Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Guest author: D.A. Lascelles, on why it's all my fault

And now for something completely different...

This week's guest author writes fantasy and alternate worlds and all kinds of bizarre things, including the sexy stuff - and apparently it's all my fault. Including the state of world publishing and the Kennedy assassination. I do try.

But I dunno. I'll take the credit. Dave's stories are pretty cool. When you read a lot of romance, like I do, you tend to forget there are things other than heroic characters and endless happy endings. It's great to read from a different angle.

So, no doubt in order to make like the Royal Navy and give me my forty lashes - ooh, baby - and to say interesting things about publishing and erotica vs porn and why we can't all please everyone - please welcome small press and indie author D.A. Lascelles...

I blame Erica Hayes.

For everything (yes, she was there on that infamous grassy knoll some decades before she was born on a completely different hemisphere, she is cunning like that).

But in particular I blame her for the presence of two short stories I have recently published. If she hadn’t challenged publically on social media, if she hadn’t herself been so adept at writing erotica, then I probably wouldn’t have done it and the world may have been saved. Well, OK, I probably would have still done it but I wouldn’t have had anyone to blame but myself.

I’ve often teased Erica about her work being pretty much thinly veiled pornography. It’s one of the things we often discuss on social media along with the disparity between UK and Australian weather patterns. If you have ever read any of her excellent Shadowfae series you will see what I mean. It is the most glorious expression of erotica I have ever read – sheer poetry in its style, rich in visual description and gorgeously hot scenes. Or, as I once said on Facebook and which she promised to put on a book cover sometime: ‘Almost but not quite entirely unlike porn’. Paraphrasing Douglas Adams, of course… The standard she sets is enormously high.

So, I was challenged to do something to match the quality of Erica’s erotica. {ED: flattery will get you nowhere... actually, no, that's not true. See me later...}

I had previously worked with her on a Paranormal Romance anthology (the Shades of Love anthology) and in that I focussed on developing my writing of romance plots, though the sex scenes in my contribution (the novella Transitions) were of the ‘fade to soft candlelight’ style rather than explicit. To match her challenge, I realised I had to up my game. So, for my recent collection of shorts, Lurking Miscellany, I worked on two urban fantasy stories with a sexy theme.

One was a sequel to Transitions. Called Transformations it follows the characters on a night out to a Goth club where they encounter a very sexy person with unusual gender switching abilities. This was partly inspired by my own experiences in such a club, in fact the very one that is described (which is unfortunately no longer there). Our heroes face concepts of desirability and get into fights before saving the day.

The other, An Element of Desire, gets a little racier. In this, our hero Simon is an environmental activist with the ability to manipulate the elements through communication with the spirits that control them. He meets a woman for whom he feels the most immediate and insistent attraction. From their initial meeting it is not long before things get very hot and heavy… For some reason I decided to have the female character in this dressed in PVC. Well why on earth not?

Did I succeed in my challenge? Well, I will leave that to the readers to decide. I would however say that it is certainly worth a writer challenging themselves to do something outside their comfort zone. If you are finding the writing process too easy you may be slipping into familiar territory and while that may mean you are sticking to what you are good at, it can also mean you are boring your readers by retreading old ground. Rather than stick to this comfortable old armchair of the familiar, why not try to strike out into the unknown? If it gives you a gut wrenching feeling of fear as you consider this, even better. Often, when you get that feeling it means you are doing something right.

Self publishing has opened up the market to experimentation. I am quite fond of the traditional route of publishing, but it has one major flaw – each book published represents such a huge financial risk for the publisher that they tend to be very careful about their output. If something is not likely to sell they stay well away from it. The advance a publisher gives to an author on acceptance of a manuscript is basically what they are willing to bet on the success of that book. They are saying that the book will make at least this much in profit, so they can give that to the author and not lose any money themselves. Ditto the amounts they spend on advertising, cover design, distribution and printing. 

The more they invest the more convinced they are they have a winning concept. Books that are on the fringes of popularity, or attract only a niche audience or which are so radical they break conventions rarely if ever get published by this route. Similarly, books which might offend a majority of people such as those including the extremes of sex, drugs and rock and roll. However, they can be self published and when they are the financial risks are significantly smaller (although the profits can be equally small) meaning it is more viable to produce. This means that in the current book market, it is a good time to be radical and do something different.

So, why not push yourself to do something different? There will be an audience for you out there somewhere, even if it is one the big six don’t consider worth selling to.

D.A Lascelles is the author of Lurking Miscellany, Transitions (Mundania Press) and Gods of the Sea (Pulp Empires). He lives in Manchester UK. You can sometimes see him writing about Zombie porn on http://lurkingmusings.wordpress.com/ but he mostly blogs about books, vampires, science fiction and Terry Pratchett. He is inordinately proud of the fact that one of his Pratchett articles was referenced on the French version of the author’s Wikipedia page.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DaLascelles
Twitter: @areteus

Buy links for Lurking Miscellany: Kindle ~ Paperback

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