Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Panic! At the Publisher

If you were a reader between 1975 and 2006 and were into things like fake IDs, conspiracies, drugs, weapons, and overthrowing the system by any means necessary, then you were aware of a publisher called Loompanics Unlimited.

Loompanics was like the crazy cousin of Paladin Press, which actually acquired some of Loompanics’ titles when the company went out of business in 2006.  Paladin always had a very serious air about it.  (That company, which published many books on how to kill people, stopped sending me books to review  for my ‘zine because my ‘zine was too radical.  Picture that for a second.  The company that published Put Him Out! – The Combative Use of Improvised Weapons called my ‘zine too radical.  If you are interested, you can get the DVD version of that book here.)  Loompanics’ works were just more fun.


Loompanics published books like Dirty Tricks Cops Use: And Why They Use Them, Techniques of Burglar Alarm Bypassing, Practical LSD Manufacture and The Construction & Operation of Clandestine Drug Laboratories.  Don’t they sound like a good time?  Yes!  Of course they do!

I own more than a few of Loompanics’ odes to personal freedom.  They are equal parts amusing, thrilling and terrifying.  Back before the Internet taught every jackass how to make a bomb, Loompanics was one of the few places one could turn to … and then you actually had to crack open a book.  You couldn’t just watch a Youtube video.  You had to use things like bookmarks and such.  It was a crazy time, kids.

I miss the publisher.  I mean, Paladin is fine, but its crowd is so survivalist that you can’t help but think of militias, Christianity and vague interpretations of the Constitution.  Loompanics’ crowd was the Yuppies and the chaos mongers.  Paladin’s crowd flies a Don’t Tread on Me flag.  The Loompanics bunch burned flags.  There is a distinction.

There was a time Google and Amazon wouldn’t let Loompanics advertise its goods on their sites.  The books violated their policies.  We all know what barometers of morality those two companies are, but their refusal did shed light on a problem Loompanics had – people were afraid of it.  They weren’t afraid Loompanics would topple the publishing industry, however.  They were afraid of what Loompanics was publishing.  The books themselves were dangerous.  (Yes, the FBI looked into the company.  Luckily, the Feds’ interpretation of the Constitution is not vague.)

Google and Amazon are still here, as is Paladin.  None of them, however, are half as fun as Loompanics used to be.  After all, what other publisher could set you up to be tweaking on homemade meth while carrying a fake ID when you firebombed a bank with personally made explosives?  None … at least not while making you smile.



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Shrinkage

I have always sought out high weirdness when it comes to books.  Whether it is old Nazi propaganda, medical tomes on parasites that run riot throughout the body, or books on communism written by crackpots, if it’s odd, I’m interested.

Many moons ago I visited the Occult Emporium, which was located in Allentown, PA at the time.  I had always heard rumors about the place, and my initial reaction (other than that it was tiny because it was basically set up in the basement of a building) was of glee.  Scattered amongst the candles, Tarot cards, newspaper articles about people dumb enough to shoplift from the store, and Aleister Crowley’s helmet (which I touched despite the warning sign), were books and pamphlets on the occult.

Bingo!

I was drawn to these things like a goth to a black eyeliner sale.  Books on Satanism, witchcraft, identifying demons (as if one really needed to do that) and astral projection begged for my hard-earned money.  There was one little pamphlet, however, that really caught my eye.  I held it.  I looked through it.  I didn’t care about the price, though it was a pittance at $2.50.  I didn’t care that it wasn’t a standard paperback.  I wanted it and had to have it. 

How to Shrink Heads?  Its title a question.  Its question a promise.  Its promise peculiar.

I can, if forced, justify my purchase of it by saying I’m a writer and it is research material.  That isn’t true, though.  It wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now.  Yeah, I’m a writer, but the pamphlet is just so damn cool that I had to have it.  Not for research purposes, but for the holy-shit-I’m-learning-how-to-shrink-a-human-head factor.  They don’t write a Dummies guide for that.

You wouldn’t buy it?


Of course not!  What would be the point?  What would you do with it?  How often would you read it?  Who cares?  It’s a pamphlet on shrinking human heads!  You can’t find that at Target.  You don’t stumble across it at a yard sale.  It’s not the type of thing you see every day.  In fact, my copy is the only one I’ve seen, period, and I’m always looking weird shit up on the net.  What’s not to love about that?


I bought it and never looked back.  Incredibly, it’s not the oddest ephemera I own, but it is one of the more interesting.  Conversation starter?  No.  Anything that tells you how to shrink a human head is really a conversation ender.  People learn you have that sort of thing and instantly change the topic to  something less anti-social like anal bleaching.  I’m not disappointed.  I understand.  Anyone who doesn’t want to discuss shrinking human heads isn’t someone I really want to talk to anyway.  I do, however, have something I could use them for …

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Strange Relationships

I often cruise around the erotica section of Smashwords and Amazon looking at what high strangeness can be found for one’s reading pleasure.  What toDo When You Accidentally Titty Fuck the President’s Daughter Twice?; Drag QueenAstronaut and Other Stories; The Alien’s Dairy Queen: Pumping Paula; Whatto Do When a Girl Seems to Only WakeUp If She Can Taste Cum in Her Mouth?; Man& Woman Can Equal Sex, and a BabyToo; and Bigfoot and the Kinky Couple are just a few of the random offerings available for discriminating tastes that I found with just two very basic searches.  This erotica is like the Sigue Sigue Sputnik of the publishing world.  Amazing.  Garish.  Description defying.  Sublime.  Ever since authors have discovered the world of electronic self-publishing, erotica (and romance) has exploded with some of the oddest subgenres imaginable.  This is a good thing for fans of Bigfoot sex books.
That’s not to say these bold subgenres and other weird erotica didn’t exist before epublishing.  Collectors and historians need only point to the output of Sally Miller (Jersey Girl Fantasies) to prove that high strangeness existed before the world of digital.  Digital, however, has blown the doors wide open, and there is no turning back.

Major publishers, and even most of the fringe ones, won’t even consider printing some of the books currently being offered in the world of the self-published erotica genre, and it has nothing to do with the quality of writing.  It has everything, though, to do with content.  Everything from cryptid sex to incest to bestiality to forced lactation can be found, and those are the things that scare traditional publishers.  50 Shades of Boredom this ain’t.  Those terrified publishers may say it isn’t hurting their profit margins, but online retailers would say otherwise.

Amazon and Smashwords, the two biggest online retailers, both have content guidelines, and a lot of these books they offer fall outside those guidelines or are very close to going over the line.  Nothing usually happens to the authors unless someone complains (I’d love to hear some of the complaints), though Amazon does do regular purges of “questionable” material.  The bottom line, however, is that these ebooks contribute to the bottom line of both companies.  The money is nowhere near the level of the Young Adult vampire, zombie, or dystopian fiction that multiplies like herpes, but it is sizable enough to matter, and it draws people to the web pages.  Sex sells, and everybody is buying. 

Perhaps in the future traditional publishers will be unafraid of pushing the boundaries of erotica, but it seems highly unlikely.  The industry has been slow to respond to every single advancement in publishing for as long as I can remember.  It is ridiculous to think this will be any different.  Some would even argue it shouldn’t be, as a novel about dinosaur pimps just sullies the entire erotica pool. 

They would be wrong.

We progress when we push boundaries.  If boundaries weren’t pushed, we wouldn’t have things like interracial marriage or women voting.  One can say bestiality erotica is a bit different, but is it?  People want to write about it.  People want to read about it.  It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it doesn’t have to be.  For now, however, if you want to read a new bestiality story, chances are you’ll only find it as a digital copy or self-published paperback.  The traditional publishers, the ones who want you to think they are at the forefront of carrying the First Amendment torch, won’t touch things like that.  They live in fear, and that fear drives content. 

Maybe someday that will change … but don’t hold your breath.  In the meantime, enjoy Step Lust and the Dog.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Necessary But Pure - More on Peter Sotos

I have been going through a Peter Sotos buying spree, the highlight of which was finding a used copy of Total Abuse at a near eighty dollar price.  Cheap.  Upon telling a friend about this find, he asked, “Why do you even read that stuff?  It’s beyond sick.”

Yeah.  It is.  As the back copy of Total Abuse reads, “Peter Sotos is the world’s foremost practitioner of verbal brutality.”  That is an understatement.
The things Sotos writes about aren’t pretty, and he doesn’t handle them with kid gloves (no pun intended).  Murder, rape, pedophilia, pornography, Nazis, rough trade, self-loathing, racism and the like shouldn’t be the subjects of casual reads.  Sotos, more than any other writer, rubs your face in the filth and makes sure you taste it.  It is uncomfortable, to say the least.  Reading his work is obviously not for the faint of heart, and nor is it for those who are easily offended.  I read it because I find it inspirational, but not in the way of a budding serial killer or cowardly rapist.  I find it inspirational as a writer.


When I write something, I hope to move the readers in some way.  I want to horrify them, make them laugh or cry … any reaction other than one of utter boredom.  Sotos does that at the most base and instinctually gut-wrenching level.  Few authors (Jack Ketchum, Hubert Selby Jr., and James Ellroy come to mind) can even come close to what he has achieved.  (That’s why used copies of his books command such high prices.)  If my work can cause even a fraction of that sort of reaction, then I am satisfied.  That’s why I read him.  I want the reaction.  I want the inspiration.  I study the way the words flow and the images he conjures with their use and repetition upon the page (Ellroy, again, does something similar). 

If all of that sounds slightly magical, that’s because it is.  Reading is a magical experience.  It is unlike any other artistic medium.  It engages its audience in ways that few arts can.  The reader is just as much a part of the art as the writer, too, and anyone who is serious about writing understands what a delicate dance the two are engaged in during that process.  A lot has been written about this tango, but what needs to be remembered is that writing is also magical.  In fact, it is the main ingredient in the spell because without it there would be nothing to experience.  Without the writer, the reader wouldn’t exist, and that doesn’t go both ways.

Sotos, whether or not he would admit it, has an understanding of that magic and he uses it to cause the worst reactions in his readers.  He knows how the words need to flow on the page (any writer of worth needs to understand that sentences, like music, must fit into the greater composition just so or run the risk of becoming disruptive).  He knows what patterns to utilize.  He gives just enough of himself that when the readers fill in the “blanks” they are touched in the vilest of ways.  He forces his readers to create images of unspeakable crimes, and then they become complicit in them.  They aren’t just merely reading about these acts.  They are in the room smelling the smells and hearing the cries.  Whether he puts you in the mindset of predator or prey, the end result is that you suffer.  It is an amazing feat to pull off, and it is dangerous, but when it works it is sublime.

My friend was right.  It is sick stuff.  Beyond sick, as he said.  Shouldn’t it be?  Shouldn’t writing about such dark subjects be sick and disturbing?  Sure, some readers will want to stay away from it for whatever reason (and they should if they have any doubts about their ability to handle it), but for the daring, for those who appreciate the magic, the experience is unlike anything you’ll ever read, and why wouldn’t you want to embrace that?


I understand Sotos isn’t for everyone.  In fact, there are times I question whether or not he is even for me, but I respect him, and if I respect an artist, I engage in his or her work.  It’s not always a pleasant job, but it beats reading the latest James Patterson novel, where everything is safe and you know the story before you read it.  Patterson’s yarns are like a fast food breakfast for the reader’s soul.  Sotos, however is not so easy to digest.  It takes an investment of time and intellect that many readers will eventually regret, scarred and scared by what they have experienced.  I would have it no other way.


Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Click on a link and I may earn cash.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Quaint Look at Country-Style Racism Circa 1887

Shams, or Uncle Ben’s Experience with Hypocrites is one of those curious books from way back in the day.  That day is 1887, to be exact.  Benjamin Morgan, author of the work, wrote a tome well over 100 years ago detailing Uncle Ben’s train trip across the country with his wife.  As the title indicates, he encounters shams and hypocrites along the way, but he also encounters things far stranger to his simple, God-fearing country mind.

Black people.

Chinese people.

 And Jews.

Oh my!

For Uncle Ben (though not so much for his wife, who is portrayed as far more intelligent than he) these people are so alien that it is like he is encountering creatures from Mars.  Of course, I understand that this novel is a product of its time, but reading it I couldn’t help but think it was the kind of thing David Duke would take a liking to in the worst way.  Uncomfortable?  Yes, a bit, but only because I’m not really used to such casually racist descriptions and observations.  (Jews have big, hooked noses and are greedy, for example.)  Morgan didn’t have to promote those stereotypes in his writing, but that he chose to do so and that it was probably well-received at the time is absolutely telling of the era.

Reading Morgan’s book was an exercise in tolerance in many different ways.  The plot was nothing more than warnings about people and how city life differed from good ol’ country livin’.  The racism comes across as being so normal that it was even more offensive than it would have been had it been written to actually stir the pot of xenophobia.  And then there was Uncle Ben.  Yes, we he was trusting rube with absolutely zero street smarts, but he, like so many other people I encounter on a daily basis, came off as if he knew everything about everything there was to know.  Spending several hundred pages with the man was far from fun, and I kept hoping he’d get stabbed or contract some “city disease” most likely given to him by a Chinese man, but he didn’t.  (For the record, if anything were to kill Uncle Ben, it would’ve been a strange Chinese man.  Here’s the book’s description of them: “Their pigeyes and pigtails, greasy, yellow faces and heathenish countenances; their funny shoes, and pantalets breeches, with their shirts hanging outside, was so different from any other kind of folks that I couldn’t keep from looking at them as I would a menagerie, and the way they lived, ate, slept and done business was so peculiar that I come to the conclusion that they must have been dropped down onto the earth from some of the planets.  I presumed they fell from Jupiter, as they look as though they might be a cross between a Jew and the original Peter, for the way they live, move and have their being, is strongly suggestive that they came from some celestial climate, and are bound for the place to which it is said Peter carries the keys, and have stopped temporarily on the surface of old earth to pick up what they can, like flies in the summer, and carry it along with them.  Like the bothersome flies, they are content with a little at a time, but they are all the time after that little, and when I found out there was about 25,000 of them in this city, I could readily see how they managed to get pretty much all the subsistence away from the respectable white laborers.”  Again, this kind of stuff went on for several hundred pages.)

I bought this on eBay, and that’s where it will end up at again sometime soon.  I’m glad I read it, though, as it’s not often you get to read an original copy of something that old, but one read-through is good enough for me.  Maybe I can get Duke to bid on my copy.

 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Review of my Book and an Interview With ... Me

If you are interested in finding out more about me, you can read Cinema Crazed's interview with me here.  If you want to read a review of Nothing Men that the same site did, you can read that here. (The book can be purchased to the right of this post.)

I want to thank Cinema Crazed, a must-see site for culture junkies.  Danke!

If anyone is interested in doing an interview with me or doing a review of the book, feel free to e-mail me.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

To Evil Comes a Daughter

There are a couple of things you can say about To Evil Comes a Daughter.  First and foremost is that its beginning and end almost feel like two different stories.  Second, its conclusion is not something you see coming … not even close.  You can decide whether that is good or bad.

A writer of one sort or another trying to solve a mystery he has suddenly found himself in the middle of is a conventional plot for books.  (The Screaming Mimi comes to mind.)  Author Allen Caraway undoubtedly knows this, but forges ahead anyway, leaving thankful readers waiting to see what happens next, though fairly unsure of what they will encounter.  What starts out like a ghost story ends up being a murder mystery that is as touching as it is surprising.  There are a few bumps along the way (chiefly being the supernatural element that dominated the beginning of the story and was soon forgotten), but that is fairly forgivable given the strong characters and unseen twists that are thrown at readers.

If anything, I would have liked to have spent more time with Caraway’s characters.  That said, it’s a weak complaint because the story wastes little to no time in getting to its destination, and that’s not something you can easily say these days.  Improbable?  Yes.  Entertaining?  Yes.  Intellectually stimulating?  No.  Not everything has to be, though.  There is, however, another problem that needs mentioning: the book’s title.

I originally read this book under the title Drowning in Shadow.  Its current moniker evokes a Hammer film and acts as a spoiler.  Readers expecting Gothic horror are going to be in for a bit of a surprise, though the beginning of the story will solidify those expectations for a while before crushing them callously.  The original title was better, and I cannot emphasize that enough.

Minor distractions aside, if murder mysteries are your thing -- especially those with a hint of the otherworldly -- then you may want to give this novel a chance.  It won’t change your world, but it is a welcome, simplistic read while waiting for tires to be put on your car, or for when you are enjoying a glass of wine and Ayn Rand seems a bit too heavy.



Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  I did receive this book to review, and clicking on a link could earn me a commission.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Trailer for "Nothing Men"

Here's a trailer for my book.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pure Filth ... Pure Style ... Pure Sadism

What drives a woman to let a man choke her, defecate on her, write horribly nasty things on her body and generally treat her worse than he would treat a dog?  For some it's a simple as needing to pay the bills.  Others like it.  Perhaps no two people know this better than Jamie Gillis and Peter Sotos.  Neither should need an introduction, but allow me to do so anyway.

Gillis was a porn star.  I say "was" because he's dead.  He's considered the inventor of gonzo porn, and if you saw Burt Reynolds in Boogie Nights, well that was supposed to be Gillis. 

Sotos is a writer who dabbles in some very dark stuff.  He writes of sadistic, violent crimes ... often involving children ... often written in the first person ... often based in reality.  He was once arrested for obscenity and possession of child pornography based on what was on the cover of the second issue of his Pure 'zine.  The obscenity charged was dropped.  He pled guilty to possession.

Pure Filth is made up of transcripts courtesy of Sotos, of some of Gillis darker porn stuff (and an out-of-control commissioned video).  Sotos and Gillis each wrote an introduction, and Gillis wrote a little commentary before each transcript.  The book took about a decade to come out because Gillis was shopping around a memoir and didn't want Feral House (the publisher of the Gillis/Sotos collaboration) putting out something that could scare the major publishers.  (The proposed memoir apparently freaked out the publishers anyway for scenes Gillis recounted, including one where a girl just shy of 13 years of age offered Gillis some oral favors and he accepted.)  Pure Filth isn't horrific, but it is an examination of degradation of some of the worst sorts as well as being a study in what gets the juices flowing in some people.  Some would say the women in these films were nothing but common whores, but reading the transcripts proves otherwise.  Some are broken.  Some are abused.  Some want to be broken and abused.  Most people don't want to know this stuff exists.  Fewer still want to read about it.  If you want some insight into human nature, however, you can't ignore this.  It's disrespectful.

The book is expensive enough to keep it out of the hands of those who are mere dabblers.  Those who do decide to take the plunge won't regret it.  Some of it may bother you.  Some of it may intrigue you.  Some of it may have you questioning humanity.  By the end of it you may not have a better understanding of human nature, but you will have some new insights into yourself and what you are able to tolerate.  And if you aren't careful, you may just find yourself a bit turned on by what has transpired.  Either way, you'll probably never look at a toilet the same way again.


Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  I paid for this book.  Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Books Aren't Just For Reading! (Utter Nonsense)

"Books aren't just for reading!"  That's the line I read in a magazine while waiting in a doctor's office some years ago.  It was an article about tips on decorating your home or apartment, with incredibly helpful tips on how to arrange books on a shelf so they look pleasing to the eye and how to use them to create a step pattern so that you can put candles on them.  (It was quick to note that you should not actually light the candles as they are on top of books.  Apparently the author thought that candles, like books, were mere props to show off how intellectually stunted the homeowner or renter happened to be.)

Ridiculous.

Books are for reading.  They aren't decorative props.  They aren't there to prop a window open or level out a table.  Using them as such says a lot about the user, and none of it is good.

I'm a firm believer in John Waters' advice.  If you go to someone's house and they don't have books, don't fuck them.  I can't think of a better bit of advice to give someone.  If a person doesn't have at least a few books on their shelves, how interesting do you think they are going to be?  Perhaps they don't think books are "cool" or "stimulating" enough.  There are literally thousands of titles (some of which I cover on this blog) that say differently.  Books on serial killers, fallen athletes, sex slaves, UFO abductions, criminals of the worst sort, Nazis, cannibalism, revenge, bomb making, body modification, conspiracy theories ... the list goes on.  If you can't find something that interests you, how do you expect someone to find you interesting?

So, if you go to someone's house and they don't have any books, keep away from their naughty bits.  If they do have books, but they're being used as a stand for a decorative vase, burn their freakin' house down.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Smut Unbound: The Elizabeth de la Place Interview


Elizabeth de la Place is the author of short stories with wholesome titles like The Billionaire’s Babysitter: Deflowering the Sitter, Sexy Hardcore Lesbians, Lesbian Strap-On Party, Ambulance Slut, Cum on and Haze Me, and Tie Me Up Teacher. (Click on the pictures for any you want to order.)  Obviously these aren’t for kids or their conservative parents, and they may even be a little more than what the Fifty Shades of Grey crowd can endure, but I was intrigued by them … and more importantly the woman behind them.   De la Place and I “met” on Smashwords, and after I reviewed The Billionaire’s Babysitter: Deflowering the Sitter, I decided to interview her.  After all, it’s not too many “smut” writers who would be willing to be so open about what they do.


De la Place is a college student studying chemistry at what she describes as a “liberal arts college.”  “I write for my school’s feminist newspaper,” she says, “and I hope to get my PhD after I graduate.  I think a lot of erotica authors lie on their author bios, but I actually was a cheerleader throughout middle and high school – my experiences and the stories the other girls would tell definitely serve well as inspiration for me now.”  In fact, the camp in Zombies at Cheer Camp was based on a cheerleading camp de la Place attended.


So how did this former cheerleader start down the much maligned path of writing erotica that borders on pure porn?  The answer is pretty simple: She read a forum post about it and the rest was history. De la Place explains, “I figured that it would be fun to try out – at the very least, if it didn’t work out, it would make for a great story.”  Since her personal sexual fantasies were “pretty involved,” it made getting those fantasies onto the page a bit easier, but as any writer knows, writing is only part of the battle.  The other part involves your readers and what they think of your work.  Erotica has its share of rabid fans and detractors.  Bad porn still can fulfill a masturbation need in the lonely, but bad erotica causes the author to be treated like a leper at the prom.  Everyone wants to look, but nobody wants to dance.  De la Place has been lucky.

“The reaction has been really good!” she states.  “I’ve received fan mail, which is exciting, and my friends, many of whom help me edit and provide me with ideas, have been really supportive and encouraging.  Even if they do make fun of me a little bit.”  De la Place’s subject matter (barely legal erotica, for instance) hasn’t caused an outrage, either, which is surprising when you consider American culture.  “I like to think that, as a younger woman and as a queer woman, I manage to handle those subjects well.   A lot of barely legal erotica strikes me as a little skeevy because I don’t like the idea of a docile, infantile woman – even when the female characters in my stories are being submissive, I want to make sure that they are willing and clever participants.  It’s easy for me to put myself in their shoes and to insert a bit of my own personality into them.  There is one subject she does shy away from, however.


“I would never do a rape/dubcon scene for pure titillation,” she explains.  “I do a lot of work with survivors of rape and abuse, and I think that using the rape of people, especially the ‘Oh, s/he enjoyed it in the end, so it’s okay,’ does a lot of bad things with regard to normalizing rape culture.  Only one of my stories features some mild dubious consent, and I struggled a lot with the decision to include it.”

De la Place’s works aren’t novels.  They are short stories ranging anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 words, which some would say is just right for a piece of erotic fiction as it gets right to the “good stuff.”  The price for these pieces is $2.99 (more for the bundled works).  “That’s less than a price of a cup of fancy coffee,” de la Place explains, “and a sexy story is the sort of thing you can read again and again.”


Independent authors of ebooks and stories are left to price their works themselves.  It was something I struggled with when it came to pricing my books and short stories, and it is something Place thought hard about, as well.  “My prices mostly come from what I think they’re worth without underselling myself, and from my observations on how the really successful erotica authors price their work.”   One key indicator of how appropriately a piece is priced is by how well it is selling.  For relatively unknown authors, the price can mean the difference between fame and famine, as they don’t have their name to trade in on.  De la Place’s sales vary.

“I have a short story,” Place says, “Ambulance Slut,  that I joke about because I don’t think it sold a single copy in the United States for months after publishing, but it sold bizarrely well on Amazon UK for a while.  As time goes on, my sales have been increasing a lot – I make more in a week than I did in my first few months.”  I had a similar situation happen with Melinda.  It sold in America, but someone apparently started a discussion about it on some British forum, and suddenly I was seeing a spike in sales overseas and hearing from Brits who had a fetish involving starving women.  It was odd to say the least, and it did get me thinking about writing some truly fetishistic porn in order to supplement the bank account.  While I haven’t thoroughly ditched the idea yet, looking at the amount of work de la Place produces has given me pause. 


In June she published “about a dozen titles.”  The next month she did about six.  “I hope to get five more titles online before I go back to university at the end of August,” she states.  “My production will definitely slow down when I’m in school, since classes are my absolute first priority, but I hope that I’ll still be able to publish a few times a month.”


With the amount of short stories de la Place puts out, I felt the need to ask her if she thought she had a novel in her.  As any writer can tell you, there is a world of difference between writing a short story and writing a novel.  “I don’t know,” she answers.  “I’d like to think so.  I’d definitely be interested in writing young adult novels, but I’m not sure if I’m cut out for a longer length.”  For the immediate future, however, de la Place is sticking with what she knows.


“Up next are probably more lesbian works, maybe a dip into fantasy and sci-fi, and hopefully the conclusion to the Cum on and Haze Me trilogy.  I have a big document full of ideas, but when it comes down to it, most of my stories are based on what I feel like writing that day.  Sometimes I wake up and really want to write about horny schoolgirls, and other days I feel like writing about some gay knights having sex with a dragon.  It’s always a surprise, but it also helps to keep me from getting burned out.”

With ideas like that, who needs a novel?  It seems like the short story is working just fine for this author.  And while I’m not quite sure I’d enjoy reading about gay knights having sex with a dragon, I’m fairly positive there are some folks in Europe who will make that a best seller.

Mandated FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.




  
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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Simple Study in Economics


Kersten Kelly’s Ec•o•nom•ics: A Simple Twist on Normalcy takes a lot of inspiration from Freakonomics.  Anyone expecting a rehash of that book is going to be sorely disappointed, however.  Kelly’s work stands on its own, and its goal is to make a vast, complex subject a little more understandable.  Does it work?  Yes, but with a price.

Kelly writes in a very conversational style, which helps when dealing with economics and the theories that drive the marketplace and consumers.  She examines the complexities behind things like what dictates lipstick purchases in a struggling economy and the how people’s decisions are swayed on a show like Deal or No Deal and then ties them into simple economics.  If you have a passing interest in this subject, this book will whet your appetite for more.  If you are a seasoned pro, however, you may find it a little too basic, but that is the book’s allure.  While Freakonomics, a book I enjoyed, took strange situations (such as how legalized abortion affected the crime rate) and applied science to it, Kelly takes ordinary situations that we take for granted and examines why they work the way they do.  Fast food, car purchases, the Cold War, extreme couponing, dating sites – she hits them all, and while this is a good starting point, many of these issues are far more complicated than this book would have you believe.  That doesn’t matter, though, because sometimes a simple understanding is more than enough to give you solid ground to stand on.




Freakonomics took relatively simple ideas and problems and showed how complex they were.  Ec•o•nom•ics takes complex issues and shows how simple they can be.  The two books, while vastly different, complement each other quite well.  There is still much for Kelly to uncover, however, and it makes me wonder if she is working on a new volume.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I received this book to review.  Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

50 Shades of Shrugs

If you pay any attention to the news, mommy porn is big.  Now, I thought it was something different than what Brian Williams was yattering about, but whatever.  Fifty Shades of Grey is apparently all the rage for women reconnecting with their vibrators.  Hell, Target sells it.  It must be racy.

Obviously, I like the idea that a book is getting press.  It reminds others that there are people out there still reading.  I don't care if they are books about boy wizards or women being tied up.  These days, getting people to crack a book's spine is often a massive undertaking.  So, if a book about a young college girl in relationship with an older man who likes to get a little kinky (and I'm sure it's very little) does the trick, so be it.  I suppose it could be worse.

I know of a woman who was reading it as an eBook.  She described it to me as -- wait for it -- steamy.  I asked her what made it so.  She had a hard time explaining it and told me I would just "have to read it for myself."  I passed, but not because I think I am above it or something.  No, I passed because I know that if the masses are embracing it as some kind of erotic thrill ride it is most likely neither of those things.  You can't trust the masses with voting, television shows, books or movies.  Nine times out of ten, the masses will be wrong, and that one time they are right it will be a fluke they cannot explain.  I don't like those odds.

Fifty Shades of Grey, part one of a clitoris-engorging trilogy, may be an erotic masterpiece.  It could put Sex Lounge to shame.  But, and I ask this in all seriousness, how bad can it be if Walmart and Target carry it?  Sure, some libraries in the South have apparently banned it last I heard, but that's the South.  They'd ban all books if they could figure out a way to do it without appearing totally backwards.  Target and Walmart are not going to carry anything that pushes the envelope too far, or causes too much teen masturbation. It's just not going to happen.  Read the reviews on Walmart's webpage that are written by actual readers!  The term love making is actually in quotes once, and more than one person keeps stating it is for "mature readers," whatever that may mean. (One person did write "matured" reader.) Emotionally mature?  Physically mature?  Readers who moved on from the boy wizard and company?  Is it "adults only," as one reviewer says? Another would-be critic said it made her "sweat."  Another calls it "educational," and one of my favorites says there's more to the story than just "adult activity," which I take to mean things like paying taxes and getting checked for lumps. 

Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover, and sometimes by its readers.  If I take these reviews to heart, I can be sure to experience a mature read that is educational when it comes to adult activities.  About the most I can say in its defense is that the author, E.L. James, has sure hit the right crowd.  They definitely need an education.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pure Filth Arrives Shrinkwrapped

There it was. Fresh from the printer. Shrinkwrapped. Cover price? An ironic $69. Peter Sotos. Jamie Gillis. I had wanted it since I saw it on Feral House's website. Pure Filth. Knowing of the two minds behind it, I could only imagine how it would read. As I peeled off the plastic, I found out. I wasn't ready to read it yet. I'm still reading Eyes to the South, an incredibly interesting examination of Algeria. But I had to look through. Examine the photos. Read a few passages.

It was as I expected it to be.

Sotos is a disturbing writer. Here he is transcribing a series of films. If you are familiar with the two men, you have an idea of what you'll read. I imagine that when I finally sit down with it I will be beyond captivated. Of course, this isn't something I want to take in casually. It will be an experience ... one unlike most reads.

While others devour Fifty Shades of Gray and feel somewhat transgressive or racy, I will picture them reading this and cringing in horror. That mom porn is fantasy. This is reality. And what a terrible reality it appears to be. This isn't the kind of stuff that those S&M/B&D weekenders call "play." This is deadly serious stuff. Mouths pried wide open for some humiliating wonders. It's the kind of thing that if you read it and it gives you an erection, you may want to seek out a psychologist. Otherwise, you may just end up trolling the streets looking for hookers who seem like they won't know the kind of trouble they're about to find up until about five minutes after they are knee deep in it. Mommy porn, indeed.

The last Sotos book I read gave me nightmares. It bothered me so much I stopped working on my sex and violence manuscript. I expect this one to effect me a bit differently. This isn't from Sotos' mind. He's a witness to it. He is merely the notebook man. That said, my guess is that while he watched these films, there was a definite erection going on ... and he totally understood why. Another guess? There was a bit of a smile, too, but not the kind you are thinking ...

 Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.





Monday, March 12, 2012

National Bracket Day Proves a Book's Thesis

CNN Headline News has done a few stories today on National Bracket Day. I'm not sure if this is a "real" day like Valentine's Day, or if it is something the channel made up, but it serves to prove the thesis of Dumbing Down: Essays on the Strip-Mining of American Culture. As a culture, we Americans are getting dumber by the minute. The fact that CNN is covering NCAA brackets as a news item proves it. (Yes, I know this is the same channel that, on the same day, covered a shark feeding frenzy as news and seemed to care a lot about Whitney Houston's daughter talking to Oprah. These things served as bookends on a piece on an American soldier going berserk in an incident sure to cripple international relations, yet handled with the same level of severity as, say, high gas prices. The book was first written in 1997, and I would posit that American culture has actually gotten worse. It isn't that it has become "dumber." It's that culture doesn't seem to even exist anymore. Everything is throw-away. The attention span of the American public is about ten months, which ensures that nothing stays around long enough to have an influence on the culture, and when, by law of averages, it does, it isn't anything good (e.g., American Idol Also reported on CNN Headline News: Jeff Foxworthy is supporting Mitt Romney. At what point would any news network take Foxworthy's support of a character as anything other than something to be mocked? Apparently never. I imagine when this is a news item, National Bracket Day coverage (complete with cheerleaders -- I kid not) is not far off. Dumbing Down has some troubling aspects to it, and I don't agree with every essay in it, but as a whole it is a powerful and damning work that should be read by those whose opinion on American culture is less than ideal. The rest of you can fill out your brackets and take much comfort in the fact that you aren't alone. Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive this book to review. It was a gift. If you click on a link you may cause me to earn a commission.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Your Death Song Stays On My Mind

If you read a lot of horror fiction from the '80s you know two things: Stephen King would promote anything, and you had to wade through a lot of crap to get to something satisfying.  Douglas Borton's Death Song was promoted by King, and it is part of the crap I waded through.

I don't remember how I came across this book, but based on its condition, I believe I bought it used.  It sat on my shelf a long time before I got to reading it just recently.  I finished it, too, but it was a chore.

The plot gives a nod to H.P. Lovecraft and takes his ideas (dark gods out there just waiting to destroy our world) and then gives a female country singer the power to conjure and destroy them.  Along the way she encounters cultists who are out to kill her.  The preferred killing method?  Song.  Unholy songs that cause you to do things like grow creatures in your stomach or kill yourself.  It's a good idea, actually, and the novel moves at a very fast pace, but it falls apart in one key place: its main character, Billie Lee Kidd, the country singer I mentioned.

Billie Lee Kidd never comes across as believable ... especially when it comes to her dialogue.  She cracks wise almost constantly, even when faced with death.  That's a symptom of a writer taking in too many bad movies and trying to make a "cool" character.  She's not very likable, either, which is not something I can really complain about since I write characters that aren't very likable, too.  At least I make my characters interesting, however.  With Kidd, the little bit we know doesn't make us want to know more.  We know she got bit by a snake as a kid.  We know she's a country singer.  We know she sleeps around a lot.  None of this really helps us know her.  Therefore, when she is in danger (most of the novel), we don't really care what happens to her.  We also never get a real sense of how pressing this coming of the dark gods truly is.  We know the world will be destroyed, but it is handled with the same weight as, say, 30 people being killed.

I'm a firm believer that for horror to work well, you have to have characters readers can care about.  They may not always like them, but they have to care for them in one way or another.  If they don't, the horror is lost.  That is the case here.  It is a shame, too, as it had much promise.  The "prologue," so to speak, reads like something from Robert E. Howard, and that's good, but it's fairly downhill from there, with just a few moments of greatness to keep you strung along.

I'll be putting this book on eBay at some point.  It won't pain me to part with it, and it means I'll probably be avoiding any other books with Borton's name on the cover.  At least King isn't pushing every horror book out these days.  I just wish he would've been more selective back in the '80s.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive this book to review.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Pricing Debate on eBooks Continues

My thoughts on the whole subject sparked some more debate on the topic on various boards.  One of the more interesting things I noticed was that some readers are liable to spend more on books written by independent authors over those published by the major publishing houses.  They seem to understand that the indie authors struggle more, and therefore are "voting with their dollars."  They also are willing to pay a little more for those books.  Again, understanding the finances involved in being an independent author.  Granted, there are those who think the eBooks should all be .99 cents or free, and they are quick to point out that there are authors who make quite a bit of money selling for .99 cents.  That is true, but it is not the norm.

The eBook marketed is flooded.  It is hard for authors who aren't well known to get their work out there to be seen.  Self-promotion only goes so far, but word of mouth can work wonders.  That word of mouth can also drive sales despite whatever the price.

Amazon and Smashwords have it right.  Letting authors set the price sets up a situation much like eBay.  It is what the market can handle, and it is fluid.  If an author has found she has priced to high, she can lower it, and vice versa.  A good book is going to sell regardless ... if people know about it.  That, over pricing, is the key to selling books.

The market is still new enough that pricing will work itself out and a happy medium will be found.  While that happens, authors have to find a way to make their work stick out over all the other eBooks out there.  The playing field has been somewhat leveled, with authors now being able to get their books out there without the aid of a publisher.  Getting the rest of the world to see your book is the real challenge, and it looks to be that way for quite some time.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pricing eBooks

The topic of the pricing of eBooks came up on a board I regularly post on.  Chiefly, why are eBooks so expensive?  There is, of course, a lot of different factors that go into this sort of thing.  Who has the rights?  Who must get paid?  So on and so forth.  It's the same thing that dictates every purchase one makes (unless, of course, you're one of those filth who believes you should just be able to exploit artists because they are there). 

The pricing of my short stories and Nothing Men was something I put a lot of thought into.  I put a lot of research into the novel (most writers do).  I had delved into everything from old gas pumps to Native American tanning techniques and was privy to some of the grimest footage anyone can imagine.  (A refrigerator filled with body parts and a several bins filled with the pieces of one man are two that stick out.  For the icebox, I'm not talking like a few feet in Dahmer's apartment.  I'm talking "packed" with discoloring limbs.)  The amount of research I put into it, though, wasn't going to play into my pricing.  This was something I did to make the story the best I could. No.  One question came up time and time again as I pondered a price.

What is fair?

What would I pay for the work?  Taking myself out of the equation and looking at it honestly, what would I pay?  I'm not an unknown in the world of publishing, but nor am I Clive Barker.  With that in mind, what can I reasonably ask for without sounding like a total dick.  And that's how I arrived at my pricing.  (Ironically, I sold more copies of Nothing Men, which you can purchase to the right of the screen, when it was full price.  I had briefly put it on sale as a special to some board readers and sold not a single copy.  Pricing most likely has less to do with a buying decision than one thinks.)

I think my prices are reasonable.  The works don't sell as well as I'd like, but I think that has little to do with pricing and everything to do with word of mouth.  There are a lot of eBooks out there.  Making mine stand out in a crowd has been difficult to say the least.  I have it available for ever eReader now, but the competition is fierce.  Standing out amongst the Young Adult vampire tales is a tough thing, especially when I write about subject matter that is a bit more hostile than what the average reader is used to taking in.  There is a market for it, though, including a few I didn't know existed (Brits who have a fetish for starving women, for example). 

I do think some eBooks are vastly overpriced.  I also think some are underpriced, as well (a complaint you don't often hear).  If authors had a little more confidence in their work, that could change, but the key point must remain relevant:  What is fair?  If you stick to that, you can't go wrong.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Personality Goes a Long Way

Boy howdy does it!  The proof?  Florence Littauer's seminal Personality Plus (found on at my job for free, but a price sticker on its cover indicates someone got it for a mere .30 cents).  I tried to find an image of the edition I have online (with its lovely photo of the author), but it wasn't happening.  I then tried to take a picture of it with my phone.  If you don't see the photo here it is because my phone's personality is out of whack.

This book promises you "how to understand others by understanding yourself."  And to make sure you are getting your .30 cents worth, it includes a "Personality Profile Test!"  Now I know what you are thinking.  Why on Earth would anyone need this book?  I was thinking the same thing until I read the back cover.  Then it became perfectly and painfully clear.  Everyone needs this book!

"Are you the life of the party ... or do you refuse to be 'caught dead' at one?  Do you get along with everyone ... or wish that everyone would just move along?  Do you push people into doing what you want ... or do you need a big push to get moving?  If the answer to any of these is yes, then Personality Plus has the help you need to understand yourself and others better."  Well shit the bed!  Littauer has hit the nail on its pretty little introverted head.  This "lighthearted examination" is going to show readers how to get along with others, a skill not learned in school or in the home.  Thank goodness such a heady and decidedly dicey topic can be covered in a "lighthearted" way in a mere 188 pages.

Or should I thank God?

Littauer's book makes a lot of promises, but none is as ominous as this one.  "Florence Littauer shares amusing anecdotes and wise insights that will give you an appreciation of God-ordained personality differences."  I wonder which personality difference God ordained unto child-killer and cannibal Albert Fish.  Perhaps it is covered in the chapter "Let's Have Fun With the Sanguine."  Perhaps not.

Sprinkled throughout the chapters, personality deprived readers will encounter stories that seem to be plainly made up.  "One day as I was driving down the freeway with my Melancholy [sic] son, Fred, I noticed all the bankings were covered with bright, white daisies.  'Look at those beautiful flowers!' I exclaimed.  As Fred turned, his eyes fell on a large weed and he sighed, 'Yes, but look at that weed.'"
I don't think that really happened.

The end of the book, which assures us that we are all unique blends who don't like to be fenced in, has quotes from the Bible and an interesting chapter on Eugenics.  I'm kidding on that part.  I wanted to see if everyone was still reading.  Though, honestly, I could easily see this "lighthearted" romp through the many facets of personality (broke into just a few groups here) easily be turned into something more sinister.  I have found, through scientific study, that 188 pages is precisely what you need to cause a person to turn against another ethnic or religious group.

The bottom line is: If you have turned to this book in order to understand yourself or others better, you're already in a lot of trouble and this book won't help.  It's not nearly enough pages to get you out of the swamp you are in.  I'm sure church groups loved it and chuckled at the stories, true or not.  Reality is far harsher mistress, however.  And I don't think there's a Bible quote for that.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Assimilation In Four, Three, Two ...

Later this month AK Press is publishing Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform.  I'm getting it as part of the Friends of AK Press program, and it is a subject I've been interested in for a while.  Why would a group so generally despised and misunderstood want to conform to society's norms so badly?  It obviously goes well beyond equal rights (you can still have equal rights without having to adopt the values of society as a whole), and I want to know what drives that.  Is it that most people, no matter what their particular bent, have a desire to conform?  Is it a bit of self-loathing that manifests itself after years of being told you are inferior and an aberration?  Is it that 95% of the population is just idiotic?  It's a fascinating subject, and I'm glad AK Press is tackling it, though I'm sure it will cause a bit of a controversy.

I don't know what directions the book will take (and it is an anthology, so expect the usual variants in quality), but my guess is that the question of why many homosexuals feel the only safe route to take is one where you mimic heterosexual culture in every way you can -- marriage, children, voting Republican -- may be delved into and taken to task, and that is something that needs to be done.  In the span of history, the modern gay rights movement is fairly young, and it has come a long way, but there are factions within it that seem to have forgotten what was being fought for, and I think this may be the book that helps set the record straight -- no pun intended. 

Like many AK Press books, I probably won't be reading it as soon as it arrive in my PO box, but when I do, you can expect a review here.  In the meantime, I advise anyone with at least a passing interest in the subject to check it out ... as I predict this tome is going to get a lot of press in all the right places.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Culture of Idiocy

From the back of The Culture of Terrorism: "The exposure of the lies and corruption surrounding Iran/contra dealings in early 1988 finally revealed to the world the means by which US administrations have used the state apparatus to organise a clandestine network of global terrorism."  After picking up the book, which I was reading but had set aside, the person read the back and asked, "So you want to learn how to be a terrorist?"

Seriously.  That was the question?

How can one read the book description and think that Noam Chomsky's work is a handbook on how to be a terrorist?  Where does that even come from?  What words were in that paragraph that would lead anyone to believe such a thing?

My response was, "I already know how to do that.  I want to see how the pros do it."  What else could I say?  Anything I said would be unheard anyway.  If someone isn't going to pay attention to a description they just read, they sure as hell aren't going to listen to whatever answer I have to offer, so why bother trying to enter into a debate or even take the question seriously?  Exercises in futility are not sins, but they should be.  Frankly, even if the person hadn't read the book's description, the title in no way says that it is a how-to manual.

Lesson learned on that cloudy day?  If you read a book like this in public, be prepared for people to think you are a terrorist in training.  Don't try to explain any differently, either, as it is highly unlikely they will accept your answer.  How did this guy respond to me?  He just nodded his head and went on with his business.  Seems about right.
Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I paid for this book, and if you click the link to order it, I may earn a commission.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Slave to the Needle -- Requiem for a Dream


Since I was a big fan of the film version of the ultra-depressing Requiem for a Dream, one could only imagine my delight when I found a paperback copy of Playboy Press' printing of the book.  I felt like a junkie scoring a bundle ... but I refrained from reading it.  Why?  Time.  Mood.  A number of other factors.  That said, I'm reading it now (almost done with it actually), and I have to say that as satisfying as it is (even more than the movie), it is also a bit frustrating.

As much as I support artistic decisions, I like the traditional structure of a novel.  Paragraphs.  Quotation marks.  Apostrophes.  Hubert Selby, Jr.'s novel pretty much leaves those things at the wayside.  Paragraphs  are rare (some paragraphs go on for pages).  I don't think I've come across a single quotation mark (and I only have a few pages to go).  And apostrophes?  More often than not, Selby/ll do something like that.  It is all a bit maddening, but I imagine that fits in with the story.  The editor in me hates it.  The English teacher inside me died after ten pages, and the reader in me is thankful to go along for the ride, but would really like a visual break now and then.

There are people who have seen me reading this and have said, "I will never watch that movie again."  I ask if they've read the book and they really have no desire to do so.  I can't imagine why they ever watched the movie in the first place, but I leave them be.  If you don't know the depths of depression and depravity, you also can't know the heights of joy.  Their loss.

Selby tapped into magic with this book.  It's a dark, overwhelming magic, but it is magic nonetheless.  The film realized much of it, but as usual, the source material is miles above what made it to screen.  And if you were brave enough to sit through the film, the novel will actually be a little easier to tolerate ... at which point you'll get more from the story.  It's not entertaining, but it's not meant to be.  It's a descent, and that's something people need to do a little more.


Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I paid for my copy of the book.  If you click on the link, I may earn a commission.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rampant Sex and Drug Use -- Why the Movies Aren't Like They Used to Be

If there's one thing I love more than exploitation movies, it's books about them.  Sleazoid Express is one of those that is about those movies as much as it is about the experience of watching them in New York City's Times Square ... before it got all gussied up for the dance.  Bill Landis and Michelle Clifford have penned a love letter to a bygone era, a time where going to the movies meant taking your life in your hands.  Rampant sex with other movie goers and prostitutes, robberies, drug use, criminals fleeing the police.  I wish the movies were that fun now.  (And let's face it, if you are dumb enough to see something like Transformers you need to get robbed again.)

Fans of exploitation films may be a bit upset over the actual film coverage.  Divided into sections, the book only gives an overview of some the examples from each genre.  One or two movies in each is delved into in detail, and there is much hate doled out for some of the shining examples of exploitation (such as Cannibal Holocaust).  What is left, however, are some fascinating tales of the theatres and the people who made them and starred in them.  Other books may have covered the latter, but few have actually covered the theatres, delving into urine-soaked bathrooms where people can be found shooting up; or even going into the mazes that sometimes connected one theatre to another, the hallways of which became predator playgrounds with woe being visited upon anyone stupid enough to make their way through them too slowly.

If anything, Sleazoid Express is a historical look at a place and era that cannot be replicated in any kind of meaningful scale.  Some may try, but the Times Square of that time period was shaped by the people around it, who were shaped by the events they lived through.  The films were just as dangerous, products of addled minds and the belief that doors to cinema were wide open.  It was a time where anything could happen in film ... and did.  We have lost that.  Brilliantly psychotic filmmakers are now relegated to DVDs, which can be viewed in the safety of one's home.  Hardcore porn no longer plays en masse in the "bad" section of town.  Double features are as rare as original ideas.  Reading the book doesn't fill me with nostalgia.  It fills me with sadness.  That environment will never exist again, and I can't help but think that not only is current cinema all the worst for it, but so is the future of film. 


Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I paid for this book, and if you click on the link to order it I may earn a commission.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Unleashing the Beast

Nothing Men is selling.  Not gangbusters.  Not quit my job and buy a mansion.  But selling enough to get me a royalty check that I can be proud of cashing.  It's taken promotion and some word of mouth, and now that Halloween is over it will take more of that, but I'm fine doing it.  I've heard from a few readers either on my blogs or through an e-mail.  One friend who bought it, however, had a complaint:  It is too violent.

I'm used to complaints about this book.  The first publisher whom I sent it to dismissed it because the ending was "too depressing."  My test reading group was generally positive, but there were a few who couldn't finish it because they either "knew bad things were going to happen," or it was "just too tense."  Regardless, I didn't change anything based on those comments.  It's a horror story of a certain nature.  Certain things had to happen.  If I thought the complaints had been valid, I would've made changes.  However, when one of the test reading group said it read like "one of those movies [exploitation] from the '70s or '80s where you knew everyone was going to die," I knew I had hit the nail on the head.  Home run.  Perfect game.  That was exactly what I was going for.  This is my exploitation novel.

My friend, the one who thought it was too violent, said, "I know you can think of some pretty crazy things, but the stuff in your book bothered me.  I don't think I'll be reading anything other horror stories you write.  I don't like when you unleash your beast."  Out of morbid curiosity I asked what he thought of the novel's ending.

"I didn't make it that far.  I stopped at that part with the boy in the woods.  I was done."

Incidentally, that is where two members of the test reading group stopped as well.  It was something about that scene that really got under their skin.  It's a scene I really enjoyed writing.  It is nasty.  There are threats of sexual violence.  Two nasty men.  One teen boy.  A ball gag.  A meat hook on a chain.  A survival knife.  Urine.  The combination of things and the situation (and dialog, I learned) upset at least three readers I knew about, and I wondered about that.  Two of them I knew for a fact read horror. Why was mine different?  I asked my friend, who was hesitant to talk about it.

He told me, with much hesitation, that the scene bothered him so much because it felt gleefully sadistic (wait until he finds out about the manuscript I'm working on now), and the fact that he knew me made it even worse.  "I can't believe I know someone who would come up with something like that."

That may be what bothered the others, too.  People who know me know I come up with some pretty horrific things, but I guess putting those things into a story makes them more "real."  Oddly enough, that scene in the novel is where I think the tone changed, where it hit its stride and where I first really "unleashed the beast."  It is gleefully sadistic, and it should be.  Those people who stopped reading there didn't upset me.  In fact, it made me feel like I was doing my job right.  I wanted them to finish the story. What writer doesn't?  But the fact that I wrote something disturbing that it caused them to stop reading and made them promise a cold, hard refusal to ever finish it is something I take pride in.  I've never stopped reading a horror story because it was too scary, but I've loved those moments where I've felt hesitant to go on, where I've felt nothing but dread.  And now I've created that moment for others.

I wish those readers who stopped reading would've finished the story.  Again, what writer doesn't want that?  But I know they were right to stop.  If that scene bothered them, the rest of the story would thoroughly ruin their day.  It doesn't get nicer.  The sadism the friend pointed out doesn't lessen.  The violence only gets worse.  They were right in putting it aside to never revisit again.  But damn if it wouldn't have been nice to send them home in tears ...

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