Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Porn Versus Erotica

You could google this and find out all sorts of information, but I figured I’d give my take. By all means, google it and see how others agree or disagree with me.

I write erotica. I don’t write porn and if my editors catch me one more time calling myself a smut writer, they’re likely to inflict serious bodily injury upon me and anyone who happens to be standing near me.

And that confused me.

What’s the big deal, right? A rose by any other name is still a rose, right? Besides, no one really thinks there’s no difference between porn and erotica, right? It’s a joke. No one would read what I write and call it porn or smut, would they?

What my limited exposure to the world of publishing hadn’t yet taught me, at the time of my confusion, is that most people do not realize there’s a HUGE difference between porn and erotica. My little joke did nothing more than help perpetuate that misunderstanding.

One of the unwritten duties of an erotica writer is to help educate the public about our genre. So, here’s an attempt at touching upon that duty.

Q: The length of the story determines whether it is porn or erotica, right?

A:
Nope. Erotica, just like the men I write about, come in many shapes, sizes and ethnicities. Yes, “stroke stories” and porn stories do tend to be short. However, just like porn movies, they can drone on for hours while nimbly dodging anything close to plot.

While erotica stories do TEND to be longer than written porn, it’s possible to have a short story that really is erotica and not porn. It’s also possible to have erotic poetry and that tends to be quite short. There’s also a thing called “flash fiction” which are 100-500 word pieces and those publishers want erotica NOT porn.

Q: Oh! So it’s the level of explicitness that makes it porn or erotica?

A: Nope. Erotica ranges from being very explicit to “smoke and mirrors” or fade-to-black sex scenes. When you are looking at a publisher’s catalog make sure you check the rating of the story to ensure you’re buying something that suits your tastes.

A word of caution. Many publishers still list ANY M/M story in the highest or second highest rating. This is due to the subject matter. M/M writers and readers don’t like this, but we have to live with it. You might very well have a M/M story that’s quite tame, but listed as the highest rating. This is where author branding will help readers and authors connect.

I write very explicitly. My readerbase has come to expect this and if I were to change without valid reason, I would be burned in effigy. Never piss off a yaoi fangirl. We’re rabid on a good day.

Some erotica stories are so mild there’s a special category for them. That’s called “inspirational romance.” I should note that some people do not consider these stories to be erotica at all and plant them firmly under “romance.” I am not that familiar with this genre and my limited exposure indicates that “inspirational romance” tends to carry Christian themes, HEA, not-dark, and uplifting stories and very mild sex scenes usually a fade-to-black thing.

I remember asking another writer/editor with a lot more experience than I have what “inspirational romance” was. She didn’t know and finally said, “Prudish praying.”

Personally, I think that’s casting the genre in the wrong light, but I’ve never read an “inspirational romance.”

Q:
So…um…the romantic element makes the story erotica and not porn?

A: Nope. Some romance is not erotic and some erotica is romantic and some erotica isn’t romantic and some porn isn’t romantic AND some….I could go on.

I write “erotic romance” which means there’s usually a plot or subplot that involves two or more characters falling in love. (Insert sweet and sickening “aww” here). However, there’s something that needs to be in the story for it to be “official” romance and that’s an HEA.

This is a point that’s HEAVILY debated, but when the “authorities” change their stance, I’ll change mine. (Personally, I WANT this changed.)

HEA is Happy Ever After. Sometimes it’s Happy For Now, but whatever the case, the story ends with the main couple together and happy. Maybe you’ve gone as far as to get them married or just have them living together, but the reader is left with the impression that this couple remains together after “The End.”

That’s why sometimes I say I’m an “erotica” writer instead of an “erotic romance” writer. I will write stories that are called “dark erotica” and those may or may not have a happy ending, may or may not have depressing themes, may or may not have a bad guy that wins, may or may not…I could go on. (LOL!)

Nice and confused about the genre “dark erotica”? Good. Welcome to the club. It’s one of those “know it when you see it” things. I have two WIPs (Work In Progress) which have been stamped “too dark for publication” by a few publishers and editors. I’ve found a potential home for one of them. *rubs hands together*

Q: So, if it doesn’t have anything to do with length (double entendre intended), explicitness or romance, what makes a story erotica and not porn?

A: Now, you’re asking the right question. Erotica has a fully developed story and completely fleshed out character designs.

Q: But, that’s what ALL stories are supposed to have—so what makes a story “erotic mystery” as opposed to regular mystery?

A: Once again, we’re getting into the good questions. Erotic mystery will contain sex scenes and sensual elements that a regular mystery won’t have.

Q: That’s can’t be right. I’ve read “regular” books that have sex scenes and they weren’t listed as erotica!

A: And that would be correct. Here’s the key. The sex in erotica cannot be removed. Important things such as character motivation changes, character development and plot points will happen DURING the sex scenes in erotica. If you skip over the sex, you’re missing out on important parts of the story. In short, skim the sex (and WHY would you do that?) and you’ll be confused.

Some authors will avoid the erotica label due to the believed stigma that comes with it. Other writers will embrace the label erotica, because we know sex sells. Get them with the sex and keep them with the story. Some “regular” authors are starting to label some of their titles as erotica to fuel their readerbases.

So, to recap…erotica has fully developed stories with carefully crafted characters and the sex scenes help move the story.

Porn…well…with porn you don’t get any of that. To be honest, the porn that I’ve read is basically a scene where the characters meet or already know each other, scratch their itches and move on. It’s just sex. There’s a reason why they’re called “stroke stories.” Also, it seems they’re full of telling and not showing. I remember one story where the “plot” was a guy who seemed to confirm his heterosexual status every third line while sneaking a tryst with another man. It actually included the line, “I moved into a 69 position and sucked him off.”

Wow…gee…umm….ice water anyone? Need to cool off after that? Anyone? Anyone at all? Umm…ok…it will be here if you need it.

The whole story went on like that and it was approximately 2,000 words or so. Whereas in “About to Sin” during the first 2,500 words, you get some hot sensuality; but you also, learn that Anand has a strong sense of ethics and that Father Daniel is a tortured soul.

Q: So erotica has a literary element that porn lacks?

A: Oh, now we’re getting into “literary erotica” and that’s…

Q: Please, no more genre talk. You’re making my head hurt. That’s just too confusing.

A: Sorry… in short, some erotica authors do consider themselves “literary authors” and some think that’s pretentious. Your best bet is to find out what the author labels himself/herself and go with that. Since I will vary on genre, I always label my stories.

And if you think genre is confusing on the reader’s end, just imagine what it’s like as a writer. So, I have this story that deals with dark themes, but it’s HEA and there’s romance, but there’s also…and so on. It’s enough to drive ya mad.

Here’s the simplest explanation of genre I can think of and I think it works quite nicely. All genre labels are is where the book would be shelved in a bookstore.


Q: Isn’t it really a battle of gender? Males write porn while females write erotica?

A: You have NO idea and I mean you have NO idea. I’ve met more “gender confused”, “transgendered” and “gender issued” people since I’ve started writing fulltime than I had my entire life. But, the stats do seem to indicate there are more biological females behind the keyboards than males. I don’t know how valid that information is.

Some writers will not reveal their real gender, some will and some don’t self-identify as female or male. Some publications REQUIRE male pennames. Some want gender neutral pennames. My target audience is yaoi fans and those readers tend to look for stories written by women. That’s why I’m comfortable revealing my gender.

I’m not comfortable putting either gender as being focused on porn or erotica. There’s way too much gender-bending going on and some of it intentionally.

The gender of the penname tells you nothing. I come from a yaoi background which is DOMINATED by female authors, artists and readers. Others come from backgrounds where women are viewed as incapable of writing M/M. I happen to find it quite funny when people talk about one author’s work being more valid than another because of gender AND they have the incorrect understanding of the author’s gender.

It seems I’ve confused a few readers too. Some people say I give very feminine font and some say, “If I didn’t know you, I’d sworn that was written by a gay man.”

I consider both of those a compliment.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Do they know this is up in the Sistine Chapel?

Ok, so I was out looking for things to help get me in the right frame of mind for writing. I came across some pictures of Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment and I zoomed in to get a better look.

The fresco in question, for those of you who don’t recognize the name.

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And I discovered something in this section (upper right section of the whole piece).

I don’t want to alter the pic in any way, so I’m not circling it, but…

In the center do you see the dude clinging to the column?

Now, shift your eye down and to the right.

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Yes. That is what you think it is. Yes, they do look more intimate than the straight couple that’s beside them.

Proof that Michelangelo was a yaoi fanboy.

We better not point out to the Vatican that they have gay men on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. They’d probably paint over it.

Oh, and don’t look at me like that. It’s not weird to look at fine art as inspiration for writing. I know another erotica writer who writes to choir music.

Website from where I snagged the pictures

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

8 Random Things (another one)

Emily Veinglory tagged me so here we go again. I’ll try to come up with things I’ve not used before.

Drum roll…

Eight Random Things about Cupnjava

1)I know a guy who broke his arm while giving a blowjob.

2)It’s impossible for me to hide my smile when I see two men, who seem like a couple, out together in public.

3)I think James Buchanan is a right bastard for making me think of Father Daniel in leather gear and a red ball gag.

4)For the past few days, I’ve been going nuts trying to figure out how to get myself to Chicago for the 26th and 27th. It’s not going to happen and I think I might cry.

5)At a party a friend (gay and male) asked me, “Do you have a tampon?” (I asked why and he told me. Trust me, you don’t want to know.)

6)A drag queen sacrificed a hanger to help me get my keys out of my locked car.

7)Only two high school friends know I helped drag queens dress, with their coins and tuck and tape during my senior year. (Nearly every Thurs and Fri night.)

8)I feel weird holding my husband’s hand in public, because I know same-sex couples don’t have that freedom.

Dust off that font.

Many epublishers are sending out “critical need” notices for m/m stories. We can’t write it fast enough. I’m not kidding you.

Normally, things go like this. You write a story. You polish it and then you send it out. The other day, I had a publisher come to me asking for a piece.

M/M is on fire now, but that doesn’t mean you can slap anything up on the screen and call it done. You also have to know the house you’re sending it to.

Do NOT send a happy fluffy story to Velvet Mafia. Phaze, as of last time I read their guidelines, specifically requested that there be NO submissions involving priests or nuns. There’s another publisher, the name escapes me right now, that states they do not want the word “cunt” in any submissions. FB and EC have very specific house styles and, no matter how well the piece is written, if it doesn’t meld with their house style, you can forget it. According to the editors I’ve spoken to, most rejections are not due to bad writing, but that the piece doesn’t fit the house.

Chippewa/LAP wants yaoi submissions. For those of you who don’t know, there’s a difference between yaoi (my normal genre) and other types of m/m erotic fiction. There are other publishing houses seeking yaoi. If a house wants yaoi, then they want yaoi.

And, keep an eye on your word count. If a publishing house caps themselves at 90k don’t send them a 115k word piece. If they bottom out at 10k don’t send them a 5k piece. I spoke to a guy the other day whose AGENT submitted a piece that broke the top word count for a publishing house. That agent should have never considered that particular house. Period.

Also, know what erotica is before you give it a go. An erotic story is not a “stroke story.” Oh yes, erotica is hot, but it’s also a full story with developed characters and this pesky thing called plot.

“Critical Need” does not mean desperate.

With all of that stated, if you’ve been thinking about dipping a toe in the waters of m/m now might be a good time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Purple Prose

‘Bout damn time I posted this blog, huh?

Recently, I’ve received several questions about purple prose. What exactly is it and why is it bad?

First, google it. I’m not your primer.

Umm…ok…don’t look at me like that.

Fine! I give!

To quote wikipedia…

A term of literary criticism, purple prose is used to describe passages, or sometimes entire literary works, written in prose so overly extravagant, ornate or flowery as to break the flow and draw attention to itself. Purple prose is sensuously evocative beyond the requirements of its context. It also refers to writing that employs certain rhetorical effects such as exaggerated sentiment or pathos in an attempt to manipulate a reader's response.

*woosh*

Hear that? That’s the last sentence flying over everyone’s head. Basically, Purple Prose means something’s been written with such language that the focus becomes the language and not the story. It also means that you’re cheating. You’re trying to manipulate the reader via artificial means—the language itself. And it doesn’t work. It falls flat just like over using an exclamation mark. If you haven’t built the surprise, excitement or anger by the end of the sentence, a simple ! won’t do it for you.

Essentially, if you have someone “lapping the sweet nectar” from someone’s “petals” or “vessel”, then you’re purple. Lapping nectar from petals? WTF are your characters doing? Drinking honey out of tulips?

Sometimes it’s not so obvious. Every erotica writer out there has a phrase or two that they don’t consider Purple Prose, but someone else will. The beauty and challenge of this is how to have something throb, but not have it throb in a throbbing, bulging purple way. That’s a balance every writer must find for themselves.

Often purple prose is confused with juvenile euphemisms.

In a piece of *published* fiction, I read a blowjob described as “vacuuming the tube”. If you’re vacuuming anyone’s “tube” then you’re dang close to needing an ER. Keep the “one-eyed wonder snakes” and “heat-seeking missiles” and all that other stuff in junior high, please. And whatever you do, do NOT, repeat that, DO NOT “take the axe to the beaver” unless your character is killing wildlife. If you have a character who has a “tallywacker” or “winkie” or anything like that, then they ARE NOT old enough to be in a sex scene.

Usually at this point people start asking, “Well, fine, but which words can you use?”

And that’s when I say, “Try writing erotica later. Ya know, after you can say the word ‘cock’ without blushing.”

Fine! I’ll answer the question.

You won’t like the answer.

Seriously, you won’t.

I can’t give you a list of words you can use. That differs from character to character. In “About to Sin” Dr. Anand Singh is perfectly comfortable using “cock”, “dick”, “prick”, “cum”, “jizz” and if he drinks enough, he might let go with “splooge.” If he’s feeling a bit influenced by Father Daniel, then he might use “seed” or “essence”, but those will be rare.

In “Full Circle” Kendrick is comfortable with “cock” and “seed” and a few of the more highbrow words. I fought with my editor (she won) and I put in a few others that stretched his character a bit. *shakes fist at word echoes*

Kendrick doesn’t cuss, normally. There’re one or two spots where he drops a curse word and one of those was for comedic effect.

Anand can rival the crassest sailors and probably cusses too much. (Kind of like me when I’m drunk. I once made an entire sentence with the word “fuck.”)

Father Daniel, as paranoid as he is with all things sexual, probably wouldn’t even use the word “penis.” Bless his heart, that man is so screwed up. If I ever have to write his POV for a sex scene, I expect that I’ll be using the words “down there” a lot.

Speaking of “penis”, I firmly believe that word should stay in a clinical setting along with “anus”. Anything that conjures the pictures from a high school health textbook, should be avoided. Some writers use those words and that’s their call.

“Entrance” – that’s my generic orifice word. “Asshole” feels like an insult to me. I know “entrance” toys with the purple line, but I’m digging my heels in here. And before you call me a hypocrite, yes, I admit, Anand did use “asshole”, but he’s Anand and that’s different. He also used the word “entrance” so bite me.

All in all, this shouldn’t be the focus of an erotica writer’s concern. If you’re running through these words then you’re writing what we call “insert tab A into slot B” sex scene.

Listen to me.

Listen hard.

Take this to heart.

Your readers know how to have sex.

Let’s say that again and repeat after me.

“My readers know how to have sex.”

They don’t need a lesson from fiction. Give enough to allow the reader to visualize the scene, but focus on the feelings and meaning of sex for the characters. Readers know what goes where, but what they don’t know is what this means for Character Name. Focus on the beauty of the moment. Let your characters feel, be and enjoy instead of just pushing and pulling.

Friday, May 18, 2007

About to Sin--UPDATED!

Erotic Dreams Publishing has updated About to Sin. This closes out the second chapter. The thrid chapter should beging on the 22nd.

If you get a chance to read it, I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Updates!

The fanfiction for About to Sin has been posted. I've updated my website with information about About to Sin and the fanfiction.

I so freaking THRILLED to have fanfiction! ^_^

Updated Page

Monday, May 14, 2007

Romantic just not for all? WTF!

Dusk Peterson brought something to my attention that ticked me off.

Hyatt Hotel Targets M/M Author

They WANT you to attend the convention. They WANT your money, but they won't stand up for you at all. Bullshit. Bullshit--plain and simple.

The Author's Own Words