For the past few months, I’ve been working on my erotic novella trilogy. I released Book 1 on May 27th, 2014. Book 2 should be released at the end of this month and then, for the next couple of months, I’ll be working on the release of Book 3. Hopefully, that will be in the fall. The beauty, for me, of writing these stories is that I’m writing them for myself. I had a goal. A tale I wanted to tell in a way I wanted to tell it. And that’s what I’m doing – with input from dear and wise beta readers, and a brilliant copy-editor. I’ve hired an awesome designer for my covers and formatting, and I’m promoting the trilogy myself with the help of some wonderful friends and dedicated readers.
It has been an awesome ride.
I explain all of this because I’m probably like a lot of authors who never expected to have their work out there via self-publishing.
I had always imagined taking the traditional route. I hoped I would query agents, have one see potential in my work, take me on as a client and then shop it around to publishers who would do the whole thing – copy-editing, book doctoring, marketing, cover design, printing and distribution – the way it had been done for ages.
Instead, for this series – which I’ve written under my pen name since it’s erotic fiction and I wanted to distinguish it from my romantic suspense – I chose to take a different route. Yes, I started the traditional way by sending out queries. The responses, however, were requests for me to revise and then resubmit. The requested revision had to do with turning my gritty erotic tale into erotic romance with a happily ever after ending. “Romance” and “Happily Ever After”, are the last words I think about when I consider my trilogy, so that was not a request I felt comfortable fulfilling.
I’ll admit, the decision to keep the trilogy as is and publish it myself was an easy one because self-publishing and erotica seemed, to me at least, to go hand in hand.
Does that mean I’m against traditional publishing? Absolutely not. Though, sad as it is, some rather intelligent people seem to think so. There’s a petty battle being waged between some in the self-publishing corner and some in the traditional publishing corner. Because of that petty battle, any mention of one method over the other is often met with defensive comments and accusations.
I don’t speak for every author, I speak for myself, and I will say this – I admire anyone who puts their work out there for public consumption, no matter the publishing path they take.
This is not a business for the faint of heart. Reviewers – professional and otherwise – can be as wonderful as they can be brutal. You have to trust yourself and your work enough to ignore the random insults while absorbing constructive criticisms and acknowledging that maybe the work isn’t as brilliant as you originally thought. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be out there. It means everyone has a different opinion. And whether you’re self- or traditionally published, a newbie or Nora – you’re going to get great and not-so-great feedback. Success is not determined by the route you take but by timing, luck and the effort put into the project.
I self-published my current work and people seem to be enjoying it. I don’t care that some people look down on self-publishing. I’m not a threat to traditionally published authors, though some react as if I (meaning the entire self-published community) am indeed a threat, a peon, a person who couldn’t get work past the guardians, and decided to enter the market through some dark and dirty tunnel instead.
There’s not a shred of fact in that assumption. I said above that, in my mind, erotic fiction and self-publishing seem to go hand-in-hand. That’s why I chose this route for this series. Would I choose the same route for my romantic suspense? I don’t know. I believe I would query agents as usual. I believe I would hold the same hope I originally held for this story – that they’d see the potential in the work and want to take it on. I also know now that if they decide not to, other quality options are available to me.
*Most* self-published authors are people who believe in their work. People who have poured their passion into it. Who have a dream of seeing their name on a book. Who feel this giddy rush of pleasure when others buy the work, and an even greater rush when they receive a nice review. Most self-published authors aren’t looking to take over the publishing world. Nor are most looking to somehow belittle the accomplishments of traditionally published authors. They’re just creative people who have a story to tell. And if it’s riddled with typos? If the prose drags on or is incomprehensible? Does that mean every self-published book is the same? If you pick up a book from one of the big-five publishing houses and find it to be a wall-banger – and there have been plenty of wall-bangers over the years – is that a sign that standards for the entire industry have plummeted? Or does it mean you bought a book you didn’t like? Or a book that should have received more attention from an editor?
Is there arrogance in some self-published authors? Is there indignation? Of course there is. And it’s exactly the same for the traditionally published community. We’re all part of the same. We’re all authors. We all have stories to tell. Some of us tell them in a more commercially-acceptable way than others. Some of us have the business and common sense to take it slow, to check and recheck before putting it out there. Some of us are still learning, and some of us don’t give a shit. It all shows in the work – whether that work came to life via self- or traditional publishers.
It’s not about the path you take – or about the path someone else chooses to take. It’s about the story you tell.
And now for a shameless plug…
History is revised in this erotic tale of choice removed as the duty to submit wars with the desire to resist. Abigail Prescott, a 17th Century woman accused of witchcraft, seeks to prove herself unmarked by Satan. She willingly submits to her governor’s thorough examination but is ill-prepared for his shameful grueling probe, as it permits him to see and test her every inch and every hollow.
“The Governor is one hell of a Dom.” – award-winning author, Bianca D’Arc
“I defy you not to squirm and moan right along with Abigail as you read The Mark. Rejoice, erotic-fiction fans. Arla Dahl has arrived!”-best-selling author, Pam McKenna
“The Mark, a beautifully written and captivating novella, kept me on the edge of my seat and completely spellbound.” –Smart Mouth Smut
From the Author:
THE MARK, Book 1 in the Immoral Virtue Trilogy is a highly erotic, non-romantic tale of sexual awakening and abandon, of the duty to submit vs. the desire to resist. Due to its explicit sexual nature, with elements of BDSM and dubious consent, THE MARK is intended for audiences 18 and over.
Like most people, when it comes to housework, I do it when I have to. I vacuum when clouds of cat hair rise from the carpet as I walk on it, I dust and I put stuff away. I’m not, obviously, what you’d call a happy homemaker. I never was and probably never will be. But, of course, I like a clean and tidy house. Ah, the dilemma.
I read an article recently which suggested taking 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes before bedtime to tidy the house – you know, pile the strewn papers, empty the bathroom trash, put away the ‘stuff’ that appears from nowhere on the kitchen counter. All of that. Morning and night.
Well, if you do that, only fifteen minutes, the first day you’ll see a whole lot of things you could put away, and feel overwhelmed, knowing it would take much longer than 15 minutes to do it. But stick to those fifteen minutes. Do it daily and soon – since you’re tidying before bedtime, too – by morning, there’s not much to tidy. What then? Pick up a dust cloth. Spend the fifteen minutes doing that. No? Then organize a bookshelf. In the evening? Vacuum or pay the bills. I know, I know. I said those 15 minutes changed my life, how is that? By making me a happy homemaker after all?
By organizing and energizing me.
My routine used to be to get up at dawn, feed the cats and get to work (from home, writing). Before the rest of the house stirred, I’d take a break from working, get on the treadmill, shower make breakfast for all then head back to work… taking a serious break again only for lunch and dinner.
Each morning, my sleepy eyes would scan the mess that was my home. I knew I’d have to spend an entire day each week cleaning it and sorting the mail that had piled so high it was falling over. But I had work to do so I kept putting off that day of cleaning. Tomorrow. Tomorrow.
By forcing those 15 minutes into my morning and evening routines, the mess was gone. Once everything was in its place after a couple of 15-minute tidy sessions, it was easier to clean – and the clean was more noticeable – and lasting. I could go to work and not worry if someone came to the door unexpectedly. 😳 My bills were paid on time and papers were filed where they were supposed to be. Knowing the chore would be limited to 15 minutes made it manageable. It also awakened the worker-bee in me. I might lag when it comes to home chores, but when I work, I work hard. I looked at it as a job and a challenge. How much can I accomplish in this 15 minute block?
Something about it was energizing. It also didn’t hurt that I could scan the house and see how pretty it actually was.
The added bonus? The life-changing effect? My mind feels clearer. As if that has been tidied, too. Decluttering my space decluttered my mind, seeming to clear a path for the muse to come out and play. I picture her now, as she had been, like a hoarder trapped in her own space, tripping and climbing over clutter so she could come to rest on my shoulder all day. The more clutter there was, the longer she struggled to get through. The harder it was for me to work.
Fifteen minutes in the morning. It takes ten for the coffee to brew. Five for it to get nice and hot on the warming plate. There’s my fifteen minutes. In the evening, on the way to the bedroom, make a quick stop here and there to pick up things in the way. The incentive? Waking early and seeing everything – mostly – in its place. Of course, no matter how diligent you are, there will always – always – be that one dirty dish in the sink that no one ever recalls placing there even though the dishwasher is two inches away.
Fifteen minutes. It made the air cleaner in my house – I have cats, you know.
Fifteen minutes. It decluttered my space and, by extension, freed my muse. Fifteen minutes. It makes unexpected company less unwelcome (ha), clears the dust from the muse’s eyes, and has, honestly, changed my life.
By now, nearly all of us have heard of Mommy Porn. It’s an obnoxious term used for erotic fiction geared toward women. While it was the sweeping success of FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY which attracted so much attention to the erotic genre, erotic fiction, in various forms, has been around and enjoyed – by women and men – for centuries.
I think back to the romance novels of the 1970’s and 80’s. They were called, Bodice-rippers because of the standard theme of aggressive (by today’s standards, abusive) heroes who manhandled the heroines, berated them as if their respective roles were lord and serf, kidnapped them, imprisoned them, and ultimately raped them… only to somehow be portrayed as having been so deeply wounded that only our brave heroines could ever bring light into their lives. And forgive them.
Today, those heroines would be considered TSTL (too stupid to live), but back then? They offered a glimpse at what would become the strong independent and smart heroines who populate many books of today. Heroines who would never forgive their rapists. Heroines who have spunk and intelligence that, at the least, matches, and at times surpasses, the hero’s. Women who appreciate their own beauty in all its forms. Women who embrace their sexuality – in all its forms – and are responsible enough to fully enjoy it.
Erotic fiction helps to remind us how we – whether male or female – are all sexual beings. How sex for the pleasure of it is not just exciting, it’s normal. Of course, some plot lines fail to remind readers to be smart, safe and aware if you’re going to be sexually active. And some blur the lines of reality and fiction in quite shocking ways. But the target audience of erotic fiction is a reader of some maturity who would understand erotic fiction is just that – fiction meant to arouse.
How focused that level of arousal is helps distinguish the difference between erotic romance, erotic fiction and straight porn. That’s not to say any one of those is intended to be less arousing than the others but rather how focused the piece is on sex versus emotion.
To break it down into workable bits, we can look at a story as having three parts – beginning, middle and end. What happens within a story that propels it through action, emotion, narration and dialogue from one point to the next is plot.
Porn does not have a beginning, middle and end – and yes, that means foreplay, climax and afterglow cigarettes are not the beginning, middle and end.
With porn, take out the sex and there’s nothing to the story.
Erotic fiction, or erotica, is a story with a beginning, middle and end that does not end with a happily-ever-after for the star players, whether hero and heroine, hero and hero, werewolf and heroine or any other combination. There are usually several explicit sex scenes within these stories, and there is absolutely no sex behind closed doors/fade to black moments and no purple prose. Characters may care for – or even love – one another, but love is not at all central to the plot.
Take the sex out of the story, and the story is still there. It’s not porn because emotions will be explored and expanded. There can be yearning, fear, concern, affection or any other emotion. Not just lust. As readers, we will get to know the characters beyond their sexual desires, though we won’t see them riding off into the sunset. Well… we’ll see them riding but not necessarily into the sunset or with forever in mind.
In erotic romance, the sex scenes can/will be plentiful and explicit, as in erotic fiction or erotica, but the heart-warming feeling of commitment between sexual partners will be clearly presented, built upon and defined.
And yes, it will end with an implied, “…and they lived happily ever after.” Though, some of today’s erotic romances end with a simple “happily for now” instead. There is explicit sex within the pages, but it is not just sex. Instead, it is sex with a sense of commitment between the characters. A joining of hearts, not just bodies. We would see how the characters are attracted to more than each other’s body. How when they look at each other, they see a person who helps make them whole and happy. That brings their story – with all its hot, uninhibited sex – from porn to erotic fiction to erotic romance.
Erotic Fiction/Erotica= sex as an integral but not sole element of plot (sex within a story that has a clear beginning, middle and end as well as some level of emotional depth)
Erotic Romance = sex between characters whose deep emotional connection grows throughout the story and leads to either a happily-ever-after or happily-for-now ending
As readers, we enjoy various levels of heat in the books we read – even within the erotica genre. Some of us enjoy paranormal erotica – whether paranormal erotic romance, paranormal porn or something in between. Some of us enjoy BDSM, ménage, dubious consent, historical or any combination of those and others.
Readers like myself and, probably, like you, regularly browse actual and virtual bookshelves for the type of stories that ignite and quench our desires. With authors’ interests as varied as readers’, there is a book out there for everyone – every taste, every desire, and every level of heat.
Back in August of 2012, an idea for an erotic novella trilogy came to me. It was both exciting and intimidating since my go-to genre is romantic suspense. This idea, however, came nearly fully-formed. Well, when I say, ‘fully-formed’, I mean it was an idea with a bit of depth that felt worthy of deeper exploration.
It took nearly two months for me to fully plot the first story. I was ready to start writing it yet thoughts of how I would write Books 2 and 3 haunted me. What if, after writing Book 1, the others wouldn’t take shape? What would I do then? I had to force myself to focus on the story I was actually writing, not worry about the next two. I would deal with them, I told myself, in due time.
Well… it’s time. And for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been coming down hard on myself because the plotting/writing of Book 2 isn’t going as well as I would like. I have experienced highs as I’ve completed one tiny bit of plotting work. And I have felt incredible lows when I’ve tried to move forward… only to stop cold as the muse, for no apparent reason, grew silent.
I’ve always considered myself one of the world’s slowest writers but now wondered, since this new story was so hard to get onto the page, maybe it wasn’t meant to be.
And then, just this morning, I read an article about a Simon and Garfunkel song that has been chosen (and more than deserved to be) for preservation in the Library of Congress. The song? The Sound of Silence.
While I love that song – and Simon and Garfunkel – it’s not the song, necessarily that made me feel better about the sluggish pace of my plotting and writing. Instead, it was this fact I discovered about Paul Simon’s writing of The Sound of Silence:
“Paul Simon took 6 months to write the lyrics, which are about man’s lack of communication with his fellow man. He averaged one line a day.”
He averaged one line a day over six months for a 217-word song.
Maybe I’m not the slowest writer after all. And maybe, just maybe, speed isn’t want matters.