Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Travel and Creativity: That Place in Between



As I write this, I'm on my annual pilgrimage to Oregon to visit my sister. That will explain why I'd like to talk about the altered state of travel. I want to talk especially about that place in between, that place that’s really neither here nor there, that place in which we’re either anticipating our arrival or reflecting on where we've been. Sometimes it's a place of longing; sometimes it's a place of dread. This trip has been a mixture of both, with me anticipating some serious Girl Time with my sister, but ending up in the Twilight Zone at Seattle International airport. Because of a landing fluke, eleven international flights landed almost on top of each other. That meant standing cheek to jowl with eleven flights worth of sweaty, under slept, irritable humanity outside the immigration hall for ages waiting for Sea Tac to catch up. Inside the hall, there were endless queues followed by an avalanche of luggage from all eleven flights in the baggage hall. Thankfully my bag was bright magenta or I might have been still searching for it. It was a manic roiling no-man's land of harried airport employees, cranky children and surly adults. We were nowhere, moving at a snails pace through piles of baggage and more cranky, sweaty bodies. It really was like entering another dimension. After wondering if I’d ever get free, I was spewed out in a queue in front of a desk with one lone ticketing agent to re-ticket everyone who had missed connections. Obviously I'm at my sister's no worse for the wear and with a tale to tell -- even with a story inspired by the experience. The Strange Encounter with Mr. Sands is free on my blog. 

By simply being 'out of place' in some place other than our own, we enter that space in between, and we can actually dwell there for a little while; my experience at Sea Tac is proof of that. Liminal spaces, the cross roads – even crossroads in the air, and certainly in the airports, are places where magical things happen, and with the advent of transcontinental air travel, that’s never been more true because you can add to it the muzzy-headed restless, spaced-out, anything goes time of jetlag at the beginning and the end of the journey.  

In contrast to my sojourn in Seattle Airport, I was groped once in a bus on the long journey between a remote village on
the Austrian boarder and Zagreb, Croatia. I had spent the weekend celebrating with friends, so I was already under-slept with a head full of cotton wool. I'd been dozing with my head resting against the window when it happened. At the risk of TMI, the motion of a slightly worse for the wear bus, the growl of the engine and the vibrations of the seats always made me horny, so when, from the seat behind me, a hand snaked up along the armrest between the window and my seat, Iwas already enjoying the ride. Still, I should have been horrified, I should have been upset - I did pretend to be ... Eventually. But at first, as the anonymous hand not only groped my breast, but began to fondle, I pretended to be asleep, and for a time, to be unaware of the man's actions -- and it was a man. I caught a glimpse of him as he left the bus a few villages before Zagreb. He was literally tall dark and handsome, and for a moment, he turned and looked defiantly back at me as he exited the bus, and I boldly returned that look. 

Oh nothing happened. After awhile, I felt guilty that I should be allowing, and even enjoying, such a thing and shifted in my seat until I was out of his reach. However I can't count the number of times I've revisited that brief encounter and enhanced it and enjoyed it; fantasied about it, even written about it, or how many times I’ve wondered what would have happened if I’d just let things play out to the end.

The thing that always strikes me about that experience, both experiences, actually, is that they happened neither here nor there. They happened in that liminal space where we all are when we travel, when we can expect anything to happen, and we're much more open to the experiences when they do. The night before I flew, as I lay unable to sleep anticipating the flight ahead, I found myself thinking of those liminal encounters and how they always stick with me long after the event.
The fantasies, the observations, the crazy ideas that happen in my head, the completely altered state of mind, I find myself in during those in-transit times and the post flight times of jet lag are the stuff stories are made of. In fact, some of the scenes and stories that have been the most fun to write involved some sort of travel, involved that liminal space of being neither here nor there, that space in which anything can happen.

In myths and fairy tales, the crossroads are often the place of strong magic, the place where not only the roads diverge, but often whole worlds diverge and we end up ... different. That's true of journeys in general. We may have our holiday and our travel all planed out, but we're out of our own time, out of our own comfort zone, and that means we're not completely in control.

he other side of the power of travel is that when we're in that liminal space, no one knows who we are, we can be anyone we want to be, we can recreate ourselves, and no one will be the wiser. We can tuck our identity away in our suitcase with our toothbrush and our clean underwear. Wherever we are that isn’t home, we become the mysterious, the unknown element in a situation that's familiar to everyone but us. In the act of so exposing ourselves to the unknown, we’re acted upon even as we change the unknown simply by being there.
The stranger along the way is a powerful archetype, and the story evolves from how we treat that stranger and how he treats us. Even without a grope on a vibrating bus, the act of travel is sexual, it's penetrating, sometimes impregnating and we can't help but be a little more open, a little more ... easily aroused by the fact that anything can happen in that space in between. As writers, as readers, that's got to excite us.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Alternative Media – Using Radio and Podcasts To Gain Fans

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 three cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page. 

Her new m/m erotic medical thriller Roughing It is out! This book is a sexy cross between The X Files and The Andromeda Strain. Buy it at Amazon!


Ten months ago, I began my new job as one of four hosts of a radio show called The Women ShowIt doesn't seem that long ago. This is an internet radio show – a podcast. My first guest was Gina Kinkade, the owner of Naughty Nights Press. I was scared to death! I had written down far too many questions for the half hour show, but I like to be prepared. I had a glass of champagne before the show and one during so I could stay calm. Gina was more scared than I was since I don't think she'd been on the radio before. Now, she's a regular on Marsha Casper Cook's A Good Story Is A Good Story, with others in the Naughty Nights Press crew. My most recent show on The Women Show was with some writers from Broad Universe, a networking group for women who write speculative fiction. I'm a member.


I got my start with Marsha as co-host, and I enjoyed myself. Her shows last an hour or more, and she has multiple guests talking under a common theme. Those themes include romance, erotica, horror, writing in general, screenplay writing, young adult, and numerous other writing-related topics. Marsha was and still is a great influence and teacher. I learned how to chat up guests to keep them talking. I ask questions that require detailed answers rather than a simple "yes" or "no". I've never had a guest clam up on me, even the ones who were nervous. Most of my guests have been on the radio before, including well-known and talented horror writer Jack Ketchum and fantastic mojo storyteller Joe R. Lansdale. I've also had Trent Zelazny as a guest several times. For the fantasy lovers reading, he is the son of award-winning fantasy writer Roger Zelazny, of the Chronicles of Amber fame.

I also talk about my own writings on theses shows. Sometimes we do readings, which is great since I get to introduce my listeners to my own work. I've read both horror and erotic fiction live on the air. These readings are great practice for longer readings in public places like bookstores and conventions. Radio is an unusual way to get writing exposure. As I gain listeners, more people hear about my books and buy them. I do need to talk about my own works more often so that my listeners know I'm more than a radio host. I need them to know I also write and they may buy my books. My problem is I focus so much on my guests I forget to hawk myself.

How did I become interested in radio? Well, it fell in my lap when I met Marsha, and she asked me to co-host. I was delighted. A bit scared, but delighted. I had also read an erotic memoir years ago called Wetlands, by Charlotte Roche. The book received the usual type of criticism an erotic memoir gets. From Wikipedia: "For supporters it is an erotic literary novel; for critics it is cleverly marketed shock fiction bordering on pornography with a previously exhibited habit of the author of offense for the sake of offense." Roche was a presenter on Viva (a German equivalent of MTV) in the mid-'90s, and she had developed quite a following. So when her book came out, it sold well. It was picked up by a U. S. publisher and it did well in the States. Now, I understand a movie based on the book is coming out soon. I will definitely see it. So, using other forms of media aside of the Internet can help you develop a following in order to sell books. Being a guest gives you exposure. Being a host does the same thing.

I appear on The Women Show once per month. I appear pretty much at will on Blog Talk Radio when I have a show idea to pitch to Marsha. I am indebted to her and to Bennet Pomerantz, the producer of The Women Show.


Want to listen to some shows? Pick any one of mine from Blog Talk Radio. Here is an archive of my past shows – Elizabeth Black on Blog Talk Radio.

Below is a list of some of my favorite shows.

Madeleine Shade – Erotic Fairy Tales

Madeleine Shade, Dellani Oakes, Melissa Kier – Erotic Romance (with host Marsha Casper Cook and me a co-host)

Valentine's Day – Elizabeth Black (me), Melissa Keir, Lindsay Downs, Bernard Foong, Walter J. Bissett, and William Maltese. (with host Marsha Casper Cook and me as co-host)

Broad Universe – Terri Bruce, Morven Westfield, and Trisha Wooldridge. BU is a networking group for women who write speculative fiction. I'm a member.

Trent Zelazny – noir, crime, horror, and dark fiction writer

Joe R. Lansdale – mojo storyteller and author of the Hap and Leonard books. These books were recently turned into a TV series on Sundance.

Jack Ketchum – horror writer, author of The Girl Next Door.




Sunday, April 24, 2016

Erotic Lure Newsletter: April 2016

Dear Lubricious Lechers,

I'll bet you thought I'd forgotten you. The latest edition of the Erotica Readers & Writers Association website has been live since the start of April, but not a peep from Lisabet?

A million pardons. I was occupied with my annual slave refresher course and retreat, two weeks of kinky re-education required by my Master each year. That means two weeks away from computers and the Internet. (Try it some time!) Anyway, I'm back now, honed and horny, eager to give you what you've been waiting for.

A tour of the current site, I mean. We can talk about the other stuff later.

Let's begin in the Gallery, where we have stories and chapters from a stellar half-dozen authors who truly merit the label "awesome". BDSM, science fiction, lesbian lust, magickal connections, taboo sex--sample their tales and you'll find a bit of everything. Meanwhile, the plentiful selections from our ERWA Storytime list play with forbidden desires, sly humor and erotic horror.


Indulge in literary lust:

Summer's coming--time to stock up on reading material for those long, hot days ahead. Our Books for Sensual Readers section has something for every taste. Check out the SPRING FEVER erotic super bundle, thirteen exciting, passionate tales of the season. Over 100,000 words--that will fill up a lot of days at the beach! Looking for a steamy novel? Consider the outrageously filthy HUNG: A FORBIDDEN ROMANCE by Aya Fukinishi. Go and get your favorite toy; it's time. Or try MIDNIGHT MIRROR by Delores Swallows, a tale of extremes and obsession in a digital world where it's all to easy to make fantasies real. I recommend THE GAZILLIONAIRE & THE VIRGIN, my genre-busting BDSM erotic romance that will turn all your expectations on their heads, and I'm definitely drawn to Delilah Devlin's clever and unconventional vampire tale FRANNIE AND THE PRIVATE DICK. Lovers of gay erotic fiction should snap up a copy of L.M. Someron's STROKE RATE, a M/M romance set against the background of competitive rowing. In the lesbian section, BOMBSHELLS AND BITCHES, edited Kathleen Warnock and Lea Delaria, caught my eye, as well as Sacchi Green's BEST LESBIAN EROTICA 2016 volume. I know from experience that I'll like anything Sacchi edits.

You might also want to take a virtual stroll through the Vintage and Classic Erotica section, where you'll find (among many other titles) THE EMBROIDERED COUCH, a new translation of a 17th century Chinese novel banned in China. We've got lots of sexy non-fiction, too. I've put Dr. Sharon Moalam's HOW SEX WORKS on my TBR list. Yeah, I do have a lot of first hand experience, but I figure I should bone up (so to speak) on the theory!

All these volumes and many more can be yours with a few clicks. Remember that every purchase you make via our affiliate links helps to support the ERWA tradition--twenty years of original, high-quality, free smut!


Mix the joy of reading with the joy of sex:

What about those of us who write all those books? Authors, we salute you! Visit our Authors Resources pages for tons of information about publishing opportunities, as well as a rich archive of articles on the business and craft of writing. Recent listings include the Silence is Golden anthology from Sexy Little Pages; Blood in the Rain, a vampire anthology; and Best Lesbian Erotica 2017 edited by award-winner D.L. King. In addition to specific calls, we provide submission guidelines for dozens of publishers, magazines and websites that will pay for YOUR erotic work.


Looking to publish your sexy stories? Start here:

Are you more visually oriented? Meet me in the newly reorganized Adult Movies section. We've got the down-and-dirty on porn for women, porn for couples, porn with a plot, whatever floats your boat. I zeroed in on "The Doll Underground", directed by Eon McKai, a wild tale of female revolutionaries. Then there's "Compulsion", erotic comedy featuring Randy Spears and Carmen Hart as a couple who meet at a support group for survivors of mountain lion attacks (really!). Brad Armstrong is one of my favorite directors; I've bookmarked his classic "Eternity", a lavish production with fantastic costumes as well as delicious bodies. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Whatever your porn preferences, we've got you covered. (Or should that be uncovered?) We've teamed up with the very best purveyors of adult video to provide you with near-instant gratification, too. Just use our affiliate links to buy whatever films tickle your fancy.


For the voyeur in us all:

What goes better with a smutty film than a sexy toy? As usual, Sex Toy Scuttlebutt showcases the latest and greatest erotic implements, including the Wireless Vibrating Thong for men, and the We Vibe 4 Plus couples vibrator. The latter includes a mobile app (yes, you read that correctly) that allows remote control of the vibe from anywhere on earth. What a brave new world we live in!

You could live without toys. But why should you?
http://erotica-readers.com/ERA/ST/Sex_Toy_Playground.htm

Inside the Erotic Mind, you'll find a sincere and sexy discussion of relationships involving a significant age difference. Opinions vary, but many contributors to this month's forum describe positive experiences with lovers ten to twenty years older or younger. Want to share your own thoughts? Just click on the Participate link.


There are no limits inside the erotic mind:
http://erotica-readers.com/ERA/ITEM/Inside_The_Erotic_Mind.htm

Speaking of limits, I have to go meet my Dom for an annual review of our contract. I'll leave you to explore on your own--there's lots more sexy goodness for your to discover.

Until the next edition of ERWA, in July, I remain...

Lasciviously yours,
Lisabet


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Learning to Say Yes

By Lisabet Sarai


I still remember what I wore that night. It must have been summer, between my junior and senior years in high school. My dropped waist dress was light cotton, a rusty red with white polka dots. A line of buttons matching the dots ran from the neckline to the hem.

My boyfriend's parents were out of town. Looking back, I wonder that my mother didn't object to my being in his house, alone with him and his friendly Doberman, but perhaps she didn't know. I wasn't the rebellious type. I would not have deliberately lied. Maybe I didn't realize P. and I would end up there in his bedroom, after going out for a bite to eat in his VW Beetle. I can't recall.

We were sprawled on his bed making out (do kids today still use that term?), hot, wet, desperate kisses with lots of tongue. His hands wandered over my back and then, tentatively, cupped my breasts through my dress. "Take it off," he murmured, amazed, I'm sure, at his own daring.

"I can't..." I began. I knew that society required me to keep my clothes on when I was with a boy. I was well aware that girls who gave in to boys' requests would inevitably acquire a "bad reputation". Back then, even letting a guy get to second base (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baseball_metaphors_for_sex) would certainly result in whispered gossip and possibly in public taunts. Strictly speaking I wasn't a virgin, but my single sexual interlude hadn't taught me much. I was as awkward and confused as any sixteen year old.

P. kissed me harder, but he didn't press the issue. I was the one who wanted more. I wanted to remove my dress, to feel his hands on my skin. Resentment filled me. It seemed so unfair that society should forbid what felt so wonderful.

Then it hit me, quite literally like a bolt of lightning. I gasped. P. broke our embrace, afraid he'd somehow hurt me.

I didn't have to say no, just because other people insisted I should. I was free to say yes. I was dying to be closer to the guy I loved. Was that wrong? I understood that I'd have to accept any consequences, but seriously, was there a good reason why I shouldn't do as he asked?

"Wait," I told him. I stood up and started to unfasten my dress, one button at a time.

I wasn't deliberately trying to be seductive, but I felt the heat of P.'s stare as, button by button, I exposed my plain white bra and panties. I felt light-headed, jubilant, powerful. And free.

I don't think I knew the word "lust" back then. Certainly I didn't have enough experience to recognize it when I felt it. I saw my own excitement mirrored in P.'s face, along with a touching gratitude. He seemed quite astonished that I was trusting him.

I lay back down on his bed, clad in my underwear, more fevered and needy than ever. We didn't push things much further that night. It was almost as though the step I'd taken was enough for us, for a while at least.

Looking back now, I see that high school epiphany as a first step toward defining my own personal philosophy of sex. Why should I refuse pleasure just because someone else thinks it's not proper? Since that evening, I've said yes to many sexual adventures, and enjoyed almost all of them.

Of course, that was a golden time, after the invention of the Pill and before the discovery of AIDS. Sexual freedom had few if any restrictions. The Morality Police didn't yet have much influence. The boundaries between love and lust were deliciously fluid.

I learned something fundamental, back there in high school, not just about sex but about life in general. You can't allow others to make your decisions for you. Don't listen when someone tells you that you're not allowed to pursue your dream. Weigh the consequences and risks for yourself, but then don't be afraid to say yes, if that's what your heart tells you.

We all have more freedom than we realize. We just need to claim it, to make it our own.

This insight applies to writing, too. Say yes to your passion, to whatever moves you. Don't worry about other people's opinions. When an idea taps you on the shoulder, whispering dirty suggestions in your ear - when you get the urge to create something completely outrageous - when you're oh so tempted to break out of your literary bonds, but afraid of what "the market" will think - say yes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

ScAmazon 2 - Mammoth Consequences: The Digital Sweatshop


Today, I saw a video from Dave Koziel on YouTube. He apparently felt it necessary to explain to his viewers that his methods weren't really "scammy" and why he, himself, is not really a scammer. Watch the video for yourself. (I don't recommend eating anything beforehand, though, if you have a tendency to get queasy...)


You see, Koziel admits he's not a writer but more of an internet marketer who hired ghostwriters to write his hundreds (literally, hundreds) of 8,000-10,000 word "books." He would then publish those books under pen names on Amazon. In KU 1.0, those 8-10K books would yield $1.30-ish a borrow. After KU 2.0, Dave clearly found himself with an abundance of short books that paid about half-a-penny per-page-read. So about $0.40-$0.50. That's quite a pay cut.

Then Dave realized, if he bundled all his books together (and, you know, published them under different titles, changing up that order with every new title) he'd get paid more and could maximize his "Kindle real estate" so to speak. In fact, he discovered, if he got his reader(s) to click to the end of that mass of titles, even if they didn't read them, he'd get paid for a full read!

This is particularly interesting to me because, as I revealed in a previous post, a representative at Amazon had directly told me, at the very beginning of KU 2.0, that "skipping to the end of a book" would not result in a full read. Dave Koziel, on the other hand, says that Amazon directly told him that yes, skipping to the end of a book does result in a full read, and that they somehow planned this by design.

So, Amazon - which is it?

Clearly, the evidence shows us that skipping to the end of a book does, indeed, result in a full read. We now have conflicting reports about whether or not that was intentional, or even known, by Amazon.

Dave Koziel took it upon himself to put a call out to his readers at the beginning of his books, asking them to click to the end if they wanted him to get paid for all his hard work (or in his case, his ghostwriters' hard work and his cash outlay...) He explained to them that Amazon had started paying authors by the page read, and in order to get fully paid, they had to skip to the end.

What reader, who picked up a book because they liked the cover/blurb enough to borrow it, wouldn't click to the end after that plea?

Koziel claims he was just being honest with his readers. And his scam wasn't a scam, or even a loophole - that Amazon told him they'd designed the system this way on purpose. I don't know if that's true or not. I do know that Koziel and the others he taught his "system" to clearly had some ethically questionable morals, but they weren't technically doing anything against Amazon's TOS. As with the short "scamphlets" (making books so short, just opening them would get a reader to 10% and count as a $1.30-ish borrow, no matter what content was inside) this "loophole" was built into Amazon's system.

The shocking thing, to me, was that Amazon decided to pay authors by "pages read," when in fact, they couldn't actually count those pages. They threw out a communal pot of money to the authors and like some literary Hunger Games, we were forced to fight over it. And the thing is - the game was rigged. Not just Amazon's algorithms that favor their own imprints (they do) or Amazon giving authors sweetheart deals in Kindle Unlimited.

No, this game was rigged by Amazon's own design. In the first version of Kindle Unlimited, they created a perfect storm where erotica authors (who already wrote short) could get $1.30-ish per borrow for a 5000 word story. This made authors of 100,000 word novels mad--and allowed
scammers internet marketers like Dave Koziel to create scamphlets--so Amazon closed that loophole. But it turns out, Amazon had "fixed" the loophole in Krap Unlimited 1.0 only to create an even bigger one in Krap Unlimited 2.0.

So the game's still rigged.

David Gaughran and Phoenix Sullivan recently pointed out how many of these scammers have taken courses like Koziel's and run amok with them, adding even scammier ideas along the way to the mix. These scammers are using giant click-farms to drive their books up in rank on the free charts (and Kindle Unlimited subscribers can still borrow books while they're free).

They're stuffing their titles full of keywords (a practice Amazon cracked down on years ago and have since let run rampant again) even going so far as to put keywords at the beginning of each title so they'll appear high in the search rank. (This has made it nearly impossible to find anything on Amazon - they've effectively broken Amazon's amazing search engine.)

While many authors have learned that adding a "bonus book" at the end of their titles can increase pages read (a bird book in the hand, and all that) and actually add value for readers - scammers have taken it upon themselves to add thousands and thousands of pages of "bonus" content. Sometimes they just put all their ghostwritten books in to increase that page count to 3000. Or they translate those books with Google Translate into twenty different languages and put those at the back. Some are even so bold as to just put gobbeldygook culled from the internet with a link at the front with an incentive (win a Kindle Fire!) to skip to the end.

They're also putting their books into as many categories as possible (most of them unrelated to the actual content) and sometimes aping the looks of covers, titles and even author names, to appear high in searches for popular books.

So... why isn't every author out there doing this? Well, the reality is, some of them are. They've found out about the loophole and have jumped on the bandwagon because... if you can't beat them, join them? After all, the loophole is still open. Amazon has done nothing to close it. Skipping to the end of a book still results as a full read, right this very minute. Amazon recently capped the amount of pages read per book at 3000. They have also now disallowed (sort of... in certain cases... about what you'd expect?) putting the table of contents at the back of a book.

Of course, none of that has actually fixed the problem. And that is ALL the action they've taken. That's it. They still have a loophole big enough to drive a $100,000 a month Mack truck through!
As Phoenix Sullivan pointed out: "How many ethical authors are feeling pressured into adopting black hat techniques seeing how many black hatters are making bank on them with seeming impunity? Some days even I’m tempted to grab a few EINs and a handful of throwaway email accounts, put on a black hat and go to town. I understand the system—all I need is one good month to game it…"

Authors learned very quickly that Amazon is where the real money is. Amazon allowed self-publishing stars like Joe Konrath, Amanda Hocking, and Hugh Howey to rise to the top after being rejected by the gatekeepers or legacy/traditional publishing, to make thousands, hundreds of thousands, from their work.

When self publishing first became a thing, everyone claimed that with no gatekeepers there was going to be a "ton of crap flooding the market!" Oh noez! Of course, what they meant was a "ton of crap writing" from authors who couldn't write up to legacy standards.

I don't think anyone thought, "from hundreds of ghostwriters paid by internet marketers!"

Forget devaluing our work by offering it for $0.99 or free. Forget devaluing "literature" by allowing self-published authors to publish directly to readers. That wasn't the "race to the bottom" everyone worried about. THIS is the true race to the bottom.

Dave Koziel claimed he wasn't doing anything wrong. He says he's not a scammer (even though he admits he's not really a writer.) He's a self-proclaimed "internet marketer," just looking to make a buck on the internet. Nothing wrong with that, is there?

Actually, there is.

Koziel is just one example of his kind. (In fact, he teaches and sells internet courses to others who want to copy what he's done.) And if Koziel alone has hundreds of ghostwritten books, and they're not plagiarized or written like a third grader (two things he claims in his video...) then the reality is, he's accumulated material at a rate that no reasonable writer could accomplish. Only a few outliers (Amanda Lee, I'm looking at you, girl! :P ) can reasonably write 10K a day without burning out. But Koziel can hire 10 ghostwriters a day. 100 a week, if he wanted to. He can mass-produce titles at will.

Granted, the system itself is the problem when everyone is vying for a piece of the same pie. The more scammy you get, the more money you make. Yay you! But as the system starts to erode, and more and more mercenary types get on board, the further things collapse. While there's nothing inherently wrong with hiring a ghostwriter (Patterson does it all the time in the legacy world - and no one cares) there's a problem when people start taking advantage of ghostwriters and working it all like a "system."

If you pay a ghostwriter well, and that ghostwriter does a good job, that's a legitimate business transaction. But most (if not all) of these odesk-type ghostwriters are undercharging (that hurts legitimate ghostwriters) because they're overseas (there's outsourcing again) and IMers can (and do) take advantage of that. There's a difference between an author who has a story to tell who hires a ghostwriter (either because they don't have time to write it, or because they don't have the skills) and an IMer who gives an army of ghostwriters the trope-du-jour and says, "write me as many stories as possible."

These guys may hire click farms, as Gaughran and Sullivan noted - but guys like this are also getting legitimate readers and building a following. (They talk a lot about building mailing lists so they can accumulate a way to sell all their scammy internet marketing things, not just books...) So what's wrong with what he does? Clearly he doesn't see anything wrong with it. But there is something wrong with it. I call it the Jurassic Park problem. Remember Jeff Goldblum's speech to Hammond about cloning dinosaurs? When Hammond asked (like this guy Koziel) what's wrong with what he's done?

"I'll tell you what's wrong with it - it didn't require any discipline to acquire it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn't earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don't take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you're selling it. Well... you were so preoccupied with whether or not you could, you didn't stop to think if you should..."

Since Koziel likes YouTube videos so much - here's one he and all of his minions should watch:


The problem is now we really are competing for readers with this guy. It's like the outsourcing to other countries that corporations do to trim margins in any business - it's a slippery slope. And now what do we have? A digital sweat shop environment. Writers terrified of falling off a 30-day cliff, utilizing voice software like Dragon to keep up and write as many words as possible as fast as they can, creating shared pen names to try to get a foothold in a flooded market.

It's hard enough to gain visibility on Amazon these days, when there are plenty of excellent, legitimate writers out there putting out some great books. Because the reality of the gatekeepers was not that there was too much "garbage" out there to publish - the reality was always that there was never enough room at their table. There was plenty of stuff leftover that just went to waste - that's the stuff that writers can now self-publish, now that the traditional gatekeepers are gone. And much of it is great stuff - books readers prove, with their buying dollars - they actually want to read.

Today, self-publishing authors don't have to worry about getting past the gatekeepers. But they have to compete with internet marketers who see Kindle as a "business opportunity" and who are using it, solely, to make money. We're competing with someone who can scam Amazon's system (which, admittedly, is Amazon's fault - they've made it "scammable") and they've proven with hard numbers that they can take upwards of $100,000 or more a month out of the pot.

There are people in the world whose ethics are very fluid. Who think, "Why shouldn't I take advantage of this giant money-making loophole?" And when those people don't stop to think if they should, just because they can, and they decide to take advantage... there are plenty of people who come afterward who feel like they have to, as well - just to level the playing field.

How can a "real author" (as opposed to a scammer internet marketer) compete in a self-publishing world where scammers internet marketers can buy and publish hundreds of titles at a time? Where they can make enough money scamming publishing their deluge of titles to spend those ill-gotten gains on Amazon marketing (Dave Koziel says he was paying Amazon to market his "books") and Facebook ads, outspending legitimate authors by thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands?

Who can compete with that? Unless an author is going to throw up their hands and decide (a temptation that Phoenix Sullivan so eloquently expressed above) "The hell with it, if I can't beat them, I might as well join them!" how is that author going to have a chance?

In his video, Koziel says he can see why authors might be angry at him... but I don't think he really does see. He feels he's simply taking advantage of a legitimate business opportunity. Like most internet marketers, he's looking at the short-term gain, and not paying attention to the long-term consequences. Or any consequences at all.

Granted, Amazon created this monster. All of these loopholes, from the scamphlets in KU 1.0 to today's garbage-stuffed tomes in KU 2.0, could have been prevented with a little forethought on Amazon's part. I told them this was a risk when they decided to change to paying by pages-read and they either a) lied to me, knowing readers could skip to the end for a full-read or b) they actually didn't know that skipping to the end would result in a full-read. I'm not sure which is worse.

But if Amazon hadn't started down this road to begin with, most of these scammers "internet marketers" wouldn't have gained a foothold in the first place. Now they're like sharks circling in bloody waters, and they're not about to leave, unless someone cleans up this mess. And even if Amazon takes action, KDP and self-publishing is now a hunting ground they're not likely to give up any time soon.

Even if Amazon cleaned up the waters tomorrow, these scammers internet marketers would continue to work the system, looking for ways to game it. Like the raptors in Jurassic Park--they have no ethical dilemmas whatsoever--they'll continue to test the fences for weaknesses.

As Koziel's video goes to show. These internet marketers will say and do anything to make money in the system. They haven't paid their dues. Goldblum's argument applies categorically - no discipline was required to obtain it, so they take no responsibility for it. Because they're not writers, because they don't care about the craft, telling a story, supplying a reader with real value and creating a real relationship between author and reader (rather, they just want to collect mailing list subscribers so they can spam them...) They remove themselves from the "system" they are gaming, and see it as just that - a system to game.

To them, it is a game. And thanks to Amazon's lackadaisical attitude, they're winning.

It's readers and real authors who are losing. Because of the crap (real crap - now we know what it looks like) flooding Amazon's virtual shelves, because of the keyword-stuffed or deceptive titles muddying up the search waters, real authors and readers are the ones who lose in this game. Readers can't find what they want to read (I know, as a reader, I can't find anything on Amazon anymore in the Kindle store, because of the keyword stuffed crap) and authors can't compete with scammers internet marketers who could care less who they hurt with their scams.

They do hurt people. Real people. Because KDP Select is paid out of a communal pot, there is a finite number that decreases when scammers internet marketers decide to make "books" their "business." Except they're not writers, and they don't really care about books. Or readers. Or the self-publishing community. Their idea of "paying it forward" is to monetize their scams "knowledge of the system" and sell it to others so they, too, can be scammers internet marketers.

Not once do they talk about craft--about plots and voice and point of view. Those are pesky details they outsource to someone else. They're not even providing outlines - just pointing to the best-selling trope of the hour (what is it this month? is it shifters? billionaires? navy seal shifter billionaires?) and letting the ghostwriters do all the heavy lifting. While they sit back, package and re-package the "work," publish and republish titles (sometimes dozens of times - and Amazon doesn't care) with new ASINs when they drop too far in rank (to gain those extra five free days in KDP Select) and find any possible way to scam internet market themselves as high of a paycheck as they can manage for the month.

Never once thinking about or caring about the authors who are writing real stories, for real readers, who can't humanly produce on the mass level in the digital sweatshop environment these scammers internet marketers have created - where Amazon has allowed them to flourish. This is where we all work now, thanks to the scammers internet marketers.

Thanks to Amazon.

I hope Dave Koziel meant it when he said he could understand why authors were angry with him - perhaps his video is proof that maybe, just maybe, he's growing the seed of a conscience. Maybe he's finally thinking, albeit a little too late, whether or not he should do something, instead of focusing on whether or not he can. 

But I don't live in a fantasy world. I know Dave Koziel and those like him are just doing what they do. They've found a lucrative hunting ground, and they're going to continue doing what they do (while occasionally justifying or spinning it in a YouTube video) until they can't do it anymore.

In the meantime, authors and readers continue to lose - and their trust in Amazon wanes.

Selena Kitt

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Sexy Snippet Day for April



Written anything hot lately?

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.

Please post excerpts only from published work (or work that is free for download), not works in progress. The goal, after all, is to titillate your readers and seduce them into buying your books!

Feel free to share this with erotic author friends. It's an open invitation!


Of course I expect you to follow the rules. One snippet per author, please. If your excerpt is more than 200 words or includes more than one link, I'll remove your comment and prohibit you from participating in further Sexy Snippet days. I'll say no more!

After you've posted your snippet, feel free to share the post as a whole to Facebook, Twitter, or wherever else you think your readers hang out.

Enjoy!

~ Lisabet

Monday, April 18, 2016

Oral Sex in the 1920s? Tijuana Bibles and the Timeless Erotic Imagination




by Donna George Storey

My research for my historical novel continues and, to my delight, so do the discoveries of past erotic treasures. This month, I want to pay tribute to "eight-pagers," pornographic comics that were small and thin enough to tuck in a man's wallet. Eight-pagers were most popular in the 1920s and 1930s and were sold under the counter for 25 cents in barrooms, bowling alleys, tobacco shops, barber shops and burlesque houses--more or less the same places that sold condoms on the sly. The quality and quantity diminished during WWII due to paper rationing. Later known as "Tijuana bibles," due to a rumor they were smuggled over the Mexican border, these pocket porn comics were fated to be displaced in the post-war period by men's magazines like Playboy.

Thanks to the Internet and faithful collectors, we do not need to jump in our time machines and hurry over to the tobacco shop in male drag, quarters jangling in our pockets, to get a glimpse at the sexual fantasies men consumed nearly a century ago. An impressive collection of eight-pagers can be found at tijuanabibles.org, but the quality of the scans is not optimal. A more readable, if limited, selection is available at www.tijuana-bibles.com.

Be forewarned that eight-pagers reflect the racism and anti-Semitism of their time. "A Sailor Finds Out If It's True About Chinese Girls" being a sterling example of the former--although I have read articles by contemporary Asian American women who sadly affirm that jokes about the orientation of their genitals are still heard today. Certainly the portrayal of female sexuality in the pornographic context has changed little in ninety years. "The Real Silk Hosiery Salesman" by one of the best eight-pager illustrators, Mr. Prolific, is the one I'd recommend for a not-too-distasteful dip into the sensibility of the eight-pager.

Granted this particular comic is richer in story than most of them. We get three full pages of build-up before the signature over-sized erection appears. And at least the two ladies are given a half-believable motive for seducing the traveling salesman--a fairly common character who inevitably encounters bored housewives interested in more than a Fuller brush. Even more popular were comic characters such as Blondie and Dagwood and Dick Tracy. No doubt it gave viewers an extra frisson of pleasure to see familiar wife-next-door Blondie engage in illicit sexual acts with the plumber.

Although my research has already shown me in abundance that people in the past engaged in and enjoyed sex (see "When Sex Was Invented" for more evidence), I was still a wee bit surprised at how easily the couples turned to oral sex of all varieties and at least mention of anal sex, usually in a protest from the woman that the man is trying the wrong hole. Aren't these "advanced" acts now so prevalent in our pornography signs of modern degeneration, whereas our grandparents certainly only did it missionary style in the dark, with no pleasure for the woman ever? Not so in eight-pagers, whether a lot of the fun is wishful thinking or not. Women do have orgasms and always come around to enjoy it. Perhaps it is the huge Japanese shunga-style erections that do the trick (I do wonder if the eight-pager artists were influenced by Japanese erotic comics). Only poor Jimmy Durante has to make up for the more ordinary scale of his member with his generously proportioned nose in one of the few examples I read that dealt with sexual shame.

Although erotic images of all sorts are now available easily and in an abundance unimaginable to the men of the 1920s who first gazed on these little booklets, they do remind us that sexual curiosity and the erotic spirit have always been part of the human experience, no matter how much the authorities try to suppress them. As erotic writers, we are part of that grand tradition. We can add our voices and our vision, our fantasies and our desires so that perhaps, ninety years in the future, we can reach across time and show our descendants how much has changed but how much more is really just the same.

Write on!

Friday, April 15, 2016

On Planning a BDSM Scene

You know how on Project Runway, when the contestants are creating a collection, they keep being urged to make it cohesive? Cohesion is a big part of how they envision each piece of the collection being connected and part of a whole. So it doesn’t feel disjointed. So you get a clear sense of who the designer is. So you know who they are making clothes for.

As a top, when I’m planning a BDSM scene, I’m attempting to create a similar kind of cohesion. I want the play to feel connected, not like a series of disjointed activities. I want the play to be an expression of who I am as a top. I want the play to be specific to the bottom, and specific to this particular moment with the bottom. It needs to be about both (or all) of us.

It can be easy to be caught up in a clever idea, or a particular goal, or want to use all the tools available, or have a clear arc in mind. But goal focused or highly scripted play often prevents us from being in the moment and present with ourselves and those we are playing with. So I try not to overplan. I want to leave plenty of room to respond in the moment. When I’m teaching BDSM, I often tell folks: 
Let your intention float alongside or in front of you. Grasping for it may sink you.

So, I generally lean towards a loose plan, instead of a script or concrete goals. I’ve built scenes on a few tools I want to focus on. I’ve created scenes based on the emotions I wanted to harness. I’ve planned scenes based on sensations I want to give. I’ve conceived of scenes that are based on the kind of connection I wanted to create. These are loose intentions, ones that I can let float next to me, and still really be in the moment during BDSM play, let myself be guided as much by context and the responses of my partner and my own desire right then, as I am by the intention. And even this kind of loose intention can sometimes weigh me down in the moment if I become too attached to it, so I try to enter a scene knowing that I may need to let it float away from me altogether.

Many of my erotica stories mostly consist of a scene; there may be a bit of a lead in, or sometimes a longer lead in, but often the bulk of the story is the scene. That’s where the character arc happens, that’s where the conflict occurs, that’s where I do much of my characterization. The scene is the center of the story, and it needs the sort of plan that a real life scene needs, one that is dynamic and responsive, one that allows for discovery and flow, one that isn’t too heavily scripted or goal oriented. It needs to feel cohesive, in some ways even moreso because it’s the center of a story.

I often do the bulk of planning for my stories much like I plan a scene. I get a clear sense of point of view, and who the characters are as individuals, but also their dynamics, the context for their play. I also have a loose plan, an intention for how the BDSM is going to be cohesive, deeply woven into the story as a whole. I choose the thread I am going to draw throughout the scene so that it feels whole and not disjointed. I think about the intention I am going to use for the BDSM scene, and consider: How is the intention going to illuminate internal conflict for the characters? How is the intention going to create opportunities for the reader to get to know the characters? Does the intention fit this context, this setting, and these people at this specific moment?

The intention I select for the BDSM scene gives me a path towards how to set up the scene for the reader, how to create an arc for the scene, how to build momentum in the scene. It is the thing I keep my eye on as I let the story flow, and let the scene unfold, put these characters together and watch what they do, in the moment, as they play off each other, respond to each other, engage in their play dynamic together.

Let me give you a few examples from my recent collection, Show Yourself To Me.

My story, “It’s My Job” was written with a very particular intention for the scene: leather. In particular, the bottom’s deep love for leather. This intention gave the story its structure and tone, and its beginning with a focus on gay leather traditions and the legacies of particular pieces of his Daddy’s leather. This intention made the choice of all leather toys: gloves, boots, leather sap, braided cat, quirt. This intention is what led to a long luxurious leather worship scene where the bottom licks from his Daddy’s boots all the way up his chaps to his leather jock. But it was the dynamic between the characters that drove where the story went. The repetition of the boy describing that it was his job to care for his Daddy’s leather, to stand still and take it for Daddy, all the specific things that are his job in this role that is full of worship and service, that is what led the story to its conclusion, to the center of the internal conflict of this character. I fought where this story wanted to go, because I wasn’t sure I was up to writing it that way, but it insisted, and I found I had to listen.

The plan is not in charge, it needs to be responsive in the moment, and be real to who these characters are, to what their dynamic is. Sometimes the scene builds to somewhere unexpected. Part of the point of the looseness of the plan is to allow that to happen.

I wrote “Willing” with a desire to really focus on trust and the difficulties of vulnerability and connection. It centers the internal struggle of a vampire to let himself trust this boy he meets, who seems like he might be the willing boy of his dreams. The intention of the scene was to show a dance of intimacy, where he comes close, and pulls back, repeatedly. This is what led to a dance metaphor in the descriptions of rough body play, what made the up-close nature of knife play a central part of the scene, what drove how blood sports are integrated into this story. This dance of trust helped lead to this particular moment where the top transitions from knife play to caning. This moment feels like the core of the story, revealing the ways that this scene is different for the top, has higher stakes:


Mine, I think again. And catch myself. I watch him, building on his fear, and remove my touch. There is only the knife sliding along him, forcing him to remain still. There is only the knife as silence lays on him like a blanket. I step away, moving quietly, and leave him alone. We will see how much he needs connection, how much fear I can build. We will see, I think slowly to myself, how much distance I can tolerate.

My play is usually about connection. About driving myself inside. About opening someone up to my gaze. My tools are up close and personal. Play is my source of connection, and I usually hurl into it, deep and hard.

I don’t want to show myself yet. This must be done slowly. I want to see what he can do. I want to wait before I commit myself to what I have already thought. I will come to that on my terms, in my time.

I collect my favorite canes, needing air between us. Needing the sound that whips through the air and blasts into flesh. Needing controlled, careful cruelty. Canes are a special love of mine. It takes a lot for me to risk thin sticks of wood, easily broken to form deadly weapons. Canes are about my risk, too. Their simple existence menaces. Their joy is unmatchable.

The planning makes the rest possible, creates the framework so that the story can reveal itself. The looseness of the plan lets the scene breathe, lets the characters struggle. It is that inner struggle that I love to write most.

My story “What I Need” is all about the intense desire for claiming of a trans stone butch top. It is driven by the urgency in that desire. That’s what led to the choice of first person present tense. That’s why it’s written to bring the reader up close by addressing it to “you”. That’s what drives the pace of the scene, from the start. That’s definitely what led to the choice of toys. For the most part, there are none. This is a scene built on getting up close and person, deep inside the bottom with the most intimate of tools: the top’s body. It starts with throat fucking, and breath play not with tools but with the top using hir body to cut off airflow. It continues along this vein with rough body play, and is filled with this desire to mark and to get inside, to claim through fucking and pain and culminates in blood sports. That intention around claiming shapes the story, and what is revealed in its midst is how vulnerable the top is in that desire for that level of connection. That vulnerability becomes the tender core of this story, gives it depth and struggle and reveals the POV character to the reader, a character who pushes hir own edges around how much clothing ze takes off during play.  

The plan is a path for the scene, but the scene may veer off the path. Or the path may be reveal itself to be a bit more complicated that we might have thought when we began. The plan gets me moving as a writer, helps me focus, works to create a container so that the scene, and the story, can go where they need to go.