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.)


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.

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