Lemons into Lemonade: “Too Hot For [Retailer]!!!” vs “Damnit…my book’s been yanked. Again.”

I’ve joked with fellow writers for a while now that I’d have to do something to offset that snarly feeling one gets when one receives an email saying one’s book has been pulled from a retailer’s shelves due to “[insert inappropriate content here].” (Edited to add: That sounded really, very wrong. Don’t insert anything you don’t want to insert, anywhere.) It would seem, after some developments of late, that the time for turning lemons into lemonade and using the TOO HOT FOR KOBO!!! angle is now.

Here’s the thing: I know why a couple of my books can’t (or should I say won’t) be carried by certain e-retailers. I’ve blogged before about the shift in erotica markets and the controversial moves to ban certain subgenres and kinks altogether from a few places. I’ve made reference to the anti-censorship posts made by the prolific erotica writer Selena Kitt more than once (LINK NSFW), and believe me, the landscape has only gotten increasingly harsh since then. I do understand the whys and wherefores behind these retailers’ decisions; I just…don’t agree with them.

I’m assuming, since you’re reading this blog, that you know a little bit about my “Fruit of the Forbidden Tree” series, why I titled it such, what its contents are, what the common theme betwixt the three standalone stories is, and so on. For fear of raising whatever Google’s version of “hackles” would be, I shan’t spell it all out, but if you were to do an internet search for, say, “P.I. erotica,” I think you’d get the picture. (Note: I don’t recommend you actually doing said search unless you’re 18+, using an incognito tab, and are miles away from anyone to whom your reputation may matter. Just sayin’. It’ll probably turn up some pretty skeevy stuff.) But, at the risk of sounding as though I am protesting too much, I can honestly say that all of the feedback I’ve gotten from readers has told me that my series cuts a few close corners without going headlong into stuff most booksellers would find genuinely objectionable.

Umm...

Umm…

…well. Okay. GIVING THANKS pushes some boundaries. And by “some” I mean “yes, fine, it’s P.I. erotica.” Continue reading

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Posted in actual blog entries, available on Amazon, book: frozen in time, book: fruit - complete collection, book: giving thanks, book: summer of sin, ebooks, erotica, publishing and business, series: fruit of the forbidden tree, some form of humour | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Goodreads giveaway of “Fruit of the Forbidden Tree” is underway. + Recommended reading!

I haven’t been around much lately, have I? Terribly sorry for that; life sometimes gets in the way, as I’m sure you all know. But I wanted to pop in long enough to mention something I’ve foolishly not announced before now: there’s a giveaway on Goodreads right now for paperback copies of Fruit of the Forbidden Tree: The Complete Collection! So…yes. You may wish to enter that. Or not, as there appear to be 300+ entrants already, so to up your odds considerably, you can join my mailing list & automatically qualify for my own private giveaway (not to mention guaranteeing yourself a free digital version of one of my books!).

If you opt to go the Goodreads route as well, you’ve still got lots of time: the contest is open until February 26th. And do feel free to add me over there, too, as I’m always very interested in seeing what others are reading and recommending – you can find my author profile here, where I believe we can befriend each other quite merrily.

The Complete Collection paperbacks

With any luck I’ll return before long with writing updates. In the meantime, if you’re looking for things to read, might I recommend a few writers whom you may enjoy?

  • Cate MarsdenThe Zombie She Carried is popping up all over the place! If you’ve not experienced it yet – the romance, the humour, the wit, the wonderfully worked blending and bending of genres – you simply must.
  • Greer Hartley – she’s still at work on her next in the fantastic “Killer B’s” series, so pick up her first installment, Bitten,” for properly hot vampire sex with a bloodsucker who doesn’t sparkle.
  • Anna J. Roberts – her newest, brilliantly hilarious parody, Fifty Shades Later,” is now available and I highly recommend it. (You may want to check out her Jessica Pine romance novels while you’re at it.)
  • Pandora Richardson – having had the pleasure of working with her, I’m happily giving her Intimate Encounters works a shout-out here.

Go forth and read, my friends!

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That Awkward Moment: When your mom’s book club chooses your erotica collection.

Remember when I said things had gotten weirder as far as family support for my writing goes? I hadn’t yet counted on the twist it all took on Thursday night.

Picture this: you swing by to pick up your mom after her monthly Ladies’ Night meeting, get introduced to all of the nice, affable women in attendance…and immediately get told that their book club is looking for something to read soon, so we don’t suppose you’d happen to have a copy of your erotica trilogy on hand, would you, dear?

Well…no. Generally speaking I don’t walk around carrying pornographic paperbacks, even on nights when I’m not going to be meeting some of my mother’s acquaintances for the first time. Perhaps especially on those nights.

I must say, though, that my mother’s on-the-spot impersonation of a man selling knockoff watches out of his trench coat was dead on. And funny. Funnier still because I can actually picture her flinging her winter jacket open to expose a dozen copies of my book, hawking my wares in back rooms and book clubs whenever the mood arises. We’ll get to that point, I’m sure. If she asks me to accompany her on a shopping expedition for a new (read: bigger) coat, I’ll know we’re there.

It’s a strange experience to walk into a busy restaurant and have an entire table full of women immediately turn to look at you as though you’re either a depraved individual who has been discussed exhaustively (thanks, Mom) all evening, or you’re the holder of the Holy Grail. Continue reading

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Finally, some movement on the “personalized erotica” front.

There’s been an idea brewing for years now, one that I’ve been part of from the very beginning: personalized erotica. At long last I’m finally doing something about it. Isn’t that novel?

I figure there’s gotta be a market for this sort of thing, right? I mean, who wouldn’t want to buy a sexy story that isn’t just about two random characters but is, instead, about the readers themselves? Imagine how many women wish it was their name and eye colour and such instead of “Ana Steele” within the pages of Fifty Shades of Grey? (I shudder to think about how many men envisioned themselves in the place of Christian Grey…and if you’re wondering why, you may want to check out wonderful writer Anna Roberts’s fantastic-and-disturbing recap of the book).

But aside from writing up a good number of common fantasy stories into which I can place people’s names and descriptive features (which, by the way, you can help choose to get us started: please, do vote anonymously on the HUSH Stories poll, if you’d be so kind), I’m also planning to do something considerably more ambitious: I’m starting to take commissions from people, people who have something very specific in mind and want a professional writer to actually put it on paper for them.

If a woman were to email me and say that there’s long been a fantasy she’s had about her husband coming home dressed as a superhero of her choosing and “rescuing” her in a rather creative way? I’d be writing that for her, from the ground up, using as many real-life details as possible (what her bedroom looks like, or little catchphrases or naughty words her husband likes to use in bed, that sort of thing). And so on.

It’s audacious. I know. Especially while I wait for the other writers attached to the HUSH project to get free of their current obligations. But it’s also cool, no? Had I not already (apparently, if my exes are to be believed) been good at writing those stories for myself and my lovers, I’d have been over the moon to find someone who was willing to do that for me. Here’s hoping I can make someone else that happy.

If you haven’t poked around the HUSH Stories page yet, have a look. Vote, if you like; I’ll certainly be grateful. And, best of all for my mailing list subscribers, I’m planning to do a giveaway soon where the prize is a completely unique, totally personalized erotica e-book, tailored to whatever they ask of me. Stay tuned, mailing listers (and, for goodness’ sake, if you haven’t signed up yet, you really must – you don’t want to miss out on this kind of stuff, do you?).

A side-note: HIS BIDDING is still selling for $1.99 (only to American readers, I’m sorry to say; I don’t know why Kindle Countdowns aren’t accessible to non-U.S. residents, myself included, but they are not, though you can still buy it internationally for $2.99) throughout tomorrow, so pick it up on sale while you can. And as for HER DESIRE, you can get it on all Amazon sites and it’s gone live at Barnes and Noble for those of you who have a Nook. I’ll be sure to update links when it finally (eventually? I hope?) becomes available through Apple and on Kobo.

His Bidding: The Best Medicine #1

Her Desire (1)

Thoughts on the whole “personalized erotica” thing? Do you think it’s something that people will seek out (especially as Valentine’s Day quickly approaches)? Talk to me, folks!

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Celebrating the release of HER DESIRE, a big HIS BIDDING sale!

At long last, HER DESIRE is out there for all to read! I’m hoping, by the time this post goes live, it’ll be available on Kobo, Nook and through the iBookstore as well, but it is definitely up on all Amazon sites right now, so have a look! And that’s not all…

Hotter. Longer. Fantasy come to life. Find out what happens after Brynn decides to do HIS BIDDING...

Hotter. Longer. Fantasy come to life. Find out what happens after Brynn decides to do HIS BIDDING…

To celebrate Book #2’s release, and to let folks catch up if they haven’t already, Amazon will be running a Kindle Countdown promotion on HIS BIDDING this week! Starting TOMORROW (Tuesday) and running through Friday, you’ll be able to pick up Book #1 in “The Best Medicine” serial for just $0.99 (that’s Tuesday and Wednesday) and then $1.99 (Thursday and Friday). If you haven’t already given it a home on your Kindle, now’s a great time to do it!

Get it ON SALE this week, January 21st-24th!

Get it ON SALE this week, January 21st-24th!

Finally, if you’re on my mailing list you already knew about this. If you’re not, what on earth are you waiting for? There are free books to be had! JOIN US.

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Rock Star Fantasies: The line between “inspiration” and “RPF” in erotica.

Believe me when I say I’ve a full follow-up to my last post (yep, it’s gotten weirder), but in the meantime there’s another subject looming large on the horizon – an upcoming series I’ve had in mind for a while now – that ought to be discussed. Ready? (…no?)

Remember when I first blogged about how I got started in the erotica genre? I was very young – barely legal drinking age here in Canada – and I was also very lucky, as the man I used as loose inspiration for my first writing assignment was all too happy to be a part of it. I think he understood my motives, or lack thereof: he knew it was meant to be a compliment, not a device to “land” him as a conquest or as a boyfriend or anything else of that sort. The fact that we went on to become (platonic) friends for so many years was just a lovely side effect of the whole thing, and he never stopped requesting my work for his birthdays and Christmas gifts. It was never awkward. He understood that I could think he was sexy as hell (and vice versa) without ever needing to cross any boundaries. He just inherently got the spirit of it.

Now, though, I realize just how much of a fluke that might have been.

I’ve been plotting out a series of the “rock star” ilk for some time. It’s a fun idea, and being that I’m such a huge music fan, I’ve been exposed to and met an awful lot of musicians who have undoubtedly inspired their fans to fantasize about a fling or two with them. Once again I find myself considering those upon whom I may base my characters in this prospective series, and I have a few in mind…but were I to tell them as much, would they be as flattered as my original “Hot Guy” was? Or would it strike them as a bit unnerving that a complete stranger is using them as a template for a fictional person?

It’s an interesting thought. I have friends, older than me by several years, who used to write fan fiction about The Beatles. When I was in high school I wrote an epic romance tome – about six spiral notebooks full – about my pop star crushes and all sorts of fanciful, magical ways in which fictional-me and fictional-BFF got to meet (and fall in love with, and make out with) them. I suspect there’s an awful lot of, say, Duran Duran fic out there, just as one example, though I’m a bit afraid to Google it and find out for certain.

(Edited to add: Okay. I broke and Googled. And yep, there are just this side of a bazillion links, some of the slash variety – see this Wikipedia entry if you want a definition – and others of the “this is my fantasy about how things would go if I met John Taylor” sort. Have a look at just one site, if you dare.)

But therein lies an important distinction between what I’m proposing to do and what others do for fun: I’m using real people as a basis, a general blueprint, to create fake people. I think a lot of writers in every genre do that; they take characteristics from people they’ve known and loved (or hated) and transpose them onto the characters who populate their books. It happens. In contrast, fan fiction of the above mentioned type is what’s generally known as Real Person Fic,” and it utilizes a celebrity under their own names, featuring their publicly known characteristics, and puts them into fictional situations…some of which are, arguably, a little bit (or a lot) creepy. In fact, if you Google “Real Person Fic,” one of the first autofills you’ll get is “real person fic creepy.”

For the linkphobic, I give you a basic definition from the TVTropes site used above:

Also known as Celebrity Fic, this is basically fanfiction based on the real life of one or more celebrities (as opposed to a strictly fictional canon). Just as how people find fantasies and interpretations within their favorite fictional characters, so, too, do they find them in celebrities. Any and all fanfiction tropes can apply (for example, it could decide to base itself around the high school days of the celebrity, create a Relationship Sue to vicariously live out a relationship with the person, use them as part of a Hurt/Comfort Fic, etc.). The possibilities are endless and often just disregard the celebrity’s history, personality, etc. in order to facilitate the plot (or, often, just the particular fetishes of the author).

However, it’s just as likely that a fic will be relatively accurate, based on knowledge of the celebrity’s “real lives” gained from interviews, blogs, tweets, etc. Increased interactivity between actors/bands/whoever and their fans makes it extremely easy for ficcers to include canon details into their work. This avoids factual inaccuracy, although there’s probably a fine line between research (good) and stalking (bad).

For the record, I generally take no issue with fan fiction that isn’t used for profit. (The “pulled-to-publish” stuff – I’m looking at you, Fifty Shades of Grey – is another matter entirely, but since I don’t want to get all grumpy on a Sunday afternoon I’ll save that subject for another time.) Do I write or enjoy reading it? No. Do I find some of it weird? Yes. Do I find some of it outright distasteful and disrespectful toward its targets/objects of affection? Absolutely. But do I roundly condemn it? No. People who want to write story lines they wish J.K. Rowling had included in her Harry Potter canon aren’t doing anything malicious, if they’re not trying to profit from it. They’re using already made-up characters to tell their own stories. They’re not projecting onto an actual human being.

But RPF? I have to admit, RPF kinda squicks me out. I got a taste of it once myself: a guy who was dating my best friend took it upon himself to write a story about the three of us having quite the romp together, and he gave each of us a copy, never asking us first how we’d feel about it. It weirded me out. And it definitely soured BFF’s relationship with him.

The thing is, though…what BFF’s guy did was only a couple of steps further than what I did back with Hot Guy. True, I didn’t use Hot Guy’s real name, or the name of the actual place we used to see each other, and I only turned it in to my English professor; I didn’t put it up on the internet or pass it around to my friends. But Hot Guy, who did hold a job with a very public high profile, could have been creeped out and thought, “Whoa – stalker!” because he didn’t know me from Adam by the time I told him I’d written erotica with a version of him as the star. Fortunately he gave me the benefit of the doubt and read it first, and realized I was simply using the most attractive man I knew to lay the groundwork for an assignment…but he didn’t have to do that. He could’ve blocked my email and looked over his shoulder forever.

If I were John Taylor or Simon LeBon, I’d probably do that after reading the link above just from seeing the tags and warnings on it. Yikes.

But back to my point.

I don’t want to use the real names of the rock stars in question when I begin my series using that premise. I don’t have any need to engage with them on a personal level. Sure, I’d like to have someone’s blessing to use a version of them and it would be nice to let them know that it’s a compliment – you’re gorgeous! you’re sexy! you’re talented! people are gonna want to read about a guy like you! – and not a bizarre fixation. I’ll probably look these fellows up on Twitter and throw this out there for their perusal, just to see if they have any feelings on the subject, knowing I don’t plan on infiltrating their lives or digging up weird details or writing myself into the books. That’s about as far as I’m interested in going. Indulging in fantasies about rock stars is a pastime as old as rock music itself, as is writing about them. It doesn’t have to get as weird and personal as RPF often does.

An interesting note on which to end this musing of mine:

Once I was all grown up, fate and chance saw to it that I happened to meet one of the pop stars about whom I’d written that epic tome in my spiral notebooks. We became well acquainted and, after years of me quietly idolizing him from afar, he became a Real Guy, just like any other (well, with considerably more talent than many, obviously, but you get my point). After we’d known each other for about a year, I confessed that I’d written this overwrought teenage romance about two girls meeting their musical heroes and falling in love, and I told him he was one of the characters. He thought it was great fun – I was a kid when I wrote it, after all – and was greatly flattered to know I’d had such a crush on him. I’d never let him read it, mind you (it’s pretty bad, as one might expect from a 14-year-old’s idea of highbrow Harlequin romance), but whatever part of me had felt compelled to admit that I’d written it ultimately felt at ease knowing he was cool with it. We’re still friends, and that’s all we’ll ever be, and I’m quite happy with that, because his music is still awesome.

So, tell me, dear readers: if someone told you they had been inspired by you and based a character on your charms and appeal, would you be flattered? Or would it disturb you to no end? Is the important distinction between “inspiration” and “Real Person Fic” the deciding factor for you?

P.S. A proper herald is coming, but for those who are reading this right now, you might be interested to know that HER DESIRE is now live on Amazon! Yay!

Book #2 in "The Best Medicine" serial is now available!

Book #2 in “The Best Medicine” serial is now available!

Posted in actual blog entries, book: her desire, erotica, personal stuff, romance, series: the best medicine | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“Outed” as an erotica writer…to (or by) your family?

Something kind of strange and awkward is happening lately. I’ve been writing in the erotica genre for awhile now, though my choice to do so as an actual, paying job was more recent. Still, before I began actively marketing my books, my writing was largely a secret from people like my parents. Yes, I’m a grown-up, but you know how some people remain “Mommy’s/Daddy’s Little Girl” forever? Yeah. I’m one of those. The particulars, then, of what I write tend to be sugarcoated, if not avoided entirely.

Lately, though…

Last week I went out for dinner with my mother. She had seen the paperback copies that I’d ordered for my mailing list giveaway a few days earlier and had begged to have one. I told her I didn’t have enough yet (mailing listers first!), but that I’d be sure to set one aside for her as soon as I was able…as long as she promised never to actually, you know, read it.

Over dinner, then, she handed me some cash. I quirked an eyebrow, wondering why money was being presented to me when we were only halfway through a meal. She explained: “Oh, I was telling Friend X about how pretty your books are, so she wants to buy one. This money is from her.”

The Complete Collection paperbacks

Mildly horrified, I sat with my fork suspended halfway to my mouth. “Mother,” I said, as calmly as possible, “you did tell her what the book is about, right?”

“Well, sort of,” she said, waving it all away as though we were talking about the weather. “I told her I’m not allowed to read it because there’s a lot of sex in it. So it’s not like I could get specific. Anyway, she wants you to inscribe it to [Friend X’s daughter].”

“What??” I had all but forgotten about my food by now. Friend X’s daughter is legally an adult, but…let’s just say she wouldn’t be able to go bar-hopping in the United States just yet. Despite the fact that I’m hardly ancient myself, I seem to have become weirdly protective of “kids these days,” and I suspect I forget how much of a prude I wasn’t in my university days. That’s when I was writing my first sexed-up stories myself! Maybe it’s just the fact that she’s the daughter of my mother’s friend, a girl I’ve known since she was in elementary school. I don’t know. But it freaked me out a little.

Even so, the customer is always right. I did as I was asked. We’ll see how that goes over.

Fast forward to last night. I was visiting with my parents when I noticed that someone had put money on my purse. I should’ve known, being that it was the same amount as what my mother had handed me over dinner, but I foolishly asked anyway.

“Oh, that?” my father responded casually. “My buddy at work was telling me how he’d just finished reading Fifty Shades of Grey and he didn’t care for it, so he was looking for something better to read. I told him you have a book out, and he asked me to buy a copy for him from you. Autographed and such. You know.”

I think I gaped at him for a solid thirty seconds. “Dad…you’ve told the guys you work with what I write?” (In all honesty I wasn’t convinced even he knew exactly what I write, up until that moment.)

“Sure.” Just as casual as my mother. 

Piping up, Mom added, “We’re just proud of you, dear. We like telling people you’re writing and doing well!”

And of course that’s true. My parents have been my biggest fans since I was born, always quick to heap praise on me for the smallest achievements. And they’ve both long wanted me to take writing more seriously, to make something of it, because they’re convinced I’m good at it. 

But…I’m fairly sure what they envisioned was more…mainstream. Not erotica. Not taboo subjects. 

The fact that my chosen genre hasn’t dampened their pride is heartening, naturally; how can it ever be a bad thing when your parents think you rock? But it does raise some weirdness. They know they’re not allowed to read anything I’ve put out so far, not ever, and they don’t ask why. They’re okay with that. But now their friends are reading it. Friends who know me. How is this not gonna become a thing? How am I going to stop myself from imagining Friend X or Work Buddy pulling one of my parents aside and saying something like, “Wow, Ella sure knows how to write some serious smut! I especially liked the part where…” 

I’m cringing just typing that. Oh, god.

The rest of my family has no idea. I don’t see why any uncles or aunts or cousins would want to know that I make money by writing about sex. Graphically so. In some instances involving step-siblings. This is just not the kind of thing you want hanging over the table at Thanksgiving dinner.

None of this is to say that I see any shame in being an erotica writer whatsoever. I’m not the least bit embarrassed to tell the average person what I do for a living. Why would I be? Just as writing murder mysteries does not make you a homicidal maniac (one hopes), neither does writing erotica of most any sort make you some kind of a sexual deviant. I love how freely available erotica is nowadays, and how much the market for it is not only written but fueled by women. Sexual liberation at last!

Having said all of that, though…it’s still more than a little awkward to have those sorts of conversations mentioned above with one’s “proud” parents. And every time I get an email from my mother that reads, “Ella, honey, I’ve been handing them out to [everyone at the doctor’s office/grocery store/bridge club] and have run out of your business cards again – would you mind setting a few more aside for me next time I see you?” …well. I cringe a little more. 

And then I set the cards aside, and let myself feel a little awkward before feeling grateful for having such supportive people around me.

Because what else is one to do, really?

 

I’d love to know if other erotica writers have faced the same sorts of dilemmas. To tell or not to tell? Forbid one’s family from reading, or let them review your work? Ask them to never spread the word to friends and colleagues, or allow them to boast and perhaps catch the interest of a few people who are curious to read erotic romance?

I’ll be sure to revisit this issue. Especially once my father’s Work Buddy and Friend X’s Daughter have had a chance to read the Forbidden Tree trilogy. I suspect I’ll have a few funny anecdotes to share…even if they’re at my own expense.

Oh, dear.

P.S. If you, too, are among those who weren’t bowled over by Fifty Shades…, I simply must recommend you read the brilliant Anna J. Roberts’s incisive, hilarious recap of every painful chapter. You’ll thank me for it, I promise.

Posted in actual blog entries, book: fruit - complete collection, erotica, personal stuff, some form of humour | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments