censorship

IKEA Bows to Russia; Obama Signs HOPE; FREE Gay Excerpt

IKEA Bows to Russia

Swedish furniture company, IKEA, had an article with a lesbian theme in their customer magazine. Because of Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law IKEA pulled the article from their Russian customer magazine because they want to remain neutral. The interesting thing is that IKEA has always targeted the gay dollar. I know they call it being “gay-friendly,” which I always find amusing, but IKEA’s bottom line rests on money and getting everyone they can to spend money at IKEA.

The chair of Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) Ulrika Westerlund felt IKEA could have achieved more by standing their ground against potential penalization from Russia.

She said in a statement: ‘I find it disappointing that Ikea has simply laid down flat. ‘No one is really sure what “propaganda” is and if IKEA had left the article in, that could have served as a test case.’

Russian government officials maintain the new law is not anti-gay, as it only prohibits ‘homosexual propaganda’ to minors and not same-sex activity.

What bothers me most is that I’ve seen so many weak excuses about how important it is to follow the law. But we’re not talking about following laws that are fair and just. We’re talking about laws that violate human rights and an entire segment of the world’s population.

You can read more here.

Obama Signs HOPE

I didn’t know it wasn’t possible for one person who is HIV+ to receive an organ from another who is also HIV+.

‘Improving care for people living with HIV is critical to fighting the epidemic, and it’s a key goal of my National HIV/AIDS Strategy,’ Obama said in a statement. ‘The HOPE Act marks an important step in the right direction, and I thank Congress for their action.

You can read more here. This is something that won’t be mentioned in mainstream news because there are so many other things happening in Washington right now. But Obama continues to do these things without getting much recognition, and he continues to support equal rights. I’m not very political and I’m not a huge supporter of any politician, but I think he’ll go down on the right side of history. I just hope he gets that healthcare web site figured out.

FREE Gay Excerpt

This excerpt is from a more recent novella I published on my own titled, Internal Desires. This was also one of the few books I’ve had banned, and not because of content. Because of one or two words in the blurb that got caught in the crossfire of censorship and search engines. In this case, I get into the concept of rape culture. I don’t, and never have, glorified rape in the story…or any story. But I do mention rape culture from an academic POV and the search engines banned me for those words. So I’ve been wanting to post this excerpt for a while to show what I’m talking about. Readers can be the judges in this case.

This is a raw excerpt before final edits. Please take into consideration the final book has been well edited and I’m only posting this here because it’s easier to copy and paste from Word than a PDF file on google blogger. The book is on sale here for .99. It’s also at Allromanceebooks.com and other outlets where e-books are sold. It’s a gender-bending story where a young gay man who is not a transgender but likes a little feminine kink finds out how women are often treated by straight men.

He laughed and waved at the money. “Don’t worry about it, babe. This one’s on me. It’s not every day I get to wait on a sweet little thing like you. You doing anything later tonight.”

Although I wanted him to think I was a real woman, I didn’t know how to respond. “Well, I’m kind of busy. I’m meeting my boyfriend. But thanks anyway.” Then I tried to give him the money again.

This time he took my hand very gently and pushed it back into the car. He refused to take the money. “No problem. This one is still on me.” He stood up, tapped the hood twice, and said, “You have a good night, and stop back any time you want with those pretty legs. I work here every night of the week.”

His aggressive approach made me swallow hard and gulp. I knew I’d made a mistake and I shouldn’t have been sitting there with my legs open, but in the same respect I hadn’t given him any verbal signals to show I was interested in him. I glanced into his eyes, smiled, and said, “You have a good night, too.” Then I hit the gas and got out of there as fast as I could. I had a feeling he wanted to reach into the car and put his big greasy hand up my skirt.

As I pulled away, I heard him whistle and say, “Damn, bitches. Now that’s what I’m talking about.”

When I was back on the main road, my heart stopped racing and I felt more secure about going to the country western bar. It would be dark in the bar and so crowded I could blend in. And if I could pass that way all alone under the bright lights of a gas station, I knew I could pass anywhere. My only regret was that I hadn’t asked that horny guy to fill up my tank. If I’d known he wouldn’t charge me I would have kept my legs open longer. At the time, the full impact of his abusive gestures and comments had not registered with me. I wondered if this sort of thing happened often to good looking women in short skirts, because nothing like that had ever happened to me as a dude in jeans.

About twenty minutes later, I pulled into the parking lot of a western bar called, Cowboy’s Delight, and parked in a dark section in the back. Before I climbed out, I glanced into the rearview mirror and put on more pink frosted lip gloss. I checked my hair and made sure my breasts were even. I hadn’t worn a lot of make-up that night. I didn’t want to look like a drag queen or a hooker. And with the spray tan on my face I didn’t even need foundation or powder. All I needed was lip gloss, a little blush, eye-liner, and mascara. I’d added a little white frosted eye shadow for effect, but only enough to make my brow bones glimmer. I didn’t overdo anything. I wanted to look as natural as any other young woman in her early twenties.

When I climbed out of the car, I smoothed out my skirt and headed to the entrance of Cowboy’s Delight. I could hear the twang of a familiar country song coming from inside, and the muffled sounds of people talking over each other. This wasn’t one of those nightclubs where they charged a cover, and I walked in through the entrance behind two other young women as if we were all together. Most of the people were busy talking and they didn’t notice me, and the bar was dark once I was inside. I continued to follow the two women past groups of men and women of all ages until the women decided to turn to the right. When they turned, I went to the left and found an empty barstool in front of a long bar that was set off to the side of the main action. You could see the dance floor from there, but everyone at that bar seemed to be observing more than participating.

When I sat down on the barstool, this time I crossed my legs and made a mental note to keep my knees together. The bartender walked over and asked me what I wanted and I ordered a beer. I would have killed for a dirty martini, but I didn’t want to drink anything too strong. The thought of getting stopped by a cop on the way home for drunken driving sent a chill up my spine. I couldn’t even imagine the excuse I would have to conjure up if something like that happened. I would have to move out of town and never return. I could see the expression of shock on the face of Chief Ludlow, my dad’s best friend, when he discovered that I really wasn’t a woman.

After the first half hour, I felt more relaxed. The people around me continued on with their conversations, the bartender served his drinks, and the music continued to play. I didn’t mind being an observer and I had no ulterior motives. I saw a few good-looking girls in shorter, sexier skirts than mine and they were getting more attention than me. But I soon discovered I wasn’t invisible. A nice looking guy in his thirties walked up to me and put his hand on the back of my barstool as if he were claiming his territory. He seemed nervous; he spoke with a slight stutter. “You wouldn’t want to dance, would you?” he asked.

I didn’t really want to dance, but I felt so bad for him I nodded and said, “Yes, I’d love to dance.” They were playing a new song that had recently been released by Kenny Chesney. I liked the song, and I’d never actually danced with a guy before. I also would have felt terrible if I’d turned this poor guy down. He seemed so nice and kind, as if he’d mustered up every ounce of courage he had to ask me to dance. Up until then my experience with men in this regard had always been with polite, cautious gay men on the down low. I had no idea what I was in for with straight men. Let’s just say I gained a whole new sense of respect for straight women that night.

He helped me off the barstool and set his palm on the small of my back. It felt awkward at first, but I remained expressionless and let him make all the moves. He guided me to the dance floor and reached for my hand. He gently pulled me to the dance floor, and then he reached down and held my waist. I glanced around quickly and noticed the way everyone else was dancing. This was one of those slow songs and people were just standing in one place rocking back and forth. I lifted my arms like the woman beside me who was dancing with a guy and rested my hands behind my dance partner’s neck just like her. Then I rested my head against his chest just like her and we started rocking back and forth like everyone else. It felt unusual to be in his arms and I had a feeling I didn’t have much control anymore. I liked the way he smelled of aftershave, though. He had a trimmed, but slightly scruffy, beard and he reminded me of the actor, John Cusack. He was by no means male model material, but definitely a nice-looking guy in a sexy, masculine way.

We danced for a while in silence, and then he pulled me closer and said, “You’re very pretty. I’m Mickey.” His hands went lower and he rubbed the top of my buttocks in what I thought was a harmless way at first.

I ran the long pink fingernails across the back of his neck slowly and said, “I’m Randy.” I figured it’s a unisex name, and I wasn’t going to give him my last name. I’d never seen him before, and I doubted I’d see him again after that night.

“You’re a great dancer, Randy,” he said. “You’re very easy to move around. You’ve got great legs, too. You’re so damn hot.” His hands went lower and he patted my bottom a few times in a more aggressive way.

I didn’t know how to respond to him. And I didn’t scratch the back of his neck with my fingernails that time to encourage him. But I didn’t want to piss him off either, so I smiled and said, “That’s because you’re such a great dancer yourself, Mickey.” I figured if I was nice to him he would be nice to me.

But his hands only went lower and he continued to pat and rub my bottom without asking for permission. “I’ll bet you’re great in the sack.”

“I like this song,” I said. I wanted to change the subject and I wanted to stop dancing. As far as I knew the only thing I’d done to encourage him was touch his neck with my fingernails. I didn’t think that was an aggressive gesture.

He grabbed me harder and the back of my skirt went up a little. “You smell so pretty and soft.”

When the song ended, they started to play something faster. Mickey patted the small of my back and said, “Let’s go back to the bar and sit down. I don’t feel like dancing fast.” I noticed he’d stopped stuttering and he seemed less timid now.

I nodded yes and removed my arms from his shoulders, relieved to get off the dance floor. He took my hand and I followed him back to the barstool where he’d found me. There were all kinds of images running through my head by then. He thought I was a real woman and I knew this could get dangerous. He kept looking at my chest, my legs, and my lips as if he wanted to rip off my clothes and throw me down on the floor. I decided to be more aggressive myself, and to keep it as casual as possible at the same time. I figured that because I was pretending to be a woman, and he thought I was a woman, this would be simple enough to do. But boy did I get the surprise of my life.

When we reached the bar and I lifted my leg to climb up on the stool, he put his hand up my skirt and grabbed my ass without any warning whatsoever. This time it wasn’t in a playful way. I had a feeling he meant business. And when he realized I wasn’t wearing panties and I was only wearing a thong, he squeezed harder and said, “That’s hot, baby. No panties. I had a feeling you were a very dirty girl when I saw the way you were dressed.” He emphasized the word dirty.

I froze for a moment, and he continued to grope me. I wondered what had happened to that nice shy man who had been stuttering. I finally reached for his hand, pulled it out of my skirt, and sat down. In a playful way, I smacked his arm and said, “You be a good boy. I’m wearing a thong.”

He smiled and moved closer. He lowered his hand and grabbed my thigh. “Open those pretty legs for me. No one can see us. I know what girls like you want.” His hand started to slide up between my legs.

I removed his hand from my leg and smiled again. I wanted to keep this friendly. “I said be a good boy. I don’t even know you, Mickey.”

He ignored me and grabbed my leg again. His hand moved up, only inches from my penis…or what he thought was my vagina. “Let’s go outside. My truck isn’t far.”

“I think I have to go to the bathroom,” I said. “I’ll be right back.” It was the first excuse that popped into my head.

“I’ll come with you,” He said. “We can go to my truck after that and you can sit on my lap. I’d like to see that pretty thong up close.”

I took a deep breath and exhaled. “Mickey, you seem like a nice guy, but I’m really not interested in anything more than dancing tonight.” I figured I would be honest; he would be okay with this and he would appreciate my honesty.

He squeezed me leg harder and said, “I know what girls like you want. Don’t play innocent with me.”

I got a sick feeling in my stomach. I didn’t know how to handle him. No gay guy had ever treated me this way. I couldn’t be too aggressive because he would find out about me and that would have been disastrous. So I pushed him away gently and said, “I think I’m going to go home now.” I stuttered a little then.

“I’ve got something nice to show you,” he said. He refused to let me get up. “You know you want it. It’s nice and big. You wouldn’t be dressed that way if you didn’t want guys coming on to you. Let’s stop playing games, sweetie.”

What an asshole. The things he tried to do to me that night reminded me of a sociology elective I’d taken in community college that had focused on rape culture, where they blame the victim instead of the asshole douchebag who objectifies her. If I’d been a real woman I would have kicked him in the balls and started to scream. If I’d been in a gay bar and he’d been a gay man I would have hit him in the jaw. But I couldn’t take that chance dressed as a woman with all those people around me, so I continued to be nice and hope I could get through to him. “I’m really not playing games,” I said. “You seem like a nice guy, but I just want to sit here alone for a while. Thanks for the dance, seriously.”

“I know what a girl like you wants,” Mickey said.

“What do you mean, a girl like me?” I asked. “I didn’t say or do anything to lead you on.” My faced started to grow warm. I had a feeling he was about to cross the invisible line and I would have to do something to stop him.

As Mickey leaned forward this time, his hand went down between my legs again and someone behind him grabbed his arm. A deep voice said, “She’s not a girl. She’s a young woman. And she is trying to be nice you, buddy. Can’t you take a fucking hint? She’s not interested in you, dude. Now get lost.”

Anne R. Allen: Does Sex Sell? Censored Gay Sex Scene From Here to Eternity

Anne R. Allen Post: Does Sex Sell?

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Burt_Lancaster_and_Deborah_Kerr_in_From_Here_to_Eternity_trailer.jpg

Update: Anne R. Allen was gracious enough to leave a comment here and I think it’s important for anyone reading this post to check it out in the comment section.

According to a weak blog post over at Passive Guy whether or not sex sells is up for debate over at Anne R. Allen’s blog. I’ve been a fan of Allen’s for a long time and I love her work and I love her blog, too. And I actually agree with a good deal of what she posted, but I also think it was highly clever of her to actually write post about sex selling because posts about sex garner more hits than posts about Christmas cookies and kittens, which in a way suggests in itself that sex sells. Passive Guy is even cleverer: he just linked to a post about sex and snagged hits. I know this as a blogger and I understand search engines.  In other words, Passive Guy and Anne R. Allen did NOT post about Christmas cookies and kittens to get blog readers to actually read their posts. They posted about sex and a sex related topic. They got hits. This makes me smile.

Allen begins her post talking about how her publisher asked her to remove a sex scene and she was worried about doing this. Not because the publisher might have been censoring her. But because she was worried the book wouldn’t sell as well. Then she mentions how so many have copied Fifty Shades of Grey and how publishing is on overload with fakes trying to duplicate the E.L James success. She’s right about that. I’ve seen it myself and I’ve been writing erotic romance for almost twenty-one years and I’ve never seen so many jump onto the proverbial bandwagon of the Fifty Shades success. However, there hasn’t been one single mega hit since FS, and I actually did post about this a while back when FS first hit the market. In my post I compared the success of FS to the old novel, Peyton Place.

After reading so many opinions about FSoG, I can’t help thinking about books from the past that have jumped unexpectedly into the mainstream, with all the hype and promise that FSoG has had so far. If you go way back, way before my time, “Peyton Place,” was one of those books. For its time period, PP had all the elements that FSoG has today. And yet as far as I know there was only one book like PP ever published with that kind of phenomenal success. I’m sure there were other books published like PP after it became so popular, but none ever reached the pinnacle of PP. Even the author of PP, Grace Metalious, never reached that level of success again.


Allen moves on in her post to discuss a great deal of what’s been happening in the past months with web sites where e-books are sold and how they’ve been censoring books. She doesn’t use the word censoring, but it is what it is and I see no reason to not use it. Toni Morrison has been censored, and so have other high profile authors. But Allen’s point seems to be that all books are judged by robots and even though erotic romance authors like me don’t break the rules with regard to taboo content, some authors do and the rest of us get lumped in with them and now we all have to watch out for words that might affect us without cause. And yet TV shows like American Horror Story: Coven can get away with taboos like bestiality, rape, incest, pedophilia, and more. They win awards for it. I posted about that here. And I’ve written many posts on censoring books.

The most important thing to take into consideration here is that Anne R. Allen is talking about sex in mainstream novels, not sex in genre fiction…at least I think so.

With so much explicit “mommy porn” available to peruse discretely on our e-readers, maybe the time has come when we no longer need to sprinkle our mainstream books with those titillating scenes that became de rigueur in the heyday of “steamy” novels by authors like Jacqueline Susann and Harold Robbins. (As Spock called them in Star Trek IV…”the giants.”)

At the moment, I think writers need to treat sex scenes like adverbs. We should always ask ourselves, “is this necessary to the story?”


However, if you are an established author you have to know who you are and who your audience is. I actually did something I never thought I would do by self-censoring my book, Chase of a Dream. When I released the book on my own terms in two different versions, one with sex and one without, I had no idea what to expect. Though I only removed 7,000 words from the original book, the one without sex just sat there and did nothing while the book with the sex scenes did better than I ever thought it would. And I’m still getting e-mails from readers who made the mistake of buying the self-censored version instead of the original version with sex, and I’m still giving them returns from my own files. So my readership told me in plain and simple terms they want sex in books. But my readership is geared toward men and women who want to read gay erotic romance, with sex scenes. And if I did any less than that I would be letting them down and I have no intention of doing this to my readers. In fact, Allen’s post only makes me want to write more sex.

So while I do agree with Allen’s post in a general sense, I also think this might be one of those times you really have to know who you are and where you’re going with your writing. There’s nothing wrong with sex in books, there’s nothing wrong with the people who like to read books with sex in them, or the authors who like to write sexy books. I really don’t care about whether or not sex sells. I honestly don’t, and never really did. The only reason I’m posting about this right now is because erotic romance authors have been taking slams from holier than thous since the beginning of time as we know it and I think it’s high time someone started saying it’s okay to have sex in books, too.

It’s also time for erotic romance writers to stop being treated like second class citizens in publishing as well. If it hadn’t been for E. L. James and Fifty shades of Grey, a lot of people in publishing wouldn’t have had bonus checks this year.

Censored Gay Sex Scene From Here to Eternity

Speaking of sex and censorship, I think this next article is interesting compared to what I wrote above. Evidently, there were scenes taken out of From Here to Eternity right from the start by none other than the publisher. And, gay sex, too. Someone get my smelling salts.

The original manuscript of From Here to Eternity went into “great detail” about the kinds of sexual favours soldiers like Private Angelo Maggio, played in the film by Frank Sinatra, would provide to rich gay men for money, Kaylie Jones revealed in an article written for US news website the Daily Beast.

“‘I don’t like to be blowed [by a man]’,” the novel’s hero Private Robert E Lee Prewitt tells Maggio in a section cut from the novel. “Angelo shrugged,” writes James Jones. “‘Oh, all right. I admit it’s nothing like a woman. But it’s something. Besides, old Hal treats me swell. He’s always good for a touch when I’m broke. Five bucks. Ten bucks. Comes in handy the middle of the month … Only reason I let Hal blow me is because I got a good thing there. If I turned him down I’d blow it sky high. And I want to hang onto that income, buddy.'”

James Jones, author of the book, originally fought being censored. His daughter now thinks the original book was better. But at the time there was a Catholic group pressuring publishers to censor books.

You can read more here. I highly recommend it, especially in these trying days of everyone telling us how they feel about sex in books, and what’s too much, what’s too little, and what sells.

Photo above with link is in the Public Domain.

American Horror Story: Bestiality, Incest, Pedophilia…Huh?

American Horror Story: Bestiality, Incest, Pedophilia…Huh?


For the past couple of weeks I’ve been posting about my own experiences with censorship at retail web sites where e-books are sold like Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords. These web sites started censoring self-published e-books thanks to an article in a questionable UK publication called The Kernel. The self-published e-books targeted allegedly contained topics like rape, incest, bestiality, pedophilia, and other topics most romance publishers will not publish. As a result, several web sites removed all self-pubbed titles to suss out the e-books with “taboo” topics. One web site even shut down. Amazon started clearing out their “taboo” topics through search engines, and e-books without the said “taboo” topics were removed for no reason, and without a viable explanation. And guess what I saw last night on American Horror Story: bestiality, incest, and pedophilia.

This article I’m linking to now discusses American Horror Story in an almost light-hearted way. If an author of erotic romance were to do this he/she would be slammed from one end of the Internet to the other.

Death, incest, bestiality, the gang’s all here!

We’re sure this is going to be a weekly occurence, but American Horror Story: Coven had its most insane outing yet on Oct. 23 with “The Replacements,” which found Supreme witch Fiona (Jessica Lange) making her first big kill of the season in an attempt to protect her witchy throne. Plus, the recently-resurrected Kyle (Evan Peters) finally spoke and one of the girls got a little too close to the Minotaur monster for our comfort. Seriously, does anyone have brain soap?!

I did see the show last night and I just sat there watching it wondering how the fuck they can get away with all this on TV and authors like me who don’t even go near “taboo” topics like that have been dealing with the worst brand of censorship since PayPal in 2012. I’m not judging American Horror Story and I’m not judging authors, publishers, or e-books that contain these “taboo” topics. However, I am questioning the actions of the large retail web sites where e-books are sold who made these recent mass sweeps of all books without taking into consideration that many of the books in question never violated one single guideline. I had a book removed from Amazon titled, “Internal Desires,” and the reason why it was removed was because of words like “young” in the book description. And the characters in that book were all well over the legal age limit and it contained nothing that’s considered “taboo.” This week I had a book titled, “Young Doughy Joey,” taken down at another web site for the same reason. It contained nothing “taboo.”

So in their quest to censor the “taboo” topics all authors are now targets of retail web sites where e-books are sold, innocent words like young have become “taboo,” and we’ve basically entered a police state where freedom of speech means nothing anymore.

And the most ironic thing of all is bestiality, incest, pedophilia, and other “taboo” topics are now being treated lightly on television and no one seems to find any fault in that at all. As I said, I’m not judging American Horror Story. They have every right to do what they want. But when I saw one scene where one character lifted her dress, crudely shoved her fingers between her legs, and invited some kind of half man half beast to have sex with her I cringed for several reasons. One, I cringed for the actress. She’s not very good, and that scene seemed to diminish her even more. Two, I cringed because the producer of the show took advantage of a young woman’s need for love and turned it into something disgusting with an animal. Three, because it took the character completely out of context. And four, because television shows like American Horror Story make millions of dollars and small self-published authors who don’t write about bestiality, incest, and pedophilia, and who struggle to make ends meet just to pay for copy editors, can’t even use words like young anymore without fearing their books will be censored by Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords.

It will be interesting to see how this all turns out with e-books. And even more interesting to see what “taboo” topic Ryan Murphy will sensationalize and diminish next.

Photo of Mr. Murphy, here.

Erotic Authors Strike Back; NYT Sex Issue Sans Romance Authors

Erotic Authors Strike Back

The title of the article to which I’m linking now is “Self-published Erotica Writers Strike Back,” but once again, that’s not completely true and the article is misleading on several levels. When large retail web sites where e-books are sold started targeting/censoring books for questionable content, they did begin with self-published books. But I know for a fact that e-publishers are now dealing with the fallout, too.

I hesitate to post anything more about that until I have more facts. However, I did receive an interesting e-mail from one of my publishers last week. And as usual, the books in question with the publishers are not books that would violate the concept of what’s considered questionable content…I hate to even go there, but questionable content includes things like underage characters, barely legal, incest, etc… The books I’m talking about have been targeted based on one word. In my case it’s the word virgin, and yet all the characters are legal age. These retail web sites are doing broad sweeps with search engines, and books with normally innocent words like virgin, boy, girl, or anything else that suggests something taboo are being censored and taken down.

This issue has now made the mainstream media, and even though the article isn’t completely accurate, I thought it was interesting that the issue has gone this far.

Daudelin called for Amazon to establish clear guidelines. She also posted Kobo’s new rules, which includes the following guideline: “Users may not publish written, image, audio or video content that promotes pedophilia, incest, bestiality, or sexual violence or force.”

You can read more here.

Frankly, I have no comment on the books with questionable content, for lack of a better phrase. That’s not my fight and I’m not personally willing to go up on a hill and die for books that do contain pedophilia or incest, or whatever. I don’t read them, write them, or want anything to do with them. They disgust me. My issue is this: don’t penalize other erotica authors who aren’t writing books with incest or pedophilia like I’ve been penalized just for one word or a title that gets caught and flagged in a search engine by some clueless idiot who doesn’t know any better.

NYT Sex Issue Sans Romance Authors

The New York Times Book Review did a piece called “Let’s Read About Sex,” and allegedly overlooked romance authors. As a result, author Sarah Maclean, who writes historical romance, replied with a letter to the editor:

Romance holds a huge share of the consumer market, with more than $1.4 billion in sales in 2012, so the omission is surprising. The lack of romance authors is especially glaring when one considers that each week, the mass-market, e-book and combined best-seller lists compiled by The New York Times include dozens of books from this far-reaching genre: historical, contemporary, paranormal, erotic and new adult.

You can read the letter in full here.

I’m not completely surprised they didn’t include romance authors…or gay romance authors. The most elite in the literary world typically don’t include romance authors in anything that even remotely resembles an academic piece. And this is in spite of the fact that if it weren’t for romance authors and romance novels the so-called literistic works the elitists do discuss wouldn’t have a fat chance in hell getting published because in many cases it’s romance that’s keeping many of them afloat these days. Think Fifty Shades of Grey and all the money it made for the publisher.

I’d like to see them try to survive waiting for Jonathan Franzen to write his next bestselling novel, because if all of publishing depended on the speed of the literistic like bird-watching Franzen who puts out a novel every decade or so we’d all be in trouble.

Censorship in India and Smashwords; Philly News Anchor Slammed for Tweet

Censorship in India and Smashwords

Woody Allen is now refusing to release his latest film in India because censors want him to allow an anti-smoking text to run across the screen about the dangers of smoking during a scene in the film where characters are smoking.

Allen, who has “creative control” over the film’s distribution in India, wasn’t comfortable with modifying the film. The film’s India distributor, PVR Pictures, noted that, “He feels like when the scroll comes, attention goes to it rather than the scene.” This is probably true — why would you watch a quiet scene of two people talking when you can read giant block letters about the dangers of smoking?

This form of censorship has happened before in India with other film makers. You can read more here.

We get it, censors. Smoking is bad for you. Let us watch the movie in peace.

As for Smashwords, we’ve been releasing back listed books of mine there all month and it’s always an absolute nightmare. First, Smashwords is the most difficult place for indie authors to deal with on any level. Second, now I’m getting e-mail notifications from Smashwords about putting up adults only disclaimers on certain books (there’s no rhythm or reason as to why it’s only certain books), stating that all characters are over eighteen. I have more books on Smashwords than I can count with publishers and this has never happened before. I have never written a book with a character that is under the age of eighteen years old, and I’ve even gone through this hot mess of hell a few years ago with a book that was once published with Loveyoudivine.com. From that post.

But, I assure you, there are no underage characters in this short book. I don’t judge those authors who decide to do things like this, but I’ve never done it and never will do it. In fact, the main character, Jared, the guy referred to as a the Skater Boy, is only a quasi skater boy. He’s in his twenties and is clearly a consenting adult. This is one of the tamer stories I’ve written.

As a matter of fact, I even discussed an incident with one of my contributing authors in The Women Who Love to Love Gay Romance on social media because one of her characters was under the age of eighteen and I didn’t feel comfortable with that. And in her story the character in question didn’t even have any sex scenes. I admittedly and reluctantly censored her to avoid future issues with the book from places like Smashwords or Allromanceebooks.com. The author was nice enough to change the character’s age from seventeen to eighteen, even though I’m sure she didn’t want to do it. If she had refused I’m not sure what I would have done. I’d like to think I would have published the story anyway, because there was no reason why it couldn’t have been published in the first place.

In any event, censorship is alive and well in the world, and I have a feeling it’s only going to get worse. Authors who write erotic romance should seriously be considering selling their indie books on their own web sites in the future to avoid this.

Philly News Anchor Slammed for Tweet

This falls under the category of watch everything you say or do on social media these days. Even if you have the best of intentions, it can get twisted, as Joyce Evans recently learned.

The Philadelphia Inquirer (http://bit.ly/1af41Ut ) reports WTXF-TV news anchor Joyce Evans tweeted “Thought ‘Breaking Bad’ was hot last Sunday? See who’s breaking bad in SW Phllly, leavin’ 6 people SHOT — Tonite at Ten!”

Viewers immediately criticized Evans, with one person writing it sounded “like it was written by a sociopath.”

You can read more here.

What the rest of the article fails to mention is the serious crime problem within the city of Philadelphia. I watch Philadelphia local news and I witness the reporting first hand. I often wonder how the news anchors can continue to report this heart-breaking news on a daily basis. The actual real life events in Philadelphia, and the daily crimes that include anything from beating senior citizens for money to innocent people getting shot in their bedrooms by drive-by shootings makes Breaking Bad actually look tame in comparison. And yet those issues go unaddressed and they only continue to escalate.

Boardwalk Empire Erotica; Gay Erotic Romance; What’s Gonzo Porn?

After watching the season finale of “Boardwalk Empire” last night, and watching a highly erotic BDSM scene (erotic for TV standards), I couldn’t help wondering whether or not the writers on BE had been influenced by “Fifty Shades of Grey.” And while I’m seeing a lot more erotica in the mainstream in all media forms, I’m also seeing this almost Victorian attitude toward gay fiction. This all does tie in, so stick with me. 

When I write posts like this I like to step back and remain objective. And that’s not always easy to do. But I often find gay books being promoted as erotic and yet I don’t find any erotica in them…or very little erotica. And that’s interesting in itself because gay fiction and erotica have historically been almost synonymous. It’s part of gay culture and gay history…my culture and history. Yet what I’ve seen lately are books that seem toned down in an erotic sense, with bland sex scenes, almost the same way films used to be toned down in the golden age of Hollywood film making. They are far from representative of gay men in most cases, and if you’re a gay man it gets a little confusing. But more than that, I have seen true gay erotic books, in spite of excellent sales numbers and an obvious strong, discreet readership, absolutely slammed by the gay erotic police.

When I released “Chase of a Dream” in two versions, one with sex scenes and one without, I thought I’d at least see a balance. If anything, I thought the erotic police would be happy to finally have a gay romance minus only 7,000 words of strong sex/erotic scenes. But they went blank, not even one review on the book without sex scenes. Interesting. And the uncensored version of “Chase of a Dream,” sold a lot of copies to the same wonderful discreet fan base I’ve had for years, which is why I didn’t let them down. I really thought that by releasing two versions I was doing this for readers…giving them what they wanted. It’s now evident that I was wrong. And I won’t self-censor another book again. I may write gay fiction without any sex scenes. I’ve done that before when the book called for it. But no more duel versions in my lifetime.

The other night I was watching a film titled, “Beware of the Gonzo,” and when I went to look up something about it later that night I did a search and came up with tons of links to “Gonzo Porn.” My reaction was shock. Here I thought I knew it all and I honestly did not know there was such a thing. I know what Gonzo Journalism is, but didn’t have a clue about Gonzo Porn. According to Urban Dictionary, this is Gonzo Porn:

When it comes to pornography the term ‘Gonzo’ refers to a style of film making pioneered in the 1990s by directors such as Seymore Butts and Ben Dover.


Gonzo porn took the storyline out of adult movies and headed straight for the sex. No longer would the pornoholic have to fast forward through 10 minutes of inept dialog to get 5 minutes of sex. They got sex throughout the whole video.
Gonzo porn was not always shot in the first person or in point-of-view fashion as some have suggested here and the quality of the movie depended largely on who was producing it.

So after reading about Gonzo Porn, I couldn’t help thinking about a lot of the blog posts I’ve written in the past about the differences between erotic romance and porn. I’ve never tried to define porn and I never will, but I have always maintained that erotic romance and erotic fiction is basically fiction that has both a strong storyline and strong sex scenes. If you take the sex out, like I did with “Chase of a Dream,” you still have a story. I think there’s always been a market for readers who enjoy reading erotic romance and erotica and I think there always will be. The sex in erotic romance or erotica is supposed to take the reader to another level and move the story forward. And by taking the reader to another level it creates a deeper more personal reading experience that books without sex don’t have. I think the sex should also be exaggerated a little, like all other aspects of fiction. That’s why it’s called fiction.
 
And yet I’m finding more and more gay fiction without sex and I’m starting to wonder why. I just finished writing a scene for an upcoming book in the bad boy billionaire series I’m writing for ravenous romance. And I wrote a tongue-in-cheek scene that I hope will be received as humorous, but I don’t have *high* hopes for this. It’s a lot like the burping dick scene I wrote in “American Star” and people actually took that scene seriously. I’m still smiling about that one. But I digress. In the scene in the new book, “The Vegas Shark,” a hapless young male stripper shoots ping pong balls out of his behind. It’s his individual “gimmick” at the fictional club where he works and customers line up to see his ping pong ball show once a week. Oh, he’s very big there. This is supposed to be both funny and erotic. When they wrote a scene like that in a classic gay movie twenty years ago with a woman people couldn’t stop talking about it. Of course I had to alter my scene because it’s not physically possible for a man to shoot ping pong balls out of his behind (I don’t think it is). But I figured something out that worked. And yet I can’t even imagine, as Dorothy Parker would say, what fresh hells await me with that scene when the book is released.
 
It’s not Gonzo Porn. There’s detailed, very emotional storyline in this book, as there are in all of the highly erotic gay romances and stories I’ve read in the past. So while I have nothing against Gonzo Porn, and it’s obvious the millions of other people who watch it don’t either, I don’t write it. I also wonder if this trend to censor strong sex out of gay fiction is going to continue or if it’s just a trend that won’t last. I have read gay fiction recently where you’d think gay men didn’t even have sex…or it’s so vanilla it’s like going back to the old days of TV where Lucy and Ricky had to sleep in twin beds. Of course we all knew Little Ricky didn’t not arrive via the stork, but that was the implication and Lucy and Ricky were absolutely sexless creatures. I doubt Fred and Ethel ever saw each other naked for that matter.
 
I’m writing another post this week about an actor who did a film in “yellowface” and how THAT fresh hell was received by the Asian community when they heard about it. In a way, I think what I just posted about gay fiction, Gonzo Porn, this need to censor, and current trends in gay fiction have a lot in common with actors putting on yellowface. But I don’t see gay men getting as upset about it as the Asian community is about actors in yellowface. That’s interesting in itself. My theory is that gay men just move on, dismiss the ridiculous, and don’t give it a second thought.  
 
But then again a lot of this comes down to book sales…just like Gonzo Porn. There’s obviously a strong discreet market for gay erotic romance and erotica, just like there’s a market for Gonzo Porn. Although the two are polar opposites because there’s no storyline in Gonzo Porn, my hope is that sales will win out this time and what I’m seeing is nothing more than a passing trend in gay fiction. And the most interesting thing about all this is that it’s not the straight community that seems to be doing the censorship. I’m not actually sure where it’s coming from…I sometimes imagine this secret group hiding in the wings…but it’s obvious with books like “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and scenes like the one in “Boardwalk Empire” last night that the straight mainstream community it just as interested in erotica as anyone else.
 
Photo from morguefile.com   
 

Banned Books Week and "Skater Boy"

After what I experienced last year with censorship, I had to write something about Banned Books Week and my short story, “Skater Boy.” I see it all the time everywhere I go. Most people in a general sense focus on big books being banned, like “Fifty Shades of Grey,” or “Catcher in the Rye,” but they never consider the fact that a lot of books are banned quietly that no one ever knows about. 

I guess it’s something inherent to publishing and writing, as it is to other arts like acting and music. No one ever mentions the career musician in the orchestra or the working actor who has made a decent living all his life playing small parts. They focus on Lady Gaga or Merele Streep the same way they focus on authors with big books.

But there are a lot of career writers out there who don’t necessarily care whether they have a big book or not. They focus on writing jobs and making a decent living as writers. I’ve always fallen into that category. I do it because it’s what I love doing. And when I have a book banned for a ridiculous reason involving the way search engines pick up tags, it can get frustrating to say the least.

That’s what happened to me last year when PayPal was going through that stage where they decided to censor authors and publishers, and everyone freaked out. I posted about it here…the link goes to more than one post I’ve written about censorship, including my own personal experiences. And the reason why I decided to release “Chase of a Dream,” in two versions: one with sex scenes and one without.

In my case, “Skater Boy” was censored and banned in several places because of the word “boy” in the title. The book had nothing to do with underage characters. I don’t write about underage characters, never have and never will. But because the word “boy” was in the title, and the tags, the story was banned because search engines picked it up and no one bothered to check out the content.

So it’s not only big books that get banned. And it’s not always books with questionable content that get banned. These days books can get banned for a variety of reasons, none of which have anything to do with the actual content inside the book. I will be the first to admit that I write erotica that is for adults only and I don’t think a lot of my fiction should be up front on the main display table at the local library. But I do think that we all should be able to read what we want to read, when we want to read it, and no one should tell us we don’t have that right. And if it were up to a lot of people, they would be choosing our reading material for us. They would be telling us it’s for our own good, like not smoking or wearing our jeans too low below the waistline…or even seatbelts for that matter. And I get tired of someone else telling me what’s for my own good. And it’s important to speak up sometimes and tell them to shut the hell up, because I want to read anything I want without listening to anyone else’s hooded opinions.

Here’s a link to the Banned Books Week web site, where you can read a variety of different pieces on the topic. If you’re a reader or an author I think this is important to know as much about banned books as possible. I never thought I’d find myself with a banned book based on one word that had nothing to do with the content in the book. It can happen. It does happen. And don’t think it can’t happen to you someday.