What’s Up?

ImageI decided I needed to take a moment, show my blog some attention, and catch up after what was a hectic start of the year.

First off – Sport of Kings was released by Liquid Silver on January 1st.

Second – Volume Four of Memoirs of a Gigolo will be out on February 1st.

A few readers have asked me if there is something else on the horizon. First – thank you. I’d probably be doing this if you weren’t buying my books, but that you keep coming back for more tells me I’m doing something right.

A very very brief glimpse inside of what’s coming up. I have a romance coming out sometime later this spring through TWRP. I have a couple mainstream romances (which are pretty spicy but not erotica) I’m trying to get agented. I have something completely different which I’m working on that will appeal to readers who like mainstream contemporary fantasy. A YA dystopian in which I indulge my love of ancient cultures, mythologies and religions. Finally, after Memoirs I’ll be launching a new serial.

That’s it for the moment. Now I’m back to work for the next couple of days in advance of the launch of Volume Four of Memoirs of a Gigolo.

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FREE This Weekend – Volume Two of Memoirs of a Gigolo

I have to say I wasn’t sure at first if I would put Volume Two of Memoirs of a Gigolo on promo. But in the end I decided that it’s still early days for the serial and the promo does the job at bringing new readers into the fold.

So for one time only, I’m offering it up for free. That isn’t to say I won’t put it up again for free, but I can say that I’m just not certain when (or even if) that will happen. But for now and at this moment, it is available for free on Amazon.

There is no risk with free, but there is much to gain. I love Oliver, Olga, Elon, and possibly even Renatta (still not sure if she will have a redemptive moment yet). I do hope to find more readers that enjoy what I write as much as I enjoy producing it. For me, writing Memoirs is a labour of love. I hope that comes through.

Erotica’s Lost Literary Roots

Recently I’ve downloaded a lot of free erotica through Amazon. I want to read what other writers write for a couple of reasons. Since my student days when I was learning the craft of writing it has been pounded in to me that writers read and they read prolifically. Message received. You want to be a writer? Go and read. I also like to know what that small coterie of erotica writers I run with is getting up to. There are hundreds of free books available on Amazon. I can both read what others are writing and not have to pay for it.

Four hours I’ll never get back later … I don’t even know how to comment. Where to begin? What can I possibly say? I want my four hours back. I was embarrassed for some of the people that produced the work. How is it possible to have so little pride in ones own work? Why put that level of unreadable crap out into the world with their name attached to it? Do the writers just not see how badly written what they write is? This may be. I’ve met a few people in my time that really didn’t get that their writing wasn’t that good. They didn’t want to hear it. Personally, I want to hear it when my book needs work. By wanting to hear it, I mean I want the critique to be both focused and useful. “You suck” doesn’t help. “You are using too many passive verbs and are slipping tenses” helps. Then I go and look at my work and fix it if I think it needs to be fixed, or leave it if I like it the way it is. I’m working on a fictional memoir at the moment. Sometimes I do things on purpose that wouldn’t normally work in a traditional narrative. This is me being fancy. Not me being lazy. I can’t explain away what I read as literary gymnastics that have perhaps just gone over my head. It’s just bad writing.

It boggles my mind. Is it because they’re writing erotica and there is a presumption that as long as there’s a lot of sex it doesn’t have to be well written? That there is no need to carefully craft a story? That the story should be the focus and the sex is just an element of telling that story? I’m angry. I’m insulted. I’m really really really pissed off that these hacks are polluting the waters with their bullshit. It is hard enough to get a work noticed without having to contend with it being lumped into the same stew as a book that confuses and winch for a wench and a “Japanse Komono” for a kimono and thinks that all a gay man really needs to go straight is the fine lovin’ of a panty-less vixen that can jerk him off with her foot?

Erotica has a history. It is coeval with the foundations of literature. Even the Hebrew Bible contains romantic, sexual love. Example: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth–for thy love is better than wine”.  From there it just gets steamier and is so beautifully written! “Let his left hand be under my head, and his right hand embrace me”. Nice!!

To compare and contrast, a passage from a work which I will not name lest I unwittingly promote it.  Setting the scene – a young woman who calls herself as Candi (with an I) describes herself as being a twenty-two year old co-ed, crowned with long red hair that “is so long it touches her cute tushie”, a “tight ass begging to be fucked good”, big “perkey” tits, a very pretty face, and a recently shaved “cunt”.  We join Candi (with an I) after she has gone into a gay bar in search of a “hot stud”. “I was hot and horney and wiggled my tight tiny butt in his face the spandex of my little dress moving up so he could see I had no underwear on with my g-string that covered my new shaved pussy … ”

Who wears a g-string and panties?

Not nice. I so wish that was a unique example, but unfortunately it isn’t. I call on the spirits of Collette, Anaïs Nin, and Sappho to spare us all! How can any writer of literary erotica expect to follow in the footfalls of the greats with so much static clogging up the airways? I’m not being rhetorical. I’d really like to know how. I really would.

Taking a Chance Early: Memoirs of a Gigolo – Happy Halloween Oliver

Memoirs of a Gigolo was always planned to be a twelve volume serialization. I have stuck to my guns and turned down pretty decent offers to give it up as a compiled work. I knew my characters and understood the story I wanted to tell and why I wanted to tell it the way I was telling it. Serialization works.

But then I had a problem. How do I tell the story from only a single perspective and in the first person? Tricky. There is no room for any external information that isn’t filtered through the perspective character. Very tricky. But doable. I looked on it as a challenge. Then one of my early readers, a person with a fancy-schmancy writing background from a stupidly expensive university (we actually went to school together, so I’m really making fun of myself in the process and not just being mean), made me sit down and really think about what I was trying to accomplish from such a tricky position.He made some very valid points about the place I was going to be writing from. I had hobbled myself from the start. The least I could do was use dialog tags. Memoirs of a Geisha was  written with dialog tags.

I stuck to my guns. I can get very stubborn when I want my way. I wasn’t going to change. I like how I wrote Volume One. It read in my head like a true diary. I could hear the internal thoughts of my protagonist in the words. Besides… who the heck uses dialog tags in their diary? I was determined. Fail or succeed, I was going to put out the first volume as I always imagined it would be. If I wanted to compromise, I would have given the whole thing to a publisher.

So it was released. But my friend’s words kept coming back to me. Loathe as I was to admit it, he had a point; there was room for greater dimension and depth. It is very hard to create a three dimensional character from my chosen vantage point. So I did the most insane thing I could do. I added another loop to this trefoil knot of a story. I created the option of writing stand-alone stories which were placed outside of the main arc. Freak of the week  or filler episode in tv-speak. Holiday specials. Halloween is the first one on the block. I’m not going to give away the story. I will say that Oliver is not the POV character. I will also say that I’ve remained true to the style I developed for volumes 1-12

This is a risk. I could be diluting the main story with the addition of the perspectives of secondary characters. The first stand alone was just released a day ago. Already I’m receiving positive feedback, but I have also generated some confusion. The number one question: Is this Volume Two, or is there another Volume Two? There is another Volume Two. It’s out November 1st. Fortunately there will be only one more holiday special that is released near the end of a month – Christmas and New Years.

There are expectations now for other stand alone stories. I can already visualize myself how they are going to work with the existing material to create a complete universe for my favorite male prostitute. What I need to do is draw a line and say this is enough. As tempting as it is to keep adding to the story, I have to tell it as it is now defined. Not an easy thing to do when the only person I really have to answer to in this process is myself.

Fifty Shades of Fallout – After the Promotion

Memoirs of a Gigolo was available on Amazon for free for five days. Never again will I do a five day promotion. I must have been out of my mind. Or woefully inexperienced with the process. Never again. I have learned my lesson via trial by fire. Two days, perhaps even three, would have been enough. Five was too many.

Here are the hard numbers and a few facts:

  1. 1972 copies of Memoirs were downloaded across the various amazon sites. I was so close to 2000. I very nearly did another promo push, but just didn’t have the heart to ask for support one final time.
  2. Memoirs reached #7 on the top 100 free erotic downloads list.
  3. Since the promotion ended a week ago, I’ve sold 79 copies priced at $.99.
  4. 18 five star reviews have been written on the various amazon sites. Readers seem to get what I was trying to do with Memoirs.
  5. 1 four star review was written on amazon.
  6. I’ve been contacted by four agents – two are highly respected, two I’ve never heard of. I’d love an agent. I think I might go down this road.
  7. No less than two publishers that rejected Memoirs asked me if I’d be interested in placing Memoirs with them. I haven’t responded. I’m not sure if I turn on the hyper-bitch, accept, or just politely send them a form letter that reads something like… While I am unable to comment personally on every query, please know I did give your work my full consideration.  Thanks for thinking of me. I wish you nothing but the best in your publishing career…. OH the temptation!!!! I wouldn’t do it. I want to work with these people at some point in the future. But it would be so delicious to dish it out for once.
  8. 214 guests attended my virtual release party on Face Book.
  9. I tried to figure out how to market on Twitter – and then failed. I can’t figure out Twitter.
  10. I very nearly posted a picture of my BFF’s husband, the scary freaking Marine who is currently in Afghanistan, on my Facebook Page and told everyone he’s my boyfriend. I write erotica – as one of my friends told me it’s like blood in the water for the sharks. I’ve attracted a couple of weirdos. They’ve been banished from my Facebook Page.

Memoirs of a Gigolo Volume Two will be available on November 1st.  I’m absolutely terrified that it won’t live up to expectations. Sophomore syndrome or something like that. I’ve already started sending out the invitations to my virtual release party. I’m lining up blog slots. I have a few interviews set up. I’m watching and learning from my writer friends. The learning curve arches like a rainbow. Something is happening. I can feel it.

Giving It Away

 Memoirs of a Gigolo Volume One is up for free on Amazon this weekend. When I published on Amazon I was given the option of enrolling in the KDP Select program. At first I hesitated. I asked around. Received both positive and negative reports. The consensus seems to be, either you love it, or you hate it. I figured at this point, this whole self-publishing thing was an experiment. I might as well go all in.

I’m the first to admit I’m in the dark when it comes to marketing my self-published book. I have no idea what I’m doing. Up to this point, I’ve done a lot of for-hire work and have had the dubious pleasure of being able to hand over my work and be done with it after the writing was finished. It was no longer my problem after I did my part. Granted, my paychecks reflected the fact I was just an anonymous person behind a keyboard never to receive any acknowledgement, but it was certainly an easy enough way to make some shoe money.

I’ve talked to a few experts, but I’m throwing darts. Trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t is a study in hedging my bets and hoping for the best. So I’m quite literally giving it away. Let’s see what happens.

Recently Unearthed for Week 39

It’s Wednesday again. Posting some links to a few blog posts that caught my notice – here is a round up of the better blog posts I’ve found during the past week.

  1. Because a little self-promotion never killed anyone (okay, it probably has… but never mind), I’m over at Lynda Haviland’s blog for an interview. Although I don’t tell the Hairy Guy story, I do mention the Baseball Player.
  2. Roni Loren gives an eyeopening lesson on using pictures found on the web to add some splash to a blog post. VERY USEFUL.
  3. 101 Cookbooks brought a bowl of heaven to my life – Coconut Corn Salad! My new go to lunch.
  4. Randy Ingermanson covers the bases on what you need to do to make a living as a writer. HINT: It’s not actually all that easy and you have to have the sort of persistence that makes Inspector Javert look like a quitter.
  5. Druids on In Our Time hosted by Melvyn Bragg – forty or so minutes of fascinating information on these mysterious wise men of Celtic lore.
  6. Near and dear to my heart – the joys of FanFic; Muffy Morigan writes about FanFic as a writers tool.
  7. Star Wars Reads Day? Be still my beating heart!!
  8. Jesus (doing his best Henny Youngman imitation said) please… take my wife! ba dum dum… but seriously… this little bit of parchment has been stirring up all sorts of controversy. Here’s the link to the Harvard Divinity School and the actual translation.
  9. Writers block… uh… blocking you? Take a bath. It worked for Archimedes.
  10. The next time someone that’s never written a word in their life, tells you that they think it might be kinda fun and cool to write a book and that might give it a go, point them to the concept of dedicated practice before you thump them on the head with your manuscript.

50 Shades of Marketing 101

What I know about marketing comes from watching Mad Men. I asked my BFF, The Marketing Maven, if there was something more to what she got a masters degree in, than tossing back the scotch, wearing fabulous vintage couture, and groping asses. Surprisingly, there is a lot more too it than chain smoking and having identity crises’. I asked The Marketing Maven five basic questions about marketing. Here’s what she had to say:

  • Livia the Clueless Writer:Who are you and why are you sitting in my living room dressed in a cowl and cape, drinking my booze?
  • The Marketing Maven:I am The Marketing Maven! Able to dazzle Madison Avenue in one clever catchphrase!
  • Livia the Clueless Writer:Seriously?
  • The Marketing Maven: Well, actually I’ve spent years branding commercial products and have a masters degree in marketing.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: What’s the deal with the cowl and the cape?
  • The Marketing Maven: Branding.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: Cool. So… Five questions about marketing in exchange for my booze?
  • The Marketing Maven: Shoot.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: What’s the difference between marketing, advertizing and publicity?
  • The marketing Maven: Marketing is the strategy behind the advertising and publicity. The strategy is about how you want your product perceived and placed in the market- price, product itself, placement (where is it available for sale). Advertising is about how you show the consumer your strategy – who are you trying to reach, what do you want them to know and think about your product, price, etc. publicity or pr is about getting opinion leaders or celebrities to endorse, use or discuss your product. Marketing is the coordinating and overarching piece of it. What you are doing with reviews and interviews is a cross between publicity and advertising.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: Do I need all three to sell a book?
  • The Marketing Maven: Yes. The key to selling anything is to have the end consumer familiar with your product. If they have never heard of you, they can’t buy your product. You need to know how to place your product, get people familiar with it and then get people to recommend it to their circle. To do that you need all 3 aspects working together.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: Does advertising work?
  • The marketing Maven: Yes, advertising builds awareness and familiarity with your product. It gets your name known. It gets the trendsetters aware and possibly trying this something new. That is why we see advertising everywhere. Unfortunately my experience is not iBook marketing, so I’m not sure about the effectiveness in this industry. But generally, as you build awareness you build sales.
  • The marketing Maven: What we haven’t talked about is your strategy.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: Uhhh…. Strategy? You mean like… What actually do you mean?
  • The Marketing Maven: Your strategy is all about who you want to reach and how you want to be perceived.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: I’m guessing I need a strategy?
  • The marketing Maven: I’m going to go with… YES!
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: If I have a strategy can I turn Memoirs of a Gigolo into the next 50 Shades of Gray.
  • The Marketing Maven: 50 Shades of Grey is honestly a freak. It is extremely rare for a new entry in a category to take off like that. I think it had a number of things working in its favor. One, it had a core buyer built in, by starting as Twilight fan fiction. Two, it started as an ebook,so people could read it anymously as a guilty pleasure. Three, it spread by word of mouth. It allowed traditional romance readers to delve into erotica, while still in a traditional romance format. It became all about the recommendations. Fourth, it profited from its own success. Once it became an in the know”” item, and was selling well, the publicity ran itself. It was picked up in the news, then came the paperback and the truly monster sales. Over all the quality of the writing didn’t matter. It was all about being in on the secret and enjoying a guilty pleasure.
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: Will you answer some questions from other clueless writers?
  • The Marketing Maven: Will the booze keep flowing?
  • Livia the Clueless Writer: Do I secretly tell everyone that you never drink and that the booze is just our Mad Men joke?
  • The Marketing Maven: Why ruin the fun? Bring on the questions!

The Marketing Maven will be around answering your questions for a day or two – or more depending on how many questions there are. Post them in the comments and she’ll try to help us clueless writers unravel the mystery of marketing. 

Next week I will continue my exploration into what makes the next big thing in writing. Dr. Lulu will be around to talk about the psychology behind the 50 Shades of Gray phenomenon.

Because We Were the Drama, Art, Poetry, and Glee Kids….

You know who you were back in high-school. I know who I was. I was the moody blond that tended to sulk a lot while I wrote abysmal poetry in my journals. I wore black and mourned my lost youth when I wasn’t in my tartan uniform skirt with rebellious Doc Martin loafers as my only means of personal expression. The nuns loved the shoes. They thought they were sensible. I was one of the arty kids that lived under the constant shadow of the more vocal and popular sporty kids.

I knew I wanted to be a writer. My friends were writers, poets, artists, musicians, and actors. Every year there was a dog fight over funding for the school play in the fall and the musical in the spring. Because we didn’t have jerseys that could accommodate branding of sponsors, we got the shaft. Maybe this is a good thing. Artists are forged from the heat of their struggles. It is no lie that there is a certain level of suffering that has to be endured before an artist has developed enough character to truly be interesting. That doesn’t change the fact that it breaks my heart when kids that want to put on a play, have to go scrounging for the funds to make it happen.

From today’s art, poetry, drama, and band kids the next generation of entertainers will be born. Somewhere the next George Lucas, Edward Norton, Adele, Wayne Thiebaud, and Jack Keroac are being formed. The simple truth is, these future contributors to society are learning early that, to quote Rodney Dangerfield, they don’t get no respect. If they want to put on a play, they need to work for it. The arts, unlike sports, do not get money hand over fist.

This is why I’m so pleased to have discovered Kickstarter. More specifically, I found a group of kids that want to put on a play. They need $350 for sheets to make togas, batteries for their microphones, and halogen lamps. They’re putting on A Midsummer Nights Dream – fortunately the fairies have all agreed to buy their own leotards. How sad is that? The fairies have to buy their own leotards because there really is that little funding for the arts in our schools. This pisses me off. I’ve been that kid that had to buy her own leotard so my acting group could put on the same play.

I’m mad that these kids have to do this. I’m grateful Kickstarter exists. I’ve given them $5. If I had the money, I’d back the project wholly. My first venture as a theater backer. I hope they make it. If they do, they’ll be able to put on their show and have the resulting rush. If they don’t, then they’re going to learn a lesson in wanting to be in the arts – it’s hard and heartbreaking.

50 Shades of the Next Big Thing Part 1

I have a friend that owns a bunch of small bookshops in Dublin. When there is a scheduling pinch and I’m free, I go in, sit behind the counter, read, and take peoples money. I could make a career out of this. Possibly the best job I’ve ever had. And get to sit around and read AND I get paid in books!!! Sweet!!!

So what have I noticed as I sit perched on my stool reading and drinking a latte? There’s always a BOOK. That one book that just about everyone walks in the door and asks for. Last year it was Game of Thrones. Every other person that walked in the door, regardless of age, sex, race, or fashion sense, wanted Game of Thrones. Couldn’t keep it on the shelves.

No shock, the BOOK that everyone has to have right now is 50 Shades of Grey. Disturbingly, I had a bunch of old ladies in when I worked a morning last week looking to buy 50 Shades of Grey. Even worse, they asked me about it. They were sort of cute about it actually. Very giggly and girlish. I had to tell them the truth. I hadn’t read it. Bondage isn’t really my thing. Besides, I’d heard that it’s not really that good. This comes from a few unrelated sources that I usually trust when it comes to books. The big critiques; poorly written, the characters are wholly two-dimensional, the sex isn’t all that great. One of the nice old women in her petal pink windbreaker with the Princess Cruises emblem on a sticker stuck to her boob, very rightly pointed out that I had said myself that I hadn’t read it. So, who am I to judge?

Absolute right! I haven’t read it. I am in no position to judge. Number one thing that bugs me about people smack talking a book or an author is when they haven’t even read the book themselves. Hand up – guilty as charged. They left with their books wrapped in discrete little paper bags and I picked up a copy of 50 Shades of Grey. I sat there on my perch with my latte in one hand and the current BOOK in the other hand. My mind couldn’t get into the story. I kept on coming up with alternative names. 50 Shades of Tie Me Up and Tie Me Down. 50 Shades of Smack Me on the Ass Because I’ve Been a Bad Bad Girl. 50 Shades of Please Don’t Make Me Read Anymore of This Crap.

Oh my… sigh… If we lived in a meritocracy where only the truly stellar books made it to the top of the sales charts, then 50 Shades of Grey would be lingering on EL James’ laptop never to see the light of day. I have writer friends that are working like dogs to get noticed that produce books of much higher quality than 50 Shades of Grey. Yikes it’s bad!

It’s not that I think it isn’t sufficiently erudite or contains the sort of verbal gymnastics most people with advanced degrees in English think books should have before they become worthy of our notice, it’s just really poorly written. I mean ehhhh…. I’m a firm believer that books should be thought provoking, entertaining, accessible, and have a plot that can be found by the average reader without the need of a compass and a flashlight. I would have cheered 50 Shades of Grey for being at the forefront of the push to make erotica mainstream accessible and acceptable. But it stinks.

So how the heck did it get so popular? How did such a badly written book become the next big thing? I don’t know. I have no idea. If I knew I’d be out doing it. I’m pushing my new release Memoirs of a Gigolo like it was one of a million other books available for download on Amazon… which it is. I know two marketing people. I’m going to try to wrangle them into talking with me about what drives this sort of mass hysteria when it comes to a book.

50 Shades of the Next Big Thing Part 2 will be available a week from today