Friday, January 30, 2015
Thursday, January 29, 2015
by Jean Roberta
[NOTE: This blog was supposed to go live on January 26, but too much multi-tasking caused me to miss my turn. Please excuse me for posting late.]
Those of you who read this blog are probably aware that a writer’s mind is a busy place, somewhat like Hyde Park Corner in London, England, where random strangers can show up and argue with each other. (That’s the only real-world location I know of that is designated for such activity.)
Apparently there is a stampede among writers to self-publish and sell the work on social media, including the various Amazon sites. Even non-writer friends have advised me to do this and thereby make lots of money. Hence the following internal argument.
Inner Cheerleader: Jean, you don’t have to limit yourself to working with established publishing companies. They just want to make money by selling your work.
Jean: Yes, just as the university that employs me just wants to recruit fee-paying students to sit in my classes. Everyone has a financial motive, even charity organizations. They “just” need to make a profit so they can spend it on good causes.
You sound like various bystanders who have reminded me that I don’t have to limit myself to: 1) writing about sex, 2) writing about women, 3) writing about lesbians, gay men, bisexuals or trans folks, 4) writing about Canadians (or about Canadian settings), etc. (Sarcastically) Why don’t I expand my range by writing stories about White Anglo-Saxon male American billionaires who fall in love with younger, poorer women? Oh, that’s been done.
Inner Cheerleader: But you need to keep up with current trends. What sells? Why couldn’t you tap into the zeitgeist? You can’t depend on publishers to promote your work. They don’t do that any more. Your colleague knows a woman who claims she is planning to retire from teaching in a university because she can earn a living by writing about sex with Bigfoot. There’s a market for that.
Jean: I don’t understand the appeal. I don’t think I could write that stuff convincingly.
Inner Cheerleader: If sincerity is your thing, you could exploit it. Why don’t you post a series of articles about your experience in the sex trade?
Jean: That was in the early 1980s. I don’t want to become known as Ye Antique Harlot from Times of Yore. It’s bad enough that the local media sometimes contacts me when there is a change in the laws about prostitution – because they can’t find anyone currently making a living that way. I really don’t want to speak on behalf of marginalized people young enough to be my grandchildren, who are already silenced by legal threats and social stigma.
Inner Cheerleader: But people want to read about sex. You need to have more of a public image. Why don’t you have some sexy photos taken of yourself, and post them in every place that will accept them?
Jean: You seem to be forgetting my age. You have no solid evidence that thrusting my greyish-brown bush (surrounded by cellulite) or the thin skin of my cleavage in the face of the public at large would lead to sales of my writing.
Inner Cheerleader: Photoshop is your friend. And you could be mysterious about your age.
Jean: The birthdates of published writers appear in their books. It’s a way of establishing legal identity.
Inner Cheerleader: Well, why don’t you write a tell-all autobiography, focusing on sex?
Jean: That sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen. Besides, my actual life is less satisfying in several ways than the stories I make up, which I why I write fiction in the first place. Most people like a plot arc: character sets forth on a journey, encounters difficulties, dragons and orcs, but discovers inner resources, soldiers on, and reaches a place of resolution. That is not a summary of my life, or any actual life I know of. Metaphorically, a life journey can be like that, but we all live in the mundane world.
I like to discuss my life-experience indirectly, by writing: 1) fiction, and 2) non-fiction. Sometimes poetry, though that seems to attract few readers these days.
Inner Cheerleader: I give up. I tried to help you. Don’t blame me if you never become a successful writer.
Jean: Dear narrow-minded aspect of my psyche, your conception of “success” is not the one accepted by most of the scholars I know. Whether my words succeed in lasting longer than I do, only time will tell.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Print versus ebook? That's the big question. According to Waterstones, ebook sales have plummeted while print book sales have soared. Then again, according to The Guardian, print book sales have declined as readers migrated to ebooks.
A review of 2014 from book sales monitor Nielsen BookScan shows that while the decline in sales of print books in the UK slowed last year, with value sales down 1.3% to £1.39bn, and volume sales down 1.9% to 180m, the performance for printed adult fiction was markedly worse. The adult fiction market was the worst-performing of all areas of the book business, down by 5.3% in 2014 to £321.3m, with volume sales down 7.8% to 50.7m. In 2009, printed adult fiction was worth £476.16m.
The decline is even greater when paperback fiction is removed from the picture: according to Nielsen, hardback adult fiction sales plummeted last year by 11.6% to £67.9m, with just three titles – by crime and thriller bestsellers Lee Child, CJ Sansom and Martina Cole – selling more than 100,000 copies.
“The ebook has quite demonstrably hit the commercial end of the fiction market,” said the Bookseller’s editor Philip Jones. “Almost any drop in adult fiction sales can mainly be put down to the migration to digital, which is obviously still continuing. We think consumer ebooks this year will be worth £350m, with most big publishers reporting ebook growth of double digits – and almost all of that will be in fiction.”
There's nothing quite as satisfying as holding a paperback or hard cover book in your hand if you're a writer.
You can sign print books. Yes, you may sign ebooks with an ebook signature but it's just not the same.
Having physical books for potential readers to handle and buy at conventions makes it easier to sell books than pushing ebooks on browsers in the same venues.
There is satisfaction in the feel of a print book. The tactile sensation of holding paper and the "new book smell" are very appealing.
Sadly, some do not consider ebooks "real" books. A physical print book may hold more psychological clout than a digital book.
You can store hundreds of books on an ebook reader, which is great if you don't have much room for numerous bookcases.
Readers of erotic fiction in particular are especially attracted to ebook readers because these ereaders give them privacy. They don't have to worry about getting the raised eyebrow from onlookers who see a paperback with scantily clad women and muscle-bound beefcakes on the covers.
Ebook readers are lightweight and easy to use.
You can adjust the size of the font with an ebook reader. This especially benefits those with poor eyesight.
Some ebook readers light up, eliminating the need for a book light.
Ebook readers don't crease or get coffee stains on the pages.
Saturday, January 24, 2015
by Kathleen Bradean
For the past two years, my family's drama has been building to a bad ending. A real life bad ending. In a book, it would be a great ending, somewhere between a trashy Dynasty catfight and the bleakness of Fargo, a train wreck that Dominick Dunne would have appreciated.
The friends that have followed the play-by-play of this drama have asked if I'd ever consider writing a screenplay or a book about it. It's no fun to live through, so stepping back to look at it as a writer gives me some much needed distance. Looking at this sprawling mess from that distance, I can see the strengths and weaknesses of it as a piece of entertainment. (And believe me, from a gallows sense of humor perspective, some of us in this family find whats going on both grimly amusing and horrifying in equal measures.)
It's amazing how a seemingly normal family can be torn apart when they've been nurturing a Cuckoo egg in the nest. (Some cuckoo birds are brood parasites which lay their eggs in the nests of different species. When the eggs hatch, the larger cuckoo hatchling pushes the other chicks out of the nest or crowds them out to get all the food, often exhausting the unwitting foster parent birds with it's constant demands for more as the step-siblings that didn't get shoved out starve to death.) Any reader with siblings could relate to this warning tale, and elderly parents could learn a thing or two about defending themselves from predatory children. So this story would work as fictionalized true crime or as non-fiction.
But writer me also sees the structural flaws in this story as a story.
1) It sprawls over many years as the build-up to the denouement. That could be condensed, or the writer could opt for a James Michener (does anyone remember his work now?) length tome.
2) there are so many fascinating side stories that could be woven in, but they might hopelessly muddy the narrative. Which of these stories would the writer chose to write? The alleged financial crimes against the sister? The alleged elder abuse and alleged financial shenanigans committed against the mother? Any of the many other alleged scams and frauds now coming to light? How do you pick? How do you narrow down the focus while preserving the wide scope? And which trial would be the dramatic highlight?
3) there's more than one villain. One is so over the top as to be almost unbelievable to the reader. Seriously. After a while, a reader would say "Come on. in real life, no one would do that." We often find ourselves saying to the latest events "Really? Really? Un-fucking-believable."
All this musing has been a good thought exercise on storytelling. While side stories and just one more example of heroism or villainy might seem to drive home the point, we have to keep our narratives focused and tightly written. I've often said that writing a novel is like hiking through a forest. Many writers begin their work knowing the starting point of the tale and where it's supposed to end up, but picking the path between those two points is often a mystery that unfolds as the writer writes. Finding that right path is as much art as it is craft. The tale should not wander off the path to pick pretty flowers. Nor should it take the scenic route. It's okay to tell complicated stories, but those demand the most focus in the narrative,
I hope some day to be able to report a happy ending to our family drama. Life doesn't usually give us closure though. I think that's why people crave stories. They have a decisive end.
Posted by Kathleen Bradean at 11:23 AM
Friday, January 23, 2015
by Lucy Felthouse
I don't talk about personal stuff online, really, so I'm sorry for being vague when I say the second half of 2014 was really tough for me. On a positive note, I got through it and came out the other side, and now, the only way is up.
But, the crappy few months had a knock on effect. I managed (somehow!) to keep on top of all my client work, my editing, etc, but my writing output went waaaaay down. My time was less, and because of all the stress and worry, my inclination wasn't there, either. So, when I did my round up post for 2014 on my own website, where I tot up my achievements, publications, etc, my total word count for the year compared to 2013 was much lower.
I'd expected it, of course. Yes, I was disappointed, but I certainly didn't beat myself up. How could I? I had a damn good reason for not writing as much. Plus, somehow, I actually ended up with more publications in 2014 than 2013! (32 vs 30, if you're interested). I also bagged my very first writing award - a Golden Ankh for my erotic short story, A Taste of Rome.
So, while 2014 wasn't a complete loss, it could have been better. And I intend to make sure 2015 is lots, lots better. And how am I going to do that?
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
By Lisabet Sarai
(Check out my blog post here for more about IBP.)
Monday, January 19, 2015
It's that time again - time to heat up the Internet with your hottest erotic prose. Today's the 19th of January, which means it's Sexy Snippets Day!
The ERWA blog is not primarily intended for author promotion. However, we've decided we should give our author/members an occasional opportunity to expose themselves (so to speak) to the reading public. Hence, we have declared the 19th of every month at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association blog Sexy Snippet Day.
On Sexy Snippet day, any author can post a tiny excerpt (200 words or less) in a comment on the day's post. Include the title from with the snippet was extracted, your name or pseudonym, and one buy link, if you'd like.
Feel free to share this with erotic author friends. It's an open invitation!
Sunday, January 18, 2015
I finally read Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ve avoided doing so for years. The youngest of three daughters, once I figured out I didn’t have to do everything my older sisters did, I’ve been fairly stubborn about following my own path. Just because everyone else was reading the book, for pleasure or market research, didn’t mean I had to. The disappointed, and often scathing, reviews by people I respected certainly supported my boycott. And I knew enough about popular literature to roll my eyes when someone insisted I had to write my own trilogy that was “better” to show the world what really good erotica was and thus earn myself more money and glory than E.L. James could ever imagine.
Then, this past Christmas, someone close to me bought me a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. As a gag gift. Ha, ha, ha, I laughed. But as I stared down at that glossy gray tie on the cover, affixed with a label that the book was “Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture,” I decided that this was a sign from the universe that I must judge this publishing phenomenon firsthand.
So, what do I think?
I can see why so many readers find the story appealing. And, while it’s not the greatest book I’ve ever read, I’m finding it raises interesting questions for me about writing, and is even, at times, a compelling story.
Granted I came into the experience with rock-bottom expectations. But I understand why a classic story of a rich, handsome man discovering that an unassuming young woman is the one person on earth who can truly touch him would find a wide audience.
Mind you, all the criticisms of the book are true. The characters are unbelievable. The plot is uneven. The endless repetitions of lip biting, eye rolling, and capering inner goddesses are seriously annoying. The real endurance test for me is the overuse of “mutter” and “bemused.” Holy crap, what’s wrong with the beautifully invisible “said”? And could you dig a little deeper for some other reaction from your characters? My writing group would have had a field day with the prose and likely would have had poor Ms. James in tears.
I have no doubt the book gives an inaccurate portrayal of BDSM, an area in which I have no expertise. Any of the things I do know about—majors at Princeton, for example—are equally inaccurate. Then again, I can’t tell you how many times people told me they “learned a lot about Japan” from Arthur Golden’s equally fantastic Memoirs of a Geisha. Talk about enduring pain.
I know that there are many, many erotic books that are better written in every way and are far more authentic representations of the BDSM world. But for better or worse, E.L. James wrote the first erotic blockbuster. Try as we all do to learn the dark secret of its success, I’m not sure anyone really knows why. If we did, the publishing industry could seamlessly move from one mega-bestseller to the next, yet the next phenomenon always takes us by surprise.
Above all, reading this book underscored a lesson I’ve been learning since I began to seek publication. An individual editor may insist that every word be chosen with the care of Flaubert, but The Market doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the “quality” of your prose. It wants a story that grabs readers’ hearts. Fifty Shades got the romance audience with its Twilight sensibility spiced with explicit sex scenes. It roped in the not insignificant group of readers who thought they might be getting a glimpse into an unprecedented world of forbidden sexual delight and decadence. A lot of the scathing reviews judged an unpretentious romance as literature, an erotic fantasy as some earth-shattering sexual breakthrough. Of course the book would disappoint on these terms. The results are what you’d expect from the restaurant critic for The New York Times giving McDonald’s a serious review.
Now, I have very much enjoyed the snarky as well as thoughtful critiques of Fifty Shades. But on another level, why judge the book as if it wants to be more than it is? It clearly doesn’t. If we want it to be more, then scolding or mocking Ms. James or her fans won’t help. The only thing an erotica writer can do is take it upon herself to write the book we want it to be. More believable? More critical of capitalism? A female character that a self-respecting twenty-first-century woman can relate to? All worthy, but, sorry—I’m talking to you, my friends who want me to get rich--that book will not make anyone a fortune.
The good news is that now I know what I’ll tell people the next time they ask me what I think of Fifty Shades of Grey, as they always do when they learn I write erotica. I’ll say I thought the book was Jane Eyre, modernized, sexed up, without literary pretension (except a few references to Tess of the D’Urbervilles). Okay, maybe there’s a generous dollop of Heathcliff thrown in, too. Basically it’s a riff on the classic stories that lie at the heart of all novels with a huge readership—redemption (A Christmas Carol), an underdog who prevails (a personal favorite and always popular), a quietly lovely girl with a good heart who wins a powerful, yet lonely alpha male (most romances ever written). And perhaps on a broader level, the book allows all of us to play out in fantasy a deeper social truth: that we’re all getting screwed by our plutocrats, except, unlike Ana, we don’t have any choice in the matter nor do we get at least three orgasms a day in the bargain.
Another happy outcome is that I have a new appreciation for E.L. James. Apparently she didn’t set out to make millions nor to give ordinary women the world over the permission to admit they’d read a book with explicit sex scenes—which may indeed be the most lasting impact of the book. James simply devoured the Twilight series in “one sitting” and was inspired to write her own romantic fiction. In a 2012 interview with The Guardian, her husband (not coincidentally pimping his own novel) said somewhat defensively that she wrote Fifty Shades to entertain herself and a few friends and that she had a lot of fun writing it. As a writer, I sense her commitment to and pleasure in the story. This is not always the case with more “important” literary novels I’ve read.
So, yes, having finally read it, I won’t and can’t write a “better” Fifty Shades of Grey. I will continue to write stories that express my sensibility in both content and style, and I will continue not to give a damn about how much money I make from writing. Yet I can still share with E.L. James the love and joy of writing a tale that I hope will give those readers I do touch, however many or few, a pleasurable reading experience.
Donna George Storey is the author of Amorous Woman and a collection of short stories, Mammoth Presents the Best of Donna George Storey. Learn more about her work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com or http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Looking for erotic stories that will make you burn and sweat, laugh and cry? That will leave you breathless and aching for more?
The Treasure Chest at the ERWA web site has just been updated with the very best tales from the 2014 Galleries.
Check it out!
Posted by Garceus at 12:30 AM