last day of EROTICON: Sunday, March 18, the weather was still grey and sleety, but there was plenty to do indoors.
At 10:15, Mirtha and I passed up Natalia Grubizna on “Designing your sexy-sexy product,” more Kinklab demonstrations, and Cressida Dowling on “Is there a book in your blog?” to hear a Nigerian-British female blogger, Oloni, discuss polyamory. The audience contributed comments, but we would have liked to hear more discussion of the history of long-term relationships involving multiple lovers, the challenges of maintaining these relationships, and ways to make them work.
At 11:05, we went to hear Jamie Lawson give a personal talk on “Becoming a queer anthropologist.” This speaker explained his early belief (common to many LGBT professionals) that he could keep his professional status completely separate from his general world-view, his sexuality, and his social status as a closeted gay man. His talk on the breakdown of this belief was poignant.
At the same time, someone from the site Fetish.com gave a talk on “Getting it up! How to raise your writing visibility on Google.”
The lunch buffet was as delicious as the one on Saturday. On Sunday, it was scheduled earlier to allow for the five-minute readings from 12:30 to shortly after 1:00 p.m.
At 1:15, we reluctantly passed up Nina Saini’s talk on “The adult industry in the 21st century,” to hear Kendra Holliday on “Shocking the System: When Your True Life Tales Cross the Line.”
Kendra Holliday from St Louis, Missouri, a sex-worker and the divorced mother of a daughter, told her cautionary tale of being publicly persecuted (and this word doesn’t seem too extreme) after blogging in social media about her actual sex life, including her experiences with other people. She talked about being slut-shamed on a blog, “The Dirty,” being threatened with the loss of child custody by her ex-husband, and being fired from her job with a non-profit organization. This speaker seemed surprisingly cheerful, possibly because at its lowest point, her life had nowhere to go but up. Like Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter (novel about the public shaming of an “adulteress” in Massachusetts colony in 1640), this woman has survived.
At 2:00 p.m., we heard Lori Smith (a lingerie collector) on “The surprising history of the bra.” As an amateur seamstress, I was fascinated by her illustrated lecture. I had already known that in 1914, an American socialite named Mary Phelps Jacob had applied for a patent for the bra (or brassiere), even though she didn’t invent it. I hadn’t fully realized that the changing shape of women’s breasts under all clothing styles since then (and before then) were largely created by undergarments, or that the invention of rayon from wood pulp (called “artificial silk” or “art-silk”), latex, and lycra were crucial in the development of the bra.
Lori Smith debunked the myth that feminists in the 1960s were “bra-burners.” She explained that due to fire regulations, a symbolic trash-can filled with the trappings of femininity by protesters at the Miss America pageant of 1968 was not even burned.
The talks we missed were by Dr. Meg-John Barker and Justin Hancock on “How to give responsible sex advice,” and Michael Knight on “Tech for Blog Success.”
At 3:00 pm, we had to choose amongst three workshops: “Photographing Eroticon” by Molly Moore, “Financial Wizardry for Sex Bloggers” by two Sarahs (Sarah Bryn Holliday and Sarah Jane), and Remittance Girl on longer (self-contained, novel-length) erotic fiction.
We went to hear Remittance Girl, who discussed the challenges of writing erotic fiction which can’t easily be read in one (one-handed) sitting. As she explained, the nature of erotic feelings is that they are short-lived (there is a cycle of arousal and release), and can’t easily be sustained over the course of a novel without boring the reader.
And there have always been cultural and legal prohibitions on publishing sexually-explicit work. RG pointed out that the big publishing platform, Amazon.com, has inconsistently slammed down on erotic publications which are not bestsellers.
She summarized the history of erotic publications, many of which predated the invention of the novel by centuries. She explained that the classics (the poetry of Sappho, the “satyr” plays of ancient Greece, largely destroyed, the first-century Satyricon, The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade) are generally episodic, containing a series of sex scenes. She went on to discuss twentieth-and-twenty-first century works of erotica: Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Lolita, Crash, Fifty Shades of Grey, all of which are about something besides sex.
RG discussed the “snowflake method” of writing a novel: to build a relatively simple central premise into a novel-length plot by adding complexity to the events, the characterization, the background and setting.
She explained the archetypal “Hero’s Journey,” as defined by Joseph Campbell, in which a central character becomes a hero by being tested: hostile circumstances give rise to cycles of despair, hope, resourcefulness, and psychological growth. She pointed out that many films from the Walt Disney studio follow this pattern.
RG circulated a chart detailing “The Pervert’s Journey,” an erotic version of the hero’s journey. This version of a traditional plot was both hilarious and recognizable. It showed brilliantly how suspense can be maintained throughout an erotic novel through the introduction of elements which on the surface seem to be anti-erotic, including the hostility of other characters, society at large and the “pervert’s” own fears as obstacles to the “pervert’s” self-actualizing search for sexual fulfillment.
At 3:40, we all gathered together into one room for prizes! Molly Moore explained that all the attendees were entered into a draw to win sex products which had been available for sale at the merch tables throughout the weekend. To our surprise, Mirtha and I both won items. Mine, a large clear diamond-shaped vibrator from a company named “Bijoux Indiscrets,” could possibly be passed off as a coffee-table ornament.
After hugs and photographs, we were off to our hotel room to have a quiet supper in the restaurant and pack for our trip home to Saskatchewan on Monday morning.
We wished we could have stayed longer, but work was waiting for us. Our four-day visit to the UK was an unforgettable break from the routine of our lives.
by Jean Roberta
Afternoon on Saturday, March 17, at EROTICON: Annabelle Knight, author of The Endless Autumn (with some television experience on Channel 5 in the UK), discussed erotica, and more specifically, erotic romance, as a genre of fiction that sells very well, but which critics disparage and few readers will openly admit to liking — as distinct from readers who openly read mysteries on the beach or on public transportation.
This talk was given in a large, packed room. Unfortunately, the speaker’s voice didn’t carry well, and she stood near a pillar. Giving talks to large audiences in large rooms is clearly different from performing for the camera.
At the same time, Miss Eve E was discussing disability and sex work in another conference room, but Mirtha and I couldn’t be everywhere at once. (Next time, we might split up, then compare notes later.)
AND there was a demonstration of vac play going on, followed by Kayla Lords on a podcasting panel.
At 2:30, Emmeline Peaches gave a talk called “Cracking the Whip? Different Approaches to Sex Toy Activism.” What does sex toy activism look like?
Alas, I never found out because we went to a workshop named “Self-Editing Tips and Tricks” by Anna Sky, with whom I had exchanged some emails about the anthology, Truth. She is “the brains behind” two presses: Sexy Little Pages, and Resonance Press. The editor of the anthology, Zak Jane Keir, was there, wearing a toque that labelled her a “DOXY” (the name of a sex toy company) in large letters. The speaker discussed some of the common mistakes made by fledgling writers of sexually explicit work (independent body parts, impossible actions, etc.)
I had brought along three handouts that I had used when I co-led a workshop on grammar for sex-writers with Shar Azade at the first annual conference of the Erotic Authors Association in Las Vegas in 2011. I offered them to Anna Sky after her talk, in case the material might be useful to her. Mirtha was amused by the passion that editors/English teachers/grammar nazis bring to the subject.
Later, there were more “Kinklab” demonstrations, but Mirtha and I felt the need for some rest in our hotel room before the Saturday night social event.
Beginning at 7:30, all the attendees were invited to a pub in NW1, The Edinboro Castle, where we had our own section. The place was packed and noisy (not really our scene), but we were able to order food there. We both had fish and chips, and the food was excellent.
Even though it’s possible to buy “fresh” seafood in Saskatchewan (flown in from a faraway ocean), there is something distinct about the taste of seafood in Britain. It was as amazing as I remembered.
Apparently the original plan was that the crowd from Eroticon could circulate in and out of the pub and the enclosed outdoor space, but the cold weather discouraged that.
We noticed a woman across the table from us sitting perfectly still, and then we saw why. A young woman standing nearby was busily using scissors on black paper to make a silhouette of her model. Silhouette-making is a Victorian art-form that the artist, Alison Russell, learned from her late grandmother, a painter and silhouette-maker for over fifty years. Mirtha and I were impressed by the results, and we asked Alison to make our silhouettes. We learned that she didn’t need to be paid because she had been hired for the event. (For examples of her work, see my silhouette below or check out her website: www.alison-russell.co.uk)
A company named Eropartner was giving out free drink tickets and displaying “Zumio” sex toys which could be won, but there was such a crowd around their table that we couldn’t get close.
I drank Guinness all evening, but I didn’t hear a word about St. Patrick’s Day, and the few attendees wearing green didn’t seem to be doing it for any particular reason.
I found the women’s loo clean and quiet, but when Mirtha went in there after me, she came out looking annoyed. She told me that three women had been fighting over a man in there, and she didn’t stay long enough to find out who won. I had somewhat expected to encounter some alcohol-fuelled English vs. Irish hostility, but instead, sexual competition was apparently the trigger of the evening.
We old women were relieved to go home to bed.
by Jean Roberta
Saturday, March 17, was a full day at Eroticon. The doors of the convention space at Arlington House opened at 8:45 a.m., with coffee, tea, and biscuits available. Molly Moore gave a brief welcome, followed by a keynote address looking back to Eroticon 2017 and ahead to next year.
With cups of tea (Twining’s English Breakfast for Mirtha and PG Tips for me, which I hadn’t tasted since I lived in England for a year in my youth, 1973-74), we had to decide which workshop to attend at 10:00. Actually, it wasn’t a hard choice, since we knew one of the speakers.
In one conference room, Remittance Girl (an academic) discussed the origins of the Tongan word “taboo” (something set apart), first used in English in 1777, and the history of taboo topics in literature: the discussion or display of behaviour which breaks the rules that control our relationships with each other and the environment. These are the topics which still carry a strong frisson.
Three activities which have been traditionally taboo and are still largely considered “unspeakable” are incest, patricide, and cannibalism. Fiction about any of this stuff is likely to be controversial. However, taboo-breaking has traditionally been accepted in the ruling class and in a supernatural realm. As examples, the speaker discussed brother-sister marriages in the royal family of ancient Egypt, the Biblical story of Lot’s daughters (who seduce their father in order to have babies), the killing of the ancient Greek god Chronos (or Kronos) by his son, and the Catholic rite of Communion as the symbolic devouring of the body and blood of Christ.
The audience was invited to discuss what is still taboo, and how taboos have shifted over time. Remittance Girl identified several taboos that seem to be weakening: class and race “miscegenation,“ expressions of female desire, same-gender sexuality, and transgenderism. At the same time, certain taboos seem to be growing stronger, particularly sex involving “underage” participants (although the exact definition of when childhood ends is not the same everywhere), and non-consensual sex.
There was general agreement that fame, money, beauty, and cleanliness are highly prized in modern industrial society, and Remittance Girl asked whether the opposite of these qualities could be eroticised. For example, she invited us to imagine this proposition: “You’re fucking ugly, and it’s making me hot.” (I thought about how I would respond if this statement were addressed to me. I would probably invite the speaker to flake off.)
In another room, RMGirl gave a talk on “Record keeping in a gender fluid world (and the right to have your past forgotten).” Unfortunately, we could only be in one place at a time.
In a third space, “Kinklab” was going on: demonstrations of safe sex practices. A bed covered with waterproof sheets had been set up for that purpose. Between workshops, we saw the occasional person stretched out in comfortable-looking bondage.
After a break, morning workshops resumed at 11:00 a.m. In one room, Kayla Lords explained “How to make money from your blog without losing your soul or your audience.” In another room, a sex tech panel discussed the future of sex. Kinklab was still going on in the designated space.
Mirtha and I attended Victoria Blisse’s small, intimate workshop on “sex blogging for authors and other shy creatures.” She assured us that brief posts can attract audiences, and that a suggestive photo of an anonymous body part can be as alluring as something more explicit. She encouraged us to take out our cell phones and take photos of each other which wouldn’t be identifiable. I captured the red fingernails of another workshop participant while the Fluevogs on someone else’s feet were attracting attention. I discovered that Ashe Barker, writer of erotic romances and one of my fellow-bloggers on the ten-author blog “Oh Get a Grip,” was there in the room, having travelled from her home in Yorkshire.
We skipped “Vlogging 101” by Hannah Witton, and entered a packed room to hear a lawyer, Neil Brown, give “Essential tips for sex writers and bloggers.” His legal discussion was geared to a UK audience, but he pointed out that the law in any jurisdiction is open to interpretation, and that citizen boards that have the legal power to classify and ban erotic material can often be reasoned with. As a former member of the Saskatchewan Film Classification Board, I found his talk logical and reassuring.
Then there was lunch! Mirtha and I were impressed that our registration fees covered a buffet lunch on Saturday and Sunday, spread out in the canteen in Arlington House. One table was labelled “Meat-Meat-Meat,” one was labelled “Fish-Fish-Fish,” and one was labelled “Vegetables-Vegetables-Vegetables.” A long shelf held a variety of dessert squares and fruit.
The salmon shishkabobs with sauce were to die for, closely followed by the desserts.
I’m home from EROTICON, an annual weekend conference for sex writers, bloggers, educators, and fans of sex toys (which all need to be tested and reviewed – someone has to do it). It was held in London, England, March 16-18, in Arlington House in Camden, an historic shelter for homeless men which provides resources for the residents to find jobs and regular housing. The building has conference space, and every organization that rents the space is helping to support the shelter.
(My spouse Mirtha, a board member of Carmichael Outreach in Regina, Saskatchewan, brought home a full sheaf of brochures from Arlington House as inspiration for coping with poverty.)
I’ll try to sum up the experience of attending Eroticon for those who weren’t there. In the lead-up to the event, Resonance Press (one of the sponsors) put out a call-for-submissions for attendees to send in short works of fiction or non-fiction on the theme of sexual truth or honesty. My new story, “Rendezvous,” was accepted. Truth, edited by Zak Jane Keir, was available for sale at Eroticon. The cover image was by Tabitha Rayne, who was also at the event.
Attendees were welcome to read their work during the dessert-and-readings session on the Sunday. I read my very short (under 1K), very Canadian story about staying indoors and masturbating to recover from a breakup, “Hibernation.” I was amazed at the variety of flash-length stories that were read, including one about body acceptance, and one about a male-on-male encounter which was clearly still raw for the writer. He got two rounds of applause.
On Friday, March 16, there was a meet-and-greet in the Holiday Inn at Camden Lock, very close to Arlington House. (I tried to get an on-line reservation there for Mirtha and me, but by the time I did this in January, it was already full.)
The event was held in the Glass Room, which offered a dazzling view of a canal which reflected the lights of the city by night.
Service at the bar didn’t live up to the view, but the Eroticon crowd was friendly, and we had some interesting talks about sex-blogging as a goal in itself, not simply as a means of promoting print publications. We met up with Remittance Girl, formerly of the Erotic Readers and Writers Association, who gave two talks during the weekend. (Read on.)
I would have liked to figure out the public transportation system, or even walk through Regents Park to Arlington House from the Danubius Hotel in St. Johns Wood, where we were staying. There just wasn’t enough time. We learned that London taxi drivers identify neighbourhoods by post code (e.g. from NW1 to NW8, or vice versa).
Plus the weather didn’t encourage leisurely walks. We went from the snowy streets of the Canadian prairies to the snowy streets of London.
Stay tuned for my post on the events of Saturday, March 17. (Note: I wore green for St. Patrick’s Day, but apparently this is not a tradition in England. I should have guessed.)
Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, horror, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and her two cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.
Her m/m erotic medical thriller Roughing It is a sexy cross between The X Files, The Andromeda Strain, and Outbreak. Read her short erotic story Babes in Begging For It, published by Cleis Press. You will also find her new novel No Restraint at Amazon. Enjoy a good, sexy read today.
I recently received an agent rejection for a novel that let me down very much. The notes this agent left me threw me for a loop. She was critical of things that are integral to the book, such as my main character’s personality. I don’t want to change that. Besides, a drastic change like that would require a complete overhaul of the book and I am unwilling to do that. Some people may not like that character but that doesn’t mean everyone won’t.
Rejections are often painful but sometimes they hurt like hell. Not getting into an anthology I had great hope for can be a big let-down. That has happened to me several times. Getting bombed by several rejections in a row over a short period of time can be devastating. I usually wallow in my misery for a few days, and then I get back to work.
What works to get out of the doldrums when yet another rejection hits your mailbox?
Get away from the computer. Leave social media alone for a few days. Only answer urgent mail. Facebook and Twitter can be annoying and depressing anyway so a break of any substantial amount of time may be looked at as a good thing.
Read something for enjoyment. Don’t read something that reminds you too much of your book or of the genre you write. I’ve been reading mysteries lately for fun. Lilian Jackson Brown’s cat series and the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich are great fun. I tried to read “House Of Leaves” but that book is so confusing I tossed it aside. I need to give it another chance. It’s supposed to be a terrifying read, but it reads like a dissertation to me since this is a fictional horror novel that includes footnotes!
I like to bake. Rather than binge on chocolate and sweets, I bake them and give them to my friends and family. Oh, believe me, I do enjoy my own chocolate almond biscotti and cranberry scones. I won’t deny myself, but it is fun for me to get in the kitchen and bake.
Clean the house. It usually needs it. I’m rewarded with a clean house when I finish and mopping the floor takes my mind off my writing.
Enjoy some TV or a movie at home or in a cinema. My husband and I recently saw the new “Tomb Raider” movie. It wasn’t great but I liked it since I’m a huge fan of the game series. We’ve also been binge-watching “Hap and Leonard”, which is easy for me to watch since it’s nothing like my writing. And I’m a Joe Lansdale fan. I interviewed him twice for podcasts. He was a great guest.
Here’s a switch – listen to the criticism. The critic may be right, especially if you hear the same thing from several critics. Make changes that are necessary and you will likely end up with a better work. Editors and agents don’t usually leave detailed feedback. When they do, it means they believe your work has merit but simply isn’t right for them for particular reasons. I relish getting rejections with feedback. I often take the feedback to heart, change the piece, and then see it published later.
Talk to other writers. You’ll see you’re not alone. All writers face rejection. Everyone deals with it in different ways. Being around other creative people may help you keep tings in perspective.
Above all, remember how much you enjoy writing. It keeps your mind alert and it helps you get your thoughts and feelings down on paper. I love writing because I’m good at it. Keep your rejections in perspective and carry on.
What Am I Writing? Or Did I Forget My Meds?
By Larry Archer
Caution, this is another long post so get a fresh cup of coffee before starting.
This is my third blog post for ERWA, and I’ve been conflicted as DropBox calls it. You know when you forget to close a DropBox document on one computer then you open the document and edit it on another computer. DropBox raps you across the knuckles like the nun in third-grade with her ruler.
While I’ve never had the pleasure of going to Catholic school and feel they failed miserably with my wife. Maybe the fact that she skipped out and went to public high school that she now has a rekindled desire for little school girl outfits but hey, who’s complaining? Those white thigh socks, black shiny buckle shoes, and ruffled white ankle socks are so neat. It’s just hard to find Mary Janes with 6-inch spike heels.
I’m writing this on my new MacBook Air and trying not to choke my chicken when I see her lying there, all opened up like a beautiful woman, who’s begging me to touch her with my fingers, the MBA that is.
Like the guy sitting on a park bench, in his raincoat, clutching a bag of candy with greasy fingers waiting for school to be over, the MBA loves me, but we have to be careful because my wife’s getting suspicious about our “alone time” in the bathroom.
I’ve always been a Windows kind of guy and not like my friend Jack who likes to stand outside and watch his wife through the bedroom window. Like everyone else, I bought into the theory that Apple people had drunk the Kool-Aid else why would they spend a bunch more money for a laptop with a half-eaten apple on it?
Going on six years or 3-raincoats ago, I was frustrated with my then Windows laptop. Sort of like Ray Charles, I could close my eyes and let the fevered scene play out between my ears as my fingers tried desperately to keep up with the action.
Then I’d look down and realize that I’d written a page of garbage because I’d mistyped some prose with my fingers on the wrong keys. Mr. Rogers my high school typing teacher would rip the yellow sheet out of my Underwood and scream, “Archer, all you’re good for is writing shit they keep behind the counter in a brown paper bag!”
As we all know, when you’ve tried everything else to solve a problem, throw money at it! By this time, I’d been through three laptops, and Wifey was getting suspicious about the fact my credit card statement was starting to smoke when you pulled it out of the envelope. In desperation, I bought a 2012 MBA, and it was love at first sight. Open her up, and she would instantly light up like a drunk college girl, ready for action and no foreplay required. She never told me no and never had a headache. To touch her was exquisite, your fingers fall naturally on the keys, and the touch is like a mechanical keyboard, without all the clicking noises.
To be able to type with one-tenth the level of mistakes and a battery that never went down on you. I was hooked and wanted more, much more until I got seduced by a new line of Windows laptops.
Since the MacBook Air’s seemed to lose favor with their CPU’s slipping further and further behind, I jumped ship and bought a high-end Windows 10 machine with the top box checked in every category.
My wife being a Luddite and who struggles to understand how to operate a light switch, it only seemed natural to re-gift my trusted MBA to her. I was surprised to see how quickly she became adept with the 3-pound marvel.
I, on the other hand, started to beat my head against the wall. My new machine’s touchpad had a mind of its own and apparently didn’t need any help from me to make mistakes. I spent hours with tech support and even had the touchpad replaced to no avail. Others on the vendor’s website were similarly upset.
Foxy said that she’d give me my Air back, but I couldn’t do that and just struggled in silence. Certainly, my new machine was cool, huge hard drive, bunches of memory, fast i7 processor, but using it always managed to piss me off.
One day she asked me to help to do something on her computer, and as soon as my fingers touched the keyboard, I was back in love. It’s kind of like when you’re doing the neighbor’s wife and will steal little touches when no one is looking, but that’s a whole different post.
After that brief illicit moment, I went right down and bought a new MacBook Air with a 3-generation old CPU but no matter, I’m back in love again. Of course the day my new MBA was delivered, I read that Apple is going to bring out an updated Air in the next few months!
I know that you’re telling yourself, this post is supposed to be about what I’m writing and not about my forbidden love affair with my machine, sort of like Wifey and her LeLo vibrator, except without all the buzzing.
My latest story, “Crashing a Swinger’s Pajama Party,” is rapidly coming to a finish and I thought I’d share a little with you about the story as it’s been a real hoot to write.
Lisabet Sarai and I converse a fair amount off-list about writing and story ideas. I mentioned to her that we’d had a straight couple crash one of our New Year’s Eve Pajama Parties and she suggested that we create a story based on it.
We keep trying to write a story together, but our styles of writing bump heads and we can never seem to get our stories straight, “Fake News!”
But I’m slowly getting the impression that we’re starting to rub off on each other. I’m learning to type with my little finger stuck out, and she seems to be getting more comfortable with her mind wallowing in the gutter. Sort of like that little sailboat and the clown in the sewer drain.
Anyway, I was telling Lisabet about the time we had one of our straight neighbors crash our annual New Year’s Eve Pajama Parties. For some years now we’ve hosted a pajama party to welcome in the new year. It gives kissing under the mistletoe, a whole new meaning.
The PJ party is typically 50-60 couples plus an assortment of unicorns that we run with and 2-3 single guys thrown in for good measure. There are always people from around the country that we’ve met in our travels, for flavor. So by midnight, there are well more than one-hundred naked or semi-naked people in our house. Victoria Secret is proud of us!
We carefully select the invitees and make sure that no one is invited that could cause a problem. Most of the people are professionals, doctors, business owners, and a handful of elected officials, not including the cops. Cops, doctors, and nurses are some of the most perverted when they let their hair down. We have to be really careful who we invite as some of our party animals are also on the social pages and being outed would not be a good thing.
One morning after a New Year’s party, I was reading the paper and on the society page was a couple who’d also come late to our party. The woman was wearing an exquisite dress cut down almost to where the crack of her butt started. The society editor was buzzing about what a knockout she was and how that dress was scandalous. I laughed as I remembered that dress lying in a pile on the family room floor after my wife had pulled down her zipper and let it slide off.
Anyway, after midnight, the doorbell rings and me being the idiot I am, answer the door. Standing in front of me is an attractive couple dressed to the nines. It was the couple, we somewhat knew from down the street, and I’m standing there with a short bathrobe on and nothing else.
It was somewhat embarrassing, but they asked if they could join our party as theirs was a snooze fest. Not knowing what to do I invited them in. Foxy joined me, and she was wearing her typical New Year’s outfit of an adult sized pair of kid’s long johns with bunnies on it. Except she wears it with all the buttons undone and so is open down to her bellybutton.
You can imagine their shock to see an orgy going on in the living room and all the people running around in teddies or much less.
We invited them to stay, but I think the shock value was too much for the husband. His wife looked like she wanted to stay. This is where the story Lisabet and I are working on diverged from reality.
She fired back with a suggested list of chapters, and we were off to the races.
With our sick minds, it was easy to suck the new couple in and throw them to the wolves. Greg, the dominating always in charge husband quickly discovered that he really wasn’t in control at all, courtesy of Foxy and her assortment of painful toys. Greg’s new word for the day was “pegged.”
Samantha, the otherwise “normal” housewife, was quickly divested of clothes as she realized that she was at an all-you-can-eat buffet or maybe the main course, depending on which end was up.
My stories are always HEA, but I keep getting told that a story needs conflict and resolution, yet mine always seem to lack conflict as everyone is too busy getting laid to fight. So it only seemed natural for Samantha to give Greg his walking papers and move in with the swingers down the street. She quickly discovered that it was a lot more fun to play, “hide the weenie,” with the neighborhood perverts.
But poor Greg was sent home with our real life cuckold – Hotwife couple, Pam and Jack, who proceed to take him within an inch of his life while giving him a sunburn with studio lights. If you look up nymphomaniac in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of our friend Pam, who is one of our resident MILFs. Jack is typically hiding in the closet watching or behind his movie camera.
So now I’ve gotten the neighbors split up, but so far they’ve not realized that they are the conflict part of my story. Greg has figured out that there is truth to the story of being screwed to death but is trying to soldier on. He’s afraid of coming back to our house as the last time Foxy and our redheaded Amazon Chrissy took turns pegging him. But he seems to be a good sport about everything, well except for the beatings!
Naturally, we didn’t want his wife to feel left out as she seemed to be enthralled by the idea of a gangbang and pulling a train. Why should we let her miss that experience? Now every time she hears a train whistle, she feels a tingle between her legs!
The story now stands over 40,000 words, and I’m trying to get the estranged couple back together again so the story can end up HEA. Lisabet and I are planning on co-releasing two stories in the next couple of months, so I should have time to finish it up. I’m looking at this blog post’s word count, and it’s at 1,700 words, and I’ve been trying to hold my posts down to under 1,000 words but not having much success.
You’ll have to wait a few weeks to see how the story comes out. Will Larry write his first non-HEA story, will Greg learn to love the sound of the whip? Or will Foxy sell Greg’s wife to a German Goo Girls movie producer? Check LarryArcher.blog for more ramblings from my perverted mind.
I promise Lisabet, my next blog post will be shorter!
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.