Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Another New Erotic Romance Imprint


Another best-selling erotic romance author has joined Delilah Devlin , Cat Johnson and Shiloh Walker in publishing e-books under her own imprint. Melissa Schroeder is continuing her popular A Little Harmless series with Infatuation.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday Musings

New self-published writers are often advised to produce, produce, produce. The big-time SP gurus like Dean Wesley Smith, JA Kornrath, and John Locke heavily promote this idea. In some SP circles, unless you write four books a year, you're not a serious writer. Now this may just be sour grapes because I'm such a slow writer, but I think this advice is crazy. An author's economic future depends on sales, to be sure. But what are the hidden costs of factory-style creativity?

Back in the day, highly productive best-selling writers started out slowly, learning how to write, improving with every book. Stephen King, for example, first wrote short stories. Nora Roberts got her writing chops by publishing short category romances. But now there's immediate gratification through self-publishing. About 30,000 SP ebooks are uploaded to Amazon each month.

Many of self-published writers are great producers: The young man who announces the release of his very first book--part of a fantasy trilogy. A woman who has just published her eleventh romance book (in two years), which read like fanfic. A writer who is papering amazon with short stories, informing the amazon forums, "Good, bad or ugly, just get it out there. I figure I'm going to hit all sides of the market and like spaghetti on the wall, see what sticks." A young woman who aspires to write 11 books in her fiction series, and then sell licenses for writers who want to play in her universe.

A rapid publishing schedule can't improve writing skills. Writers need feedback during the process, not just after publication. And getting that feedback takes time. Beta readers, critique partners, and superb editors, can all point out flaws. With enough time between drafts, a writer can even recognize problems in her own work. Wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am style of writing is the same as working in a vacuum. Improvement is unlikely, no matter how economically appealing.

The hidden price of mass book production is author stagnation. But the ultimate cost to the self-publishing industry is more devastating. Crap books damage the reputation of SP. There are superior self-published books, but on average, they are pretty bad. With uploads increasing every month, the average quality of an SP book is going to get worse. When the novelty of the 99 cent SP ebook wears off, and everybody has a kindle or nook, readers will turn away from SP. It's a pyramid scheme. The authors who first published cheap ebooks will have reaped the financial rewards, but the newbies won't. Because readers, having been burned too many times, won't risk reading a random SP book again.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Confessions of a Plagiarist

The plagiarizer behind the spy novel Assassin of Secrets offers an excuse. In a recent essay for The Fix, Q. R. Markham claims he was addicted to stealing from other writers. It's pretty much like alcoholism, he says. Only it involves big advances and even bigger ego-gratification.

Evidently, because stealing is a disease, rather than a character flaw, an apology is unnecessary.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Worship the V

Have you seen this advertisement for Summer's Eve called Hail to the V?



The ad's take home lesson: The vagina is the cradle of life. Cleopatra was revered because she had one. Men have fought for the V, and died for the V. Women should "show it a little love" by buying Summer's Eve.

My response: Women should be honored for more than their vagina. The cradle of life would be the womb, not the V. I have some very different ideas on how to show my V "a little love". Squirting it up with a cold liquid doesn't even make the top ten.

Monday, November 7, 2011

How Not to Write a Book Blurb: Part I

A book's "cover copy" is a super important marketing tool. The blurb is a come-on, a seductive invitation to buy the book. The blurb also provides a hint of the genre, the characters, the story, and the conflict. Unfortunately, book blurbs are extremely difficult to write.

Even if the publisher employs a blurb copywriter, cover copy is still the foundation of a query letter. An author has got to learn how. Writing a great blurb is especially critical if the author is self-published or small-press pubbed. For these books the blurb serves a double purpose: readers look to the blurb to entice, and to provide evidence that the writer can actually write.

Here are three tips:

1. Don't be a carnival barker. Don't address the reader directly. Don't ask the reader a direct question, like "Have you ever wondered what would happen if..." Don't promise to take the reader on a transformative, profound journey that will change them forever. Never, ever, ever, say "You have never read anything like this before."

2. Don't provide a synopsis. A blurb is a wink and a flirt, not an entire strip tease detailing the brand name and fiber content of the clothing being removed.

3. Don't make spelling or grammar mistakes.

Here's an example of what not to do (this is taken from real blurbs, modified and embellished to protect the originals.)

There’s a brothel in Colorado posing as a retreat for writers. When a young, Australian girl by the name of Angie is trapped by Buck (the guy running it) strange things start to occur. As if Angie didn't have enough troubles in the present, events completely out of her control unfolding in the past and future are now aligning against her.

Angie and her bestfriend Pam have no idea how to get out from under Buck’s thumb; and each time something strange takes place in the house—Buck blames one of the girls and holds them responsible and they have to be disciplined. When the girls chip in and buy and give Georgina a ruby ring for her birthday because they feel bad for her because Buck broke her arm—when they return one day they discover she’s no longer there—they think Buck did something to her but aren’t sure—but days later they see the ruby ring on Buck’s girlfriend’s finger (and know for sure)—they’re infuriated and pushed to their limits and take the biggest gamble of their sad existences: they plan on killing him. Trouble is, if they fail, somebody’s going to be severely held accountable.

From the deepest reaches of the rocky mountain ranches to the fanciest jewelry stores in Denver, this realistic novel takes you on a journey through the darkest aspects of human existance to enlightenment of mankind's soul.
See also:

Why is my Book Not Selling? Crowdsourcing critique of a book's cover, blurb and first few paragraphs.

The blurb doctor is in For 25.00, this blogger will help you with your blurb.

How to Write a Book Blurb that Sells

Thursday, November 3, 2011

An Epic Achievement


Here's the latest in absurd e-book offerings. This "Epic" novel was heavily spammed on the fantasy forum on amazon, so I just had to go take a look. Epic: The Novel has splendid reviews--from fictitious entities like Booklust and Publishers Monthly. (Booklust is clever. I want a review from Booklust, too.) Epic also boasts many enthusiastic reader reviews, who may or may not be fake.

However. Epic: The Novel is 4 pages long. The author says it's a joke. Really? Then this digital scrap should be free, not $2.99.

Let's dish about the cover: Is that man vomiting on that woman's chest? Or is he a vampire? Is the woman being burned at the stake? Or are these Mayans? So does that mean the world is going to end in 2012? Only the author knows for sure. The book doesn't have a description, just spectacular reviews. I do like the moon (asteroid?), though.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Reviews and Conflict of Interest

You won't see me reviewing BDSM fiction on my blog anytime soon, because I wouldn't be objective. I'd be too tempted to write a snotty review of a book competing with mine. Especially if I didn't like it to begin with. Or maybe I'd praise a book if the writer had sensibilities similar to mine. That's not to say all writers who review books in their genre are unethical. Necessarily. But it is tough to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest.

There are plenty of reviewers who review despite conflicts of interest. These include well-regarded review bloggers who also offer editing services, and review bloggers who also sell author PR packages. Conflict of interest doesn't automatically mean unethical. Presumably a reviewer could ignore the fact that they are being paid (or have been paid, or will be paid) by that selfsame author to perform a different duty. But it is a conflict of interest, irrespective of claims of special safeguards.

Many reviewers are ethical, yet useless. They don't seem to have any standards. Amazon "Top Reviewer" Harriet Klausner is an infamous example. She reviews ten books a day, awarding most of them five stars. To be fair, in the early days of Amazon, she was a prolific, but legitimate reviewer. In the 1990s, I got the feeling she even read the books she reviewed. I doubt she reads them now. Another mass review source on amazon is Midwest Book Review. They award only five star reviews. 65,000 five stars to date. Can all 65,000 of those books really be extraordinary?

Outright scammy reviewers abound. These include the amazon "sock puppets". A sock puppet is an author who gives herself a five star review, often under a fake account. I recently read about an author who had given himself three five star reviews (out of nine reviews). The author was outed on the amazon forums, and suddenly two of the three fake five star reviews disappeared.

Reviews by family and friends are both useless and scammy. Here's a typical one:
This book is really really good. I couldnt put it down. I read it so fast cause the words just flow and I had to know what was going to happen next. Highly recommond this book. Awesome is all I can say!!! ;0)
Such reviews are pretty easy to spot because there will be a cluster of them, all posted within a few days. The reviewers will also have only reviewed that one book. Evidently no other book was as awesome!!!;0). Some authors will arrange review exchanges with other authors: if you give me a five star review, I'll give you a five star review. I consider this unethical. These reviews are often well-written, and are harder to ferret out as fake without doing some cyber-sleuthing. Fake review determination is truly a science. But if a book sells a few copies a month, yet has 51 five star reviews, you can bet the author is gaming the system.

The author who has no friends or family can always buy a fake review. Only five bucks!

See also:


Red Adept: Reviews and Editing
It's Promotion but is it Smart?
Erotic Anthology Editor also Erotic Romance Reviewer
Name that Sock Puppet Amazon Forum
Harriet Klausner Appreciation Society Blog
Midwest Book Review Talks About Amazon.com

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Love, Love, Love This Cover


Take a look at the cover of this new Harlequin Special Edition. This book is called Once Upon a Groom by Karen Rose Smith. Rip your eyes away from that tall hunk in the cowboy hat. Come on now. Just for a second, kay? Now study the woman in white. Look at her figure. This is a woman with hips! She may even have a little bit of a tummy-tum! She is clearly a non-model sized woman. Look at her blond hair. Are those brown roots?

I don't know if this cover is truly ground-breaking or not, but I am over the moon anyway.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fifty Shades of Fanfic

The publication of fan fiction in fantasy and SF is nothing new. There are zillions of Star Trek books and short story collections, for example. Such fanfic stories are published with permission of the copyright owners.

But what about underground fanfic? A striking example would be "slash" fiction. Spock and Kirk become lovers. Seven of Nine hooks up with Captain Janeway. These stories are obviously not part of the Star Trek canon. But the Trek copyright holders will put up with slash fiction because the tales are intended for private, non-commercial purposes.

Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James is an interesting example of non-canonical fanfic being published for profit. This story has its origins in Twilight fanfic. The serial novel was then Master of the Universe, and the characters were named Edward and Bella. The chapters have since been collated and edited, and the names changed. Although the Kindle version is a whopping 9.95, it's selling very well.

I haven't read the Twilight books, nor have I read Fifty Shades, so I can't comment on the originality of the characters or plot. Clearly, fanfic can be so completely removed from the original characters and universe that the base story is merely a jumping off point. It goes without saying that Stephenie Meyer hasn't given permission for EL James to play in her universe. Stephenie never will. Because Fifty Shades is BDSM erotica.

Edward, now called Christian, is not a vampire. He's not a high school kid either, but a powerful business mogul. He's also a Dominant looking for a submissive. The vampire has been supplanted by the sadist. This is a valid replacement. Blood sucking in fiction has a lot in common with BDSM: pain and pleasure are combined, and offering blood can be considered the ultimate service.

Fifty Shades, irrespective of its origins, could well introduce a whole new set of readers to BDSM fiction. One reviewer says it's "an educational introduction to BDSM literature." I hope this book does kink justice.

Monday, September 19, 2011

This is the $7,683.96 Book You've Been Looking For



The $7,683.96 dollar reference book is titled Selected Nuclear Materials and Engineering Systems (Landolt-Börnstein: Numerical Data and Functional Relationships in Science and Technology - New Series / Physical Chemistry).

This 520 page hardcover is available from amazon. (Only one left in stock. More on the way!) For $7,683.96 you get a dry compilation of phase diagrams for radioactive alloys of uranium and plutonium: see the figure above right. Such phase diagrams are probably important for making atomic bombs. Perhaps a Kindle edition would be easier to read than the 3+ pound hardback, but sadly the ebook is no longer an option. Perhaps too many folks downloaded the ebook as a joke and then returned it. Or maybe the phase diagrams weren't visible as gray on gray.

In any case, the (fake) five star reviews are hilarious. Here's one of my favorites:
Transcending Stereotypes

I know what you're thinking : crystallographic and thermodynamic data of ternary alloy systems is a such a hackneyed plot device. But Landolt-Börnstein work their magic in such a subtle and layered way that at 3am when you are reading just one more page, you suddenly realise how they have completely turned everything on its head and produced the most breathtakingly original work. Not to mention the most spellbinding.

It is a little lightweight on the intellectual side and perhaps should be included in the tweens section, but overall well worth 5 stars. I got it before the 20% discount became available and am delighted. So it really is an absolute steal right now.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What is a Strong Submissive?


I've been thinking a bit about the definition of a "strong submissive", especially when it refers to the female in a D/s relationship. The phrase seems like an oxymoron: how can a submissive be strong?

In some circles, a strong submissive means the woman is long-suffering. She puts up with all manner of indignities. She is durable only in the sense that she survives. This type of strong submissive is pretty much the same thing as a martyr. Or, in more modern terms, she is a doormat.

Another definition of strong submissive is found in the fictional world. The archetype is a cheeky chick who challenges the Dom to "break her". Although resistant at first, this spunky woman is finally convinced by the Dominant to submit. And the D/s couple has way hot sex and they live happily ever after. This is a popular and fun theme. It's not terribly realistic, though. Most men would just find a more compatible submissive.

In idealized real-life BDSM, a strong submissive is an accomplished, secure woman who acknowledges one special man is worthy of being served. She is is not submissive to the outside world, just to him. The Dominant values his extraordinary woman, and supports her continued achievements and growth. This idealized version of BDSM easily allows for feminism.

D/s couples will often romanticize their relationship, claiming that the Dominant adores having a strong submissive. It's been my experience that it's rarely true. Few Dominant men are accomplished and secure enough to value an exceptional woman--even if she cedes her authority to him.

Photo attribution: From the cover of "Gang Girl" by Wenzell Brown.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bodice Rippers vs BDSM

He mounts her with savage, tearing hands;
The girl turns white as a timid turtledove.
She screams for mother; she weeps.
As the girl is mounted, she begins to yield,
Even her fear increases her melting pleasure.

The quote above is an abridged paraphrase of a poem by Ovid, written more than two thousand years ago about the rape of the Sabine women. It could also be the synopsis of a non-consent historical.

Bodice rippers, historical non-con romances, enjoyed great popularity in the seventies and eighties. Prime examples include The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Stormfire by Christine Monson, Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers, and Whitney my Love by Judith McNaught.

The only bodice ripper I can even remember reading is Whitney my Love. I don't recall the rape, just a flogging. So I'm not an expert in the genre. However, as much as I object to contemporary non-consent stories billed as BDSM, I don't have a problem with bodice rippers. Such historicals aren't considered BDSM. The stories also take place in cultures far removed from the modern world. That means that enthralled readers are generally not going to be inspired to look for an abusive Duke on a dating site. And even if they are, where are they going to find one?

Photo attribution

Thursday, August 18, 2011

When Greed Trumps Civility: Amazon Spam Revisited

I've blogged several times about Amazon's new rules forbidding promotion outside of the "Meet our Authors" forum. But that hasn't stopped people from trying--and trying again. A few days ago, one author promoted his self-pubbed book on the Kindle forum. He was told politely to stop. Rather than apologize, and make a move to become part of the forum community, he emailed one of the women who'd advised him to stop promoting. He then posted this rant (reproduced in part) on his personal blog. Other than the stalkerish misogyny, his viewpoint is quite typical of the spurned spammer:
I strolled into Amazon this weekend to browse around... I’d unwittingly wandered into the Amazon equivalent of a pack of street thugs, roving bands of opportunists taking advantage of the faceless anonymity of the web to prey upon others. Seems I’d broken a rule by self-promoting my book in there.
...So I looked into some of their backgrounds, and found that one woman (the apparent leader who seemed to set the tone) liked to give hatchet-job book reviews. 
..
I contacted the authors on the receiving end of several of these reviews...One voiced the probability that she has a dog because she can’t keep a man around because none will have her, and this is her revenge and bitter outlet for her rage. After experiencing her and her little pack tearing away at me, that thought carries some real merit, and does seem probable, with her aptly-chosen nic “[name deleted by January]" Another author indicated that she needed to get L^!d, which I found a bit offensive – for the poor soul "saddled" with that distasteful task.

...once we step outside the invisible walls of our literary world, we are - upon occasion - going to encounter a less enlightened element. [Those unsavory few] live to create chaos - the way writers live to create art, poetry, and beauty.
Hey dude! Another name for those street thugs and "less enlightened element" is a reader.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Saturday Musings

I haven't been enjoying reading contemporary erotic romances much. When I'm reading the genre I write, my inner editor gets activated. Rather than thrilling to the story, I'm making corrections and suggestions. Writer-me screws over reader-me. Sadly, writer-me doesn't even benefit from that inner editor. The editor disappears when I read my own stuff. I just don't have the distance and objectivity to critique my own writing--unless I let a manuscript sit for several months.

I have written an outline for another erotic romance BDSM story. It's a prequel to Management Skills, concerning the owners of the Bed and Bondage. I should have that finished and submitted sometime in early 2012.

This summer I've also been working on the final edits of a science fiction romance novel to be published by Carina. (It's not erotic BDSM, so I'll be using a pen name.) SF Romance is yet another genre I can't read without editing!

I'm looking forward to school starting again. You'd think once kids got older, summer vacation wouldn't be so disruptive. Not true for me. Though the kids are more independent, there are still those summer college visits and pulling out wisdom teeth.

I've been killing time by downloading and reading Kindle samples of self-published fiction (outside of erotic and SF romance). It's truly addictive! Amazon has made it easier to find popular self-published novels through the Kindle Indie bookstore.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

New Erotic Romance Imprints




Two more best-selling erotic romance authors have joined Delilah Devlin in publishing e-books under their own imprints. Shiloh Walker released her BDSM novella Beg Me last November. In May, Cat Johnson published Educating Ansley, a cowboy menage, under her Red imprint.

The covers of these self-pubbed books are terrific. No doubt the stories are just as buffed and polished.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Exploitation of Self-published Authors

I've been seeing a disturbing trend in recent months. Traditional reviewers and agents (and even other authors) are sensing there's money to made off self-pubbed dreams of making it big.

Charging for book reviews:

Kirkus will provide a 300 word review of your self-published book for $425. Not only that, but Kirkus promises you will also: “get your book discovered and proudly wear the title, Published Author.” In capital letters, even.

Publishers Weekly will consider reviewing your self-published book for a $149 "processing" fee.


Literary agents acting as self-publishing "consultants":

The Mediashift blog describes several of these intermediary agents who will "package" your self-pubbed book for a percentage. The Bookends Agency just announced it's also jumping on the bandwagon.


And finally, an example of a self-published author exploiting other self-published authors:

An Amazon forum spam queen provides a website listing random "indy" titles. She also provides these bonuses: referrer amazon links, and listing her own books first.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sub Frenzy and Non-Con Erotica

Kitty Thomas is an author who writes fiction featuring non-consensual BDSM. She was interviewed on The Forbidden Bookshelf Blog a few months ago. I've been stewing ever since. In this blog post I’m going to respond to Kitty's interview, and discuss what’s wrong with kidnap and rape BDSM stories.

First, Kitty says:
The rape fantasy is the number-one female sexual fantasy.
The number one female sexual fantasy is to be desired, not raped. Rape and desire are not the same thing--even in fiction. It's a big leap to conclude that readers who enjoy non-con erotica actually fantasize about being raped.

Then Kitty constructs a straw man to justify writing non-con:
A lot of people don't like rape fantasy in fiction because it "sends the wrong message". But I think that's just insane. No rapist is curling up with harlequin novels, bodice rippers, and kinky erotica to "justify" being a monster.
Rapists being inspired by rape erotica is not the only possible reason for objecting to non-con. In fact, I don’t believe non-con is dangerous because it arouses men. It's dangerous because it arouses women. Here's why:

When a new submissive discovers the world of BDSM, (often through reading erotica like Kitty's), she can be overcome with excitement. She longs to experience the intense emotions in those stories. She wants more and more, and she wants it now. This vulnerable state of mind, (or lack of mind), is termed “sub frenzy”. A frenzied novice sub will take foolish risks, discarding common sense. She won’t vet who she’ll be playing with, she’ll fall for the “you aren’t a real submissive if…” and she won’t understand that it is her responsibility to insure her own safety. Frenzy, supported by fictional extreme BDSM scenarios, can lead to serious harm to the submissive.

Non-con fiction glamorizes assault and imprisonment in the same way that war stories idealize battle. The real experience is far different than the fantasy. I believe it's negligent to romanticize kidnap and rape as sensible BDSM.

Finally, Kitty asserts:
A lot of the BDSM books being written now are being written by non-kinky authors for a non-kinky audience. So, if you aren't kinky and you find my fiction uncomfortable, please, just read something else. You have plenty of fuzzy handcuffs and safewords books to read. But those of us who like non-con kink fiction have far fewer books to choose from because of all the people who decided to go on a crusade to control what people are allowed to even think about.
Offering an opinion about non-con fiction isn’t the same thing as mind control or censorship. Nobody is on a crusade; non-con authors are not being victimized. It's an opinion. And finally, writing fiction with safewords (or fuzzy handcuffs) also doesn’t wipe out the author’s kink cred. Not unless a story with condoms is proof positive that the author is a virgin.

It's about safety.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Links

Amazon Kindle Spam: Direct Publishing System Gets Gummed By Influx Of Junk eBooks

From the Huffington Post:
The wave of ebook spam crashing over the Kindle could undermine [Amazon's] push into self-publishing.
Here spam refers to crap ebooks or plagiarized content, uploaded to Amazon only to make a quick profit. According to James McQuivey, an eReader analyst at Forrester Research, the solution to the problem is a form of Amazon social networking.
If the company can let readers see book recommendations from people they know, or people whose reviews they liked in the past, that would help them track down the content they want and avoid misleading recommendations.
That sounds a whole lot like Goodreads, an existing social network for readers.

Perhaps Amazon's new enforcement of community guidelines (including deleting sock puppet reviews and spam book announcements) is phase one of Amazon's new, more valuable, social networking system.


The Real Force Behind Ebook Sales: Heaving Bosoms

FoxNews.com provides a nice collection of tired cliches about romance readers, including referencing romance fiction as "salacious chick lit". Fox has evidently just discovered romance drives the fiction market.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Hottitude of Servitude


A new book examining the imagery of the slavegirl in movies and television has just been released on Kindle. Here's a snippet of the summary:
The Hottitude of Servitude looks at every kind of slavegirl look from the baggy, shapeless tunics popular for female slavegirls of the Italian sword and sorcery movies known as peplum to the general nakedness of slavegirls in 1980s big-hair-and-bare-breasts sword and sandal movies such as Barbarian Queen and all points in between. While we're at it we'll take plenty of opportunity to snark at the movies that provide the slavegirl imagery, taking time to enjoy such phenomena as the Stupidest Civil Engineering Project in the History of Civilization (from Hercules and the Tyrants of Babylon) the Triangles of Death and the Irregular Polygons of Doom from (from Taur and the Amazon Women) Most Thoroughly Deposed King Ever (from Deathstalker) and many, many other snarkworthy products of such movies.

In addition, there will be semi-genuine contributions to film theory, in the form of the Grand Unified Cheese Theory, which is nothing less than a theory that allows filmmakers to create stories that will be appealing to audiences, even without great writing or directing skills!

So we have slavegirls ogled, hilariously bad films snarked and Grand Unified Cheese Theory, all rolled into a book that is exactly the same kind of guilty pleasure as its subject matter, but with a light patina of intellectual nattering to make it seem almost respectable.
If Hottitude of Servitude is half as clever as the description, the book is a must read!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Happy Anniversary Carina Press!

In honor of Carina's first anniversary celebration, the Carina blog is offering a grand prize of a Kobo ereader (the original model) and 12 Carina Press digital titles. All you need to do to be entered to win is comment on the Carina blog. They will ship internationally.

The Carina Press team is also doing a whirlwind blog tour on twenty Carina authors’ blogs. On each blog, leave a comment and be entered to win a download of a Carina Press book. The list of contest blogs is also listed on the Carina Press Blog.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What's with treating authors like piranha?


As I mentioned in a previous post, the amazon forums are a mess. The genre forums are swamped by promotional threads and posts. The only notable exception is the romance forum.

Amazon finally took stronger anti-spam steps this week. It has outright forbidden book promotion on the existing forums, creating a new "Meet Our Authors Forum." The promotions are now segregated from the book discussions, which I believe is a good thing.

Needless to say, the new spam directive is causing a furor, particularly among the self-published writers who relied on such promotion to let readers know about their books. The title of my blog post is a quote from one of the unhappy writers. (I suspect the author meant to say pariah, not piranha.) Hyperbole rules in the MOA forum.

The spammers are hopping mad, never considering their masterpiece is one of thousands and thousands and thousands. Rather than look for new marketing avenues (like blogs or review sites), many continue to scheme. Most notable are the "tag parties" to artificially inflate Amazon book tag inventories, or using sock puppets to recommend books on the genre forums. The tag parties may have been busted. The Kindle books don't seem to have tags anymore.

Worst of all, many of the spammers blame the readers for their banishment. The angriest of the bunch are driving away the very readers who might buy their books.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Is BDSM Really a Lifestyle?

I say no.

A lifestyle is the way you live. It's a thread that runs through every part of your life: You eat it and sleep it. A lifestyle is both an environment and a mindset.

Most people live a life, not a lifestyle. That's true for kinky folk, too. With rare exceptions, BDSM is just a way of interacting, a sensual hobby, a sexual game. But saying "we live the BDSM lifestyle," sounds hipper, more alt, more extreme, than "We enjoy BDSM activities". The expression lends extra drama to a part-time endeavor.

Indeed, the "BDSM lifestyle" phrase is generally overkill; it's also pretentious and "cooler than thou."

Nobody ever says they live a "parenting lifestyle", although life changes drastically when you become a parent.

It's time to drop the "BDSM lifestyle" expression.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Like Paper Dolls



Beautiful Trouble Publishing has found a way to circumvent the expense of creating covers. Here's hoping the stories are more individualized than the cover art.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Links

Susan's Kindle Sample Reviews: This clever new site reviews samples of bizarre Kindle romances and erotic romances. Hilarious (and a little mean). Fiction is stranger than fiction, evidently.

Why some people are so opposed to self-publishing: This blog post presents an analysis of why it makes business sense to self-publish. A summary: Percentages rule. Sales, not so much.

The meltdown resignation: What happens to an author when self-publishing math doesn't add up.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How Not to Sell Books on Amazon


The amazon forums are fascinating. Each forum has a distinct culture, and unwritten rules.

The romance forum, for example, hates author spammers. Spamming violates the TOS of the forums. The romance folk take this prohibition seriously. If a poster so much as has a link to their book in their sig line, the post will be down-voted, and the whole post will functionally disappear. The romance folk chase away the spammers, one by one, as they pop up. It's the cyber analog of torch and pitchfork. And because of that, the romance forum is lively and valuable, with genuine book recommendations and fabulous discussions.

In contrast, the related erotica and erotic romance forums are nearly barren. The threads have been completely overrun by self-published authors hawking their books. Such authors participate in the online societies only to sell, repeating their posts again and again, just as fast as Amazon deletes them.

There's been a recent reader uprising on the erotic and erotic romance forums. Spammers have been confronted. The spammers respond with entitlement (how else do I sell my book?) or counter-attacks, or even cries of being "bullied".

Someone came up with the idea to "tag" spammer-books with "spam" and "spammer". Unfortunately one of the spammers took offense at the tag war. This author electronically hunted down one of her taggers--and her family. The tagger's son was contacted by this e-mail at his job:
Subject Line: Your Wife is Sick

Message: Tell your sick wife {name deleted} that if she comes after my books with her tags again, or gets her friends too, I'll be advertising your company in a bad way all over the internet. She is affecting my income and I'll do the same back.
Sadly, this particular author is not even the worst of the vanity spammers. And likely she's not even the most insane. Amazon needs to do something about this "harmless" self-promotion.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mangement Skills Reviews

I've got snippets of a few recent reviews of Management Skills for ya!

From Over a Cuppa Tea

I think I nearly fainted when I spotted this book, Management Skills by January Rowe available for review in Netgalley. Good Lord, the title surely fooled the readers...is definitely NOT a self help book or a business related... there’s only hot, sizzling, sexy stuff inside.

From Michelle R. at The Romance Reviews
...a brief but powerful novella. The memorable characters were among my very favorites...I was so sad to set my Kindle down and bid the two goodbye.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Erotica Audio Books



There's a new audible.com advertisement on TV. A pleasant fellow in a striped shirt says he listens to business books on his morning commute to stay ahead of the game. Because Management Skills is available as a download from audible.com, I have to wonder if any business person has accidentally downloaded it.

I recently bought the Management Skills audiobook, curious. I'd never listened to a "book on tape" before. It turns out my novella is more than 3 hours long!

The audiobook narrator, Montana Chase, has a wonderful voice. Low and rich. She reads this BDSM novella extremely slowly, savoring every word. She says things like, "He jerked up her robe, exposing her lovely, rounded ass." She says this sentence oh, so slowly. She does not crack up, like I would. It's bizarre to hear an erotic phrase you once wrote being said out loud. I mean, the words actually echo in the air--you can't get away from the intimacy!

An Audible.com customer posted this review of Management Skills:
when you think of bdsm you think very hot and steamy. this is vanilla. book spent more time talking about the lighting for the clients then it did about them. too much filler and not enough steam.

I'd be crazy to argue with anyone about what is or isn't vanilla. But the "filler" comment is interesting. (I would call it plot, but that's just me.) Do you suppose erotic romance book listeners have a different expectation of the sex/plot ratio than readers?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kink Flick Review: Let Me In



Let Me In is a horror film. However, the movie’s depiction of an unusual love also makes it kink. Kinda sorta.

Owen is a boy on the cusp of adolescence. He’s a lonely voyeur, curious about sexuality, and bullied by his classmates. He befriends an odd, barefoot girl, immune to the cold. Abby tells him she’s not a girl. She isn’t. She’s an immortal who needs blood to live.

Let Me In has been interpreted by several reviewers as a vampiric take on Romeo and Juliet. I don’t. The love these two share isn't fully realized, nor will it be. However, their relationship has one critical component of love: fierce and true loyalty.

The film is extraordinary, but it isn't perfect. The bullying scenes are heavy-handed. Why, for example, are all of Owen’s twelve-year old classmates so much more physically mature? The locale and time choice are also bizarre. Why the eighties? So Boy George can sing “Do you really want to hurt me?” in the background? And why does the film take place in Los Alamos? The real town of Los Alamos could beat vampires in a battle of the weird, but in this movie, the town is just a snowy backdrop.

One of the most moving scenes occurs after Abby reveals her true nature. Owen is terrified. “Is there evil?” Owen asks his parents. Significantly, his parents don't reply.

The film doesn't answer that question, either. Let Me In offers clues about Owen’s future with Abby. The ending left me feeling ambivalent. I pondered it long after the film was over.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pigeonholing Genius

Angela James of Carina Press recently blogged about rejections, listing a bunch of reasons why Carina won't reject manuscripts. Two of them concerned genre. Angela said Carina won’t reject a manuscript because it falls in too many genres or because it falls in too “niche” a genre. Carina also won’t reject a story because it isn’t a genre that seems hot right now or because it’s in an unusual time, place or setting. If it’s a good book, the publisher will find a spot for it.

An acquaintance of mine is struggling with genre. She’s writing what I would call a military SF romance. But she refuses to call her novel SF--or even romance. Her fiction is something unique. She’s upset that publishers will expect her to categorize her story. She’s also afraid if she assigns too many genres, her manuscript will get tossed out or deleted unread. She believes publishers are too strict and formulaic. In an effort to be sympathetic, one of her friends pointed to Harlequin as a prime example of a publisher determined to pigeonhole genius.

The whole conversation annoyed me, and not just because I’m a Harlequin author. Harlequin has a ton of different imprints and series. True, each imprint or series has some basic heat-level/plotline requirements. That's so the devoted reader can be reliably satisfied. But Harlequin as a whole? The publisher has only one requirement: the story has to be a romance with a happily ever after. That’s it. And with Spice, Spice Briefs and the Carina Press imprints, that's probably not even true anymore.

Aside from the unfairness of pointing at poor Harlequin as the pinnacle of closed-mindedness, I think it’s a bad idea to indulge an author’s genre whining. The Amazon boards are full of self-published authors complaining about the rigidity of the standard publishing world. Here’s an example:
The publishers may not be able to devote the time to think creatively about marketing an unusual, genre-tangential book. But it's [sic] creator can… And now we have a world of options. [Self-publishing, I suppose]. It beats papering the walls with rejection slips from those who lack our vision.
Here’s another one:
I thought it might be of interest both to readers and to writers here at Amazon to consider the genre of "sensuous literary fiction" as a possible alternative to "Erotica." ... If you've got a book that you feels more accurately fits into this newer category, we'd love to hear about it.
Authors who use the genre excuse for rejections aren’t doing themselves any favors. Why bother getting better at writing or learning about your market if you can always claim your masterpiece wasn’t published because the publishers are idiots? I’m also bugged by authors who describe themselves as “literary”, as if “literary” is just another word for superior fiction, not a genre with strict requirements of its own.

On one of these Amazon forums, a self-described visionary suggested using “tags”, rather than genre, as a way to circumvent the indignity of assigning genre. I guess I don’t see the big difference. Tags, if they say anything about the book, are defining the genre. At most, a tag will also describe sub-genre or niche.

Self-publishing fiction doesn’t give an author a pass on having to figure out genre. "Special" or "unique" isn't nearly descriptive enough to be genre. And genre is what readers use to decide what to read.

Here are a few interesting blogs on genre:

The academician's view of the romance genre

How to determine the genres of your mutt masterpiece

Sunday, March 13, 2011

2011 EPIC Awards Announced


ARe Cafe just reported unofficial results for the 11th Annual EPIC Awards (the best in electronically published books). Of special interest are the winners in contemporary romance and erotica:

Erotica: Second Chance by Selena Kitt—eXcessica Publishing (a M/M short story)
Contemporary Erotic Romance: Safe Harbor by Tymber Dalton—Siren Publishing, Inc. (a BDSM menage novel)
Contemporary Romance: Be My Baby by Meg Benjamin—Samhain Publishing, Ltd.

Congratulations!

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's BDSM Erotica Month at the Forbidden Bookshelf

Each day this month, The Forbidden Bookshelf blog is interviewing BDSM authors. Authors include Joey Hill, Mari Carr, Eden Bradley, Annabel Joseph, and Cherise Sinclair.

These interviews reveal what drives and inspires BSDM writers. Boundaries. Difficulties. Pleasures. What annoys an author about other BDSM fiction. And way fun: the author sometimes gives a hint about their own kink cred.

Really fascinating reading!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mainstreaming BDSM

How much does a song like Rihanna's S & M help the kink community? Does her art give BDSM greater exposure--and therefore more acceptance? Or is the song nothing but glamorous sleaze wrapped up in fake relevance?

I think it's the latter. It's tough to take this song seriously. A line like "whips and chains excite me," is just plain silly. These words don't describe a relationship, just a masturbatory fantasy. The accompanying S & M video is truly awful. (It's so bad, I refuse to supply a link to it). The production is amateur, with gratuitous strobe effects, and psychedelic camera angles. Even worse, you've got a grinning Perez Hilton on a leash, lifting his leg at a fire hydrant. The rest of this repetitious mess is a collection of cliche fetish images. Rihanna's posing and gyration does not reflect anything substantial about sadomasochism or BDSM.

And it's too bad. Rihanna's Rude Boy lyrics, for example, are actually far more evocative of kink reality:
I like the way you touch me there.
I like the way you pull my hair.
I believe the song S & M is intended to court controversy in order to sell songs. There's no social awareness program going on.

Happily, there is a development in the popularization of BDSM that is significant. Colter's Daughter, an erotic romance by Maya Banks, is on the NYT e-book bestseller list. This novel has D/s themes. Yay on Maya!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Coming Soon! Management Skills


My new BDSM Romance novella, Management Skills, will be released on March 7 by Carina Press. You can pre-order the Kindle version on amazon!

Here's the blurb:

When CEO Grant Edmonds meets with his new production manager, he immediately recognizes her as Silver, an exotic dancer who once mesmerized him at an exclusive fetish club. Though he was forbidden from pursuing her back then, there's nothing standing in his way now. He's not looking for an after-hours fling—he wants to own her. In every way.

As much as Allie Fairfax tries to deny her past, and the way her body responds to Grant, she soon finds herself having mind-blowing sex with the boss. Despite her own desire to surrender to Grant's sexual authority, she's not willing to risk her career. After all, she's been owned before, and it ended badly.

It's all or nothing for Grant. If Allie wants more of the fiercest orgasms she's ever experienced, she must consent to his rules...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Gamesters of Triskelion


I've been reading an interesting discussion about the BDSM symbol on my favorite kink site. For those who aren't familiar with the emblem, it's a flowy, three-spoked yin yang type of image, often called a triskelion. Someone named Quagmyr claims he designed the logo. He says he created the emblem to allow BDSMers fearing persecution to secretly identify themselves to each other. (Because quickly jumping into the chains with a complete stranger is the true BDSM way, evidently.) Further, Quagmyr asserts that he and his friends conceived the symbol in the mid-1990s in a chat area. (I would think chat would preclude the creation of a piece of visual art.) But Quagmyr insists he copyrighted the emblem, and you'd better pay him if you want to use the symbol.

He's dead serious. According to some sources, Quagmyr extorted products (mainly jewelry) from small online businesses as payment for the use of his "copyrighted" symbol. He allegedly demanded payment for years. It appears he used the copyright scam to ensure his own BDSM-symbol jewelry monopoly.

Quagmyr directs BDSM non-profits who wish to use the symbol to publish a specific copyright notice, reproduced here:
The BDSM Emblem is copyright 1995 by Quagmyr@aol.com
who maintains the copyright in order to protect the symbol. It is
freely available for all educational and non-commercial use
within the BDSM community without charge.
Even the copyright notice is copyrighted! I'm not an intellectual property lawyer, but I believe copyrights can only be issued to people or corporations, not e-mail addresses. I suppose nobody ever told Quagmyr@aol.com that. Especially not the copyright office. I'm also wondering if one can have selective copyright. Isn't permitting non-profits to use a symbol the same as public domain?

And here's the kicker: the BDSM emblem has rich antecedents in Celtic as well as Eastern symbolism. It would be impossible to copyright something used by humanity for millennia. (The graphic above shows a scene from the original Star Trek show. A stylized, angular version of the triskelion was used as the symbol for a planet of fighting slaves.)

In the same amusing vein--and trumping Quagmyr--is this bit of news: The acronym BDSM has evidently been trademarked by Business Development University in PA. Are you interested in getting certified in BDSMTM? This year-long Certification 401 series will set you back $12,000, and is intended for
the Successful Sales Person who is looking to learn Leadership and Management skills to advance his or her career. This comprehensive program of classroom, coaching and practicum will prepare the Professional to manage and motivate Sales Teams, understand corporate dynamics and enhance their own sales techniques and process as well.
I like the part about learning leadership and management skills... and dynamics and processes.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Kink Flick Review: The Big Easy

This 1987 movie is not strictly a kink flick, but it is an erotic romance-- pretending to be a suspense.

The story takes place in New Orleans, (the "Big Easy"). The hero Remy, played by Dennis Quaid, is a half Irish-half Cajun detective. He is properly handsome and cocky. Sadly, his accent is weird and annoying, making him great to look at, but hard to listen to. His adversary, Anne, played by the gorgeous Ellen Barkin, is the the assistant DA. She's out to clean up cop corruption.

Police corruption is prevalent and ingrained. Even the good cops turn a blind eye to the "widows and orphan's fund". That casual attitude changes when a few bad cops take the criminal enterprise to a whole new level.

The NO background is delicious and engaging. (Though Ellen Barkin jogging in her short shorts in the humidity and heat seems both gratuitous and unrealistic.) The sound track is wonderful, with a nice sampling of Cajun and Zydeco.

The sexual chemistry between Anne and Remy is blisteringly hot--even when they don't actually do the deed. Their passion is palpable. Yet the seduction is slow and easy, creating a sizzling tension. Erotic movie scenes don't get better than this.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Why I Don't Write Threesome M/F/M Sex Scenes



This Geico advertisement asks, "Does it take two to tango?" I think this video is hilarious!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Long Wait: Writer's Block

Years ago, I saw a newspaper ad inviting folks to come to a "writer's support group". I went to the meeting, excited and curious. Bettye, the support group's hostess, told us the goal was to get everybody writing and publishing. Cool. I started to feel uneasy when Bettye asked us all to do some writing exercises. Why would a critique group need writing exercises? I got really concerned when Bettye announced that someday, as a special treat, she'd invite her therapist to be a guest speaker.

It turned out I was attending a "writer's block support group", not a general "writer's support group". I disengaged just as soon as I politely could.

I do get writer's block sometimes. But I wouldn't have a future in writing if I needed a therapist to fix it. In my experience, the nature of the block dissolution depends on my reason (excuse). So herewith are a few home remedies for the block. They are not therapist endorsed.

Excuse: I don't have time. I have other things I should do. I'm tired.
Solution: Set the kitchen timer for an hour or so, and write until the timer goes ding-ding.

Excuse: I don't know what's going to happen next. I'm confused. Who is my protagonist? This book is too boring for words. Who do I kill off? My plot is illogical. What is my world like?
Solution: Go get a pad of paper, lie down, and daydream without editing. Brainstorm without censor. Write down options. Read your ideas later to get fresh direction.

Excuse: My mind is blank. I'm afraid. I'm tied up like that man in The Long Wait book cover.
Solution: Bring up a nice white computer screen and start writing what's inside your head. Stream of consciousness, or observations of the world around you. Or perhaps you can update your blog?