Thursday, 4 August 2011

So is it porn or is it erotica?

That's a question which has really ever been philosophical to me. Write what you want. Read what you like. That's pretty much how I feel. Lately, that is, the last year or so, it's become less than academic, mostly due to Amazon. Now Amazon's very vague guidelines state that no pornography can be sold. That's generally been interpreted to mean 'visual' material, but it could certainly cover written, as well. And since I'm sometimes unsure why Amazon blocks one or another of my books it's become of some concern to me.

One shorthand way I've used to decide which is which is simple quality. If the novel is written with a degree of ability with regard to plot, characters, dialogue, not to mention basic grammar, it likely falls into the erotica box. Of course, assessing how much is enough is, at best, a personal judgement. The other day, though, the difference was made stark to me. I came upon a web site which had posted entire copies of 80s era porn novels for people to read. Naturally, I had a look, mostly to see if any of mine were there. I can't say I skimmed it all, just a dozen or so novels, and quickly, but the difference between them and what I write is pretty noticeable.

Basically, porn novels are like porn videos. You don't know much about the characters, and they don't ever bother to explain much. There's not much in the way of a plot, and pretty dumb dialogue.  It's basic sex, sex, sex from just about the first page. In the BDSM novels I looked at, the action was cruel, crude, and almost completely non-consensual. Some of it was pretty unbelievable, too.  I don't think, even when I was writing 80s porn, that I was ever quite that, for want of a better term, crude. And, of course, every year I move further away from the stuff I wrote back then. 

So looking at it did at least settle for me, the question of whether what I write is porn or erotica. Don't know if that point could ever be made to Amazon, though.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

My perfect woman

Don't think I really have one. If you read The Life of Reilly, that would be my perfect life. With three differing girlfriends, all of them hot, and smart, and with different personalities. I don't think anyone really has just one 'type' of person, either in terms of looks or personalities, that they're interested in. When people are asked, they mostly describe their ideal, which is generally a pie-in-the-sky fantasy largely unobtainable. And this is easy to misconstrue.

A friend of mine recently told me I should lower my standards in women. She had the idea that I was always looking for a petite young blonde (much younger than me) with perfect body. In point of fact, most of the women I run into are younger, and have been for the last decade or so. But while I do like blondes, the hottest women I've known were brunettes, and I have a thing for redheads too. So you see, there really is no "IT" girl as far as I'm concerned. One thing I've learned is that if you can't sit across a table from a woman and talk for hours without getting bored, she's probably not for you regardless of physical attractiveness. At least, not for long. Maybe that comes with age. The days when the only thing I looked for in a woman was how hot she was are long gone.

And I think, to some extent, that's reflected in my books. My earlier books basically presented the female characters as a collection of physical attributes, while now I do my best within available time to give them characters, and make them seem interesting and like people I'd like to know in real life, to give them hopes and aspirations, fears and doubts. I don't always do as well at that as I'd hope but I think I'm improving over time.

Why are some books here - and some books there?

I started selling on-line at bdsmbooks some years back. The editor at the time was convinced that the 'harder' a title was, ie, the nastier, the better the sales. I had my doubts, but he was always pushing me to write nastier material. So some of my titles, especially earlier ones, can be nasty and totally non-consensual. They often focus more on the pain and humiliation of the female protagonist than her pleasure and heat. None of those books can be sold on amazon because of their content policies.

Now I haven't run into any censorship at other sites, that is, Smashwords, and the places it sends my books, like barnes and noble or Diesel ebooks. Still, I'm not convinced the quality of those earlier books is up to par, and so I haven't tried to sell them beyond the hard core sites they're on now. Amazon, of course, has kicked or denied almost all incest, so those books can't be found there. Likewise, Amazon will sometimes reject a book for God only knows what reason. They won't tell you why, just point you to their content guidelines, which are exceedingly vague. I had a book denied a couple of months back, and after an email exchange with amazon was still baffled by why. I wound up changing the cover and title and resubmitting, and this time they took it without issue. Was it the cover? God knows. You'd think if it was the cover, at least, they'd tell you. I had another book refused last week. Again, no idea why. There was no nudity in the cover, and no non-consensual sex or incest in the story. I've got a new cover and title and will try again. Meanwhile, the book is selling on smashwords, doing well.

I did have an email exchange with a bdsm publisher who said that in his experience if  book has the word 'rape' in it, it's more likely to be banned, even if there's no rape involved. Since a number of my books have role playing and 'verbal domination' that word can certainly appear, as it did in this last one. "Ooo, are you going to rape me again, you nasty pervert?" But sometimes I suspect it just depends on which reviewer looks at your book. I know they don't actually READ it. But I'm guessing some are quicker to say no than others, perhaps because they're more prudish. If anyone has a better theory I wouldn't mind hearing it.

Btw, despite their annoying censorship policies, amazon does pay the highest royalties, so if you're looking to buy an ebook I'd prefer you buy it from them. :) I do the same. I saw an intriguing looking novel for sale elsewhere the other day, but went to amazon to purchase, knowing the author would get higher royalties there.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

So how'd you get into writing erotica?

Way back when, I was going to college and working as a security guard (a lousy one) on a midnight shift. I was at a truck rental outfit and found a bunch of porn novels. In the back of one was a "can you write this" ad, and I thought, hell, who couldn't. So I sent away a chapter on a floppy disk, and next thing I knew I was writing 3 novellas a month for an outfit which sold them by mail order and in Times Square adult book stores. It wasn't a living, but the extra cash was sure nice.

The internet kind of killed that business. For a while, I wrote short stories for any magazine that would buy them, including Penthouse. Yes, sorry to disillusion you, but those letters to Penthouse aren't real. I should know. I wrote a number of them. I discovered some adult book publishers still in operation in the UK. Oddly, or maybe not given the UKs history of corporal punishment in schools, they were all into BDSM in one form or another. I sold novels to Virgin (Nexus), Olympia Press, Silver Moon, and Chimera. Then they all sort of dried up and I wound up selling my first ebooks through BDSMbooks.com. All the while holding down real jobs, of course, to supplement my income. Or maybe it was the other way around. Until lately, my jobs earned more than my writing but with erotica/porn going more mainstream and being sold on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other sites, with generous returns (70% at Amazon) that has reversed and I now earn considerably more from writing than from my job. Let the good times roll, and continue. :-)

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Why women read erotica

Most of the people who buy erotic pictures and videos are men. Most of the people who buy erotic novels are women. Men are very visual, while women seem to have the need to incorporate more emotion into their stories, if not romance, then at least, the psychology of what the people involved are thinking and feeling. A female friend said to me the other day "I don't get why any woman would want to read that stuff. I can HAVE sex if I want to. I don't need to read about it." Which is good for her, of course, but not all women are so lucky. What I said to her was that while I don't know her sexual fantasies, many, if not most people have sexual fantasies which they have no hope of ever bringing to life. Whether it's an orgy, or having sex with a room full of bikers, or being a slave to a handsome Arab or Spanish man, or woman, most people lead rather mundane lives. They have active fantasies, but they know that, due to their own fears, their families, the pressures of society and it's taboos, they will never really get to carry them out. If you're a relatively conservative woman married to the same sort of guy, leading very vanilla lives, you're just not going to be involved in a wild sexual incident where you, for example, become a temporary stripper and perform lap dances  and have sex with strangers. Nor would you want to. Not really. Any more than you want to be raped. But the fantasy is not the reality, and a lot of women like to indulge these fantasies vicariously through the female characters in erotic novels.

The book I'm finishing now features a woman who works in a high pressure job in a bank, and just chucks it all, trades in her car for a Harley Davidson, and rides away, winding up in a biker bar as a semi-unwilling stripper having sex with people right out in the open in the bar. My previous book was of a woman who gets a contract to catalog and sort the books in a wealthy man's new castle, and of course, winds up in a BDSM relationship with him. Before that, was a woman just about to turn 30, realizing she'd done nothing exciting in her life. She goes to Rio, and winds up in a BDSM relationship with a handsome Spanish millionaire. Before that was a young woman who wound up in a torrid BDSM affair with her aunt's new husband. And before that was a young archeology student who gets lost in Africa, and enslaved by an Ethiopian tribe. These are all fantasies which women would probably not want to experience in in reality. But in the safer realm of written fiction, anything goes.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Why is BDSM popular?

BDSM is about domination, submission, about men being big, conquering men and women being, well, obedient sexual playthings. Of course, men today aren't allowed to be big conquering men, and women most assuredly aren't allowed, at least by our culture, to be submissive and obedient anything. But some men fantasize about just taking a woman and having her do their sexual bidding, and some women fantasize about being dominated, being overcome, being forced.  That's why people buy my books. We're locked into cultural practices, both men and women, which don't allow us to live the kinds of thoughts and fantasies which regularly occur to us, and so my books are fantasies wherein people get to imagine themselves in much more detail, experiencing the kind of 'forbidden' sexual behavior they're not allowed to really do in reality. Now some will say, oh of course we can! Well, maybe. I think many couples play around with pretend bondage, a little light spanking. But going beyond that requires both partners be into the same sort of fantasy, and that's more rare than you might expect given how reluctant people are to confess such thoughts. Women, in particular, are unlikely to tell a date or new boyfriend about deep, dark thoughts of being a submissive sex slave. Even men might find their girlfriend shrinking in alarm if they confessed such a fantasy. So it often goes unfulfilled. Well, that's what books are for, to vicariously enjoy the kind of outrageous things we daren't do in life.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

What's wrong with porn?

Video porn pretty much flat out sucks - and not in the way I like it. :) I think that's why literary erotica sales are still so high. Erotica is the one fantasy which everyone is afraid to try to translate properly into the medium of video or film. No 'respectable' actor, director or writer will touch the stuff, unless its couched in so many subtle and artistic touches as to neuter its purpose. Video porn is fantasy done dirt cheap. Usual budgets are, I believe, in the low five figures.  Meanwhile a really crappy, low budget, straight to video dog of a 'real' movie will have a budget 100 or even 1000x as much. Western society has a love/hate relationship with sexual fantasies. They sell like crazy, but almost every part of society treats them with disgust and suspicion. So what you get is anonymous people having not very passionate, not very realistic sex.

And that's pretty worthless, as far as I'm concerned. Because I need to know who these people are, and I need a buildup, an entry, a description of what makes their sexual antics exciting and arousing beyond the mere act of the physical. Yes, I like to see attractive women, particularly naked ones, but there needs to be more to it than that. Mind you, video operates at a considerable disadvantage, for it can't explain what's on her mind, can't show you her arousal, her heat and passion, particularly since the actress is rarely capable of demonstrating it without words.

And of course, it's even more impossible with BDSM. The authorities are even more suspicious of this particular genre of erotica.I once had an editor try to explain to me how worried he was about the violence in a book I'd written. The violence was no more than you'd find in any other detective novel, but mine was erotica, and so, even thought none of the violence was sexual in nature, I had to edit it. Video porn/erotic has even more problems in that regard. They have to stay so far away from anything which hints at lack of consent they can't even write a story of seduction. That's why every porn actress drops her clothes the second the male actor touches her. Ever seen one have to be persuaded, convinced, seduced? Not in video! Can't have the female showing any reluctance, because that would hint the male is pressuring her in some way, or not taking 'no' for an answer. So no reluctant, hesitant, uncertain females in porn videos, nosirree! They're all, well, nymphos.No predatory males plotting and planning on how to seduce. Just routine physical acts, with positions changed every thirty seconds for a new camera angle.

Which, I guess, is good for my sales. :-)

Saturday, 26 March 2011

On why BDSM stories often have a bad name

Bondage, Domination, Submission, Master, Slave, Sadism, Masochism. There's a lot of room for a wide variety of stories in this area, and a lot of authors - many of them relatively unskilled, have put a lot of fantasies to pen over the years. Many of those have been quite dark, some even gruesome. My earlier work was certainly on the darker side, with a lot more non-consensual stories. But I think I can say, looking back on well over 200 novels written under JJ Argus and other pseudonyms, that while many women were hurt, none were ever harmed. No woman or girl, even in my earlier stories, ever suffered any sort of punishment that would have required medical treatment. And certainly, none ever died. The only people who have ever died in my books tend to be the ones who inflicted cruelty upon those young women and girls.

An editor passed along a letter to me a few years back from a female reader. It was to him not me, commenting on his two best-selling authors. Argus, she said, clearly loves women, while the other author, clearly despised them. And while I can't speak for that other writer, I can say for a certainty that she was quite right about me.

On Punishment and Domination, Cruelty and Heat, Fear and Pain

Some have observed that my earlier books are rather different from the ones I write now. This is unquestionably true. I've been writing for a lot of years, and my attitudes, not to mention my skill as a writer, have changed during that time. My books now tend to be less crude, for I've observed that there is nothing intrinsically arousing in the use of obscene words. That might sound odd given some would suggest my books themselves are obscene. But I no longer use obscene terms in descriptions, and have tried to edit out the worst of these in my older books. Obscene words are present in dialogue, of course, for to not have it there, given the nature of these books would be silly.

Also, my books tend to be much more strongly into domination and submission now, as opposed to brute physical punishment. They contain both, clearly, but my experiences with women have shaped my view of life and BDSM. To me, it is far more exciting to seduce a woman away from her inhibitions, than to force her to do something. It's far more exciting to see a woman who becomes helplessly aroused by her own humiliation, than to read of one who is merely shamed. And punishment which causes arousal and pleasure in both parties seems to me to be a more arousing read - though more difficult to credibly write.

In the books I write today, women are forced by their own excitement, their own arousal, their own heat, not by fear. And yes, their minds can be twisted by coy or cruel men and women, but invariably with the aid of their own hidden desires and the pleasure given to them.

While all my books are copyrighted on the likes of Amazon and elsewhere within the last few years. That's because they've been to some extent, modified and edited from their original, more crude forms. But you have to realize some of these books were written twenty years ago. If you want to see whether a book is part of my earlier works or later works you can find out at ebookblue.com, where my books are numbered from 1 to over 200. This is not entirely accurate, but pretty close to reality.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Incest is Best

If BDSM is controversial, incest is even more so, and combine the two and you have, well -- a lot of outraged people!Yet the incest books I've had published have all been hugely popular. In fact, at one point my top three sellers on Amazon were all incest - until Amazon removed them. Remember, please, that we're talking adult incest here, and consensual. Why are they so popular? I guess a lot of people have had thoughts that way in their past (or present), forbidden thoughts about their uncles or aunts, about their brothers or sisters, or, dare I suggest, their fathers or daughters or mothers or sons? People have fantasies! They're not dangerous. And as long as we know the difference between fantasy and reality I think there's nothing inherently 'wrong' with a fantasy about incest. I write fantasies, and if incest fantasies are what people want to read, that's what I want to write. Unfortunately, my options for selling them are drastically restricted these days, which I think unfortunate. You can put a book featuring a serial killer disemboweling and torturing people to death on just about site, but a book where a pair of adult siblings engage in consensual sex - well that's too outrageous for some reason.

Friday, 25 February 2011

On being a woman

I'm not, but you know, after years of writing stories about women and their sexual experiences, often in the first person, it's so easy and almost natural to get my mind into the role, that is, to imagine myself as a woman that people have complimented me on the degree of empathy I show, on how I describe sex from a woman's perspective.

@work

I've never used anyone I know as the exact model for any of my characters, but I must admit I do use some of the ladies I've known as my physical models. That is, when I'm writing a character I'll be thinking of one of the girls I know. Only one of them is aware of that, though. Today I came across a beautiful woman at work I hadn't seen in some time. She's intelligent, and dresses like a librarian, right down to the glasses - all except those sexy stiletto heels she wears. I love putting a character like her in my books, as you never know what's under those proper outfits, or what dark and kinky things she does at home. Anyway, it was interesting talking to her as I'd used her as one of the central characters in a couple of my books. In one, she was the 'startled' vanilla woman exposed to the sudden heat of bondage and sex. In the other she was the predatory boss, secretly lesbian, and definitely into disciplining her hapless young female employee. Wonder what she'd say if she knew... :)