Monday, January 25, 2016

Normalization (Serious Post)

I'm taking a break from sexy writing and not-so-sexy editing to talk about serious shit for a minute. Or ten. If you don't want to hear about serious business, then move on to the next blog. I also want to say that I'm not right on everything. There's NO WAY I can be right on everything, and thus, all I can share is my opinion, and that's what this is.

Tonight, I blocked someone for trans hate on Facebook. I made a quick post about it, because it skeeves me out, and I noted I had a lot of mutual friends with that friend. Thus if people are worried about it, they can private message me asking who, check it out for themselves, and make their own decision if they wanted to block or not. I did not out the person I blocked.

The post got a couple replies, and one was really long and like. "Well, when they change their outside then I'll embrace them" and I had to stop myself from blocking another person. It wasn't a hateful message--don't get me wrong, it really wasn't--but it was ignorant. I won't say I am the know it all of trans issues. I don't know shit. I have only what experiences I've read or trans people have told me to draw on, and how those persons wished to be treated. The vast majority have said if they identify as male or female, then they are and wish to be treated as such. Perfect. I don't really care. I know that sounds bad, but I don't. It's their body, their lives, I think I can change a pronoun use to make it a little easier for them. Big whoop, right?

The thing that got me thinking though is we're living in an era where homosexual people can marry! They're becoming accepted! Most people are for gay rights to be equal to straight people's right, and that's awesome! The next step in acceptance is trans rights. And that isn't to say that we all have equal rights. Women don't. As girls we're still told not to expose shoulders or knees to boys, lest they get all "distracted". People of race don't have equal rights, not when African Americans get pulled over like a billion times more than white people. Gay folks still don't have equal rights, when individual judges can say "No, I decide not to recognize your FEDERALLY GIVEN right to marry. Nope."

And that shit's not fucking cool man.

Where does change really come from? It comes from our culture. It comes from the bizarre becoming normal. Thirty years ago, a person with a tattoo was a fucking rebel and a bad person! Now it's all over the place, totally boring and commonplace. Long hair back in the 60's was a sign that you were a hippie and probably a drug user, and part of that "fringe" community... now it's normalized. No one cares. Yes, those things might be little things, but take it back to the 60's. If people of different colors married, they were in fucking mortal danger. Now, it's accepted. Not as much as it should be, but it's nothing most people would think twice about. It's being normalized.

As a white cisgender straight woman, I do feel uncomfortable writing about people of color or trans. I can understand gay a bit, because honestly, I think everyone's sexuality is fluid, and there's a bit of homo and hetero in all of us. Yet, I'm totally whitebread. HOW DARE I write about people of color! Stupid white person don't know nothing about struggle! That's... kinda what I'm afraid to get if I do, y'know? The problem here is that for erotica, the different is sexualized and fetishized. Even if I did write about what I mentioned I would be afraid I would be fetishizing it, which I don't want. The one story I wrote--My Big, Black Bodyguard Banged my Wife!--which featured a person of color prominently is fetishized a bit... but not all that much. If you read the story, there's actually a loving relationship between all three, and an understanding. It's probably why even in a "hot" category like cuckolding and interracial it totally bombed, lol. I just can't do it. I cannot write that.

The question remains, how can I (whitebread straight cis boring person) help to normalize other cultures, minorities, sexualities, and genders? I can incorporate them into my regular stories. For example, Michael? Nosferatu from Villainess? He's Puerto Rican. It's stated explicitly in the text that he's Hispanic. Many of my characters are gay or bisexual. When Dirk and Debbie go hopping through time and space, they are going to--and already have actually--be a person of color, since their bodies change. They don't remark upon it other than to note, "Hey, I'm African American", because for them, the characters, it's normalized. The Delilah Devilshot series will have many guest stars of minorities because the Wild West wasn't white. It just wasn't. The first of which will be Celia, a Mexican young woman who features prominently in the book... and will continue to appear in later books (as I had a really rad idea for her). Rock's had a very sexy run in with a Mistress of color (one of my favorite scenes actually) where it wasn't, again, made into a fetish. It was noted, made clear, and then moved right on... to the actual fetish parts of that scene, heh.

I'm not saying that I'm doing a great job, because there could be (and should be! And will be in the future) more. I also don't know if I will ever feel comfortable writing from a minority point of view as a lead character. I want to. I'm afraid I'll get it wrong, but I want to try because it shouldn't fucking matter. It still does, and that bothers me.

Last thing I want to say, about the blocking? Yeah, you know, I will defend to the death your right to say whatever you want... hate speech included. Doesn't mean I agree with it and doesn't mean I have to listen to it, and it doesn't mean I can't counter it. This, and my Facebook and Twitter and whatever online presence I have, is MY space. There is NO hate speech allowed period. I don't fucking care to debate it. It's not fucking cool. Body shaming isn't fucking cool. Saying that a trans person doesn't know what they want isn't cool, or saying they are not "really" a woman or a man. Putting people down for being different isn't fucking cool. Don't like it. Won't listen to it. This is a space meant for sexy times. It's meant for writing sexy times. It's meant to say, "I find curves fucking sexy!" or "Sucking cock is awesome!" or whatever. Sexy times. And writing. It's not ever been an issue yet, and I rather doubt it will be (lol yeah, like I'm famous or something, let me go laugh my stupid head off for a while then come back and finish writing this). But just as a note, that kind of shit just won't fucking be tolerated. I don't care if it costs me sales. I'm not writing for the damn money anyway.

And yeah, some things may end up being offensive. I won't say I'll be politically correct here all the time either. I'm writing about sex, for Christ's sake. I'm writing a story about a bisexual man getting a hand job from Jesus right now. That gonna offend some people? Yeah. Yeah it will. Still writing it. People are absolutely free to say how much they hate it. I'm cool with that.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Basic Things Every Erotica Writer Should Have and Should Know

I was talking the other day with Bryce about how to make covers, and what tips and stuff would be good, and then I thought about it... if I really wanted to do something here to help beginners get off the ground, I should really start with the basics, rather than just covers... of which I admit I know very little about since I don't make my own.

What should an erotica writer possess in order to start writing?
  • Basic Understanding of the English Language: You'd be surprised how often I open up an erotica book and it's... bad. Like, really bad. I'm not knocking people who know two languages--I certainly don't!--but if English isn't your first language and you want to write erotica in English... you need a basic understanding of how it works, and how to write in it. You can publish stuff that's hard to read, but people won't come back for more.
  • Basic Understanding of How a Story Goes: Whaaaat? You talking crazy, Alana? Erotica is just sex, right? Well, the thrust (hehe) of an erotica tale is sex, yes. That's the climax. However, even in straight they meet and fuck erotica, there's a basic flow to the story. And honestly, a story about two people meeting and fucking is not all that interesting. To that end, I highly recommend coming up with an interesting scenario, and giving yourself a small outline. It doesn't have to be much, but it's got to follow certain beats. You need to first introduce the main character briefly, explain their problem (yes, erotica characters have problems too, even if it's just "I wore the batteries out on my vibrator!"), introduce the "complication" and other characters, give your readers a tease, and then move on to the climax. For example, taking "Dominating Her Senator" apart. I introduce the senator first, and show that he's stressed out. His secretary shows in his last appointment for the day. This appointment starts bitching him out for voting against things which would help his female constituents, and then starts punishing him for being a bad, bad senator. (Spoiler: it ends in sex!) It's a short story, and it takes place in one setting. However, all those beats are still there. The tease part is when she starts verbally dominating him since it's a femdom book. I would argue that short stories, including erotica, are harder to write than novels because you have to make that connection with your audience in a thousand or so words to get them to connect with the main character. That's a hard thing to do. Obviously, for longer works, you'll want to expand that, but knowing how your story should flow is essential. There are exceptions to this, as always, but for the most part, basic plotting is essential, and it does help you in the long run.
  • Know Your Kinks/Niches: This one requires some research. If you want to write romance? Go read the top romance books being sold right now. If you want to write adult baby diaper stories? Go read the top ones. Figure out what you want to write, and aim your story specifically for that. Now, now, I know it's a bit hypocritical for me to say this because I'm all over the place. However, I'm writing science fiction and fantasy which happens to be erotica. It's not a popular niche, but for this niche, the setting is just as or MORE important than the sex. For Maledom/femsub, it's important that you know how the lifestyle works, and what's sexy about that scenario. For cuckold, you need to understand why people may want to be cuckolded, know what a hotwife is and what a bull is, etc etc. Before you start writing, read the books that people like already in your niche. As a side note, you'll hear the words "kink" and "niche" a lot, and the two terms are basically interchangeable. A kink/niche is the type of erotica you write. I write scifi erotica, and femdom. Sprinkled with a little horror erotica and gay. (Like I said, I'm all over the place) Those would be my kinks or niches. If you take nothing else away from this article, just remember to READ THE POPULAR STUFF TO SEE WHAT WORKS.

Those are the very basic things you need to write erotica. I could also add "basic editing skills" but that goes under basic writing, heh.

Now that you know you can do this, how do you go about writing it? I have a post somewhere here which detailed my method for going through and actually writing. I'm a fan of outlines, but simple ones. I put in more details as I need them. I will move on instead to things you need to know about publishing on Amazon.

Amazon, without a doubt, is the biggest place to sell. You can sell on other platforms, but Amazon is by far the most profitable. Assuming you are writing this to make money and not just for personal amusement, there are some things you need to know about the Big A.

  • Certain Kinks/Niches are a No-No: Amazon likes their erotica plain Jane for the most part. There are certain kinks/niches which are just not publishable on Amazon. These include, but are not limited to: bestiality, incest, underage sex, rape or non-consent (NC stories). These will not only get your book blocked, but could potentially get you banned from Amazon.
  • Other Kinks/Niches are Borderline: There are varying reports from erotica writers, but in general, these niches/kinks are considered borderline: they COULD get your book blocked, but MIGHT not, depending on how you package it. These include: Monster erotica (IF it includes tentacles OR a shifter that is not completely in human form--other forms of monster erotica are safe if they are completely made up or extinct beings, ie dinosaurs), pseudo incest ("step" incest--but Amazon has been cracking down on these recently), dubious consent (as opposed to noncon, dubcon is often a mixed bag, they say they don't want it, but they really do and are enthusiastically participating at the end is dubcon... and usually ok. Having sex while on a mind altering drug (even if it's made up) is much iffier).
  • Titles and Blurbs Need to be Free from Obscenities... and Other Miscellaneous Words: This "rule" is harder to pin down. Obviously, any foul language in the blurb or title will get you blocked or at least adult filtered, so stay away from them. However, other words will also get you filtered or blocked. This is an INCOMPLETE list, as Amazon shifts it around a lot: cheerleader, virgin, babysitter, hypnosis, rape, force (enforced, forcibly, etc), noncon, abuse, girl, boy, preteen, teen/ager, tween, baby, infant, newborn, child/ren, mother, father, brother, sister, bro, sis, mom, momma, daddy, pa, grandfather, grandmother, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, cousin, great-, -in-law and step-variants, incest, pseudoincest, family, mind control, PI, (gang)bang or any variant with the word -bang in it (not "gangbanger" though) like blowbang or ragebang, breeding, lactation, rimjob, rectum, deflower, pussy, cunt, creampie, cum, splooge, semen, menstrual, period blood, slave, prison bitch (other derogatory uses of bitch), molest, pedophile, pedo-anything, fuck, jizz, shit (when literal) and anything referring to actual feces or urine, bestiality, any real-world extant animal word like wolf, dog or bull. **Please note that many titles as of late (within the last month) have been blocked by using words like these too: hucow, pounded, sex, hard, penetration, lactation, breeding, milk, thrust, pumped, stretched, filled, rough.** 
  • Covers Need to Follow Amazon's Prudish Rules: Among other guidelines like the size of your cover and what format to save it in, Amazon has a few rules about what you can post for a cover. There can't be any nudity or IMPLIED nudity in there, so handbras are out. Butt cheek need to be covered. You can't have people tied up on the cover, or in handcuffs, especially women. I've heard that you can get away with it if it's a guy, but I would not chance it. However, instruments of bondage are quite alright, so long as they are not actually being used, ie, 50 Shades and the handcuffs. 
The thing that's frustrating about this is that since each book is reviewed by an individual reviewer, and there's no one set of standards, is that what gets one book blocked or filtered won't on another. These are general rules that have been proven time and time again to get people blocked, banned, or filtered, but other things may crop up that haven't been discussed. 

As a side note, I'm still amazed I got "Pooper Probed by Poseidon" and "Knob Gobblin' Hobgoblins" through the adult filter.

What is this adult filter I've been talking so much about? Well, if you publish a book that has "adult content visible to children" (ie, butt cheeks on the cover even if the model is wearing a thong, or perhaps a swear word in the title), then Amazon puts it on an adult filter. Why is this bad? It means that unless people click OFF the adult filter, your book will NOT come up on a search on Amazon. It means less visibility and potentially less sales. How do you know if your book is adult filtered? Good question! Go to and plug in your author name or book. If a big fat red ADULT comes up next to a book that means it has been adult filtered. If you put in my name, for example, two of my books have been filtered: My Big Black Bodyguard Banged my Wife! (for "banged") and The Perils of Penetrating Pixies (for "Penetrating"). 

What is the difference between being "blocked" and "adult filtered"? If your book is "blocked" it's done. It will show up on your bookshelf on Amazon as blocked. I have never had one blocked, so I'm not 100% sure what it looks like, but from what I've been told, you can't miss it. The general advice is to abandon the book on Amazon and perhaps sell it on other platforms if you can.

That's all for now. Need to go back to editing. :)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Reviewing as an Author

What's this? Another reviewing blog post? Well, it's important! And it's something I enjoy doing. Everyone likes to have their opinion heard! However, reviewing as an author is tricky. It is. There are some rules you need to obey from Amazon, but they don't tell you these rules.

First and foremost, if you are an author and you are reviewing something in the genre you write (and I've heard it anything at all, but especially the genre you write in), if you leave a bad review--one or two stars--Amazon may review your review and determine that you are trying to sink the other author by deliberating leaving bad reviews. Amazon's a bit picking about reviews... no family, no friends, and if they catch people who know the author leaving reviews, nebulous bad things will happen! Well, actually not so nebulous--the reviews will disappear. This has been documented in other writing blogs so I shan't go over it here. However, the one or two star thing you really should pay attention to. I try very hard not to give low reviews. I also try very hard not to give stellar reviews all the time, because it's disingenuous. I want to give my honest opinion. Happily, most books are at least three star worthy! It takes something bad to earn less than that.

Have I left bad reviews? Yes, of course. However, as a responsible reviewer especially for the Naughty Snitch Blog, if it's a bad review, I will contact the author first. I have before, and I will again. I will tell them why I found the book bad, and what I found good about it, then ask them if they want me to leave the review. It's a courtesy. When I DO leave a bad review that is not for the NBS site, depending on the author, the book, and honestly my mood at the time I will leave it on Goodreads AND Amazon, or just on Goodreads. No matter what, it's under my real name though.

Why my real name? First, there are more reviews than on the pen name. Second, Amazon knows it's me--the accounts are connected, it's not like I'm hiding from them so any worries about quality control or sneaking around should be assuaged.Third, I believe that strongly in what I'm saying. It's never just a 'Oh, it sucked' review. I list why I didn't like it, what I DID like about it, and suggestions if I think of any which may be applicable, especially with grammar, spelling, and formatting as all of those are easily fixable.

I mean what I say, and I'll stand behind it. However, why not always post on both GR and Amazon? As an author, I realize reviews can hurt books and sales. Keeping in mind that hidden rule of Amazon's from above, I also put MY publishing account in possible jeopardy. So, if it's on Amazon... yes, I feel that strongly about it. The second reason is just not to be a dick. Most authors pay attention to Goodreads too, and if a book already has over the magic number of 25 and are getting promotions from Amazon and showing up on also boughts and so on, they don't really need the review to help get noticed... but the constructive criticism in the review may still be read and appreciated. It may. Not usually, but it may.

When reviewing books, I look at it in three different ways. If I was reading the book as a reader, writer, and editor. As a reader... did I enjoy the story? Did it grip me? Did it provoke an emotional reaction? As a writer, did the plot make sense? Were the characters interesting? If I had to change it, would I? As an editor, how many errors are there? Are words spelled right? Is the formatting OK? How's the cover, is it eyecatching? Descriptive of the book? Will the blurb and cover sell books?

All of those go into what I think is a good book, and just because a book may have a bad cover doesn't mean the inside is crap. For instance, Sakura Von Sternberg's Erotic Adventures of Joan of Arc and Space Captain Cydd Yoshiba. I fucking loved that book. LOVED IT. But the cover (when I reviewed it) was terribad. The new cover is better, cleaner, with easier to read text and the author name standing out. Cover is appropriate for the book, but not necessarily erotica. But leaps better than the old one. Even though I hated the cover, I still gave the book five stars because it was that fucking good. I didn't just borrow it in the KU program... I bought it as well. LOVED it.

Which means y'all should go out and buy it right now.

Another one is Bohemia Beach. Lovely cover, good for romance, but the content was... a bit boring. Sexy filled, sure, but it lacked the fire, the... pizzazz. It was passable. The writing was good, there were hardly any errors, spelling was fine, the characters... bit boring. When they weren't boring... they got boring. I like sexy times as much as the next person (and I appreciate so much fellatio in the book!), but without a more interesting hook, I was bored. And I've read a ton of romances. I know some of them can be silly and they are all formulaic, but that formula works for a reason. Yet I didn't feel reading the book was a complete waste of time either, and I learned a lot about pottery!

I think it's more complicated to review things as an author, and not just because of Amazon's secret rule or to not be a dick. I tend to overcomplicate things, true, but it still takes a critical eye to look at a piece of creative work and critique it honestly. And it's hard to hear that criticism at times. BJ Thomas reviewed Knob Jobs and Broomsticks and gave it three stars. It smarted... but he had a valid point. He didn't like one of the characters in it, and thus his enjoyment of the book was brought down. A great review, and it wasn't bad! I just got all snooty thinking my stuff was totally awesome.

But it's not. Oh lord, it's not.

Don't get me wrong. Villainess I think I would probably rate it 4.5 to 5 stars, and maybe Delilah too. The Janus Key stuff, while all very amusing, would be 3-4 stars. Maybe a shining five here and there if it was particularly funny (like the first one was). Rock Hardin? Probably 3-5 stars. The Dominating ones... those ones... yeah, I was dialing it in, and for some of them it shows. Those would vary the most, being from 2 to maybe 4.5 stars. So you know, being able to take the skills you learn in reviewing other people's books and applying them to your own isn't a bad thing. I know we authors all want to think our shit is the best, and that everyone will love it, but even if it was the freaking Mona Lisa, there will still be critics, and there always will be.

One lesson to take from reading and reviewing a lot of books is how to look at your own and understand, "Hey, I love this, but other people may not."

I think I got off track at the end here, but all the points are valid.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Why Do I Write?

It's a simple question, isn't it? Why do I write? It both is and isn't that simple.

Of course, I would love to hit it big and become rich. Fame I can live without, but that would come with it, I think. I would love to just do this for a living, to just write, to just create things. I have an active enough mind I would never be able to get all of my stories out. Never ever. Just for instance, tonight I figured out a character for Delilah Devilshot who will make an appearance... but then I realized that he'll be a key player later on for the metaplot. His whole background just sort of popped into my head, and I think... I think people will like him. He'll be very likable.

Another idea popped into my head for The Princess of Wands, the next Villainess book about Alistair. Alistair had such an extreme reaction to Caprice mentioning Regulus that there had to be something else going on there. Bryce helped to clarify the thought for me, and suddenly... I knew his background, and it's damn interesting, adding another few dimensions to the character (in more ways than one!).

I would love to do this for a living, yet I don't think I'll ever get that successful to be able to quit my day job. It's pretty rare for an author to be able to do that, and rarer yet for an indie author to be able.

A dear friend said to me once that he thought I HAD to have a creative outlet, and I think that's true. It's not just writing. I draw too (though much less now) and paint miniatures, do modding for games, and hell, even programmed a game. Had an idea and I just had to do it. If I couldn't create something, I would want to die. It's an integral part of me, so when I say I HAVE to write, I mean it. It's an idea which won't leave me alone.

Then, here, I was looking at Mindy's review of The Prince of Cups (which is an incomplete review--it's only a temporary place holder) and smiling because of her enthusiasm for these characters I created (with help--Nosferatu was inspired by a friend's character in an MMO and Regulus by another, though both are heavily changed now, heavily heavily changed). It struck me that it made me happy knowing other people enjoyed what I wrote. It wasn't just the act of creation, which I enjoyed immensely, but also sharing it with people and having them discover something different, something which wouldn't exist if not for me. Yeah, of course, the praise is nice... but it's not the praise. It's ... I don't know how to describe it. It's giving people dreams, ideas. Something to talk about, to think about. Basically, giving them something to fangirl (or fanboy) over!

And I think that's why I want to write. Not just to create for myself, but to share it with people. I will never make the big bucks, and that's ok, so long as there are some people out there enjoying what I put out into the world.