Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What's In A Pen Name?

What's in a name? A lot actually. 

Writers choose to use a pseudonym for multiple reasons. Here are few:

  1. Privacy: Having a pen name allows writers to go incognito. They avoid being tackled or stalked by fans and being recognized at the grocery. Sometimes authors change gender or chose pseudonyms that are gender neutral (especially in erotic fiction) to further their anonymity.
  2. Content: When you're writing controversial material, it's easier to absorb the backlash from angry readers when they can't attack you personally. Controversial content can't be linked to any other activities an author personally takes part in.
  3. Multiple Genres: Some authors use different names to associate with writing in more than one area. For example: writing erotica and children's fiction. These don't necessarily go together. A mother discovering her child's favorite book was written by someone who writes extreme sex scenes might spread negativity. 
  4. Say What?: My favorite book from childhood is called "Caps for Sale" written by Esphyr Slobokina. Enough said? This name is not a pseudonym.
  5. Multiple Authors: When one or more authors create a work together, it's sometimes easier to use one made up name rather than fight over whose name is listed first on the cover.
  6. Take Two: If an author hasn't been successful under their name, creating a new one can give them a fresh start
  7. Real Name Issues: Some authors may choose to write under a pen name because they find their real name too boring or common. 
  8. Legality: Some publishing contracts have an author sign over the right to their name or future works written under their name to their publisher. Creating a new name allows an author to explore other publishers with new works if they decide they wish to shop around.

But authors also choose a pseudonym that means something to them. People ask me all the time how "Angora Shade" came into creation.

My pen name comes from a  literal interpretation of the types of stories I like to create. "Angora" is soft, seductive, expensive, and quality. "Shade" is halfway to dark, a place of mysterious happenings, and sometimes dangerous to step into. It's also where you can cool off when you're too warm. The translation of "Shade" from German literally means "harm" or something like "too bad". Put all these things together and you've got either a soft, seductive mistress, or a pain-weilding dominatrix. Best of both words if you ask me!

What Other Erotic Authors Say About Their Names: 

Scarlett Knight:
The first part of my pen name, Scarlett, has a dual meaning: one, it represents the fact that I am a redhead, and two, it brings to mind the color of deep red, which is associated with passion. I put two t's on it just to be different.

Knight, the second half of my pen name, also has two meanings: it sounds, of course, like the word night, which is a time of day many associate with sexy rendezvous, and also brings to mind the sort of Arthurian Knight, which I associate with tales of romance and adventure.

Find Scarlett Knight on Twitter @knighterotica
Frank Noir:
I've been writing porn stories for several years under my real name. But when I started putting ebooks up for sale I felt I needed a bit of anonymity.
I'm a self-employed web developer and make my living that way. And I was worried that many of my clients would not feel comfortable working with a hardcore BDSM pornographer. So I preferred to keep that hidden to spare all of us the embarassment.

Instead of pretending to be a different real life character, I wanted the pen name that sounded like a pen name - even to the point of being slightly corny.

My stories are pretty graphic and rather dark (dealing mainly with dominance/submission themes) and I wanted the name to reflect that. "Frank" (as in "candid") was an obvious choice. And "Noir" plays on the dark themes - and refers to the elegance and menace of classic "film noir". Using a French surname plays on the cliché of the French being more sexy than other nationalities - and is also a tribute to one of my heroes, the French author/philosopher Marquis de Sade.

And of course, before choosing the name, I did quick searches on Google and Amazon to make sure there were no high-profile authors of the same name. There didn't seem to be.

Find Frank Noir on Twitter @TalesofLustXXX 

I've used a lot of pen names over the years but when I started writing erotica again in 2012 I wanted a fresh start which meant choosing a name unconnected to any I'd used in the past. Tricky. Especially when you consider that I struggle with choosing names for my characters, picking one for myself was a nightmare.

But I love birds, magpies especially. I couldn't very well call myself Mag Pie (that's the opposite of the feeling I wanted to evoke), and so I added an i to the word corvidae and Cori Vidae was born. Corvidae, like Cori Vidae, are mischievous, clever, and constantly on the lookout for shiny things. Most importantly though, it's been said that corvids fly between two worlds, and what is a pen name if not a way to do that as well?

Find Cori on Twitter @CoriVidae

Blue Spectrum:
For me, the blue spectrum represents my emotional spectrum - from the silly to the intense, everything my apathetic up bringing tried to destroy in me.

The creative writing is just a side effect of unlocking all my emotions.

As to why the colour blue - to extends into ultra-violet where as red regresses into infra-red. :)

Verity Rayne:
I selected my pen name so it would match the theme of my library - erotic romance involving physical transformations. I liked to imagine that, if such a thing were possible, who would be the kind of person in charge of causing those changes. I imagined the stories I'd produce would be ways for people to imagine their bodies going through these impossible and sensual changes. I then imagined a female scientist, possibly with a charming southern accent who would seduce applicants into giving her wares a try. A buxom beauty who would lure people into her laboratory, then masturbate while she watched the changes happened. And, if she ever thought one of them were going through any pain, she would soothe them with a kiss or a massage of their tortured bodies. I liked the name "Verity" for its refined feel to it, capturing the scientist angle of this character. Somehow, "Rayne" fit the name perfectly as a surname - I'm not entirely sure where it came from. But when that name came together, it just felt right. It felt fitting, and I liked how it tied-in with my transformation romances. At that point, it was the name I settled on, and I've used it ever since.

Find Verity Rayne on Twitter @VerityRayne
I've always been fascinated with Helen of Troy. A woman whose beauty was so great that she started one of the most famous wars in history! It seemed only natural that if I were to try and use my texty wiles to inspire the imaginations and libidos of the world, that I'd pay homage to a woman who set that world on fire. I write about a lot of people who do wild things with imaginary creatures, so it also made sense to pick something that came from a world of myths and legends, a person who might be real or might be a child of the Gods.

Find Helen Atreya on Twitter  @OfAtreya 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Surviving Writer Burnout

Everyone struggles with their craft. It's simply part of the creative process. But sometimes, our craft can get the better of us. For a lot of writers out there, it's write or die, and sometimes when you're unable to write, you really do feel like you're dying.

I experienced writer's burnout summer through the beginning of winter 2014. This was something stronger than writer's block, which for me usually lasts only a short time. This went deeper. I dragged my feet for several weeks, and then months. I felt overwhelmed with the ideas that kept coming into my head and my lack of time/energy/ability to write them all down. My head became too loud, and my heart became too frustrated. The pressures of my non-writing life and feeling lost in the void of self publishing completely got the better of me.

What did I experienced?

  • Poor Self Worth: thinking there was a direct correlation between my writing ability and my sale's report. I compared myself to other writers and asked myself why I wasn't as successful as they were.
  • Guilt: Feeling I was letting down the fans I already had (and those waiting for specific stories) with my failure to produce
  • Distraction: Too much involvement on social media, too much rereading of all I'd currently written, filling my free time reserved for writing with anything else.
  • Depression: Inability to focus on works in progress or to generate new ideas, a lack of motivation to attempt writing, withdrawing for my blog & research that I love doing
  • Blame: I pushed my frustrations on those around me in my personal life. I hated myself for being a lump. 

How did I get through it?

  • Shifting Gears: With my muse on vacation, I forced myself to focus on things related to writing (reading other works in my genre, researching sex and other random topics of interest)
  • Making Lists of Reasonable Goals: I set realistic, achievable goals, broken up into pieces. Step by step instructions for a smaller daily goal made climbing out of burnout easier. Over time my progress was visible. 
  • Writing Anything: I did something as simple as writing a letter to my grandfather. I wrote a paragraph about my lunch or about visiting a friend. I wrote down a few dreams I had, trying to use as much description as possible to exercise my brain.
  • Chilling Out: I stopped comparing myself to others. I pampered myself and told myself I had to get back to the basics rather than focusing on illusions of grandeur (Writing is about being heard/having my work read, not to make money).  
  • Idea Book: I've been keeping an idea book of anything that has story potential. Some ideas are more sketched out, with character names & personalities, where other ideas consist of only a title.  I intend to use this for when I feel the onset of writer's block or another dreaded burnout. 

Where am I now? 

Although I'm still struggling in some areas, I feel like I'm finally crawling out of my rut. I'm meeting goals and setting new ones, and taking the steps I need to in order to keep writing.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Being Heard: To Be A Shark

My last blog post was: How Not to Suck At Self Publishing.

I sucked.

I worked really hard for a year trying to learn the rhythm and the tricks for success. But it's hard to determine how successful you are when you're in the same pool with hundreds of thousands of other hungry little fishies going after the same piece of phytoplankton.

I didn't always know this. With my first publication, I was damn proud of myself. With my first sale, I was high as a kite thinking "OMG, someone is reading my words!" When positive reviews came my way, I could've been my own lighthouse beacon, beaming from ear to ear.

But I burnt out pretty fast.

The problem is there's too many fish in the sea. The problem is all their crap overshadows the hard work that I've put out there, worked on for months, and had properly edited. Few people see me or hear me. No amount of platform building, tweets, reviews, or connections to other authors can bump me high enough to pull in sales of any dramatic meaning. I'm lucky to sell 3 books a month, which doesn't make me feel successful. It's never been about making money (fewer than 10% of authors can actually make an income off their work, and I don't really expect to be one of them. But a few extra coins my way wouldn't hurt). It's about being heard.

I've never wanted fame or glory. That's for vanity whores. All I've ever wanted was for someone to say, "you're worth reading," or "your work doesn't suck". I want people to read my words and think and enjoy and relax the way that I do when I'm into a good book. I want to provide those stories that linger on in a reader's mind and bring them back to read again later. I want to produce quality, entertaining literary fiction.

But my sea of fishies is too full, too loud, and filled with too many issues.

So I tried traditional publishing... or... I am trying it. I've been testing these other waters. There are sharks here, not just hungry fish. These bitches have teeth and razor sharp fins. I entered contests, anthologies, and submitted to agents and publishers. I've been rejected more times than I can count. The process has been a hit to my ego. But I want to be a shark. I want to be top of the food chain so that my words are recognized, heard, appreciated. I want to be associated with good storytelling.

And now I will be.

A Normal Girl, which I finished writing in fall of 2014, has been accepted for publication by Stiff Rain Press. Yup. A real, bonafide publishing company. My release date is scheduled for sometime in February if everything goes to plan. If I was my own lighthouse before, then now I'm the freakin moon! Over the moon. High as a fucking kite.

Will my words reach more people? I hope so. Will I be known as a good storyteller? I dunno. I'll wait for reviews. All I know is that this is a big deal for me, and it happened because I didn't give up. It happened because I got tired of the shitty, poor examples of erotic fiction polluting up the self publishing pool. I don't know what will happen, but it'll be an adventure. I'll just keep swimming.

Monday, January 5, 2015

How NOT To Suck At Self Publishing

Publishing a book can be a time consuming, frustrating, and a meticulous process whether you go through the steps of publishing with a publishing house or publishing on your own. But with self publishing becoming increasingly more popular, everyone and their mother thinks they can do it well. This simply isn't true, or I wouldn't have anything to complain about in this blog post.

Note: Nothing I say here makes me an expert or an egotistical bitch. Too many self publishers fail in the following ways, giving everyone who self publishes a bad name.

  1. A Real Story: If your story doesn't have a beginning, middle, and end, with strong characters that are believable, entertaining, and put into situations that carry your plot... Then don't self publish. Weak or incomplete stories full of plot holes are just... Don't. And stay away from the cliche. There's enough stories out there about a boy and his dog or stories describing large penises and very wet pussies. Think outside the box. Be creative. Find new descriptions. 
  2. Beta Readers: Yes, if more self publishers had others read their work, then my first point wouldn't be a problem. Having others critique your story is an important test run that can help you smooth out any wrinkles and help you generate ideas.
  3. Editing: My biggest complaint! HELLO! When reading a book, I don't want my flow of the story to be disrupted by typos, grammatical issues, or points of view that change in the same paragraph. A professional proof reader (or even a teacher or someone with an English degree) is a must. Unpolished is unprofessional. Twitter & G+ is full of helpful sources. Check out this post by Julia Proofreader, whom you can see for your British English needs, or get in touch with my personal editor, Paige Prince, for American English help.
  4. Formatting: You know what's not cool? Reading a self published book that screws up the basics. I'm talking about paragraph form, hyper links, etc. I hate seeing big chunks of empty space or weird indents. Read Smashword's Style Guide (it's free to download). It tells you step by step how to format your manuscript for their site, and much of it can be translated over to other publishing sites like Amazon. If you're too inept to figure it out on your own, you can pay someone to do it for you. Smashwords has a list of people, or you can probably find someone on Fiverr. 
  5. Covers: Don't judge a book by its cover? Yeah right. If your cover fails to grab your ebook-searching audience, then it won't sell. Computer challenged? No problem. Google "ebook cover design" and buy or commission one. It's worth paying for.
  6. Marketing: If you think clicking the "publish" button on your chosen site is the magic way you're going to sell your self-published book, you'd be wrong. Smashwords will give you your 15 minutes of fame in their just published feed, but other than that, no one will know you or your book exist without marketing. Build an author platform! A blog is a must, and communities like Twitter, Facebook, G+, and Goodreads are great places to connect with both other authors as well as your target audience. Participate in blog hops, find others to review your work, talk with others who enjoy your chosen genre, and advertise without being a shitty spammer. Yeah... DM's on Twitter sent by a service like justunfollow is annoying because it's impersonal. Potential readers want to interact with real people, not an automatic response. 
If you can do all this, chances are you'll be more successful at self publishing. Don't allow your readers to put your book back on the shelf by failing in any of the above.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Poem of the Day: The Play

"The Play"

You willingly follow
That obedient creature to
the cold mattress and
the leather, iron

Down upon the colorless sheets
I forbid you to watch me as
I blind your eyes with silk and
bind each wrist and
naked ankle
Spread-eagled underneath me
Bare skin and flesh, my
human slave

The whip comes softly
Smacking at your navel
You show me red and
plead for more through
moans of delight and
breaths of desire

My hand falls

Blue bruises until I
can no longer look at your
Beautiful form without

For your pleasure
and mine

Wet and dripping
Needing you to possess
Me as I have you
I inhale you and
take you to my depths

One in ecstasy
Sated through the instruments of
Pain and bondage
Love and flesh.