Monday, September 24, 2012

Read This New Erotica (Because Everyone Should Get a Second Opinion)

A new erotic story from Nightlife Publishing goes on sale this week. Here is a look at the cover and a preview of the story.

He wants to celebrate his birthday and forget his advancing age by spending a night with his lover. When she shows up with her friend, does that mean the end of their night of passion or the start of something else? 
Authors, book reviewers and bloggers who want to write a review for this or any other Nightlife Publishing title should contact me directly at for press copies.
Have fun

Read a Little Urban Horror and Your Train Ride Will Never Be the Same

A new urban horror story from Nightlife Publishing goes on sale this week. Here is a look at the cover and a preview of the special story I’ve written for Halloween.

Martin is young, arrogant and drunk when he decides to harass a homeless man on the train. But he doesn't realize the power that the old man wields in the tunnels. He can't escape from the wrath of the deranged torturers who want to punish him for the sins of everyone who has ever abused them. Will he be able to live through their brutality and see the outside world again?
Authors, book reviewers and bloggers who want to write a review for this or any other Nightlife Publishing title should contact me directly at for press copies.
Have fun.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Erotica as the Literary Pariah

“Writing ought either to be the manufacture of stories for which there is a market demand -- a business as safe and commendable as making soap or breakfast foods -- or it should be an art, which is always a search for something for which there is no market demand, something new and untried, where the values are intrinsic and have nothing to do with standardized values.”  - Willa Cather
My writing has not generated much interest or discussion over the past four months. I haven’t yet figured out the proper marketing methods that will allow the eager masses hungry to read my masterpieces. But what little discussion my writing has generated has all been about my erotica. I can write about conspiracy, murder or torture and there is no ripple within my social circle. Stories about sex on the other hand, forces people to turn away in silent rejection or (I think) alter the way they see me as a writer and a person. The reaction that I’ve received has inspired me to think more about what I am writing and why in relationship to the mind of my potential audience.
The American Relationship to the Erotic
In spite of the summer flurry around Fifty Shades of Gray and the deluge of BDSM erotica that tried to ride that long tail, erotic writing is still a repressed art form in America. We are trapped between our Judeo-Christian Protestant morality and our obsession with sex as a tool of commerce and power. We willingly exploit the concept that “sex sells” but reject any insightful public discussion about seduction or sexual expression. Our collective response to sincere sexuality is avoidance, disdain, ridicule, silence or backhanded suggestions of mental imbalance.
Thankfully, the reaction to my erotica hasn’t been that aggressive but it is disconcerting to discover the people in my life conform, to one extent or another, to the same attitudes towards sexual expression as the rest of society. This makes sense. They are functioning members of the community they live in. It is understandable that they share the beliefs of that group. I had no reason to expect anything different but somehow I hoped it would be.
Controlling the Image
I don’t have illusions about the way people interact with each other. I know that each of us holds onto an image of every person in our lives. We project attributes, titles and values onto the people that we know and then assume those qualities will be fairly consistent over time. Any information that alters or upsets the image we create is resisted and rejected. If a revelation doesn’t conform to our defined social relationship then we don’t want to hear about it. By and large, most of your family, friends and co-workers don’t want to know anything about your sexual expression because it upsets their image or you and falls outside the realm of acceptable information. Writing erotica, whether it is autobiographical or not, is a revelation about your sexual expression and your sexual philosophy. That makes it a subject not to be discussed or explored. Living in this world, only a total stranger or an intimate confidant is willing to learn about you that way. No one else you know has any interest in the subject.
I’m not trying to invite everyone I know into every sexual moment of my life or warp their image of me so much that they go insane from over exposure. At the same time, my sexual expression is a large part of the definition of who I am as a person. To push that part of me away or to repress it would be rejecting a facet of my life that I’m not ashamed of. Inserting erotica into my work makes as much sense to me as including humor, wit or complexity. It is fundamental to my art and to my life. If I didn’t put it in because other people weren’t comfortable with it, then my writing wouldn’t be mine any more. My life wouldn’t be mine any more.
Pushing Boundaries through Art
Just before I started releasing my work, I read a book from Susie Bright called How to Write a Dirty Story. The book was quite good partially because it helped me see my role as a writer both in terms of erotica and in terms of other aspects of writing. Her advice, like Ms. Cather’s above, was to use my craft to push the boundaries of society and not just relax within the comfortable framework of acceptable commercial work. I have no interest in writing the most shocking, perverted or controversial book ever. Marquis de Sade already did that. My goal is much more insidious. I want to embed the erotic in other types of stories so deeply that one can’t be separated from the other. I want to construct scenes that are arousing not because of their graphic explicitly, but because of their realistic intensity. Hopefully when I’m done, the erotic elements of writing will be as engaging as the conspiracy and murder. Until then…
Have fun.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Life, Death and Sock Puppets

A few days ago, a New York Times article revealed a little known practice in the self publishing business. It appears that several authors, some of them very high profile, are paying companies to write great reviews for their books on Amazon and on other sites. Some writers go one step further and pay for people to write very bad reviews of books written by their competitors. These paid writers are referred to as sock puppets and they could have a major effect on the publishing industry.
What’s Wrong With Sock Puppets?
The problem sock puppets create is twofold; first because there are so many books available online, many people make their choice of what to read based on skimming the reviews a book gets. They work under the theory that if a lot of other people liked a book, they might like it too. That theory is fine if you tend to like mainstream work, but it completely falls apart if a book gets 75 great reviews all written by one person who was paid to write them.
The bigger issue might affect Amazon directly. I am under the impression that the algorithms that Amazon uses to recommend books to people take the average customer review into account. If there are three hundred books on salsa dancing available, the first books you’re going to see are going to be the ones with more good reviews. I don’t think most people don’t search every result for every book search they do. I’m sure many of them only skim one or two pages of results. If the sock puppet books fill up those pages, the writers who didn’t pay for good reviews will never be seen and never be purchased.
Loving to Hate Sock Puppets
The more I learned about sock puppets, the more ambivalent I became. I spend a lot of time reading and writing about corporate spies and espionage. I am very familiar with the concepts of deception, persuasion and subterfuge. I can accept the idea that paid messages can come in the form of ads, sponsored blogs, subliminal messaging and other forms of psychological warfare. I don’t think there is anything sacred about customer reviews whether they are for hotels, electronics or books. It feels like the inevitable struggle that occurs whenever someone learns how to manipulate a system for their own purposes.
But as a writer I still have questions and dilemmas created by sock puppets. Why should I spend months trying to get real reviews if someone can spend $500 to get 50 fake ones? How do I even know how many sales the sock puppets are going to get me? Are these authors devaluing their own efforts for 10 extra sales or 10,000? Even if I did decided to pay for sock puppets, what am I saying about my own work? The last question is the most important one for me. Does paying for reviews make me a pragmatic publisher who adapts to the market in ways that will maximize sales or does it make me an insecure writer who isn’t confident enough in his work to let it stand on its own?

The Best Stories You May Never Read
At this point, I think I'm just going to go back to writing and leave the sock puppets to their marketing masters. I am too vain about my craft and too unsure about the real benefits of manipulating the system. My refusal to use sock puppets might mean that I am creating the best stories that no one will ever see. But at the very least, I want to feel good about what I'm doing.
Have fun.