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Publishing Update: Another (Expected) Rejection

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I just wanted to post a quick update on my publishing efforts, which I know I haven’t talked much about lately. There’s a reason for that, though. For the past couple months, I’ve been working with a former publisher to re-acquire the rights to a manuscript that was edited and prepared for publication a couple years ago.

That process took longer than I’d hoped, but it went through and I tried to re-submit the manuscript to the same publisher that published “Passion Relapse” and “Rescued Hearts.” I did this knowing it was somewhat of a long shot because my last three manuscripts to this publisher had been rejected. I felt if I could get this through, we would be back on track.

Sadly, that didn’t happen. Earlier today, I got a rejection letter. It wasn’t the rude kind, though. The editor offered me a sincere apology that they would not be able to publish my work. She claimed that things have been rough for small to mid-tier publishers. Unless your J. K. Rowling or Stephen King, it’s just hard to get any major project off the ground. I can understand that, but a rejection is a rejection.

I believe that after this, I’m done with that particular publisher. I’m not entirely sure of my next step. I’m still sitting on several finished manuscripts and one that is already professionally edited and ready to go. I’m not sure where to turn to next. I’m thinking of giving Writers Market a chance, but this is the part of the business I still don’t know much about.

When it comes to writing a novel or a sexy short story, I know how to do that. When it comes to the business and marketing side of things, though, I’m pretty ignorant. I’ll keep feeling my way around in the dark, hoping I’ll stumble across something. For now, though, my publishing efforts are a bit on hold. I hope it doesn’t stay that way. If anything changes, I’ll announced it in between sexy short stories.

To everyone who has supported and encouraged my efforts, I sincerely thank you.

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Publishing Efforts Update: ANOTHER REJECTION

A while back, I announced that I had submitted a manuscript for what I’d hoped would be my third published novel. I’d submitted it to the same publisher that had previously published my first two novels, “Passion Relapse” and “Rescued Hearts.” I hoped to continue building a larger catalog with them in the name of building a stronger partnership.

Well, I’m sorry to say that I heard back from them and the news was not what I had hoped. For the second submission in a row, I got a rejection letter. It wasn’t a mean one. The editors I work with are incredibly considerate and given all the submissions they get, they’ve been wonderful to work with every step of the way. Unfortunately, they just couldn’t get behind my story.

It is disappointing. I had high hopes for this manuscript. I wrote it with the intention of making it a real niche title that would’ve appeal to a specific segment of the erotica/romance market. I thought that would give it more appeal than the last manuscript I submitted. I guess I was mistaken.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with this or the other one they rejected. I’m still struggling to find other publishers who are willing to hear me out. However, I am not discouraged and I still intent to keep submitting.

As I write this, I’m putting what I hope to be the finishing touches on my next manuscript. This one is a bit more general and should appeal to more romance fans. It has many similar elements to “Passion Relapse” and “Rescued Hearts.” I have high hopes for it and hope to submit it soon. I also have another draft that I’m hoping to finish in the coming weeks.

In any case, I have plenty of sexy stories to tell, including more sexy short stories. This is a setback, but it’s not a defeat.

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Latest Milestone For This Blog

This is just a quick announcement, coupled with a euphoric bit of gratitude on my part. Every now and then, I update everyone on how well this blog is doing in terms of web traffic. Seeing as how I have to compete with internet porn, cat videos, and Harry Potter message boards, I understand that there are only so many digital crumbs for me to get.

That means that whenever I see traffic on this blog reach a certain point, I count it as a triumph on par with getting a lap dance by a Victoria’s Secret model on my birthday. This past month, July 2017, warrants a lap dance or two because it was my best month to date since I started this blog.

With a total traffic count of approximately 1,600 views, the bar has been raised. A new standard has been set. While I have every hope and intention of beating that mark again, I can’t thank everybody enough for helping this blog grow. It’s a big part of my effort to become an erotica/romance writer. Beyond just selling my novels, it helps me refine my craft and explore various topics, sexual or otherwise.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank everyone who regularly visits this site and takes the time to leave comments. I appreciate it! I look forward to providing more content, sexy and otherwise, in the future.

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Tropes, Strong Female Characters, And Challenges

Whenever I talk about an issue on this blog, I never claim to be an expert or an authoritative voice. Given the topics I discuss, from sex among shape-shifters to pro-nudity superheroes, I hope a disclaimer isn’t necessary. My capacity to research and understand an issue extends only to my own personal experiences and simple Google search.

It’s for that very reason that I’m not too surprised whenever I find something or someone that explains an issue down better than I ever could. I fully concede that I’m not as smart as I wish I were on any number of topics. I’m an aspiring erotica/romance writer with no PhD’s, Nobel Prizes, or daytime talk show. I’m not stupid, but I’m not a genius either.

Even in fields where I feel I’m smarter than most, such as writing sexy stories and talking about sexy topics, I know I’m hardly the best. I’m fully aware that there are others who are much smarter than I am in that field and understand topics better than I ever could.

Sometimes, though, you don’t expect to find that something or someone after having recently explored a particular issue. Recently, I talked about something called the Galbrush Paradox, which is a blanket term used to describe the challenges of writing female characters in a story. I like to think I broke it down in a fairly comprehensive way. It turns out, though, someone already did and they were much more thorough.

Someone on a comic book message board, which I frequent, posted a video that was made in late 2016 on this very topic. It’s from a channel called Overly Sarcastic Productions. It’s almost exactly what it sounds like.

This channel, though some colorful animation and rapid rhetoric, breaks down a number of topics and issues in a concise, informative, and entertaining way. They touch on things like history, philosophy, and various forms of art.

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One of their regular shows involves something called Trope Talk, which effectively breaks down certain tropes in popular culture. Unlike other discussions about such issues, they try to remain objective and make no over-arching judgments. That’s pretty rare these days because when people usually talk about tropes, they often make them part of some sort of sinister agenda. Alex Jones fans know what I’m talking about.

One such video covered the issues surrounding strong female characters, which is at the heart of the Galbrush Paradox. It’s also an issue that I tend to bring up often on this blog, from the misconceptions about such characters to those who deserve their own movie. I tried my best to break it down with my post on the Galbrush Paradox. However, I know when I’m beat.

Overly Sarcastic Productions definitely did it better. Their video on the issue is far more comprehensive and far more detailed than I ever managed. Just watch the video and I think most would agree.

There’s a lot to unpack in this brief, but dense video. More than anything else, it covered a few important details that I avoided. When I talk about strong female characters, I often put them in the context of the challenges they face within a contemporary context. I look at recent trends, like sex-negative feminism and evolving trends in sexual attitudes, and try to apply them to recent challenges.

This video stakes another step back and tries to see the forest from the trees. It breaks down the how and why these challenges exist, how to deal with them, and how to approach them in a reasonable sort of way. Again, I know when I’m beat.

It’s good advice for anyone who has ever attempted to write a story or publish a novel. Just as there are many double standards when it comes to gender issues, there are many ways to approach writing certain characters. I’m learning that more and more with every novel I write.

Given the dynamic nature of cultural attitudes and popular culture, there will some sort of disparity between the genders. That’s why it’s so important to learn about those dynamics. Having great female characters can only help a story. Given how one of them is now a monumental box office success, the stakes are even higher now. As an aspiring writer, I hope I can contribute to that one day as well.

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The Galbrush Paradox And The Challenge Of Female Characters

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Anyone who’s written anything longer than a haiku will tell you that one of the biggest challenges is coming up with great characters. Stan Lee may make it look easy, but it’s most definitely not. Without great characters, your story might as well be a sandwich without bread. It just can’t function.

I can certainly attest to the challenge of creating great characters. In the eight novels I’ve written, I’ve tried to put as much energy and nuance as possible. Whether it’s Ben Prescott in “Skin Deep” or Mary Ann Scott in “Passion Relapse,” I make a concerted effort to help them stand out for all the right reasons.

In doing so, I have noticed something that’s both distinct and frustrating. It’s something I think every writer, including the Stan Lees and J.K. Rowlings of the world, have noticed at some point. When it comes to creating great characters, there’s a lot of flexibility when it comes to male characters. With female characters, though, there are too many unwritten rules to keep track of.

It’s only gotten more frustrating in recent years because the demand for strong female characters has never been greater. The success of movies like “Wonder Woman” and “Mad Max: Fury Road,” as well as novels like “Harry Potter” and “Twilight,” have raised the bar. Make no mistake. There are a lot of incentives to create these characters.

I’ve talked about why characters like Wonder Woman matter now more than ever. However, there’s one caveat that I didn’t mention and for good reason. I think it’s an issue that the William Marstons and Stephanie Meyers of the world understood, albeit indirectly. When it comes to creating female characters, the margin for error is painfully small.

By that, I mean there are a lot of things you can do with a male character that you just can’t do with a female character. Even male minority characters have a lot more flexibility, in terms of what you can put them through. Every character that Samuel L. Jackson has ever played is proof of that.

With female characters, it’s a lot trickier. If you don’t believe me, think back to that disturbing thought experiment I pitched a while back that reversed the genders of certain famous scenes, thereby creating a much more disturbing result. With that in mind, try to craft a story about a flawed, vulnerable character that has the potential to be interesting.

Maybe the character is a former cop who suffered a terrible injury at the hands of a deranged criminal.

Maybe the character is someone who made a huge mistake with a former lover and is haunted by it.

Maybe the character is someone who found themselves in a vulnerable state, had a few too many drinks, and had a messy one-night stand with a total stranger.

These are all fairly standard setups for typical characters. Think about those characters for a second. Chances are the character that comes to mind is a man. That’s not too surprising. That doesn’t make you a terrible sexist who deserves to lick the mud off the shoes of every radical feminist form now until the end of time. By and large, most of the iconic characters in popular culture are male.

Now, try to imagine that same character as a female. Chances are your reaction will be different. Even if it isn’t, there’s a good chance you’ll be more reluctant to develop this character because you know the kind of responses you’ll get from certain people.

Remember that cop who suffered a terrible injury? Well, if that cop is a female, then you’re a horrible misogynistic monster because you subjected that woman to violence and we can’t tolerate that.

Remember that character who made a huge mistake with a former lover? Well, if that character is a female, you’re also a horrible, misogynistic monster because you utterly failed the Bechdal Test by defining her through a relationship with a man.

Remember that character who was vulnerable and had a one-night stand? Well, guess what? You’re also a horrible, misogynistic monster because you overtly sexualized the female character in a way that propagates the idea that women are sexual objects to be used by men.

Are you seeing the pattern here? Are you getting that twinge of pain in your palms while you grind your teeth? Don’t worry. You’re not having a stroke. That’s normal. It also gives you a taste of just how hard/frustrating it is to create good female characters without making it an agenda.

That agenda didn’t used to be that big a deal. Then, in recent years, with the rise of third-wave feminism and social media scandals that have made people hyper-sensitive to sexism, the challenge got that much harder.

That’s not to say there isn’t some merit behind the sentiment. There are only so many Disney Princesses and horny vixens in “James Bond” movies before the narrative gets old, predictable, and outright insulting. Even I think Super Mario has had to rescue Princess Peach way too many times.

The problem is that when people try to create characters that aren’t princesses or Joss Whedon characters, they run into a wall, of sorts. They quickly find that creating those characters is a minefield, one where a single misstep can get you labeled a racist, misogynist, homophobe at a time when a single misworded tweet can ruin your life.

It’s such a frustrating challenge that someone gave it a name. It’s called the Galbrush Paradox and it emerged during the infamous GamerGate scandal in 2014. I won’t get into the particulars of that shit storm, if only because every discussion about that topic tends to lower people’s IQ by at least a dozen points. I’ll just focus on what the Galbrush Paradox is, as defined by its creators.

Do you know why there’s so many white male characters in video games? Especially leads? Because no one cares about them. A white male can be a lecherous drunk. A woman can’t or it’s sexist. Sexualizing women and what all. A white male can be a mentally disturbed soldier who’s mind is unraveling as he walks through the hell of the modern battlefield. A woman can’t or you’re victimizing women and saying they’re all crazy.

Consider Guybrush Threepwood, start of the Monkey Island series. He’s weak, socially awkward, cowardly, kind of a nerd and generally the last person you’d think of to even cabin boy on a pirate ship, let alone captain one. He is abused, verbally and physically, mistreated, shunned, hated and generally made to feel unwanted.

Now let’s say Guybrush was a girl. We’ll call her Galbrush. Galbrush is weak, socially awkward, cowardly, kind of a nerd and generally the last person you’d think of to even cabin boy on a pirate ship, let alone captain one. She is abused, verbally and physically, mistreated, shunned, hated and generally made to feel unwanted.

Now, you might notice that I’ve given the exact same description to both of these characters. But here’s where things deviate. While no one cares if Guybrush takes a pounding for being, for lack of a better term, less than ideal pirate, Galbrush will be presumed to be discriminated against because of her gender. In fact, every hardship she will endure, though exactly the same as the hardships Guybrush endured, will be considered misogyny, rather than someone being ill suited to their desired calling.

And that ending. She goes through ALL that trouble to help, let’s call him Eli Marley, escape the evil clutches of the ghost piratess Le Chuck, it turns out he didn’t even need her help and she even screwed up his plan to thwart Le Chuck. Why, it’d be a slap in the face to every woman who’s ever picked up a controller. Not only is the protagonist inept, but apparently women make lousy villains too!

And that’s why Guybrush exists and Galbrush doesn’t. Men can be comically inept halfwits. Women can’t. Men can be flawed, tragic human beings. Women can’t. And why? Because every single female character reflects all women everywhere.

It’s a fairly new concept, but a relevant one. We’ve already seen it play out in a number of ways in recent years. The best example is probably Rey from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

If you’ve done any digging whatsoever into “Star Wars” beyond seeing the movie and listening to arguments about whether Han shot first, then you’ve probably seen some of the criticisms about her. She’s what some call a “Mary Sue.”

A Mary Sue is a byproduct of the Galbrush Paradox in that she’s a character who’s too perfect. While this character can be a man, it most often takes the shape of a female character who’s so skilled, so beautiful, so perfect that it’s hard to make her interesting.

Rey faced this issue, and for good reason. Throughout “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” she was perfect at everything she did. She flew the Millennium Falcon, wielded a light sabre, and used the Force as though she’d been doing it all her life. Everything that happened to her just happened so easily. She was never allowed to struggle, suffer, or slip up too much like Finn or Poe Dameron.

I can even understand why. If she had been tortured like Poe or lied like Finn, there would be mass protests and hashtags. A very vocal contingent of fans and professional whiners with nothing better to do would’ve condemned Rey as an affront to women everywhere. Her flaws would’ve been taken as huge insults against an entire gender. If she were a man, though, nobody would’ve batted an eye.

It’s tragic, in a sense, because it shackles characters and stories. It creates self-imposed limits that don’t need to be there. It’s true that there is real sexism in the world. There’s even plenty in movies, especially slasher movies. However, nitpicking every little detail of a female character to ensure sufficient purity, so to speak, is counterproductive. All it does is discourage people from even trying to create these characters in the first place.

That’s not good for either gender because it is possible to create great female characters. From Furiosa in “Mad Max: Fury Road” to Sarah Conner in “Terminator” to Ripley in “Alien,” there are plenty of great female characters that go onto become iconic in their own right. That’s why it’s so important to avoid the pitfalls of the Galbrush Paradox, otherwise we’ll be doomed to a future of Mary Sues.

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“Rescued Hearts” Update: First Edits Complete And Lessons On Sexy Scenes

If becoming an successful erotica/romance writer is like sex, I like to think I’ve at least gotten to second base at this point. Just writing a sexy novel is hard enough. I’ve written eight so far, which I think counts for something. I’m not saying every one of those novels is an erotica masterpiece on the same level as Jenna Jameson’s tits, but they show I have put the work in. I am that determined to be an erotica/romance writer.

Getting “Passion Relapse” published by Totally Entwined Group was my first taste of the official publishing process. It was a novel experience, to say the least. That experience included no less than three rounds of edits, one of which involved me rewriting an entire chapter. If you’ve read the novel, and you should, you may be able to sense which part got rewritten. It’s a sign of just how far I have to go in this endeavor.

Since “Rescued Hearts” got accepted by Totally Entwined Group, I’m getting another chance at learning the process. While “Rescued Hearts” is a different kind of erotica/romance novel compared to “Passion Relapse,” it still relies heavily on the same elements to make the story sexy.

I say all this because earlier this week, I received the first batch of edits along with my contract by Totally Entwined Group. The edits, this time around, weren’t quite as extensive as the first batch I got with “Passion Relapse.” Some of that counts as progress, but I think most of it has to do with me just being more familiar with Totally Entwined Group’s writing style.

Even so, I managed to complete the edits and send them back. Usually, the first round is the most extensive so getting them done means we’re on track with the release date this October. I expect a few more rounds of edits over the next month or so, but I’ll be surprised if I have to rewrite an entire chapter like I did with “Passion Relapse.”

However, one issue did come up in the first round of edits that also came up with “Passion Relapse.” In both cases, my editor paid extra attention to the sexy parts and often asked me to rewrite them. I get that’s important. This is an erotica/romance novel. People read it for the sex appeal and not the pretty dots on the page.

This being my second published novel, though, I think I need to put more work into making my sexy scenes a bit sexier. One of the problems I had during the edits with “Passion Relapse” was that I got too detailed about the wrong things. That’s exactly as lurid as it sounds.

My editor often remarked how those scenes often had me describing the movements of body parts, as though they operated on their own. That really took away from the actual actions and sentiments of the characters involved. That makes sense. You can’t treat a character’s body as though it’s separate from the story. We save those kinds of disoriented narratives for rip-offs of “The Matrix.”

I was mindful of that when I wrote “Rescued Hearts.” I tried to make sure that I didn’t separate characters from body parts too much. This time, though, my editor also pointed out certain scenes that just weren’t sexy enough. I described what characters did, but not in an overly sexy sort of way. Given that this is an erotica/romance novel, that’s a big deal.

In some of my other self-published novels, namely “The Final Communion,” I was exceedingly detailed with the sexy scenes. I don’t think it ever got to the level of being gratuitous, but I did come dangerously close a few times. There’s a fine line between being sexy and just being crude. It’s a hard line to walk and one I’m going to have to walk skillfully if I’m to have a viable writing career.

I get that this is one of those skills that needs to be refined. I also get that these moments are the proverbial icing on the cake that readers of erotica/romance will savor. It matters that I make these scenes as sexy as possible.

As to how I’m going to go about that, that’s something I’ll have to learn and refine. It’s a process and one I’m still learning. These first rounds of edits show that I still have a ways to go. However, like any skill, including the sexy kinds, the more you do it, the better you get at it. I hope it shows this October when “Rescued Hearts” is released.

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