I thought I’d decided my next step – having heard about people who make a decent income from Kindle erotica, it seemed something worth trying.
Then I looked into it a bit further and found Kindle Unlimited has unlimited problems. Books being withdrawn, accounts shut down for activity the author has no control over, and the whole dodgy ‘pay per page view’ premise is giving me pause. The whole point of self-publishing for me is to avoid being at the mercy of other forces.
But on the other hand, it seems that you can’t earn any money without recourse to Amazon. So I’m back to pondering…
I thought it might be fun and illuminating to think about some of the ways in which erotic writing differs from other types – because it does, in many ways, some of them quite surprising.
Today we have naming of parts.
Of course, all writers have to think deeply about their word choices, I’m not suggesting otherwise. But for erotic writers, this can become an incredibly vexed question. There are readers who will click away from the story the moment the word ‘cunt’ shows up. There are others who will roll their eyes at anything but the bluntest descriptors.
Most readers fall between these two stools (but let’s not get into scat – definitely not my niche). Even so, everybody has their cringe-list; those words and descriptions that will take them out of the breathless moment and into mild nausea.
I have quite a few of my own, but my number one bugbear is ‘cum’ – spelled like that, rather than ‘come’, which is fine. I know that makes no sense, but I hate it. There’s something about it that reminds me of the panicky, unsettling feeling when I found sticky pages from highly-coloured porn mags in the local woods as a child of about 9. It makes me anxious.
My weird aversion illustrates something all erotic writers must struggle with – the readership’s own irrational hatred of certain words and phrases. Of course, you can’t possibly take everyone’s tastes on board. You’d never get a word written at all. But I keep an eye on these kinds of conversations, and if one word persistently crops up as being found repellent by many, I’ll avoid it. ‘Moist’ is one – many people find it sickening, which is a shame, as it’s a very serviceable word in erotic description, but I don’t want people heaving over my characters’ shenanigans, so I have – with some regret – crossed it off my ‘to use’ list. Another is ‘gusset’. Oh, how many times have I been tempted to write about a woman’s ‘moist gusset’. But you’ll only read it here – never in one of my stories. Alas!
What words do you avoid? I’d love to hear everyone’s squick list.
Next time – euphemisms!
It’s taken me a while to come up with a plan.
Last year, I barely wrote a word. I don’t know if it was burn out, or if some vampire attacked me in my sleep and drained all the confidence out of me, but nothing was working and I had to stop even thinking about writing for a good, long time. The vampire didn’t even have the common decency to be sexy, the bastard. If it had been the Poldark one from Being Human I wouldn’t have minded so much.
This year, it’s a different story (thank god because the last one was very boring). Ideas are bursting out like the flowers that bloom in the spring, tra-la. But with the different story comes a different problem – what the hell do I do with them?
The erotica/erotic romance scene I entered eight years ago has gone through so many mutations that it’s now unrecognisable. Many of the imprints I liked to work with have shut down or changed in ways that don’t work for me.
Don’t get me wrong – there are imprints still running that I think do excellent work. Totally Bound is one of them – they have a great PR department, look lovely and publish some top-grade stuff. But with some others, there’s been a definite shift towards a softer approach, which I can cope with on some levels but not others (e.g. being asked to tone down my content so as not to scare the kink-curious post-50 Shades horses).
So I’ve decided to give self-publishing a serious go. It wasn’t something I ever really wanted to do, because I hate all the fiddle-faddle admin type stuff that goes along with it, but on the other hand, the freedom of it is something I need at the moment. A late-night Twitter conversation with Giselle Renarde and A.M. Hartnett (read their books!) gave me the final push, after much dithering.
So you can expect new material (along with some repackaged old material) in the near future – just as soon as I know what I’m doing.
Maybe not the ‘near’ future then…
Mischief Books have just brought out this hot little anthology, which contains my story Open Minded, about a woman who flatshares with a dominatrix.
It contains a slew of other stories as well by the likes of Ashley Lister and Rose de Fer, so there’s plenty of bang for your buck.
Here’s an excerpt from mine:
The advert had asked for an ‘open-minded’ flatmate, and when I asked her what she meant by that, she replied with breathtaking frankness.
“I moonlight as a sex worker,” she said. “Specifically, kinky stuff, a dominatrix. But you don’t need to worry about weirdoes hanging around the place – I know all my clients very well and they’re 100% decent, respectful guys. Most of them pretty well-off, too. No shifty types in raincoats, I promise.”
It took me a while to reply to this. I needed to take stock of her answer. The fresh-faced thirtysomething woman sitting in front of me in sweats and a messy ponytail was a…?
“I know, it fazes most people when I tell them,” she sighed. “If it bothers you, that’s fine, I’ll readvertise…”
“Er, no, no, hang on,” I said. “So you’re saying you meet your clients here?”
“I’ll have made enough for a deposit on a serviced apartment in the West End soon,” she said. “The plan is to move operations out of here as soon as I can. It’ll just be for a few weeks, I hope, until I’ve made all the necessary start-up costs.”
“You know, marketing, a new web page, maybe some hush money for the concierge. That kind of thing. I’ve already got everything I need for the job itself.”
“The job itself,” I echoed. “You mean, like, whips and stuff?”
“Yeah. Thigh high boots, all that.” She grinned suddenly over the rim of her coffee mug. “I know I don’t look the type. You can’t picture it, can you?”
“I can’t really,” I confessed. Shona seemed such a very typical kind of London woman – gym, office, wine bar, home. Not gym, office, wine bar, walk all over a man’s back in stilettoes. But then, perhaps there was no ‘typical London woman’. It wasn’t as if I didn’t have my own secret dark side, after all. In fact, Shona and I could almost be birds of a feather. Perhaps it was right that we should flock together. “I thought you had to be about six foot tall and built like Wonder Woman.”
“Hey, are you saying I’m not built like Wonder Woman?” she said with a fake pout and a laugh. “No, you’re right. But you can dress up to look like anything, really. And it’s all about confidence. If you can say the right things in the right way at the right time, you can look like a Cabbage Patch doll and still get clients. OK, I might be exaggerating that last bit – you do have to make an effort with your appearance. But it’s not as prescriptive as you might think.”
There was a pause.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I can see this has knocked you sideways. I’ll let you get on.”
“No,” I said, shaking my head for emphasis. “No, it’s OK. Honestly. I said I was open-minded, and I am. I’m more fascinated than repelled, definitely.”
“So you might take the room?”
“Well, it’s a really nice one. And the location’s perfect, two minutes from the Tube. Price is right. I haven’t seen anything else half as good.” I muted my thoughts, to put the minus side to myself. “But it could be noisy, what with all the walloping and howling that might go on. And what if we get raided by the police?”
“It’s really a great area to live in,” Shona enthused. “The high street’s full of pubs and bars, there’s the cinema, loads of shops, leisure centre around the corner, park at the bottom of the hill…”
I made my decision. This was London. When it came to renting property here, there was always a compromise to be made. The question was only what it would be. I could cope with a few submissive blokes passing through now and then better than half an hour on top of my commute, or rising damp. Perhaps they’d even make me the odd cup of tea, or do the dishes for us.
“How often do you see clients?” I said.
“Not that often at all,” she said. “Two Saturdays a month, and one evening a week – usually a Wednesday, six till ten. I’ll always give you tons of warning. If you like, just go out for a drink on those evenings. Spend the Saturdays in town, or with mates, or whatever. It’s flexible, anyway. I’ll always take your needs on board.”
“OK, then,” I said. “I really like the room, and you seem really nice, and…and…OK then. Let’s do it.”
She clapped her hands. “Thank fuck!” she said. “Finally, somebody who knows what open-minded actually means.”
My crawl down Memory Lane has rung out 2009 and rung in 2010, and finds me existing in a post-Black Lace wilderness. Apocalyptic times indeed. Would my work ever see print publication again? I did wonder.
As it happened, about three months after the announcement of the indefinite ‘hiatus’, my editor popped up again with a new proposition. He’d just got a job as commissioning editor with independent outfit Xcite books. They were pretty new in the market, but they saw an opening and they got in there!
With renewed hope, I submitted to the new short story calls like billy-o, and the first out of the gate was a story called The Heart-Shaped Box, which appeared in the collection Sex, Love and Valentines, published in January 2010. This tale of a couple who prefer kinky toys to flowers and chocolates appeared alongside stories by: Kat Black, Jeremy Edwards, Shanna Germain, Landon Dixon, Roger Frank Selby, Lucy Felthouse, Primula Bond, Izzy French, Amelia Thornton, J Manx, Janine Ashbless, Sue Williams, Elizabeth Cage, Charlotte Stein, Alcamia, Lilli Lace, Sophia Valenti and Lynn Lake.
One of the nice things about writing for a new outfit was the expansion of my pool of fellow writers. New faces and old joined together and ‘erotic social media’ was a very fun place to be at that time.
Another ‘first’ was the offering of the book to Amazon Vine reviewers – which was a great way to get a lot of reviews, fast, but could be funny when some of those reviewers clearly weren’t expecting anything quite so rude!
The book is no longer in print, although a few copies are still obtainable from Amazon.
Here’s how my story starts:
I tend to ignore the advance of Valentine’s Day: the steady pink-and-fluffying of the shop windows and card racks; the helium balloons and expensive chocolates and bottles of fizz everywhere; the perfume promotions and special restaurant menus and adverts for The Twenty Most Vomit-Inducing Ballads in the World, Ever, Part 38. It all leaves me a bit cold, this commercialisation of love. Not even love. Romance. Whatever that is.
So when Spiro told me he had a Valentine’s surprise for me, I was unenthusiastic. ‘I don’t do Valentine’s Day,’ I told him.
‘You will do this one,’ he told me, undaunted. ‘You will do. And you will be done to.’
Ah, now that sounded more like something I could get on board with. And I began to feel optimistic. Spiro understood me. He would not be like the last boyfriend I had over a Valentine’s Day, who gave me a fuchsia-coloured teddy bear wearing a T-shirt bearing the legend “I Wuv U”. That was doomed right from the start. The power of wuv was definitely not enough.
With Spiro though, at the age of twenty eight, I had finally started to explore aspects of my sexual identity that had long lain dormant. I had always known I had a kinky side, but I assumed it was something I ought to hide or suppress, for fear of…I don’t really know. But fear kept it in the background, at any rate, while I played at being vanilla and wondered why I couldn’t get properly involved in my relationships.
The lovers thought I was cold and self-absorbed, and I probably was. Until Spiro came along.
It was like a lightning flash; he did everything right, the way I fantasised. He watched me for a while first – all the eyes-meeting-and-snatching-away stuff that makes the pit of your stomach bubble and boil fit to burst. Then there were knowing looks and smirks and somehow always being in the elevator at the same time, brushing up, nudging shoulders. Then he deviated from the vanilla script and walked straight into my dreams by following me to the tube station one evening after work and saying, ‘You should come out with me. I think I’d be good for you.’
Like any self-respecting noughties woman, I played up the independent schtick and scorned his advance. ‘Yeah? Good for me? Right.’
‘Because I’ve seen the type you go for, and I think I know where you’re going wrong.’
‘Oh, pray do tell.’ Heavy on the sarcasm, but my heart was pitter-pattering like a captive bird’s.
‘You go for these sensitive guys you can walk all over. They don’t challenge you, so you get bored and move on. You need someone that challenges you. I’d challenge you.’
The crowds at the ticket barrier blurred away for a moment – I actually felt faint. I mean, it was hardly a revelation – at some level I’d always known this. But…for somebody else to see it…it felt significant. And momentous. And a bit like falling in love, not that I’d ever done that.
I went out with him, and he was right. He challenged me. He interested me. He kept me on my toes. It was weird, because he was two years younger than me, and I’d always fantasised about an older man, but he had a natural authority that went beyond youthful cockiness and self-assurance – though he had those in spades too. It didn’t hurt that he was gorgeous either, in that broad-shouldered olive-skinned Italian way, with a shock of inky hair and sumptuous lips you could kiss all day and night.
The sex got very exciting very quickly. There was none of that pussy-foot dance, shall-we-or-shan’t-we, ‘oh look, I’ve missed all the buses and I can’t afford a taxi’ type thing. No, I cooked him a meal and after we’d spooned up the last of the tiramisu, he pushed my wine glass aside and said, ‘If we’re out of food, it must be time for bed.’ A grin that could be interpreted as cheeky or wicked accompanied the words. ‘I think you must agree.’
‘You’re awful,’ I said.
‘That’s for you to find out. Though I don’t think you’ll be saying so tomorrow morning.’
He wasn’t awful. He was amazing. He did all the things I’d longed for other lovers to do – he held me down by the wrists, he talked dirty, he encouraged me to change position by slapping me on the bum, and, most of all, he made me come like the Japanese bullet train, hard and fast and over and over again. He was like a rough, bluff pirate king of sex and I couldn’t get enough of him.
So it was just as well he had plenty to give. He was still giving, six months later, in mid-February, just as the celebration of St Valentine hit the cash registers of the post-Christian world.