Showing posts with label Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

TWO Columns On One Day!

Wow!  Not just one but two of my writing erotica columns just went live - how cool is that?

Over at the Erotica Readers And Writers site my piece, Thinking Outside Your Box, just went up - and on the brilliant WriteSex site my brand new essay, Meet Me Halfway, also was just posted.  Here are teases of both:



Sure, we may all want to just cuddle in our little garrets, a purring pile of fur in our laps, leather patches on our sleeves, a pipe at the ready, and do nothing but write masterpieces all day and night – with periodic breaks for binge-drinking and soon-to-be legendary sexual escapades – but the fact of the matter is that being a writer has totally, completely, changed.

I'm not just talking about the need to be a marketing genius and a publicity guru – spending, it feels too often, more time tweeting about Facebook, or Facebooking about tweeting, than actually writing – but that authors really need to be creative when it comes to not just getting the word out about their work but actually making money.

A lot of people who claim to be marketing geniuses and publicity gurus will say that talking about you and your work as loud as possible, as often as possible, is the trick ... but have you heard the joke about how to make money with marketing and PR? Punchline: get people to pay you to be a marketing genius and/or a publicity guru. In short: just screaming at the top of the tweety lungs or burying everyone under Facebook posts just won't do it.

Not that having some form of presence online isn't essential – far from it: if people can't find you, after all, then they can't buy your books. But there's a big difference between being known and making everyone run for the hills – or at least stop up their9 ears – anytime you say or do anything online.

Balance is the key: don't just talk about your books or your writing – because, honesty, very few people care about that ... even your readers – instead fine a subject that interests you and write about that as well. Give yourself some dimension, some personality, some vulnerability, something ... interesting, and not that you are not just an arrogant scream-engine of me-me-me-me. Food, travel, art, history, politics ... you pick it, but most of all have fun with it. Forced sincerity is just about as bad as incessant narcissism.

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Let’s open with a joke: a guy pleads with god over and over: “Please, Lord, let me win the lottery.” Finally, god answers: “Meet me halfway – buy a ticket!”

Back when publishers only put out – gasp – actually printed-on-paper books I was known as a writer who would give anything I did that extra mile: readings, interviews, PR events, press releases … you name it, I’d do it. To be honest, I’ve always had a small advantage in that my (unfinished) degree was in advertising and I’ve less-than-secretly really enjoyed creating all kinds of PR stuff. I’ve always felt that a good ad, or marketing plan, can be just as fun and creative as actually writing the book itself.

Sure, some of my PR stuff has gotten me (ahem) in some trouble … though I still contest that the “other” M.Christian who staged that rather infamous plagiarism claim over the novel Me2 was at fault and not me, the one-and-only; or that my claim to amputate a finger as a stunt for Finger’s Breadth was totally taken out of context…

Anyway, the fact is I’ve always looked at publishers as people to work with when it comes to trying to get the word out about my books. Sure, some publishers have been more responsive and accepting than others and, yes, I still have bruises from working with a few who couldn’t have cared less about me and my books, but in the end most of them have been extremely happy to see my excitement when one of their editions hit the shelves.

Duh, things have changed a lot since then – but in many ways things haven’t changed at all. Books are still books, even if they are now digital files and not dead trees, and bookstores are still in the business of selling those books, even if they’re now Amazon, iBooks, and Kobo instead of brick-and-mortar establishments … and publishers still want to work with authors who want to work with them.

Not going into the whole publisher-versus-self-publishing thing (in a word: don’t) one thing that has totally changed is the importance of marketing, social media, and public relations. Simply put, it’s gone from being somewhat necessary to absolutely essential.

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Friday, February 28, 2014

Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker: Confessions

Extremely cool: check out this brand new column I just wrote for the excellent Writesex site:



My name is Chris – though my pseudonym is usually M.Christian – and I have a confession to make.

I’ve written – and write – a…what’s the technical term? Oh, yeah: shitload of erotica. Some 400 published stories, 12 or so collections, 7 novels. I’ve also edited around 25 anthologies. I even have the honor of being an Associate Publisher for Renaissance eBooks, whose Sizzler Editions erotica imprint has some 1,300 titles out there.

I’ve written sexually explicit gay stories, lesbian stories, trans stories, bisexual stories, BDSM stories, tales exploring just about every kind of fetish, you name it and I can all but guarantee that I’ve written about it. I like to joke that a friend of mine challenged me to write a story to a ridiculously particular specification: a queer vampire sport tale. My answer? “Casey, The Bat.” Which I actually did write…though I dropped the vampire part of it.

Don’t worry; I’m getting to the point. I can write just about anything for anyone – but here comes the confession:

I’ve never, ever written about what actually turns me – what turns Chris – on.

This kind of makes me a rather rare beast in the world of professional smut writing. In fact it’s pretty common for other erotica writers to – to be polite about it – look down their noses at the fact that I write about anything other than my own actual or desired sexual peccadilloes. Some have even been outright rude about it: claiming that I’m somehow insulting to their interests and/or orientations and shouldn’t write anything except what I am and what I like.

To be honest, in moments of self-doubt I have thought the very same thing. Am I profiting off the sexuality of other people? Am I a parasite, too cowardly to put my own kinks and passions out into the world? Am I short-changing myself as a writer by refusing to put myself out there?

For the record, I’m a hetero guy who – mostly – likes sexually dominant women. I also find my head turned pretty quickly when a large, curvy woman walks by. That said, I’ve had wonderful times with women of every size, shape, ethnicity, and interest.

So why do I find it so hard to say all that in my writing? The question has been bugging me for a while, so I put on my thinking cap. Part of the answer, I’ve come to understand, relates directly to chronic depression: it’s much less of an emotional gamble to hide behind a curtain of story than to risk getting my own intimate desires and passions stomped flat by a critical review or other negative reaction from readers. I can handle critical reviews of a story – that’s par for the course in professional writing – but it’s a good question as to whether I could handle critical reviews of my life.
But then I had an eye-opening revelation. As I said, I’ve written – and write – stories about all kinds of interests, inclinations, passions, orientations, genders, ethnicities, ages, cultures…okay, I won’t belabor it. But the point is that I’ve also been extremely blessed to have sold everything I’ve ever written. Not only that, but I’ve had beautiful compliments from people saying my work has touched them and that they never, ever, would have realized that the desires of the story’s narrator and those of the writer weren’t one and the same.

Which, in a nice little turn-around, leads me to say that my name is Chris – though my pseudonym is usually M.Christian – and I have yet another confession to make.

Yes, I don’t get sexually excited when I write. Yes, I have never written about what turns me on. Yes, I always write under a name that’s not my legal one.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel when I write. Far from it: absolutely, I have no idea what actual gay sex is like for the participants; positively, I have not an inkling of what many fetishes feel like inside the minds of those who have them; definitely, I have no clue what it’s like to have sex as a woman…
I do, however, know what sex is like. The mechanics, yeah, but more importantly I work very hard to understand the emotions of sex and sexuality through the raw examination of my own life: the heart-racing nerves, the whispering self-doubts, the pulse-pounding tremors of hope, the bittersweetness of it, the bliss, the sorrows and the warmth of it, the dreams and memories…

I’m working on a story right now, part of a new collection. It’s erotic – duh – but it’s also about hope, redemption, change, and acceptance. I have no experience with the kind of physical sex that takes place in this story but every time I close its file after a few hours of work, tears are burning my cheeks. In part, this emotional investment is about trying to recapture the transcendent joy I’ve felt reading the work of writers I admire.

When I read manuscripts as an anthology editor, or as an Associate Publisher, a common mistake I see in them is a dedication to technical accuracy favored over emotion. These stories are correct down to the smallest detail – either because they were written from life or from an exactingly fact-checked sexual imagination – but at the end, I as the reader feel…nothing.

I’m not perfect – far from it – but while I may lack direct experience in a lot of what I write, I do work very, very hard to put real human depth into whatever I do. I may not take the superficial risk of putting the mechanics of my sexuality into stories and books but I take a greater chance by using the full range of my emotional life in everything I create.

I freely admit that I don’t write about my own sexual interests and experiences. That may – in some people’s minds – disqualify me from being what they consider an “honest” erotica writer, but after much work and introspection I contest that while I may keep my sex life to myself, I work very hard to bring as much of my own, deeply personal, self to bear upon each story as I can.

They say that confession is good for the soul. But I humbly wish to add to that while confession is fine and dandy, trying to touch people – beyond their sex organs – is ever better…for your own soul as well as the souls of anyone reading your work.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker: "A Cookie Full Of Arsenic"

Check it out: I just posted one of my classic "Streetwalker" columns on the wonderful Erotic Readers And Writers site.

Here's a tease - for the rest click here


Ever seen Sweet Smell of Success?  If you haven't then you should: because, even though the film was shot in 1957, it rings far too much, and far too loudly, in 2013.

In a nutshell, Sweet Smell of Success (directed by Alexander Mackendrick from a script by the amazing Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman) is about the all-powerful columnist J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) – who can make or break anyone and anything he wants -- and the desperate press agent Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis), who loses everything for trying to curry favor with Hunsecker for ... well, that Sweet Smell of Success.

So ... 1957 to 2013.  A lot's changed, that's for sure.  But recently rewatching this, one of my all-time favorite films, gave me a very uncomfortable chill.  But first a bit of history (stop that groaning): you see, J.J. Hunsecker was based – more than thinly – on another all-powerful columnist, the man who once said, about the who he was, and the power he wielded as, " I'm just a son of a bitch."

There was even a word, created by Robert Heinlein of all people, to describe a person like this: winchell – for the man himself -- Walter Winchell.

A book, movie, star, politician – anyone who wanted success would do, and frequently did, anything for both Walter and his fictional doppelganger J.J. Hunsecker.  Their power was absolute ... even a rumor, a fraction of a sentence could mean the difference between headlines and the morgue of a dead career.  As Hunsecker puts it to a poor entertainer who crossed him: "You're dead, son. Get yourself buried."

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker: Writing Coaches and Teachers


Check this out: the fun article I wrote for the new - and wonderful - WriteSex site has just gone up at the equally wonderful Erotica Readers And Writers site.  Here's a tease:


For new writers, the temptation is obvious: after all, if you don’t know something, shouldn’t you seek out a way to learn about it? The question of how to educate yourself as a writer is a necessary and important one, of course, but an often-invisible second question follows: how do you sift through the piles of would-be writing coaches, teachers and other purveyors of advice to find the ones who will lead you toward genuinely better writing? The problem isn’t that there are over-eager teachers galore, but that far too many of them are preaching from ignorance—or just dully quoting what others have already said.

This is particularly true of erotic romance. Now, I have to admit I’ve been more than a bit spoiled by other genres, where you can write about whatever you want without much of a chance—beyond clumsy writing—of getting rejected for not toeing the line, so approaching erotic romance has been a bit more of a challenge. Romance authors, after all, have been told time and time again that there is a very precise, almost exacting, Way of Doing Things … and if you don’t, then bye-bye book deal.

But times have changed, and while a few stubborn publishers still want erotic romantic fiction that follows established formulas, the quantum leap of digital publishing has totally shaken up by-the-numbers approaches to romance writing. Without going too much into it (maybe in another column…), because ebooks are so much easier to produce, publishers can take wonderful risks on new authors and concepts, meaning that they don’t have to wring their hands in fright that the new title they greenlit will go bust and possibly take the whole company with it.

Because of this freedom, erotic romance can be so much more than it ever was: experimental, innovative, unique, challenging, etc. These are no longer the Words of Death when it comes to putting together a book.

One of the great, underlying tasks of teaching—one I love, but with some reverence and an occasional pang of dread—is challenging the boring, formulaic, way that so many talk about writing (which is also to say that a huge part of the reason I love to teach is that it’s a weird form of revenge against all the bad writing teachers I’ve had over the years). There are, however, far too many writing teachers who relentlessly parrot that erotic romance has to follow a strict formula to be successful. They spell out this formula in stomach-cramping detail: what has to happen to each and every character, in each and every chapter, in each and every book.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker: "Oh, How Beautiful-"

Check it out: I just posted a Streetwalker column on the always-wonderful Erotica Readers And Writes site. It might be an old one but it's also something a lot of writers need to hear. Hope you like!
 

Funny that these columns are called Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker because ... well, I have a confession to make.

I'm very much on the fence about the whole thing, and am still dealing with doubts about whether or not I've made the right decision but - in the end - I think it will end up being a good thing.
I've joined Facebook.

I know, I know: I've been a rather vocal - if not strident - opponent of that particular corner of the social media universe, but a very good friend of mine pointed out that, to call down The Bard, I "doth protest too much."

It hasn't been easy: I tell ya, nothing like having a nearly (gasp) twenty year writing career resulting in only 433 'friends' and 68'likes' on my author page to really make the dreaded depression demon really flare up.

But I'm sticking with it - not because I think that I have to, or that Facebook is the end-all, be-all solution to all my publicity needs - but because it was something I really, honestly, didn't want to do.
Obviously, explanations are in order. See, I'm a firm believer in pushing yourself in all kinds of ways: as a person and, particularly, as a writer. Sure, you have to like what you are doing - both in how you live your life as well as the words you put down on 'paper' - but growth comes not from comfort but from adversity, from challenge.

I didn't set out to be an pornographer, but then an opportunity presented itself and (surprise!) I was actually pretty good at it. I didn’t plan on being a 'gay' writer - because, no duh - I'm not, but (surprise!) I not just did it but came to really enjoy it. I didn’t think I could be a teacher, but (surprise!) I've found that I really get a kick out of it.

I may have hated Facebook - hell, I still hate Facebook - but I had to at least try it. Maybe it will work out, maybe it won't, but at least I'll have stretched myself.

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker: Self Or Not?

Check it out: I just posted a Streetwalker column on the always-wonderful Erotica Readers And Writes site.  It might be an old one but it's also something that a LOT of people have been talking to me about - so I thought it was worth posting again.



Before I begin, a bit of disclosure: While the following has been written in an attempt to be professionally and personally non-biased I am an Associate Publisher for Renaissance E Books. 
Now, with that out of the way...

So, should you stay with the traditional model of working with a publisher or go the self-publishing route?

I'd be lying if I said I haven't been thinking – a lot -- about this.  The arguments for stepping out on your own are certainly alluring, to put it mildly: being able to keep every dime you make – instead of being paid a royalty – and having total and complete control of your work being the big two.  

But after putting on my thinking cap – ponder, ponder, ponder -- I've come to a few conclusions that are going to keep me and my work with publishers for quite some time.

As always, take what I'm going to say there with a hefty dose of sodium chloride: what works for me ... well, works for me and maybe not you.

Being on both sides of the publishing fence – as a writer, editor, and now publisher (even as a Associate Publisher) -- has given me a pretty unique view of the world of not just writing books, working to get them out into the world, but also a pretty good glimpse at the clockwork mechanisms than run the whole shebang.  

For example, there's been a long tradition of writers if not actively hating then loudly grumbling about their publishers.  You name it and writers will bitch about it: the covers, the publicity (or lack of), royalties ... ad infinitum.  Okay, I have to admit more than a few grouches have been mine but with (and I really hate to say this) age has come a change in my perspective.  No, I don't think publishers should be given carte blanch to do with as they please and, absolutely, I think that writers should always have the freedom to speak up if things are not to their liking, but that also doesn't mean that publisher's are hand-wringing villains cackling at taking advantage of poor, unfortunate authors.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker: Howdy!

I'm thrilled to have another one of my Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker pieces up on the excellent Erotica Readers And Writers site - here's a tease ... for the rest just click here.



Howdy

While it isn't the most important thing to do before sending off a story (that's reserved for writing the story itself), drafting an effective cover letter/email is probably right below it.

So here is a quick sample of what to do and NOT when putting together a cover letter to go with your story. That being said, remember that I'm just one of many (many) editors out there, each with their own quirks and buttons to push. Like writing the story itself, practice and sensitivity is will teach you a lot, but this will give you a start.

So ... Don't Do What Bad Johnny Don't Does:


Dear M. (1),

Here is my story (2) for your collection (3), it's about a guy and a girl who fall in love on the Titanic (4). I haven't written anything like this before (5), but your book looked easy enough to get into (6). My friends say I'm pretty creative (7). Please fill out and send back the enclosed postcard (8). If I have not heard from you in two months (9) I will consider this story rejected and send it somewhere else (10). I am also sending this story to other people. If they want it, I'll write to let you know (11).

I noticed that your guidelines say First North American Serial rights. What's that (12)? If I don't have all rights then I do not want you to use my story (13).

I work at the DMV (14) and have three cats named Mumbles, Blotchy and Kismet (15).

Mistress Divine (16)
Gertrude@christiansciencemonitor.com (17)

(1) Don't be cute. If you don't know the editor's name, or first name, or if the name is real or a pseudonym, just say "Hello" or "Editor" or somesuch.

(2) Answer the basic questions up front: how long is the story, is it original or a reprint, what's the title?

(3) What book are you submitting to? Editors often have more than one open at any time and it can get very confusing. Also, try and know what the hell you're talking about: a 'collection' is a book of short stories by one author, an 'anthology' is a book of short stories by multiple authors. Demonstrate that you know what you're submitting to.

(4) You don't need to spell out the plot, but this raises another issue: don't submit inappropriate stories. If this submission was to a gay or lesbian book, it would result in an instant rejection and a ticked-off editor.

(5) The story might be great, but this already has you pegged as a twit. If you haven't been published before don't say anything, but if you have then DEFINITELY say so, making sure to note what kind of markets you've been in (anthology, novel, website and so forth). Don't assume the editor has heard of where you've been or who you are, either. Too often I get stories from people who list a litany of previous publications that I've never heard of. Not that I need to, but when they make them sound like I should it just makes them sound arrogant. Which is not a good thing.

(6) Gee, thanks so much. Loser.

(7) Friends, lovers, Significant Others and so forth -- who cares?


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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker: The Right Word






I'm very proud to have another one of my Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker pieces up on the excellent Erotica Readers And Writers site - and bit thanks to the folks at Erotica For All where the article first appeareed.





The Right Word

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter — it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.
– Mark Twain

No insult to Mr. Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens to his pals), but he’s a bit wrong there … but, more importantly, a lot right.

Wrong in when writing, slaving over just the right word can, too often, grind the process to a halt. When I hit that speed bump I usually just put the word I know isn’t the perfect, ideal, and – yep – right I just highlight it so I know, when I look over whatever I’m writing I can come back and fix it later. The key to keeping up your flow is not just writing well but to keep writing. Period. It’s far too easy to let niggling details get in the way of where you’re doing, and what you’re saying: it’s far better to just keep at it and then come back and do some tweaking after.

But Sam (Mark Twain to everyone else) is damned right about the damned right word. It’s been a very strange trip, going from writer to editor and, now, to publisher: I see a lot of things I wish that writers would get into their heads – and, similarly, try to get into my own thick noggin. The number one has to be to show and not tell: in more words, rather than less, it’s far better to be evocative and imagination-feeding than completely, unarguably, accurate.

Let’s try something: the brown chair. Not much there right? We know it’s a chair, we know it’s brown. End of story. But what if I wrote, “the chair was the color of a well-worn dirt road”? Immediately you not just see the chair but might even feel a bit about it: the road, and it’s color, overlaid with an image what a chair like that might look like, feel like, smell like, etc.

It’s far better to conjure the chair, with magical language and imagery, than carry it onto the stage. You can so much with so little if you take the time to think of words, and language, that is evocative and alluring that unarguably precise. The same, naturally, goes with sex: rather than saying that, say, someone’s breasts were perfect, or conical, or whatever shape you’re thinking of, try, instead to say they were “happily rich and full, tipped by the inquisitive arousal of umber nipples.” Okay, that might be a bit too much but I think you get my point: the first was dull, boring – the second says so much more happily at that.

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Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Fun With Erotica For All



This is a blast: not only did I just do a fun little Q&A with the fun folks at Erotica For All but I also just posted a brand new Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker article for them as well.

Here's a taste of both:

Interview: M. Christian

How did you start writing erotica?
To be honest it was quite the quirk of fate: after trying for a long, long, long, long – ten years to be exact – time, I signed up for a smut-writing class taught by Lisa Palac, who was editing a magazine called Future Sex.  Lo and behold she liked the story I slipped her – my first shot at erotica – and she not only bought and published it but it was then picked up for Best American Erotica … and the rest is history.

What’s your favourite published work of yours and why?
I don’t really have a favorite ’cause that seems like looking backward – something I really try not to do.  When I’m feeling like a smart-ass I usually say that the best book of mine is the next one I write … but, to be honest, I do think that Me2 and Finger’s Breadth came out well-enough.  Though I am also having a blast working on my new book….

What erotic authors do you enjoy reading?
To be honest I don’t read that much erotica – unless I’m editing an anthology, when I have to (smile).  I admire quite a few of them but I don’t like to pick favorites because we are in the same field … and emotionally and spiritually on the same journey.  Writing can be tough enough without elevating one writer over another.  As I like to say: a writer – no matter what awards they win, money they make, fame they have acquired – is no better than any other writer … who writes, and tries to improve themselves and their work.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Pretty much everywhere, honestly.  If I am working for an editor or publisher I normally have to listen to what they want – which sets the stage for what I do.  But when I work more ‘free form’ I get ideas from all over the place: movies, other authors, video games, taking a walk … you name it.  I do have a certain weakness for moral questions and putting people in unusual, and sometimes very difficult ethical quandaries – but I also love playing around with new, and sometimes very challenging, genres.  After all, a writer really doesn’t know what the may be good at until they try something new – and I love trying new things.  If they work it’s terrific … and if not no big deal: it’s just part of the learning curve.

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Guest Blog: M. Christian - The Right Word

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter — it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.
– Mark Twain

No insult to Mr. Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens to his pals), but he’s a bit wrong there … but, more importantly, a lot right.


Wrong in when writing, slaving over just the right word can, too often, grind the process to a halt.  When I hit that speed bump I usually just put the word I know isn’t the perfect, ideal, and – yep – right I just highlight it so I know, when I look over whatever I’m writing I can come back and fix it later.  The key to keeping up your flow is not just writing well but to keep writing.  Period.  It’s far too easy to let niggling details get in the way of where you’re doing, and what you’re saying: it’s far better to just keep at it and then come back and do some tweaking after.

But Sam (Mark Twain to everyone else) is damned right about the damned right word.  It’s been a very strange trip, going from writer to editor and, now, to publisher: I see a lot of things I wish that writers would get into their heads – and, similarly, try to get into my own thick noggin.  The number one has to be to show and not tell: in more words, rather than less, it’s far better to be evocative and imagination-feeding than completely, unarguably, accurate.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

WriteSex And Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker

Busy little bee, aren't I?

Check it out: up on the fantastic Erotica Readers And Writers Association blog is a new Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker piece - AND I have a new article on the fun WriteSex site. Here are teases of both - just click on the [MORE] button to go to the full thing.



A pal of mine asked an interesting question once: what's my definition of erotica, or of pornography? Other folks have been asked these questions, of course, and the answers have been as varied as those asked, but even as I zapped off my own response I started to really think about how people define what they write, and more importantly, why.

It's easy to agree with folks who say there's a difference between erotica and pornography. One of the most frequent definitions is that erotica is sexually explicit literature that talks about something else aside from sex, while porno is sex, sex and more sex and nothing else. The problem with trying to define erotica is that it's purely subjective—even using the erotica-is-more-than-just-sex and porn-is- just-sex-analysis. Where's the line and when do you cross it? One person's literate erotica is another's pure filth. Others like to use a proportional scale a certain percent of sex content—bing!—something becomes porn. Once again: Who sets the scale?

What I find interesting isn't necessarily what the distinction between erotica and pornography should be but why there should be one to begin with. Some writers I've encountered seem to be looking for a clear-cut definition just so they won't be grouped together with the likes of Hustler and Spank Me, Daddy. While I agree that there's a big difference between what's being published in some of the more interesting anthologies, magazines and Web sites as opposed to Hustler and Spank Me, Daddy, I also think that a lot of this searching for a definition is more about ego and less about literary analysis. Rather than risk being put on the shelves next to Hustler and Spank Me Daddy, some writers try to draw up lists and rules that naturally favor what they write compared to what other people write: "I write erotica, but that other stuff is just pornography. Therefore what I write is better."

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Sure, we may all want to just cuddle in our little garrets, a purring pile of fur in our laps, leather patches on our sleeves, a pipe at the ready, and do nothing but write masterpieces all day and night – with periodic breaks for binge-drinking and soon-to-be legendary sexual escapades – but the fact of the matter is that being a writer has totally, completely, changed.I’m not just talking about the need to be a marketing genius and a publicity guru – spending, it feels too often, more time tweeting about Facebook, or Facebooking about tweeting, than actually writing – but that authors really need to be creative when it comes to not just getting the word out about their work but actually making money.

A lot of people who claim to be marketing geniuses and publicity gurus will say that talking about you and your work as loud as possible, as often as possible, is the trick … but have you heard the joke about how to make money with marketing and PR? Punchline: get people to pay you to be a marketing genius and/or a publicity guru. In short: just screaming at the top of the tweety lungs or burying everyone under Facebook posts just won’t do it.

Not that having some form of presence online isn’t essential – far from it: if people can’t find you, after all, then they can’t buy your books. But there’s a big difference between being known and making everyone run for the hills – or at least stop up their9 ears – anytime you say or do anything online.

Balance is the key: don’t just talk about your books or your writing – because, honesty, very few people care about that … even your readers – instead fine a subject that interests you and write about that as well. Give yourself some dimension, some personality, some vulnerability, something … interesting, and not that you are not just an arrogant scream-engine of me-me-me-me. Food, travel, art, history, politics … you pick it, but most of all have fun with it. Forced sincerity is just about as bad as incessant narcissism.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker: Thinking Outside Your Box

Check this out: a new "Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker" piece for the always-great Erotica Readers and Writers site just went up.  This one originally appeared on the fantastic K.D. Grace's site.

All my previous columns, of course, have been collected in How To Write And Sell Erotica by Renaissance E Books.

Here's a tease:


Thinking Outside Your Box...
Or Writing Isn't Always About Writing
Sure, we may all want to just cuddle in our little garrets, a purring pile of fur in our laps, leather patches on our sleeves, a pipe at the ready, and do nothing but write masterpieces all day and night – with periodic breaks for binge-drinking and soon-to-be legendary sexual escapades – but the fact of the matter is that being a writer has totally, completely, changed.

I'm not just talking about the need to be a marketing genius and a publicity guru – spending, it feels too often, more time tweeting about Facebook, or Facebooking about tweeting, than actually writing – but that authors really need to be creative when it comes to not just getting the word out about their work but actually making money.

A lot of people who claim to be marketing geniuses and publicity gurus will say that talking about you and your work as loud as possible, as often as possible, is the trick ... but have you heard the joke about how to make money with marketing and PR? Punchline: get people to pay you to be a marketing genius and/or a publicity guru. In short: just screaming at the top of the tweety lungs or burying everyone under Facebook posts just won't do it.

Not that having some form of presence online isn't essential – far from it: if people can't find you, after all, then they can't buy your books. But there's a big difference between being known and making everyone run for the hills – or at least stop up their9 ears – anytime you say or do anything online.

Balance is the key: don't just talk about your books or your writing – because, honesty, very few people care about that ... even your readers – instead fine a subject that interests you and write about that as well. Give yourself some dimension, some personality, some vulnerability, something ... interesting, and not that you are not just an arrogant scream-engine of me-me-me-me. Food, travel, art, history, politics ... you pick it, but most of all have fun with it. Forced sincerity is just about as bad as incessant narcissism.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Seven M.Christians: Number 3 - My Mission In Life

Check it out: as part of my Seven M.Christian series I just posted the second installment as part of my on-going Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker column for the always-great Erotica Readers And Writers Site:



My Mission In Life

Being a writer – or, to be a bit more precise, the way I became a writer – has really affected how I view the writing life ... well, actually any kind of creative life. Part of it, of course, is that it took me a long time to actually become a professional -- but more than that I think it's the transformation I went through during that far too lengthy process.

Like a lot of people, when I first began to write with an eye to actually getting published, it was a very painful process: the words just didn't come, I was always second-guessing my stories, felt like my characters were dead-on-arrival, and doubt was around much more than confidence or even hope.

But, as we read in our last installment, I kept with it and was able, finally, to step into the word of professionalism. But an odd thing happened during those years: I actually began to like to write.

Shocking, I know (and, yes, that was sarcasm), as that is what writers are supposed feel, but when I wrote like I should have said loved: sure, the words were still clumsy, the plots a struggle, the characters stiff and uncooperative, and I thought more about being out-of-print than ever getting into-print, but somewhere during those years something just clicked and I began to look forward to losing myself in my own tales, having fun with language, playing with characters ... I began to see the joy in actually telling stories.

But, more than that, I began to see the magic – which gets me, in a rather convoluted way, to the title of this little piece. Working on my stories, before and after being a professional, I developed a real appreciation for what it means to be a creator. Distilling it down a bit, I began to see writing – or painting, music, etc – as very special: what a creative person does is truly unique, incredibly difficult, and immeasurably brave.

Think about it for a second: how many people out there, milling about in their lives, have ever even considered doing what a creative person does. Sure, they may think about it, dream about it, but very few actually take even the simplest of shots at it: a creative person is a rare and special treasure. Now consider this: not only are creative people one percent (or less) of the people walking this world but they are willing to actually get off their day-dreaming clouds and do the work – often against overwhelming odds. We hear of the successes, of course: the award-winners, the 'names,' the celebrities – but we don’t hear about millions of others who tried their very best but because of this-or-that they just weren't in the right place at the right time with the right creation. Lastly, even the idea of stepping into a creative life – especially a professional one – is awe-inspiringly courageous: not only do we do the work, struggle with every element, fail and try and learn and fail and try and learn but, despite it all, we keep going.

I call this installment "My Mission In Life" because I've been there, I know the pain of rejection, the struggles of trying to create something from nothing and so when I work with, talk with, or teach – though my classes – anyone doing anything creative I always remind them of their rarity, their dedication, their courage.

I once wrote a little piece that kind of got me into trouble – especially with other writers. In it I laid it on the line: you will never be famous, rich, or have one of your books made into a movie, no one will ask for your autograph ... but, if you remember that what you are doing is rare, special, and brave then some of that might actually happen. The trick is to remember the magic, to forever hold onto the pure enjoyment that comes from creating something that no one has ever seen before.

I don't use the word magic lightly: when it happens just right, when we put it all together, what creative people do is transport people into another world, show them things that they may never have ever considered, and – if we are very lucky – change their lives. If that is not magic then I don't know what is.

So, "My Mission In Life" is (1) remember my own lessons and not lose sight of the joy in creation, the specialness of what I am trying to do, and the courage I have in sending my work out into the too-often cold and uncaring world; and (2) to tell as many creative people the same exact thing.

Sure, some of us might be 'known' a bit more than others, sell more books, make more money and all the rest of that crap – but I sincerely believe that anyone who has dedicated themselves to creation, of any kind, deserves support and respect. No one who creates is better than any other person who creates: we all face the same difficulties, the same ego-shattering failures, the same Sisyphian tasks of trying to get out work out there and noticed.

What writers do is magic -- pure and simple: we are magicians using only our minds, imaginations, and lots of hard to work to use only words to transform, enlighten, transport, amuse and maybe even enlighten.

As a writer, an editor, a friend, and now as a publisher, it is my heartfelt "Mission" to remind anyone who creates that they are truly special: published or not, 'successful' or not, rich or not, famous or not, we are all magicians – and that we are all in this together and that there is absolutely no reason to make an already tough life tougher through needless competition, arrogance, conceit, or just simple rudeness.

We magicians should stick together – and never forget why we are all here: to experience the joy in telling stories.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker: Seven M.Christians - Number 1: Intelligence Is Imagination With An Erection

Check it out: as part of my Seven M.Christian series (next one goes up tomorrow, btw) I just posted the first installment as part of my on-going Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker column for the always-great Erotica Readers And Writers Site:



Intelligence Is Imagination With An Erection

I didn't always want to be a writer. Sure, I was one of those kids: the ones who are too bright, too creative, too curious – and, yes, in case you're interested, I was bullied ... a lot – but actually doing anything with that brightness, creativity, curiosity didn't pop into mind until high school.

But, boy, did it POP. In retrospect it's more than a bit ... odd (to be polite) how enthusiastic and disciplined I became about writing. In hindsight a lot of it probably had to do with trying to find an escape from a less-than-perfect family dynamic – but another big motivator was that I'd always been the kid who didn't just talk about doing things: I did them. Perfect example: I remember, in early elementary school, discovering that the science classroom had a darkroom ... so I went home and over the weekend read every book I could on photography so when I came back on Monday I developed my first roll of film and did my first few test prints.

Alas, discipline and enthusiasm are fine and good – actually they are absolutely essential in a writer – but my discipline and enthusiasm was focused on Mount Everest: selling a story to the likes of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Early rejections didn't stop me – in fact nothing stopped me – and I kept trying, kept writing, kept submitting: my goal was a short story a week and/or three pages of writing or three pages of just story ideas.

And, you know, it worked -- sort of. I've never sold a story to Fantasy & Science Fiction but all that work, all that passion, paid off ... abet in a very unusual and totally unexpected way.

Eventually I made my way to the Bay Area, got married, and – on a total whim – took a class from Lisa Palac who, at the time, was editing a magazine called FutureSex. When I discovered ... well, sex, my stories got a little more (ahem) mature. It was one of those stories I was brave enough to hand to Lisa.

What happened next is, to resort to clich̩ Рand hyperbole Рis the stuff of legends: Lisa not just liked the story but bought it. A year later Susie Bright also liked the story and bought it for Best American Erotica 1994.

Sure, it took me ten years of trying (and, yes, you may whistle at that) but that wasn't important. People often ask me why I write what I write -- lesbian erotica, gay erotica, bisexual erotica, kink after fetish after stroke after stroke – and the answer couldn't be simpler.

I am a writer ... and for someone who lives to tell stories, who worked so hard to hang onto that brightness, creativity, curiosity, discipline, and enthusiasm, finding a way to do what I love to do and be recognized for it, in demand for it, and even paid for it there is simply nothing better.

My name is Chris, my main pseudonym is M.Christian, and I am a pornographer ... and I couldn't be happier.

(by the way, the quote that starts this is by Victor Hugo ... and is a kind of personal philosophy)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker: What Makes a Good Publisher? (Part 2)


Check this out: I just wrote a brand new "Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker" piece for the always-great Erotica Readers and Writers site - all my previous columns, of course, have been collected in How To Write And Sell Erotica by Renaissance Books.

Here's a tease:




Before I begin (yet again), a bit of disclosure: While the following has been written in an attempt to be professionally and personally non-biased I am an Associate Publisher for Renaissance E Books. 

Now, with that out of the way (one more time)...

#

Wanna hear something scary?  The build-up might be a bit slow but, believe me, the punch line is more than worth it. 

It begins like this: I'm in the middle of my all-time favorite part of writing – publicity and marketing (and, yes, that was sarcastic) – of a new book of mine called Stroke The Fire: The Best Manlove Fiction Of M.Christian, which is basically my own personal best-of-my-very-best queer erotica, and I'm doing one of those round-robin guest blog things and a question comes up, "How long did it take you to write the first draft?"

Well, without going into the silly details of how I work I answered that, since the book is made up of stories I've written since I first started writing, technically the book was started in 1994.

Got that?  Well, here it comes: that basically means that the book was 18 years in the making ... now that is a terrifying thought.

What this has to do with this Streetwalker is that it got me thinking a lot more about publishers and publishing – and, believe me, after (sigh) 18 years I've had more than my fair share of them.  That, plus the wonderful comments I got on my previous installment, really got my wheels turning.

One of the big revelations I had as my wheels cranked was to agree with many of the comments my first publisher Streetwalker got: a publisher should, naturally, be considered on the quality of its materials and presence.  After all, if a publisher is sloppy with its contracts and site and so forth that doesn't bode well.

But I also have to say that a misspelling here or there shouldn't necessarily be enough to make a writer walk away: typos, do, after all, happen to the best of us.  Some have suggested doing research on a publisher before signing and while that may, on the surface, be a good idea I can't help but think of all the great books, films, etc., that have gotten petty, spiteful and – let's use the word – stupid comments on places like Amazon, Netflix, and all the rest. 

An excellent reason to use the word stupid, by the way, is that the world of writing, editing, and publishing is extremely small and it is far too common for a person to jump from one publisher to another – so venting bile at one target may, actually, hit a lot of targets ... and too often targets that you might not want to have hit sometime in the future.

So reviews are not a good judge of a publisher – though I do think chatting with other writers who may have worked with a publisher is a good idea, if just so you know what to expect – what really does make a good publisher?

A very common mistake a lot of writers make is that they feel a publisher should be a writer's best friend.  That's not to say that that a publisher shouldn't be supportive and enthusiastic about their authors – that's actually extremely important – but just that there is a big difference between being someone being a friend and suggesting that you swim in shark infested waters.  A good publisher should be encouraging but also have the experience and business sense to know what is good for their writers – and so be able to tell them things like: "We love it.  We think it's wonderfully literary.  We want it.  But don't expect it to sell a lot of copies."

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker: What Makes a Good Publisher?

Check this out: I just wrote a brand new "Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker" piece for the always-great Erotica Readers and Writers site - all my previous columns, of course, have been collected in How To Write And Sell Erotica by Renaissance Books.

Here's a tease:



Before I begin (again), a bit of disclosure: While the following has been written in an attempt to be professionally and personally non-biased I am an Associate Publisher for Renaissance E Books. 

Now, with that out of the way (again)...

#


The last time I wrote an intro like the above it was for my Streetwalker column Self Or Not? – about why I feel that, even though it can be very alluring, I still recommend writers work with a publisher rather than go the self-publishing route.

After writing that column I've been thinking, a lot, about what makes a good publisher ... especially these days.  Not to (ahem) brag but I've been in the biz for quite a few years and have worked with a lot of publishers – both when books were printed on (gasp) actual paper, as well as in the new digital age, so I think I can say a bit about what makes a good publisher.

As always, keep in mind that this is somewhat subjective: what I like in a publisher may not be what you like in a publisher ... but the somewhat is there because, tastes aside, it's a publisher's job to get your book out so, hopefully, people will buy bunches of copies.

The world – as I mentioned – as totally changed, and so has what publishers not just can do but should be doing.  It may sound a bit ... emotional, but I like a publisher I can talk to – and who talks to me.  Sure, many publishers are simply too busy to answer every email immediately but that they get back to me eventually is more than enough to keep me happy.  I've dealt with far too many publishers who I have to write, write, write and write again to get an answer to even the simplest question.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker: Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out-

Check this out: I just wrote a brand new "Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker" piece for the always-great Erotica Readers and Writers site - all my previous columns, of course, have been collected in How To Write And Sell Erotica by Renaissance Books.

Here's a tease:


It's a huge no-duh that we live in an Information Age: from high speed Internet to 4G cell networks, we can get whatever we want wherever we want it - data-wise - at practically at the speed of light.

But sometimes I miss the old days. No, they weren't - ever - the Good Old Days (I still remember liquid paper, SASEs, and letter-sized manila envelopes ... shudder), but back then a writer had a damned long time to hear about anything to do withthe biz.

If you were lucky you got a monthly mimeographed newsletter but otherwise you spent weeks, even months, before hearing about markets or trends ... and if you actually wanted contact with another writer you either had to pick up the phone, sit down and have coffee, or (gasp) write a letter.

No, I'm far from being a Luddite. To borrow a bit from the great (and late) George Carlin: "I've been uplinked and downloaded. I've been inputted and outsourced. I know the upside of downsizing; I know the downside of upgrading. I'm a high-tech lowlife. A cutting-edge, state-of-the-art, bicoastal mutlitasker, and I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond."

I love living in The World Of Tomorrow. Sure, we may not have food pills or jetpacks but with the push of a ... well, the click of a mouse I can see just about every movie or show I want, read any book ever written, play incredibly realistic games, or learn anything I want to know.

Here it comes, what you've been waiting for ... but ... well, as I've said many times before, writing can be an emotionally difficult, if not actually scarring endeavor. We forget, far too often, to care for ourselves in the manic pursuit of our writing 'careers.' We hover over Facebook, Twitter and blog-after-blog: our creative hopes of success - and fears of failure - rising and falling with every teeny-tiny bit of information that comes our way.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker: What's Erotic?

Check this out: I just wrote a brand new "Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker" piece for the always-great Erotica Readers and Writers site - all my previous columns, of course, have been collected in How To Write And Sell Erotica by Renaissance Books.

Here's a tease:




It's one of the most common questions I get asked – by budding writers via email or in person during one of my (ahem) Sex Sells: Erotica Writing classes: what makes an erotic story ... erotic?

But before I answer [insert suspenseful music here] a bit of exposition is in order: there is a huge difference in writing for yourself, such as when you are first dipping your ... toes into erotica writing, and when you've made the very brave decision to throw your work out into the professional world.

If you are writing for yourself then you really don't need to be thinking about sex (or the amount of it) at all: you're writing for your pleasure, or just as practice.

But if you do decide to send your work out you really do need to be pay close attention to where you're submitting: when a publisher or editor puts out a call for submissions they are often – or should be – quite clear about the amount of sexuality they need or want from a writer.  If you're sending a story, say, to a site, anthology or whatever it's always a good idea to scope out the territory, so to speak: read what the editor has accepted before, take a gander at the site ... and so forth.  That, at least, should give you a ballpark feeling of what (and how much) they are looking for.

But [insert dramatic drum roll] as far as the right, perfect, ideal, amount of sex for a story that isn't just for your own pleasure, or a very specific market, goes ... well, what's sex?

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker: "Oh, how beautiful."

Check this out: I just wrote a brand new "Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker" piece for the always-great Erotica Readers and Writers site - all my previous columns, of course, have been collected in How To Write And Sell Erotica by Renaissance Books.

Here's a tease:




Funny that these columns are called Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker because ... well, I have a confession to make. 

I'm very much on the fence about the whole thing, and am still dealing with doubts about whether or not I've made the right decision but - in the end - I think it will end up being a good thing.


I know, I know: I've been a rather vocal - if not strident - opponent of that particular corner of the social media universe, but a very good friend of mine pointed out that, to call down The Bard, I "doth protest too much."

It hasn't been easy: I tell ya, nothing like having a nearly (gasp) twenty year writing career resulting in only 433 'friends' and 68'likes' on my author page to really make the dreaded depression demon really flare up. 

But I'm sticking with it - not because I think that I have to, or that Facebook is the end-all, be-all solution to all my publicity needs - but because it was something I really, honestly, didn't want to do.

Obviously, explanations are in order.  See, I'm a firm believer in pushing yourself in all kinds of ways: as a person and, particularly, as a writer.  Sure, you have to like what you are doing - both in how you live your life as well as the words you put down on 'paper' - but growth comes not from comfort but from adversity, from challenge. 

I didn't set out to be an pornographer, but then an opportunity presented itself and (surprise!) I was actually pretty good at it.  I didn’t plan on being a 'gay' writer - because, no duh - I'm not, but (surprise!) I not just did it but came to really enjoy it.  I didn’t think I could be a teacher, but (surprise!) I've found that I really get a kick out of it.

I may have hated Facebook - hell, I still hate Facebook - but I had to at least try it.  Maybe it will work out, maybe it won't, but at least I'll have stretched myself.

For creative people of any ilk, that’s extremely important.  For one thing, it can keep your creativity rip-and-roaring, key to avoiding deathly boredom and staleness.  Professionally, it's essential: writing just what you want, what you’re comfortable with, can really limit where you can sell your work.  That you love to write, say, erotic romances is fine and dandy but if you do then there will only so many places to show off, or publish, your work. 

You want examples?  Fine: I'm now on Facebook – we’ve already discussed that uncomfortable fact - but since I've written quite a few queer novels I've decided that my next one is going to be (you ready for this?) straight - and not just straight but with a 'happy' ending.  My short story work, too, has a tendency to be, let's be honest here, bittersweet at best - so my next collection is going to be much more uplifting.  I've never written a play, so I'm planning on writing one sometime this year.  I've never written for comics - well, I wrote one - so I'm going to work on more.  Will these projects be tough?  Sure they will: but who knows what I may discover about myself and what I'm capable of?

Who knows, maybe even Facebook and I will become fast and good friends and will walk down the social media aisle together, skipping merrily and holding hands.

And if not ... well, I tried.  There is nothing wrong with giving something a shot but then deciding it's not for you.  Rejection, both internal as well as external, is part of a writer's life.  There's nothing wrong with it.  Trial and error is how we learn, how we grow. 

Writers far too often think that the 'names', the celebrities, the legends sat down and created wonders of the written word, masterpieces of story, with no trials and tribulations.  But - as I've said before - writers are liars and very few will admit that they might have been an overnight success ... after failing for decades. 

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker: Bond, James Bond ... Or Do I Really Need An Agent?


Check this out: I just wrote a brand new "Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker" piece for the always-great Erotica Readers & Writers site - all my previous columns, of course, have been collected in How To Write And Sell Erotica by Renaissance Books.  Here's a tease:



The world of professional writing can be ... no, that's not right: the world of professional writing is - without a doubt - a very frightening, confusing place.

Not only are there only a few diehard rules – to either slavishly follow or studiously avoid - but even basic trust can be a very, very rare: should I put my work on my site, or will it be stolen?  Should I even send my work out to other writers, for the very same reason? 

What about editors or - especially - publishers?  Does my editor really have my best interests in mind?  Should I make the changes he or she suggests or should I stand my ground and refuse to change even one word?  Is my publisher doing all they can for my book?  Are they being honest about royalties? 

Back in the days of print - before the revolution – a lot of these questions would have been answered by an agent: a person who not only knew the business but would actually hold a writer's hand and lead them from that doubt and fear and, hopefully, towards success ... however you want to define that word.

Agents spoke the cryptic language of rights and royalties: they could actually read – and even more amazingly - understand a book contract.  They'd be able, with their experience and foresight, to say when a writer should say yes or no to edits.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Confessions of A Literary Streetwalker: What Is Sex ... And How Much?


Check this out: I just wrote a brand new "Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker" piece for the always-great Erotica Readers & Writers site - all my previous columns, of course, have been collected in How To Write And Sell Erotica by Renaissance Books.  Here's a tease:


So let's ask the question: what is sex – especially what is sex when it comes to writing erotica? 

I will not begin with a dictionary definition ... I will not begin with a dictionary definition ... I will not begin with a dictionary definition ...

It's a very common misconception that erotica is supposed to turn the reader on ... or to be exact, that it is supposed to be written to turn the reader on. 

There's a huge problem with that, though: mainly that you, as a writer, have no idea what turns a reader on.  Even getting the cheat sheet of writing for a specific anthology there is no way you can possibly cover every permutation of that theme. 

Let's pick anal sex, just to be provocative: some people like anal sex people of the pure sensation receiving, or giving; while others have their desire mixed with domination or submission, etc., etc, etc.  Bottom line – sorry about that – you, as an erotica writer, cannot cover everything, erotically, when you write.

So how do you know how much sex to put into a story – and how to approach what sex you do put into a story? 


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