Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Confessions of a Literary Street Walker: Tooting

(the following is part of an ongoing series of columns I did for The Erotica Readers & Writers Association on the ins and outs and ins and outs and ins and outs of writing good smut)

There are a lot of myths about being a writer: Fame, fortune, tweed coats with leather patches, million dollar advances, movie deals, publisher-sponsored book tours and so forth. Not that there aren't a few instances of these things actually being true, but for their rarity they might as well be right up there with unicorns and trolls under bridges.

For the most part these fables only turn a smile into a frown for the newly published writer, but with book tours and publicity the affect can be much more traumatic: the writer who depends only on their publisher for publicity is quickly going to find their book remaindered, their work quickly forgotten.

Certainly some publishers are very good about heralding their books - like Alyson Books, who I've worked with several times - but that still doesn't mean they're going to do all the work. It all comes down to numbers: even a great publisher has a LOT of books to sell; they simply don't have time or resources to publicize each and every one. Most of the time you're lucky that the publisher sends out a dozen or so review copies or galleys - let alone does the legwork and makes the calls to drum up interest. Getting your book published, in other words, is just part of the battle: you have to do even more work to get your work noticed.

There is a fine line in publicity, one that's way too easy to cross: one side is humility and invisibility, on the other is hyperbole and arrogance. The trick, obviously, is to try and put you and your work somewhere between the two. I wish I could say I'm good at this, but to be honest I have the same problem other writers have in regards to publicity: you don't know you've become one or the other until it's almost too late.

Publicity usually takes several forms, but what I usually do just a few - mainly because I have a full-time job and my time is limited: press releases, readings, and interviews. Press releases are simple in concept, but take some skill in creating effectively: they should be short, a page to a page in a half, be attractive to various media outlets (magazines, radio, Web sites, etc.), and give all the info they need to write up something about your book. For interviews, you can create your own - which works quite often - or ask a friend or regular interviewer to do one and send it out with your press stuff. Readings are tougher, as it usually requires quite a bit of time (research, phone calls, sending our press stuff) and the rewards are scant, but it can get your name out there - especially to bookstores that, after all, buy your books.

Speaking of books, many publishers give free copies of your book, but only so many. I always buy 30-40 copies of whatever I do and then spend about $4 each sending them off with press releases and interviews to all kinds of friends, reviews, magazines and Web sites. Yes, it is unfair that you have to buy your own books - though most publishers give you as much as a 50% discount, which is nice - but that's the facts of life. Besides, if a copy you buy gets enough publicity to sell more books then it's more than worth it.

A Web site listing your accomplishments, contact info, and reviews is also a very good idea. Try and keep it professional, lean, and easy to access (no flash or java). Don't date it unless you plan on updating it regularly (unlike me), and don't put anything up there you wouldn't want your parents to see - erotica can make a lot of media nervous and you don't want to scare them off.

As for what to say and how to avoid sounding like a self-important jerk easy, take a good look at what you've accomplished and try and present it realistically, though attractive enough for a reviewer to pick up. Try and get some nice juicy blurbs from other writers, especially those who you recognize and respect (or who sell books). In your press release, mention and quote any reviews you may have gotten (though be careful of getting permission - some don't care, others are very prickly about such things). Avoid hyperbole in describing yourself or your accomplishments - this might work in getting your name out there, but can cause problems when other writers, editors and publishers get annoyed at you calling yourself "the greatest living American writer," or some such - though if a lot of other, neutral folks have called you that then go for it. Also, try and keep your announcements down to a dull roar - or set up an email list so people at least know that it's a regular thing and not just an "I'm fantastic" email that comes in your mailing every few months, unsolicited.

Another cold hard fact about publicity is that it usually only works for books - short stories in anthology, magazines, and Web sites simply aren't impressive enough to warrant a press release. The best you can do for shorts in magazines, Web site and anthologies is volunteer yourself for readings and offer possible reviewers or interviewers for the editor.

Doing publicity always reminds me of the joke where a man is constantly entreating God to let him win the lottery. Finally, fed up, God responds: "Meet me half-way: buy a ticket." In others words, the reality of writing is that success comes to those who try, try again, try some more, and - more than anything - keep trying. The work of making your book a success doesn't stop when you finish writing it - in fact, that's often just half the battle. The rewards, luckily, are more than worth it - especially when you get your first good reviews or people actually start to know your name.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Regarding My Impostor

Thank you all so much for your interest in my terrible plight. Before I touch on now you might help me in dealing with this frightening situation let me address a few of you who have expressed doubts about the existence of this 'other' M.Christian.

True I have a fondness for pranks and hoaxes, definitely the book itself it about an individual being haunted by an imitator, sure the book is written in a style that is as good as -- if not, I have to grudgingly admit, better than -- my usual style, but believe me when I say that THIS IS NOT ME!

As for how you can help me deal with this impostor please keep a regular eye here, on my site at www.mchristian.com, as well as purchase a copy of the book so you can read for yourself how this book differs than anything I might write.

Best regards,

The REAL M.Christian

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Wonderful Gift

My new pal, Daryl Walker, who is a fantastic artist just sent me this lovely drawing of Sage Vivant and myself. Keep an eye out for Daryl and myself to be doing some very cool things in the future.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

PLAGIARISM ALERT: Me2 novel by ‘other’ M.Christian

I’m writing to inform you about a disturbing situation that has recently come up. In my ten-plus years as a professional author with more than 250+ short stories, 20 anthologies, four collections, and five published novels to my credit, I have never had someone try and impersonate me and plagiarize my work.

Until now.

Someone calling himself “M.Christian” has been publicizing a gay horror novel from Alyson Books called Me2. This person is not me, the real M.Christian, but rather someone trying to capitalize on my name and steal my identity.

Sure, the plot of Me2 sure sounds like something I would create. Agreed, the style is very close to my own. And yes, I have done a lot of good work with Alyson Books before. But Me2 is not mine, and this other “M.Christian” is not me.

Just take a look at the back cover copy. Does this sound like a novel I would write?
Do You Know Yourself?

He looks just like you. He acts exactly like you. He takes away your job. He steals your friends. He seduces your lover. Every day he becomes more and more like you, pushing you out of your life, taking away what was yours … until there’s nothing left. Where did he come from? Robot? Alien? Clone? Doppelganger? Evil twin? Long lost brother?

A shocking new view of queer identity, Me2 is a groundbreaking and wildly twisted novel that you’ll remember for a long time – no matter who you are, or who you think you may be.

This copy even goes for far as to steal my actual biography and even make fun of the fact that the author is not the real me! Here’s what he says on the back of the book:

M. Christian’s numerous stories have appeared in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, as well as in the collections Dirty Words, Speaking Parts, The Bachelor Machine, and Filthy. He is also the author of the novels, Running Dry, The Very Bloody Marys, The Painted Doll, and Brushes. Some, however, suspect that M.Christian may be more than one person. The other “M.Christian” adamantly denies this rumor.

What’s even worse is that this copycat hasn’t just managed to trick Alyson Books into publishing this novel, but he’s somehow tricked respectable authors and reviews such as Felice Picano and Michael Thomas Ford into providing blurbs for the book!

Absolutely brilliant. M.Christian explores the meaning of identity and humanity in a generic world where literally everything can be manufactured - a world frighteningly like our own.
- Lisabet Sarai, author of Incognito and Fire

M2 is a unique and always entertaining fable-novel about what exactly identity may entail and how we may or may not decide whether it's worth the price of keeping it.
- Felice Picano, author of Art & Sex in Greenwich Village

M. Christian has a delightful, marvelously twisted way with words which cause his narratives to crawl beneath your skin and fester there, making you go back for more. He writes with a strong, unique voice which is not only entertaining but also makes you think, makes you ponder the improbable. You'll think you've read this delicious, fast-paced story, but did you? Or was it you?
- Mari Adkins contributing editor, Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest

"With delicious slyness , M. Christian creates a world in which the familiar becomes sinister and the comfort of daily routine is replaced by a growing sense of dread. His modern parable lays bare the all-too-real dangers inherent in the sacrifice of individuality in the pursuit of cultural homogenization."
- Michael Thomas Ford, author of Full Circle and Changing Tides

Please, help me catch this "other" M.Christian and expose him for the plagiarist and fraud that he is. It’s important to me, as the real M.Christian, to preserve my identity and career as a writer. For updates on this fraud being perpetuated in my name, please check out my Web site at www.mchristian.com.

Luckily I have managed to get my hands on the novel itself. If you’d like to receive a copy of Me2 -- either in its final printed form or as a PDF file -- so you can see that while is this is a excellent novel full of humor, horror, suspense and all kinds of devish twists and turns it's still not a book that I would actually write, please contact me:

The REAL M.Christian
41 Sutter Street, #1012
San Francisco, CA 94194

For your reference, I’m attaching info on the impostor’s book:

Alyson Books
ISBN-10: 1555839630
ISBN-13: 978-1555839635

Thank you for your help and support regarding this frightening situation.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Almost as good as 'frequently felt'

From Frequently felt:

But it's too late to change the name of this blog [frequently felt] but Pornosec would have made a great title:

From 1984:
"She [Julia] had even (an infallible mark of good reputation) been picked out to work in Pornosec, the sub-section of the Fiction Department which turned out cheap pornography for distribution among the proles. It was nicknamed Muck House by the people who worked there, she remarked. There she remained for a year, helping to produce booklets in sealed packets with titles like Spanking Stories or One Night in a Girls' School, to be bought furtively by proletarian youths who were under the impression that they were were buying something illegal."

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Welcome to Weirdsville: The New Motor

From Meine Kleine Fabrik:

John Murray Spear and a guess at what the New Motor looked like

As promised, I’m continuing to dig through my dusty books to pull up odd-tasting tidbits of information, which is to say hard-core, certifiable, definitive, positive, and no-shit Weirdness.

And few things are as strange as the tale of the The New Motor.

1854, America, the Northeast. The time, particularly, is important. Think about it: 1854. Years before even the civil war, a time of technological innovation. No electric lights. The safety match was even a year away. No elevators. The hypodermic syringe and spinal anesthesia was either just developed (the former) or just a little ways away (the latter). So don’t even THINK of getting sick. Think coal, wool coats, the Crimean War, legal slavery, and Sir Richard Burton in Mecca and Medina.

Also John Murray Spear.

Go ahead, look him up. If you’re lucky, you might find him as a footnote, a side-thought in the spiritualist movement of the time. You know: ghosts, table-turning, trances, automatic writing, levitations ... in other words, spirits. Spear was part of that world, a medium-temperature medium. Then sometime during that coal and Crimean War year of 1854 Spear was elevated from mediocrity to the domain of the truly, magnificently ... unusual.

See in 1854 Spear was contacted by a bunch of spirits, with an “apparent mechanical turn of mind” (to quote A.J. Davis) that included the ghost of Benjamin Franklin: the Association of Electricizers, who commanded him to go forth unto this world and build The New Motor.“The Physical Savior of the race,” was how Spear described the Motor. As to its mysterious workings he said it was to be powered by “power from the magnetic store of nature, and therefore to be as independent of artificial sources of energy as was the human body.”

What the hell the New Motor looked like anyone’s guess. A clockwork Jesus? A steam-powered messiah? A rubber-band savior? A locomotive God? The fact that we haven’t the foggiest idea of what his “The Physical Savior of the race” looked like doesn’t diminish the fact that Spear and his spiritual mechanical gizmo really existed -- at least according to the eminent Lewis Spence in his An Encyclopedia of Occultism.

Slowly, Spear collected quite a little cult of followers … who did just that: Trail behind him and the New Motor, which they worshipped as a god, on tours throughout the Northeast. Eventually, this little band ended up in the lovely little town of Lynn, Massachusetts. There a certain lady received a vision of the New Motor and, while in its presence, suffered “birth pangs” for over two hours.

After this certain lady went through her “pangs” it was said that “it was averred that pulsations were apparent in the Motor”. After learning of this wonderful bit of unusual (okay, weird) history, the term “jump start” has not meant the same to me ….

I really wish this story had a better ending: like maybe Spear vanishing one day with the Motor, or that it ascended into some kind engineering nirvana, or was lost only to be discovered to our fascination and delight in some farmhouse in Connecticut. But, sadly, real like is too often stuffed with clich├ęs: I can only hope that the “outraged” citizenry of Randolph, New York, who smashed the Motor to bits, had been carrying torches.

Still, who knows? Maybe someone someday will discovered a twisted bit of spring and cylinder, a crumpled mixture of glass and copper, a wind-up collection of gears and pendulums in a old barn, at the bottom of a filled well, on a dusty shelf somewhere and, to his surprise and shock, he will notice certain ... movements ....

No, that’s not quite right. Not movement, rather: “pulsations” ….

And so maybe The New Motor of John Murray Spear will tick and tock, and live again …

High Rock Cottage, Spear's home

Here's a bit more info on Spear and the Motor, compliments of
Old Is the New New:
In 1851 or 1852, Spear and his daughter Sophronia began seeking messages from the spirit world. In 1853, they announced that Spear had become the mouthpiece for the General Assembly of Spirits, a benevolent association of departed worthies like Franklin, Jefferson, and Emmanuel Swedenborg. The Assembly of Spirits was divided into a number of committees and subcommittees: the “Educationizers,” the “Governmentizers,” the “Healthfulizers,” the “Agriculturalizers,” and so on, but it was the “Electricizers,” headed of course by Franklin, who had immediate plans for Spear.

Franklin tasked Spear with building a series of electrical inventions—a “wizard’s suit” made of minerals and batteries, an electric ship shaped like a duck (they ply the waters of Boston Harbor to this day!), and most famously, a perpetual motion machine known variously as the New Motor, the New Messiah, and the God Machine. From all this I deduce that Franklin got a little freaky in the half-century after his death. The New Messiah, which Spear constructed in Lynn, Massachusetts, was a roughly human-shaped machine, with an electric “brain,” magnetic “lungs,” and many more strange attachments. Bringing it to life involved much channeling of spiritual energy by male and female mediums “mingling into one,” and a “New Mary” going through simulated pregnancy and labor. (Spear had a string of “New Marys” as he drifted into Free Love circles, at least one of whom simulated pregnancy so well as to bear him an un-simulated son.)

Other delightful details can be found on the Fortean Times site.