Saturday, March 24, 2012

NEW RELEASE-Wicked Watchers






A M/F  anthology themed around voyeurism from the writers of Wednesday Briefs, who bring you prompt-induced Flash fiction every Wednesday. Bigger Briefs is an anthology we began to showcase our slightly bigger briefs. Er, flash fiction. We invite you to take the journey with us!
Have you ever had the feeling you’re being watched? Sometimes, watching can be naughty. And nice. Seven erotic stories of those who are spied upon, and those who do the spying. You might be surprised to learn who has their eyes on you.



Purchase on 1 For Romance


Resumes, Red Ruffles and Rain
You never know what you might get when you drop off a resume and then duck into a lingerie shop. Maritza got the attention of Sebastian, the hot shop assistant and she finds her inhibitions washed away by the heat of his heavy gaze as he watches her trying on her new red ruffled underwear. 



Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wednesday Briefs--How To Handle Hailey, Episode 2


Wednesday Briefs--1000 words of flash fiction from the following selection of prompts:
This week's prompt:....  Take your hands off him!


Alternative prompts
I cry when I hear that music because....Or 
Use a gravestone, a popsicle and a pair of feathered slippers.Or...There was just something about... that made me want to hide under a blanket. Or ...What do you want from me?
I began How to Handle Hailey on Feb. 22, and was unable to participate for the last couple of weeks. Here's Episode One, if you missed it. I've decided to stick with Hailey's story, so we'll see how it unfolds. I don't know any more about where this tale is going than you, since I'll be working off prompts selected by other members. Stick around, this might be fun.

Episode Two

“Get your hands off him!”

Hailey had seen enough. She’d watched the geeky guy spend forty-five minutes working up the nerve to approach the bitchy blonde. Four double espressos would give even a secure man the jitters. The woman’s put-down had been unnecessarily harsh. And loud. Just another empty-minded cotillion princess in college to get her Mrs. degree. She saw the furious blush creep over the poor guy’s face. She could read his dejection and humiliation in every line of his posture as he rushed back to his own table, scattering pens and a calculator as he hurriedly tried to pack up his stuff.

Watching through narrowed eyes, Hailey saw the blonde play up to her friend as well as the three bitches seated nearby, rolling her eyes as if to ask where the geek got off soiling her space. She knew for a fact those girls despised each other, but they could unite in a heartbeat if they had a chance to make what they considered the ‘little people’ feel smaller.

Encouraged by the laughter, the blonde got out of her seat and started toward the guy. Hailey tensed, her fingers tightening around her Styrofoam cup
.
If only she’d stayed in her seat. Or left the coffee shop and left Paul Lyons to those she-wolves. Hailey wiped sweat from her brow and drove her toe into the front tire of the junker she’d paid cash for in L.A. She’d needed to think. Three days and nights of hard driving proved too much for the little Mazda.

Did she really want to save Paul’s ass one more time? All she had to do was continue to stay under the radar until his trial was over and whatever happened to him, happened.

Hailey knew Paul wasn’t guilty. He was guilty of many things, but not the things he stood accused of. She’d figured that out before she got to Albuquerque. Worse, she figured out who was guilty while eating a taco in Amarillo. Both the taco and the knowledge burned in her gut while she steadily put more distance between her and the intelligent idiot she’d rescued that day in the Chapel Hill coffee shop.

The Mazda was dead, but at least she was back in North Carolina. She wasn’t afraid to stick out her thumb and hop in the front seat with the first guy who pulled over. “Could you just drop me off at the first car dealership we pass?” she asked, settling into his passenger seat.

“Sure you don’t want me to take a look at your car first?” he asked.
There it was. His eyes shone with sincerity. That was what had been missing in California. Sincerity. If she agreed, he’d roll up his sleeves and try his best to start her car, with nothing more in mind than helping her. Shaking her head, Hailey relaxed for the first time in weeks. “Time for something new. Something solid and dependable.”

The blonde sidled up to the already-embarrassed guy, and laid her hand on his shoulder. He jumped, knocking a Chemistry book to the floor, and Hailey was out of her seat without thinking. Hurling her cup, she missed the blonde. Dammit. The coffee hit the wall behind the guy’s small table, splattering his cheap book bag and Star Wars t-shirt.

“I said, get your hands off him! He’s mine.”

The blonde whirled, eyes narrowed and claws at the ready, but Hailey ignored her, glaring at the open-mouthed guy. “How dare you?” she demanded, trying to maintain her false anger when his dumbfounded expression made her want to laugh. “How damn dare you not return my calls? I’m not used to having to chase a man, but I’m here and you’re leaving with me, not her.”

The red Jeep with the cloth cover was exactly what Hailey wanted. The sticker price was less than the dress she’d worn to her divorce proceedings. She hesitated before handing over her credit card, but knew it was time to resurface. While the excited saleswoman began to complete the paperwork, Hailey picked up a newspaper and learned her brother was going to make a run at the Lieutenant Governor’s seat. The knowledge saved her from having to put the battery back into her cell phone and call her mother to find out where the family was. They’d be in the house in Raleigh. As far back as she could recall the red brick three-story had been the epicenter of her father’s political campaigns. She gave the family beach house address for place of residence on the paperwork.

She bypassed the exit for Raleigh, heading for Topsail Beach. One more night alone with her thoughts was all she needed. Then she’d hop a plane to D.C. and testify for Paul. Rescuing him was a habit she was more than ready to break. Once she got this final duty behind her, she’d walk away and never look back.

“Woman, we need to talk about your driving.”

Hailey jumped about a foot. Heart pounding, she flipped on a light in the darkened house facing the Atlantic Ocean, staring in shock at the man sprawled on the sofa. His feet were crossed and hanging off one arm while his head rested on the other. Black hair fell over his brow and his blue eyes were intent. His lips curled into the confident smile of a hunter sighting prey. The shiver racing down her spine had nothing to do with fear.

“What about my driving?” Exhaustion was towed under the rush of arousal she got from simply looking at him.

“You must have broken every speed limit between here and L.A.” He moved off the couch with a panther’s grace, crossing the space between them before she could blink.

 “I’ve been looking for you.” His arm shot past her shoulder. He crowded her, pinning her body against the door as he slammed it closed.

 Screw a night alone. She wanted him. “Ever let a woman spank you?”

“Hell no.”

Yes.


Also please check out the other Briefers this week:
Nephylim     m/m
Sara York     m/m
Lily Sawyer      m/m
MC Houle     m/m
LM Brown   m/m
AJ Jarrett     m/m
Julie Lynn Hayes  m/f

More Free Stuff!!
The authors of Naughty Nights Press have written fourteen free stories,and additionally have provided you with coupons for discounts on other NNP publications. Get your copy of Postcards of Passion absolutely free.
No Kindle? No Problem, click here.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dirty Mind vs Debit Card: Final Thoughts-The Porn Placebo



Today's Dirty Mind is me.

Hosting the incredible group of writers I call my Dirty Minds was an experience I’ll not soon forget. It was my intention to expose the Average Reader to the issue of corporate censorship, and provoke thought and dialogue about why corporations should not be allowed to dictate what the law will not.


The Dirty Minds did that. Boy, did they ever. They provoked a lot of other thoughts along the way.  Thoughts I’ll visit later, once we put the PayPal issue to bed.
Behind the scenes, these writers and others were speaking up in other forums. On their blogs, on articles covering the PayPal controversy, on Twitter…all over the internet, they kept the issue in front of people.


People like you.
Initially, Paypal told Smashwords founder Mark Cocker their decision to pressure him to pull certain erotica titles was due in part to pressure from the major credit card companies.


While the series was running, PayPal, Visa and now MasterCard spoke up.


Thanks in no small part to Remittance Girl, my first Dirty Mind, Banned Writers.com now have both Visa  and MasterCard on record denying any involvement in Paypal’s decision.
A real-life parallel to the situation occurred to me as I read Paypal’s dismissive and condescending post on their blog —the one where they state they welcome your feedback, but have in fact disabled comments.


I’ll share my story with you.
When my son was in the third grade, I got a note from his teacher asking for a meeting. He was my oldest child. In the four years my son had attended public school, I hadn’t been summoned to a meeting but once or twice, and I approached the meeting with trepidation.
I listened in shock as she informed me she believed my son had Attention Deficit Disorder. He was disruptive in class, his work was sadly lacking. He was on a course to fail third grade. She went on to say she felt he needed immediate evaluation by a specialist, and she gave me a name and phone number for one she recommended.
My husband and I discussed her suggestion, and we agreed to make the appointment. In less than an hour, the specialist confirmed the teacher’s suspicions. He gave me three prescriptions and made me feel like a horrible parent.
I filled the prescriptions, and sent part of the medication to the school, since the prescription called for three doses per day.
And I watched my child. Already thin by body type, he lost his appetite completely. He complained of stomach aches. He acted like a zombie. He had no interest in anything, not his friends, not his toys, nothing. He was a shadow of the child he had been. When he didn’t want to play baseball, I became truly concerned. The kid ate, slept and breathed baseball.
But his teacher was happy. She sent glowing notes home, and his grades went up.
One of my customers was a pharmacist. I mentioned my concerns to her. She told me the drug my son was on was one of the most over-prescribed drugs she filled. She also said she didn’t believe my son had ADD. She believed he was a normal, active little boy. To be clear, she had spent some time around my children.
When the medication ran out, I did not refill it.
The teacher went ballistic. My son’s grades plummeted, and every day she sent me a new note demanding I refill the prescription. But I knew in my heart, as his mother—the person whose job it was to be my child’s advocate--, the kid was being medicated unnecessarily. His side effects were painful to watch.
I was caught on the horns of a dilemma. The pharmacist offered me a way to know for sure whether or not my son needed the medication.
I accepted her offer. She provided me with placebo pills resembling the ADD medication.
Initially, I gave my son the pills at home as well as sent a supply to the school. My home supply ran out. My son never asked for the medication, but I knew from talking with him the teacher made sure he took one daily at school. His grades went back up. The notes from his teacher stopped, except for the occasional one telling me how well he was doing in class. She made a point to say he was staying in his seat and no longer being disruptive.
Then the school’s supply of placebo pills ran out. I did not ask my pharmacist friend for more.
The notes started again. Every day my son brought me a note from his teacher asking when I planned to refill the prescription. I ignored them.
The day came when my son handed me that day’s note, and asked “Why won’t you give me my pills so I can think?”
Stinging from outrage over the idea a teacher would put such words into the mind of my child, I read the note. The teacher was threatening to report me to the Department of Social Services for child neglect if I continued to refuse to refill the prescription.
Okay, now I was mad. I grabbed Dear Hubby and together we hit the front door of that elementary school like a two-man SWAT team. I summoned the principal, the assistant principal, the guidance counselor and the school nurse to join us in that third grade classroom. I didn’t ask them to join the meeting, I TOLD them their presence was required.
I explained to the assembled group they’d unknowingly participated in my version of a double-blind psych experiment. I showed them a placebo pill alongside the real ADD medication. I presented the notes from the teacher during the time period my son was on the sugar pills. I pointed to his grades, inexplicably high, given he’d had no real medication.
In summary, I asked the group who they saw as needing the medication, my son, or the teacher. I went further, stating I felt she’d hit on a lazy way to do her job minus the normal complications half a classroom of nine-year old boys can cause.
My son passed the third grade. The teacher retired at the end of the year. Oh, and that specialist was investigated by the state licensing board.
I see a lot of that teacher in Paypal. Perhaps they have genuine concerns about pornography. I believe my Dirty Minds proved transgressive erotica is not pornography. As a psychology major, I’ll refer you to the theory of Cognitive Dissonance to explain why women might want to read about a fictional account of a real-life situation they abhor.
Perhaps PayPal genuinely seeks to protect women from exploitation. If so, I’d suggest they donate to groups dedicated to stopping real violence against women, rather than demanding adult readers of legal fiction swallow their placebo policy which pretends to protect women.
Smashwords founder Mark Coker has announced Paypal may be softening their stance.
 
 
Like that third-grade teacher, now PayPal is sputtering. Groups like the ACLU of Northern California  and the Electronic Frontier Foundation  have taken the matter in hand. They need YOUR HELP to show Paypal you aren't going to swallow  their Porn Placebo. Fill out the forms. In spite of the disabled comments section on PayPal’s blog, your post on the EFF and ACLU  letters will go straight to the inbox of a PayPal executive.


Burn that f*cker down. Make their mail server crash from your outcry.
 

As any nine-year-old boy who ever swung a bat can tell you, it’s possible to lose the ballgame in the last inning. They may not know they’re quoting my adored Yogi Berra when they tell you “It ain’t over till it’s over,” but the sentiment applies here.

Keep your head in the game till the last out is recorded. Call PayPal. Threaten to close your account unless they stop playing doctor and get back in their proper corner: That of moving funds from Slot A to Tab B.
Tell them you’re not going to swallow. Say NO to PayPal's Porn Placebo. I’ll quote myself, arrogant though that may be.  “And, I believe, if we make enough of an outcry, you'll withdraw that offensive item you're sticking down my throat. I think your rigid stance might shrivel in the cold light of negative publicity.”




Call PayPal:
PayPal US phone line: 1-800-221-1161
outside the US call this number: 1-402-935-2050.
Call between 4 am and 10 pm M-F Pacific Time, and 6 am to 8 pm Pacific Time Saturday and Sunday

Contact PayPal on twitter @Paypal and tell them:  I vote NO to your Porn Placebo Policy—Stop Censoring Erotica
Use the form provided by the EFF and the one provided by the ACLU to add your name to the letter demanding PayPal stop censoring books.

Thank you for reading this series.

Submission Call for Transgressive Erotica Anthology
 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dirty Mind vs. Debit Card: Was This Sexism By Another Name?


Today's Dirty Mind is T.R. Verten.


T.R. Verten is another writer who came through my virtual door knowing exactly what she wanted to say. I've been wondering whether all my Dirty Minds colluded behind my back, since each one has presented a different facet of the effect the Paypal policy has had on the writers and the stories they write. T.R. hits a point I've been equally disturbed about, and one no other guest author has yet touched on.



I have no story of sexual awakening to share with you, because I’m not that kind of writer. My own fantasies aren’t part of my canon, my own subjectivity is not all that evident on the page. I write M/M almost exclusively, though I am trying to push my comfort zone to include other pairings and proclivities, to keep from being what Tim Gunn would call ‘one-note.’

My journey to writing fiction only began in 2010, when I took a leave of absence from my doctoral program at a highly prestigious and demanding institution. For several years I had been working on issues of queer publics and forms of collective representation. While I liked many aspects of academia -- it’s a damn good place to be an overly analytical, secular, child-free woman -- it was personally stifling. My words were bloodless at best, and I didn’t have any kind of creative outlet, which is a crucial part of being human. It’s a thing we all need, whether it comes in the form of crotchet, herb gardening, LARP’ing, or ropeplay.

Writing for me came about through exposure to fandom, not ‘erotica’ proper. I grew up reading Miller and Nin and Friday and Bukowski and all the rest, but none of those works pushed my buttons. As an adult, I bought erotica aimed at women, and it did nothing for me, the same way heterosexual porn did nothing for me, and continues to do nothing for me to this day. (The exception being James Deen, who fascinates me, and who I can watch perform for, seriously, hours.)

It was not until I dipped a toe into the world of slash that I wanted to write anything remotely sexual, at least since the days of keeping an adolescent diary full of emo snippets about boys and girls I thought were cute. With slash (which is just M/M by another name), something clicked in my head. Sessha Batto addressed many of my own sentiments in her interview, and her motives for writing it are a lot like my own.

The first is that I like it: I think it’s hot. I don’t feel any need to explore the etiology of this kink or justify it, but I’ll admit, initially it worried me. Was my internal misogyny so ingrained that I couldn’t even write about women? Did I hate myself, too? Was this sexism by another name? Was I the freak? Why didn’t I like the romance and erotica that society told me I was supposed to enjoy? Was I fetishizing gay men? All this and more, ad nauseum.

To some extent, maybe all of those things are true. But it doesn’t fucking matter. It doesn’t matter who I am as a person, all that matters is what I produce as a writer. Simply put, for me, writing queer fiction allows me the freedom to explore power dynamics without the constraints of gender. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool feminist, and while I have no issue with what practices folks get up to on their own time, I’m not comfortable exploring the assymetrical power relations of D/s within heterosexual relationships, because those come with their own gendered baggage.

It probably sounds counter-intuitive, but writing M/M is a very liberating experience for a woman. So much of the internalized shame and body hatred that we get socialized into has a much less predominant place when you write from a male POV, even more so when both parties are male. This isn’t to sideline anyone’s lived experiences, but merely by way of saying that writing can go places life can’t, for the author and her readers. It’s a powerful tool, not to mention a highly cathartic process for many, self included.

I consider myself a character and psychology-driven writer. Sex is the fastest and simplest way for me into a character’s head. Nearly everything I write contains a shitload of sex scenes, and most of those are quite graphic. I’m not fond of euphemisms or false delicacy, and I definitely don’t write romance. What I write is life, in all its fucked up complexity and fullness, with as much honesty and rawness as I can bring to the work. If that means I am niche, or won’t get reviewed, or don’t make any money, then so be it. If I wrote for the sole purpose of earning an income, I wouldn’t write the way that I do.

I don’t write about sex: I write about power, bodies, desire. These inflect in different ways -- in sex, in love, in friendship. Thematically, I care about capitalism, the realization of personal limitations, the value of finding one’s place in the world. Also blowjobs.

I have done my best to stay away from the comments on many of the blog posts surrounding the PayPal issue, in part because “Don’t read the comments” is pretty much my mantra for dealing with the internet, full stop. I did scroll down to read a few, though, and was appalled by the condescension and vitriol that many commenters expressed. While so many of these are outright laughable -- the specious ad hominem argument that only ‘rapists, murders, and pedophiles’ would write such material -- the responses from my fellow writers were what concerned me the most.

The first response seems to go along the lines of well that’s not what I write so I don’t really give a shit. To those people I would say: Look, I don’t write like you do, but I see no reason to suppress or shaft either of us. It’s much more than apathy, I think. I myself am basically wholly apathetic about what other folks want to write or read. Plenty of fiction, genre or otherwise, doesn’t interest me in the slightest. There are whole genres I find to be banal, badly written, or downright offensive. But to be perfectly frank, it’s not important. It’s easy enough to argue for merit, readability, and artistic integrity. I believe staunchly in all of those things, but even more so in the value art adds to life. I may define those in different ways, but the principle remains intact.

One woman got into a heated twitter exchange with Monocle the other night, accusing him of not writing ‘real books,’ and telling him to ‘go play in a different sandbox.’ This bullshit attitude, especially coming from other creative types, is more troublesome to me than anything. Let’s be real: the market pretty much speaks for itself, and if there’s an audience willing to pay for perfectly legal material, I don’t see what the problem is. Workarounds have already been in place for years in the adult industry, which has its own thorny history with PayPal as a moral enforcer. If the demand is there, I’m sure those of us who write edgy material will come up with strategies to get around these restrictions.

What concerns me is the idea that we’re all competing with one another, rather than encouraging a range of creative expression. I’ve actually seen comments to the effect of well that’s fine more market share for me and here’s my spammy link to my self-pubbed title and down with you wackadoo anti-censorship types! I read these comments and am more offended by them than any fictional representation of a transgressive act.

Because what are you saying with this, commenter? You’re making a judgment call about what kind of material is suitable for the open market, okay, but you’re also SHITTING ON YOUR FELLOW WRITERS.  

That attitude tells me instantly everything I need to know about you, and by extension, your work. It tells me that you care only about the bottom line and covering your own ass. And while I dislike the use of 'real' as a qualifier, generally speaking, I’ll use it here without compunction--

A ‘REAL’ WRITER DOESN’T DISDAIN THE ART OTHERS MAKE. END. OF. STORY.

So this is what I say: the internet and e-publishing are the vanguard, but all of us have a moral obligation to keep the sandbox open to everyone. I don’t care if I hate your writing or think it’s derivative tripe. Content shouldn’t be the issue. Whether you write vampire romance or torture porn or children’s books or incest-riddled high fantasy, you’re still a fucking writer. We all play with words, with our different degrees of mastery and style. My online world is welcome to everyone with generosity of spirit. There is no need to in-fight. There is enough sand and space for us all.

My own lone title Confessions of a Rent Boy from Republica won’t be available for purchase after the end of this month, though I’m working to find a solution to that. I have another finished novella that is deeply transgressive and in need of a home. My current WIP skirts the line between heavy D/s and experimental fiction (Yeah, I don’t know either), and my plan for self-distribution using a PayPal donate button has gone up in flames, so that’s definitely on the back burner for now.

Anyways, thanks for having me, Eden. To the rest of you: Be generous, be kind, make art. Sod the haters.

Find T.R on Twitter, too: @trepverten and on Tumblr


Thank you for coming T.R. I appreciate your taking time to talk with us and provide the final piece to the discussion, one about the dissent among writers within the sex/romance genre. I agree, I have watched too many draw a distinction between what they write and what's being targeted. To me, writing sex is writing sex. In my lifetime, these same snotty, finger-pointing people would have been pilloried for writing what they write, but they cannot see it's the fact the envelope has been pushed that allows them the freedom to write and publish their work. Believing in freedom of expression means you can't only defend what you think right, you must defend every viewpoint's right to be expressed. I'd argue it's more important to defend the right of the fringe viewpoints, because without expansion of thought, you get constriction of thought, and going backwards is not progress. To those who say "I was raped and this stuff makes me ill," I'd ask whether you'd deny another woman the right to use that same literature to help her own healing process? Or to write it if that's how she needs to sift through the emotional detritus of her pain? That seems breathtakingly cruel to me, and I find the attitude more offensive than any book I'll ever read, because that is real callousness, utterly heartless and selfish. If extreme erotica offends you, simply don't read it. But if you haven't read it--and these types act as though they'd never be caught dead reading about sex not bundled into a socially acceptable vehicle like a relationship--then what's the real harm in letting it exist for others? To those I saw rushing to demand other titles be suppressed because their title was banned I say: Sure, let's help Paypal swing the axe, that's the mark of professionalism. <sarcasm font in use>  Unacceptable, and unworthy of anyone calling themselves a professional writer.
This is the final post in the Dirty Minds series. It has been my absolute privilege to host these fine individuals, and to join their fight. To the reader, I hope these authors helped you see why you need to care about corporate censorship. Tomorrow, I'll have to actually write a post, to sum up what I feel about PayPal's response to the outcry.

As I grit my teeth and dissect their condescension, I'll be grinning too--because we are making an outcry. Because YOU are making an outcry. Don't stop. Don't ever stop. Call PayPal, e-mail Paypal, and demand to know why they feel you cannot choose what you READ.





Cover art generously donated by Narcisse Navarre



Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dirty Minds vs. Debit Card: Shades of Consent



Welcome today's Dirty Mind, Skye Warren. Some writers come through my door knowing what they want to say. Skye was one. Grab a cup of coffee with me and let's give her the floor.





I have always seen the world in shades of consent. When the teenage boy leans in for a kiss, does the girl give explicit consent first? Probably not, so he learns early on to search for clues. Or maybe he learns just to go for it, and deal with the consequences after.

It doesn’t stop there. Even when we’re older, the entire dating ritual is an elegant-awkward dance toward mating. The first date, the third? Wait until they’re married, and then what – is consent implicit?

For me, the issue of consent has never been confined to erotica. It’s in all fiction, everywhere, because that’s the crux of conflict. In fact, I can write in couched terms, pretty it up, and sell it as anything I want. Science fiction, horror, general fiction. It’s only if I want to be direct does it come up, because then I’m writing about sex, which by default of our genre structure makes it erotica, and that’s what’s under fire.

And let me be blunt – all of erotica is under fire. This has nothing to do with right and wrong, and everything to do with repression. Sound extreme? Here’s an example. I can write a book where a woman is burned to death, burned to a crisp, in horrible, gory detail that makes me want to vomit. That can sell to a publisher, sell in Barnes & Noble, and be sold via Paypal. The book is The Mummy by Anne Rice, by the way, and it’s a good book.

But I cannot write a girl who spreads her legs calmly, reconsiders, politely requests that the man stop – “No, thank you.” And he continues to have sex with her anyway. That’s not allowed. Which scenario is more wrong? Well, honestly it’s a matter of opinion, but I can tell you for damn sure which one I’d prefer happen to me.

Paypal is telling me that a 19 year old man having consensual sex is so morally reprehensible that they cannot sell it, and yet the burning to a crisp in explicit language is just A-okay. So don’t tell me this is about morality – that doesn’t make any sense. This is about the fact that some Paypal execs don’t like women reading about sex.

Paypal executives are telling me that I am allowed to get raped, but I should not be allowed to read about it. And I certainly shouldn’t write about it. If Paypal executives want to make the world a better place, how about they target rapists, not rape fiction. It’s the real thing that’s hurting women, not the book.

“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself.’ – Margaret Atwood

The truth is that rape happens. The truth is that sometimes sex hurts. Sometimes it’s violent and gritty and painful and disgusting, and it does not stop being any of those things if you don’t let us write about it.

I first heard about the Paypal ban from Bookstrand. I shrugged. Maybe I should have been up-in-arms at that point, but I found their stance on the matter and certain correspondence that became public to be so poorly done that I was not sad not to do business with them anymore. They pulled all my books (not just the two in question) although my understanding is that they pulled virtually all indies. Next came All Romance, who kindly reviewed all my work and decided those two books were “dubious consent” (as opposed to “nonconsent”, which would have required them to remove it completely). That was fine.


Last came Smashwords, and I will admit that the initial letter from its founder Mark Coker really pissed me off. It took until then for me to see red. This was a company that dedicated itself to indie writing, and here was the perfect opportunity to be an advocate, and they turned their back! He didn’t just say that they had to do it to keep the site running for everyone else, which I would have understood, but said that it was an “oversight” that these hadn’t been banned all along! Thank goodness Paypal stepped in to remind him that they should be in the censorship business.

And then he added insult to injury with the parting shot, “If you’re going to push the limits, push the limits of great writing, not the limits of legality.” As if I don’t push the limits of great writing already, which Mark Coker knows, not because he’s read my books, but because of my subject matter. As if I have ever written anything illegal (I haven’t). Subsequent letters have been worded much better, but I can’t forget this one. For me, this one is their true colors. The rest is damage control. So I pulled all my books from Smashwords, even the ones that did not violate their fabulous new terms of service.

Call me oversensitive, but I have felt this censorship mess like a physical blow. It isn’t even all about my books, it’s about what I read, the authors I respect. They are wrong. What I like is wrong. What’s in my head is wrong-wrong-wrong.

Well, like Mark Coker, thank goodness. Thank goodness I have PayPal to teach me better. Thank goodness a man can drag me behind a dumpster, but now I’ll know better than to say anything. Don’t write about. Don’t talk about it. Now I know: sexual violence against women should not be discussed in the open. Thank you, Paypal.

Wow, that’s what I call author voice.  
It’s becoming apparent many readers and writers turn to the sub-genre of transgressive erotica because it’s being used as a vehicle to help many woman process the reality of violence through reading rape fiction, or writing it. Corporate America is telling women our fantasies are wrong, Yet I see no major outcry from the women who have a PayPal card tucked into their wallet. Have any of your readers weighed in on the fact you now have very limited outlets to publish the type of story they want to read? Or has the lack of mainstream news coverage prevented them from realizing the truth?


One of the hardest things for me to deal with has been the cannibalism within the erotica/erotic romance authorship community. I saw one author say that he “refused to stand up with rapists and pedophiles.” You know you have to have a tough skin as an author, and I think I do, but those words cut me. I’m not a rapist. I’m not a pedophile. But I think that kind of attitude, while extreme, represents what is so tough about this whole thing. Even if they understand that it’s not really that, it’s hard for anyone to stand up for something with the word “rape” in it. It’s hard for people to stand up for something with the word “incest” in it, even if it’s fiction. And even when some truly great, mainstream writers come out to advocate, it is still prefaced with “Now I wouldn’t read any of this kind of stuff, but...” (Oh, me too. Makes me wonder where all those millions of dollars spent on romance are coming from.)

So that’s one reason. The other is that Bookstrand and Smashwords didn’t have the kind of readership that Amazon and B&N and even All Romance do, and my “dubious consent” books are still allowed there. Honestly, one of the reasons that I am speaking out here is because I have a suspicion that all this was just a precursor. I am waiting for the death knell from  Amazon. I really hope I’m wrong about this. I hope they see all the fuss and figure that censorship just isn’t worth the trouble for them.

If there’s something to be grateful for in all of this, it’s that it’s opened up discussion. Readers have contacted me to show their support, and I am so grateful for each one of those letters. It’s even opened up discussion between authors of this banned erotica, this series being one example.
I have had some of the same experiences with other authors. It’s as if they believe, by suppressing fiction about pedophilia--the real deal, I mean, will make it stop happening. A nineteen year old male is far enough past the age of consent to make his own decisions about his sex partners--and he likely has been doing so for quite some time. But genuine sexual abuse of minors, and actual rapes happen every day. How is not writing legal fiction about it going to stop an all-too-sad reality? Shall we leave the victims valid experiences out of our fiction? Won’t that make them feel even more guilty and isolated, if these topics are so taboo they cannot be touched in a work of imagination?

When I first read this question, I wanted to talk about how, from a geopolitical standpoint, the places with the highest censorship rates are the ones with the worst forms of oppression. How, throughout history, the times of highest sexual repression were the ones with the most sexual violence. Because really, it’s easier to talk about broad social trends than concrete things.

That’s part of why I write, too. The fiction acts as a buffer. Many of the reader emails I’ve gotten have said that I nailed the experience of being raped and the aftereffects. They said it was disturbing, but so painfully accurate. And the subtext is there, sometimes more blatant than others: so, you’ve experienced it. Because how else would I know? For that matter, how would they know it’s accurate unless they had experienced it?

Not every one of my readers has been raped. Some of them have told me they haven’t been, so what are they relating to? I think even without a distinct “No, stop” experience in their past, those feelings of powerlessness are pervasive. Almost every woman I know has at least one story – that one time they were groped or shamed or somethinged and it haunts them even now. For better or worse, it’s a shared part of the female existence.

Not everyone wants to share that experience, with me or anyone, and that’s their prerogative not to read my books. I don’t take offensive – it can be painful! What’s offensive is the idea that I shouldn’t share that with anyone. That someone else doesn’t deserve to read words giving voice to her pain, and know she’s not alone with it.

There is a commonality to why a lot of us read transgressive erotica. Women who have never been raped report having rape fantasies to a surprising degree. For any card company to wipe this type of story off the shelf is a slap in the face to me. Telling an adult woman she cannot choose to read a book to tap into that emotional exploration seems an outrage.

Do you mind telling us roughly how many copies of your banned titles were sold before they were taken down? Has having your titles banned affected your creativity? Are you concerned now about what might be next on the chopping block, in light of the overall lack of outcry?


Keep Me Safe has sold 3,000 copies since it was released in November 2011, and only about 100 copies came from the bookstores it’s now banned from, Smashwords and Bookstrand. Trust in Me came out mid-February, right before this whole thing blew up. It’s sold over 500 copies since then, less than ten of those came from Smashwords/Bookstrand.

It’s ironic that the bookstores with the lowest volume were the ones who decided to restrict their offerings, but then maybe that’s part of the reason why it happened. Larger bookstores like Amazon and B&N work directly with the credit cards (where XXX porn is regularly transacted), whereas these smaller stores go through a third party like Paypal.

And I can understand that, but both of them could not point the finger at us crazy indie authors fast enough when they came out with their censorship decisions. God, if we only knew where to draw the line, they wouldn’t have to clean up this mess! And yet, for years they have happily taken our money without uttering a peep. If they want to impress us with their implacable morality, how about they calculate the royalties they’ve earned from these horribly obscene and offensive titles and donate them to a rape victim advocacy groups?

The censorship has absolutely affected my creativity. Combined with certain recent political events, my lady parts are feeling distinctly unwelcome. I’m a little bit in shock about it all. Why are banks telling me what to read? Why are politicians telling me who to have sex with? Is this some sort of feminist candid camera, and someone’s going to jump out and say, “Surprise, we actually do respect you!” I would like my 21st century back now, please.


Skye, I appreciate your taking the time to speak out and give readers as well as other writers another facet to the prism we see this targeted sub-genre through. Skye may be found on her website and blog, as well as on Twitter
@skye_warren.

Remember: Submissions Call for Transgressional Erotica Anthology. Cover Image created and donated by Narcisse Navarre.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Dirty Mind vs. Debit Card: Censored For Expressing a Fantasy


Please welcome today's Dirty Mind, Selena Kitt.
Selena Kitt is both a best-selling and award-winning writer of over sixty erotic titles, and a publisher at Excessica. She’s here to offer you her unique perspective on the impact of the Paypal crackdown on erotica and indie authors. Welcome, Selena, and thank you for coming. You’re uniquely qualified to address some questions I have. For example, what percentage of your customers/readers are female?

It’s hard to know with certainty, but from the amount of fan mail and reviews I receive, I’d say that 70-80% of my readers are female.

If the content being banned is primarily written by woman and read by women, and those with an anti-porn stance claim pornography denigrates women, then is there not an inherent contradiction in PayPal’s action?

Of course there is. Not that Paypal or the credit card companies care. According to them, what they’ve done is solely a “business decision.” What do I say to that? Phbbbbbt! “Whatever, Paypal!” It doesn’t matter to me what you call it—it has the same effect. If this is being motivated by some vocal moral-minority complaint, the fact is that the more erotica (or “porn” for that matter) that a society has available, the less instances they have of sexual assault and sex crimes. So the morality police can put their torches and pitchforks away right now. If this is being motivated by some perceived legal “danger” in the material being presented, I think Paypal and the credit card companies are taking their policy to extremes. Erotic fiction doesn’t hurt anyone—there are no victims here. And the chargeback rates and cost of carrying it are practically nothing. Erotic fiction, I’m afraid, is being lumped in with other high-risk material, and it doesn’t deserve this treatment. Women are writing it, women are reading it, and women want it. Paypal and the credit card companies, however, don’t care what women want. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a poor business decision. I don’t think they thought this through or realized the wrath they could bring down on their heads with this decision from the female population. I wouldn’t want to be a customer service rep at Paypal or the credit card companies right now, that’s for sure!

I think it needs to be asked how PayPal decided certain titles had to be taken down. What’s their criteria? Do you have a sense the people actually doing the censoring of your catalogue understand anything at all about the sub-genre, or are they simply on a key-word based witch hunt, regardless of actual content?

I don’t know that Paypal has the manpower or cares if they eradicate every site using their service for the purpose of selling erotic fiction containing incest, bestiality or rape for titillation. What I do think they care about is 1) their image and 2) their relationship with the credit card processors. You have to remember that Paypal is an aggregator. They’re not a credit card processing company and they’re not a bank. They’re a middleman. They have to rely on the credit card processing companies and the banks in order to run their business, so when those companies come up with new rules or policies—or start enforcing them—Paypal has to comply. I imagine that isn’t an easy task, considering the amount of accounts Paypal has on its hands, so from what I can tell in my own experience and in talking to other vendors who have been targeted, their main focus has been on keywords and tags. No matter how many employees Paypal has, they don’t have enough to read every book published at all of these erotic books sites, so as you noted, they have pretty much gone on a keyword-based witch hunt of “offending” titles. Anything with Daddy, Mommy, Sister, Brother—eliminated. It doesn’t matter, by the way, if it’s between cousins, second-cousins, step relations, adopted relations (all of which are legal in most states) or even just a role-play between two consenting adults. If it has a familial reference in the title, it has to be removed. They’re applying these kinds of heavy-handed tactics because they clearly don’t have the time or energy to do anything else.

Your website, eXcessica was one of the first to be targeted by Paypal. How many authors, approximately, had affected titles? How much of the content you had to pull or re-categorize had perfectly legal content?

A very small number of authors actually. We have about a hundred authors in our stable, and only a handful had their titles targeted. The truth is, most of them were mine! I’m a naughty girl that way, what can I say? I like pushing things to the edge! In terms of perfectly legal content—it’s ALL LEGAL. Even incest-fiction is legal. The only written obscenity case in recent years that came even close to a conviction (the woman plea bargained because she couldn’t afford to continue the legal expenses or the stress) was one that involved underage incest fiction. Excessica has never published underage fiction—all our sexually active characters are eighteen or older.

That said, back in late 2010 when Amazon started removing erotic incest and bestiality from its virtual shelves, it made some legal sense. Actual incest between biological relations and bestiality are illegal in most states. However, this new move by Paypal (via the credit card companies) is targeting acts in fiction that aren’t illegal at all in most states. “Pseudo-incest” (i.e. sexual relations between adults who are related, but not biologically, like step or adopted relations) is being specifically targeted. Bestiality is also being focused on as well, but it’s not just sex with the family dog they’re targeting—they are also including two werewolves getting it on in werewolf form! Rape “for titillation” is included on the list as well, and this opens a very big can of worms, of course, considering the amount of BDSM fiction contains non-consent or dubious consent. There’s also a large body of romance fiction that contains non-or-dubious consent going all the way back to the 1970’s.

Excessica was forced to remove pseudo-incest titles. That’s right, we had to remove books containing sex between two consenting adults who could get married in any state in the U.S. We were forced to remove stories about “fantasy rape.” That’s right, rape fantasies that didn’t really even happen (where the rapist turned out to be a ghost or you found out the woman was dreaming in the end…)  

Never mind, of course, that we’re talking about fiction in the first place. Imaginary situations. Just words on paper.

With Republica Press announcing they will close their doors at the end of the month, do you feel some pressure to continue to modify what you can accept and publish? Has the crackdown affected what you personally write? Does it add pressure on you, as a publisher, to know other publishers who encouraged edgy, transgressive themes have folded?

We’d already changed our guidelines back in 2010 when Amazon started removing incest and bestiality fiction from their virtual shelves. We didn’t publish bestiality anyway, but we stopped taking actual incest fiction back then and decided we’d only publish pseudo-incest. I have self-censored as well since this “book banning” thing started. I had a sequel to my popular Under Mr. Nolan’s Bed already written, but I decided not to publish it, and have now shelved it completely, much to the chagrin of many fans.

That said, I find it abhorrent that we can’t publish our own books on our own site if we continue to take Paypal, so we have developed an alternative storefront called “Eden” for all of our edgier titles. (www.excessica.com/eden) We’re in watch-and-wait mode right now, of course. We don’t know if other payment companies are going to start enforcing the same policies as Paypal. And we don’t know what Amazon or Barnes and Noble or any of the other bigger distribution sites are going to do in light of these industry changes. Once the dust settles, we’ll have a clearer idea of how to proceed moving forward.

Whatever happens, we will change and adapt. They won’t keep us down for long!


\My guest authors have stated their reasons for reading and writing edgy, transgressive erotica. Would you share your personal reasons, irrespective of the sales they generate? I’m not going to make any apologies for seeking to generate a sale or three by writing sexually explicit content, and neither will you, but is there something other than profit potential which drove to toward this type of writing?


I write erotic fiction that turns me on. I’ve found that if it doesn’t turn me on, it doesn’t work. Many people who write pseudoincest or non-consent fiction will tell you they do it because there’s a market for it—and there is. The stuff sells like hotcakes! But I’m one of the few erotica authors who will tell you the truth—I write incest fiction because it turns me on. I write non-consent fiction because it turns me on. And trust me, there are many, many women who have the same fantasies that I do—go back and read Nancy Friday’s Secret Garden if you don’t believe me. No, I don’t want to have sex with my father. No, I was never sexually abused by a relative. No, I’ve never been sexually assaulted. I just have a very rich, vivid imagination and the taboo or forbidden fantasies happen to push my buttons and ring my bells. I know I’m not alone, because I sold half a million ebooks in 2011 and many of them contained subject matter that Paypal now refuses to pay for. I know I’m not alone—and I want readers to know they’re not alone either. And they’re not wrong for fantasizing. Fantasy is not reality. Fiction is not action. No one should ever been castigated or censored for having or expressing a fantasy. After all, it’s called “fantasy” for a reason! I appreciate your time and the candid way you've added the business perspective to our forum, as well as your personal views as an author.