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.

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.

Pole Dancer Name Wanted – Suggestions Welcome!

I had dinner with a good friend this week. As he does, he asked me how the writing was going. I told him about my sales, the promo I’m doing this weekend, the series I’m working on, my YA dystopian, my decision to published the Juniper Grace series I’ve been working on since college… Oh… and about all the crazy stalkers I’ve attracted on Facebook. So many guys that just want to make a girl suit out of me. So many of them!!!

He’s friends with me on Facebook. He’s noticed that I have some… devoted… fans. Do I find it as disturbing as he does when I have men wanting to know what color panties I wear? Yes – possibly more. He’s not sure about that. Then there was something about me writing erotica being the equivalent to blood in the water for the sharks. The question then is, what am I doing about this? I unfriend these people immediately after taking a picture of their wall and jotting down whatever information I can about them.

He suggested we should come up with a safe word (I’m to ask him about our friend Johnny if he ever calls and I have a lunatic in my home) and perhaps invest in some pepper spray and a large dog. He made a good point last night. I probably shouldn’t be publishing erotica under my name. I need a stage name. Something I can use if the writing doesn’t work out and I really do need to turn to exotic dancing to make a living. I do not mention that I did try pole dancing (thank you Dr. Lulu for talking me into that hour I’ll never get back) and I failed. I nearly concussed myself. As it turns out, pole dancing is not nearly as easy as it looks and the spinning upside down part is only for the initiated and very limber.

It’s not that he’s uptight or has a problem with what I’ve been spending the bulk of my time writing lately, it’s that it might be bad for me professionally and for the living and breathing part of me. I like being alive. I also spend my time in a very conservative place. I don’t think the people associate with directly would have an issue with what I write, but the institution as a whole might. The chances that anyone would put together that I’m that Livia Ellis and this Livia Ellis are probably so far from probable that it will happen.

But that’s not my only reason for wanting a pen name for my erotica. When else in my life am I going to have an opportunity to invent a name for myself out of whole cloth? I have no plans to take up pole dancing or become a drag queen so I will never require a crazy stage name. This is my chance. This is the moment I can unabashedly call myself Crystall de la Faal.

Some of my personal favorites which have already been suggested to me today:
Miss Spelling
Miss Understood
Anita Cocktail
Helen Heels
Anita Mann
Luce Change
Amanda Taunt

PLEASE send me any suggestions you might have. At the moment I’m loving Anita Mann.

Fifty Shades of Telling it Like it Is – Meet the Reviewers Part One

Your mother loves your book. Your sister, your aunt, your best friend, and that guy that is desperately trying to get you into bed all think you are the next Hemingway. So you publish your book. Then it gets reviewed.  Someone who doesn’t know you and has no vested interest in your happiness, loves your book. Five whole stars from a stranger! Or, to your utter amazement, someone that neither knows nor loves you,  thinks your seven hundred page tome on the joys of accounting, thinks it stinks.Who are these people and where the heck to they get off not loving your book? Meet the reviewers in the first of a two part interview.

Livia Ellis

  • Question 1 – Who are you people? Why do you like making writers cry? Don’t you know we’re entitled to the sort of fame and glory that comes along naturally when we figure out how to self-publish on the internet?

Cat Alley

  • Cat alley avid reader and big mouth…lol. I am a single mother of a 3-year-old boy; I work full time and read every time I get the chance in between. I don’t think I have made a writer cry, ever… or anyone for that matter… at least not in years. The majorities of the writers I have read for deserve all sorts of fame and glory for their work.

Samantha Truesdale

  • Samantha Truesdale. A mom of 2 boys and a total book nerd. I work part time, and I wish there were more hours in the day so I would have more time to read!

DelSheree Gladden

  • DelSheree Gladden…writer, reviewer, reader of just about everything, mom of two very smart and very silly kiddos, married to the most supportive husband ever, and dental hygiene student. That last one is currently eating up the majority of my life!

PW

  • I’m a mom, former active duty Marine and Executive Assistant.

Livia Ellis

  • Question 2 – How and why did you start doing book reviews? I know from my personal experience, the first few times I wrote book reviews was because I was very angry I spent good money on a really terrible book.

Cat Alley

  • I have been a heavy reader for many, many years. Within the last year, I have made close friends with those who are writers. That is when I learned the importance of writing a review on Amazon. I than joined a couple of groups on Facebook where I could beta read and published read/review. For me, it was a way to get free books and help someone at the same time. After doing that for a while and needing a hobby, I decided to start my own blog with my reviews. I have only been doing it for a few months in a blog, but I have been enjoying getting my thoughts out there for people to read…good or tastefully bad.

Livia Ellis

  • I’ve thought about doing reviews, but I’m worried that as a writer there might be a lot of backlash. As writers do, I’ve spent a lot of time reading what’s out there in my genre. I just have two things to say – It’s a Japanese kimono, not a Japanese Komono and a wench is a woman and a winch is used for lifting heavy items. I fear I would just be too mean. How do you keep it nice?

Cat Alley

  • It is hard; I have a very sarcastic voice even when I am trying to be nice. It takes me time. If I don’t like a book and I know the stars are going to be low, I always try to state why they got the stars they did without giving away anything about the story line, I don’t like spoilers. I have given zero stars before. I have also given three stars, because I didn’t like its contents … even though the story was OK. And if I see a grammar issue, I will point it out, because they have to be big for me to even notice them… so I point them out…
  • Lol… and that is funny…about the wench…

DelSheree Gladden

  • I actually started doing book reviews after reading Erin Morgenstern’s “The Night Circus.” It was such a fantastic book, I had to tell people about it. My review blog started out as just a place for me to talk about books I was reading, then it became a serious effort a few months later when review request started coming in.

Samantha Truesdale

  • I have always loved to read. In elementary school, while other kids were playing on the playground, I was in the corner with a book. In January of this year, I had a baby and am now home all the time. I used reading as a way to fill my time and decided that if I was going to spend so much time reading, I should look into doing reviews. I found that there was not much to it so I created a blog.
    I am really enjoying this new chapter in my life. The way I look at it, authors have given me so much in life just by writing books. This is one way for me to give back to them. I know it can help tremendously!

PW

  • I started because I love to read and the amount of money I was spending on books, I decided to start reviewing when I noticed a request for reviewers from one of the online sites. The big draw for me was the free books. I still spend over $100 a month for books, but it is not close to what it used to be. Another advantage is that I get to read authors I may not have looked at before.

Livia Ellis

  • Question #3 – where do you get your books from? What is your preferred method to acquire a book?

Cat Alley

  • There is a site, eReadrIQ.com. They send me an email daily with free books from Amazon. Other then that, I get them for beta reading or reviewing. I read all my books on my Kindle. I do however have a few authors that I will buy their kindle vs. but also buy a paperback for my personal library.

Samantha Truesdale

  • I get a fair amount of books from Amazon. I would say at least half of the books I receive are in exchange for an honest review. I also receive quite a few from Goodreads first reads giveaways.

DelSheree Gladden

  • I have several small press publishers that regularly send me their new books and put my into touch with the author. I really like this setup because I know the quality of the publishers.

PW

  • I too subscribe for the email re free books from Amazon. Of course there are free books I review, but I have purchased a few. There are a few authors I buy instead of review since I email back and forth with them sometimes. I also buy books at thrift stores, online, and at B&N. The book club I belong to also has a book exchange.

Livia Ellis

  • Question #4 – do you have a preference? Is there anything on your “I will not read this, not even if the paid me” list?

Cat Alley

  • Anything scary or historical I won’t read. Other than that, I like a synopsis of the book. I have learned in this process to ask for those as I have gotten books before that I have not liked and had I had the synopsis, I would have known that from the beginning.

Samantha Truesdale

  • I will read almost anything. I’m not a huge fan of sci-fi or history, but I have still read them.

DelSheree Gladden

  • My first love is YA. I’ll read just about any subgenre of YA, but I am a pretty eclectic reader. The only things I will NOT read are erotics, self-help, and political books.

PW

  • I don’t read a lot of historical unless I really like the blurb, I prefer not to review YA though I do read a few books. I am a fairly eclectic reader with a bent toward erotica, sci-fi, and fantasy.

Livia Ellis

  • Question #5 – I’m guessing you are asked to read/review more books than you could ever get through. What is the best approach a writer can use when asking you to read/review their book?

PW

  • I have reviewed a few books for a couple of authors I am friendly with, but I don’t do it often. Two of the three sites I review for has lists that the reviewers can choose from and the other will send a book depending on the number they get, though a couple of times I had to request a different book, as I had reviewed for another site. One of the sites though, we can follow the entire series if we want, which sometimes gets a small backlog if a lot come in at once. One site allows authors to request a specific reviewer if they want to. I have also been asked to review a couple of print books through these sites as well. One thing an author needs to understand when asking me to review a book is that I will give an honest assessment of what I think regardless of my relationship with them.

Cat Alley

  • I am still fairly new at this so I don’t have a long list of people I read for nor am I in that many groups to obtain a large amount of books. So I tend to have free time for my own interests in reading. When someone approaches me for the first time I usually want to know how they found me, how much they write and what they write. Then I decide if I want to read for them. Usually once, I read for someone, I get repeat performances…

DelSheree Gladden

  • Be thorough. I’m much more likely to be interested in a book if they send me a summary of the book and a little info about themselves. If all I get is a title, and I have to go look it up on Amazon to see what the book is about, I’m much less likely to review. I’m incredibly busy with school and family that I don’t always have time to do that. Plus, my blog is booked six months out, so I’m being very selective lately.

Livia Ellis

  • Question #6 – What isn’t going to work? What advice would you give to an author that wants a review?

Cat Alley

  • Don’t make the reader pay for the book, if you are working with a new reader and you have a series and on book 2, offer the first book so the reviewer can get caught up. (I personally will turn away an offer if it is in the middle of a series without reading the others), and be nice.. no one is perfect. Ask a lot of questions from the reviewer about your book. That way if they did not like it, you can find out why, if it is truly something about your book, or if that person just doesn’t like “those kind” of books. Some people may not explain why they do not like a book. If you are looking for a beta reader, once they are done reading, schedule some face-to-face time with them… so you can get a true feeling of what they thought about your book. It is always good to have 3-5 beta readers you trust. (I personally like to beta read more then read/reviewing)

Samantha Truesdale

  • Don’t pay for reviews! Know that you don’t have to give away swag or anything to get reviews, although a copy of the book in exchange for a review is nice. There are plenty of readers out there that want to review your book just to do it. Be prepared because there is inevitably going to be someone that doesn’t give you that great of a review. It doesn’t mean that your book is a flop, it just means someone didn’t understand it like you meant them to.

DelSheree Gladden

  • Offering a free book in exchange for a review is expected, at least for me. The only books I buy are when it’s an author I know personally and want to support. As far as advice to authors, offer a giveaway along with a review. This is a great way to increase exposure and get more comments.

PW

  • I agree with Cat about series books. Reviewers like me expect the free book but that is all. Samantha is right about payment, I feel that puts the reviewer in a conflict especially if they don’t like the book. One rule of thumb, is always give constructive comments in that case. Don’t take it personally. Sometimes authors will do giveaways on blogs, then it is always nice if the person winning does a review as well.

Cat Alley

  • Thank you PW. I agree with all you said. Me personally I know a lot of authors that do contests and give a ways. It is a great way to get people involved. I personally do not participate as I don’t want to take the chance of getting the book away from someone who has not read it and who can become a potential fan. But that is a personal preference.

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.

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