Monday, November 23, 2015

Giving Time, Money, and Thanks

Tis the season, as the saying goes. For the amazing erotic altruists who contribute to Coming Together, however, the season of giving is year 'round. Decade 'round, even. That's right, Coming Together turned 10 this year! Hard to believe that I've been steering this sexy ship for that long. 

I mean, wasn't it just yesterday that the Rainy Day Story Challenge took place in the Literotica Authors' Hangout?  In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, those stories became the Hurricane Relief Edition.  That collection contains the first real story I ever wrote.

By real, I mean it was more than simply a detailed sex scene prefaced by a few paragraphs (if that!) of literary foreplay. It had an actual plot. And, while sex was certainly integral to the story line, the tale involved several characters that did not participate in any sexual activity and a conflict that did not involve sex. Clocking in at 12,000 words, it was triple the length of anything I'd written to that point. Until that story ("Wetter Has Never Been Better"), I'd never aspired to do anything other than commit my fantasies to words in the hope they'd stop haunting my every waking moment.

Here's a snippet:
It was in Starbucks that she first noticed him: tall with curly salt-n-pepper hair; clean shaven; business suit with cowboy boots. He had an air about him. Supremely self-confident, but not arrogant.
Choosing an adjacent table, if those Frisbee-sized things could accurately be called tables, Stormy caught a whiff of his cologne. Mmm! One of her favorite scents. He pecked away at a fancy-looking laptop, thoroughly absorbed in the activity.
Stormy studied him obliquely. The suit looked expensive. The boots were polished. Square jaw. Amazing hands. Long fingers, rugged but not calloused. No wedding ring. Impeccably groomed. Broad shoulders with not a trace of pudge around the waistline. Seriously fuckable, was Stormy's final assessment as she tossed her empty cup in the can and strolled to her boarding gate.
Looking forward to a full three hours' rest during the non-stop service from Charlotte to San Jose, the capitol of Costa Rica, Stormy found her seat and grabbed three tiny airline pillows. The flight was far from full, and with any luck, she'd have a whole row of seats to herself. Next year at this time, she vowed to herself, this same flight would be booked to capacity thanks to her winning campaign.
She buckled up to avoid being pestered to do so at take-off, rested her head against the window, and closed her eyes—putting on her best "Do Not Disturb" persona in the hopes that the adjacent seats would remain vacant so she could stretch out later.
Waking with a start, Stormy realized that the plane was in the air and that she did indeed have the row to herself. She turned sideways to put up her legs and noticed HIM—the Starbucks guy—across the aisle. He looked at her intently, with a rather cryptic expression on his face, and his gaze was unnerving. Stormy felt her body respond.
"Business or pleasure?" he suddenly asked.
"What? Oh, um—business, actually. Maybe some pleasure. You?"
"Same," he said, extending his hand across the aisle. "I'm Charlie."
Unbuckling, Stormy scooted over to the aisle seat, "Stormy. Nice to meet you."
She would have gladly continued the conversation, but Charlie turned back to his newspaper. So, Stormy put up her feet and tried again to sleep. Images of this enigmatic man danced through her mind, making her fidget a bit. She realized that perhaps she should have packed her vibrator. After all, the last thing she needed was the distraction of perpetual horniness. On such a short trip with such an important objective, she simply did not have time for such diversions.
The next thing she knew, Charlie's hands gripped her ass. His lips met hers in an exquisitely languorous kiss—their bodies one, sweat shimmering on skin. Intense. Grinding.
Stormy's own groan woke her. Disoriented, she looked about, with realization slowly dawning. A dream. Just a dream. But, wow, what a dream! Maybe, she thought, if she could get right back to sleep, it'd pick up where it left off.
As she shifted to a more comfortable position, she noticed Charlie studying her, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. Blushing, Stormy again closed her eyes. Hours later, she was awakened by the flight attendant instructing her to buckle up. Alas the dream had not returned, but perhaps that was for the best, she mused. Stormy stretched and retrieved her carry-on, fully rested and ready to experience whatever Costa Rica had to offer.
There are moments in life -- critical junctures -- that we seldom recognize when they occur but that become obvious in hindsight. Writing this story was one of them. It sparked my interest in all aspects of publishing and led to the acquisition of the skills required to keep Coming Together afloat. And, in the synergistic manner of passion, Coming Together is one of the endeavors that keeps me afloat. It's immensely satisfying to give of oneself. In fact, I'd say it's one of two things at the very peak of my emotional "hierarchy of needs." The other is a creative outlet.

Thanks for sticking with me as a ramble through this post! Please let me know in the comments if any part of it resonated with you.  (One random commenter will win an ebook copy of "Erotique," the first tale in the ArtiFactual series.)

Happiest of holidays to you & yours!

peace & passion,

~ Alessia / Imp

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Snog for Sommer

I'm participating in the Snog for Summer. (Pop over there and check out all the other snoggers. Donate if you have the means. Share the link, please.) Here's why:

Once in a great while, an editor collides with an author who is an absolute joy to work with. One who delivers the goods on time (or even early), one who needs minimal edits and is gracious when changes are necessary, and--in the case of Coming Together--one who is unfailingly generous with her words. Given how hard won my words are to me, the latter is extremely precious.

Sommer Marsden has been a Coming Together contributor since its first open call way back in 2006. Back when ebooks were the inferior cousins of real books. Before Kindles and Nooks and iPads.

Sommer was there.

She has consistently submitted her stories to Coming Together collections ever since. I don't think I've ever turned one away. And why would I? She writes edgy, raw passion. Unapologetic sexuality. It really doesn't matter if the protagonist shares your kinks and triggers. She'll hook you with emotion.

Sex is extremely difficult to write well. Sommer makes it appear effortless! That said, I'd seek her work in any genre. She spins an engaging tale (tail?) regardless of realm.

This inaugural collection of Treasures will benefit the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (, a charity selected by Ms. Marsden for very personal reasons. Your purchase not only benefits the organization directly, but also supports Sommer indirectly.

Thank you!

~ Alessia Brio

Friday, August 15, 2014

O Genie! My Genie!

While painful, shared loss also has a raw beauty. It unites a disparate population, at least for a short time, as we reminisce and ache together. Death is indiscriminate. Disease and depression are our common enemies, even when widely misunderstood. We latch onto those threads and find temporary solace in our mutual grief.

Beneath the emptiness of loss, however, I'm feeling something more complex and debilitating. Guilt.

While it seems the entire Internet is saying a huge "Thank you!" to Robin Williams for his work and his humanitarian efforts, I primarily want to apologize to the man and his family.

It may seem trivial & silly to some. Robin Williams never knew me. I was never on his radar as an individual. I'm as certain as I can possibly be that he would never have considered me (or anyone else) at fault in any way. Yet I feel responsible, both as an individual and as part of a collective audience, for failing to provide whatever spark he needed in order to choose to remain alive.

So, to keep my own demons at bay, I will continue celebrate his life and the vast body of work that is his legacy. I will laugh, as he intended, for I can think of no finer tribute.

Be well, y'all, and please be kind. You never know when it might make a pivotal difference in someone's life.

peace & passion,

~ Alessia

Thursday, August 01, 2013

I am apparently full of hate

A diatribe greeted me this morning. I am humbled that someone took the time to attempt to set me straight. I appreciate the effort, but I'm just fine with my soul exactly as it is.

Oh, and honey, if you're reading this: I don't have an anti-Christian bias. (By all accounts, Jesus was a cool dude and the victim of some seriously bad parenting.) I have an anti-Christianity bias. There's a difference, and you've illustrated it beautifully. There's also a difference between "bias" and "hate," but I don't expect you to see it with those blinders on.

Dear Ms. Brio,

I was excited when I saw the one-line description of your By the Book anthology on duotrope. Finally, someone who gets Biblical erotica! But then, crushing disappointment to read the ignorant knee-jerk reaction that "inspired" (misuse of a beautiful word) the project.

Anti-Christian bias is just so... ew...

What you wrote: "Preachers who profess to know how their Lord wants us all to behave" - yes, indeed, Christianity is the revelation of God. And yes, God's revelation is for all people. Shouldn't it be? "By citing a couple isolated lines from Leviticus" - nope, there's a lot more than that, but anyhow Scripture doesn't work by adding up the frequency or the size to tell if something is important. (Gee, your **** is awful small, don't you want me to fondle your back?)

Furthermore, Christianity doesn't depend upon citing lines of Scripture. (Could you be a better lover to someone by carefully analyzing her emails, or by getting to know her in person over a long time? And if I tell my husband just once, "I don't like it when you do that," I expect him to listen. I shouldn't have to yell about it.) So the Christian Church has been in a married relationship with God over 2000 years, and before that at least 6000 years of engagement when it was called Judaism. That's a lot of tradition to back up the claims of the preachers, whether they are anti-anybody or not.

You can perhaps forgive the preachers for freaking out when they notice how quickly society has changed in their lifetime. It's like global warming in that way - a big, worldwide change that has snuck up on everybody but is probably somehow our own fault for being too quiet and passive. Except that nobody is celebrating global warming. Imagine how mad you'd be if you were a climate scientist and the ignorant folk were not only denying it and hating you but also celebrating the downfall of old traditions that limited how hot we can make our planet. Freedom to pollute as much as we want! Yay!

Am I getting through to you at all? Or are the erotic and environmental analogies too confusing? The woman's body is the land itself; she is Paradise; she is lovely and ancient as Earth...

Look, aren't you really touched that so many people think what you do really matters? And will tell you even when you don't want to hear it? That we are all connected? That God cares? And this God who cares is less like a force and is actually a Person with personal preferences about what happens to God's stuff (our planet, our selves). Maybe it is worth yelling about. And you know, not everybody is going to be good at explaining it or agree to be nice. (Just like some environmental activists are borderline terrorists and some are plain misanthropes, but that doesn't mean they don't have a point.)

I wanted to let you know all this because I care. And because I'm saddened that I won't be sending any of my other writing to you. I hope you can work through your problems and learn to write about love without bringing in hate.

It's good to be open. Now you've got to go in deeper, honey.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Next Big Thing

I’ve been tagged by Nobilis Reed to participate in The Next Big Thing, which is something like a blog post chain letter…

1) What is the working title of your book?

Which one? I have several glaring at me from my desk. I'm doing a fine job of ignoring them all.

2) Where did the idea for the book originate?

One (Snatch) originated with the Terry Schiavo debacle.  Another (Zane) originated with an intriguing gap in a genealogy database. Yet another (Succorae) as a twist on the legend of succubi.  Those are the novel-length works in progress. The short stories are legion. I'll spare you the details.

3) Under what genre does it fall?

Snatch is mainstream adult fiction. Zane is mainstream historical fiction. Succorae is paranormal erotic fiction.

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

The only character who is truly patterned after another fictional character is Gianna from Succorae. She looks much like Gigi Edgley's portrayal of Chiana from "Farscape." Naturally, I'd be thrilled with that casting.

Snatch would require casting of several characters in their youth and as mature adults, which would present a challenge. One character, however, I've always thought of as resembling model Melodie Monrose. The others are more fluid.

5) What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Snatch: Epic life-and-death, mother-daughter angst, vicious rapist, soul-searing drama.

Zane: Revolutionary War frontier love triangle with taboo and interracial twists.

Succorae: Gianna wants love to live, but needs hate to survive.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Totally self-published. I'm far too independent to hitch my wagon to someone else's cart.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?

Well, Zane was started in November 2005. Snatch in 2006. Succorae in 2007. None have a completed first draft. I have creative ADD, and other shiny things have drawn my attention.

8) To what other books would you compare this story within your genre?

I really wouldn't compare. I don't think any of them would lend themselves to a "If you liked..." promo.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

See #2.

10) What else about your book might pique the readers' interest?

No matter the genre, my work will always have strong erotic elements.

Here are the folks I’m tagging to be the next Next Big Thing authors:

I'd really rather not tag anyone else. That said, I invite any authors reading this post to take it and run with it if they are so inspired. :)

peace & passion,

~ Alessia

Friday, March 09, 2012

Chatter? WTFery from PayPal

So, PayPal has finally responded to the uproar (which it describes as "chatter") over its decision to censor certain forms of erotic fiction. The post, which appears on PayPal's blog, is so ridiculously condescending that I had to reproduce it here... with commentary.

PayPal’s acceptable use policy on sale of certain “erotica”

Yo, dude, what's with the quotes? It's erotica, not "erotica." It's not almost erotica. That would be the formulaic genre of fiction known as erotic romance. That's where some authors and vendors who want big sales from the explicit sex wrapped in a socially-acceptable relationship target their sales. You're not off to a very solid start. And why even include the word certain? I think you need one of those filters called an editor.

March 8, 2012
There’s been some chatter {You're just being cutesy, aren't you? Like how the Brits say the pond when referencing the Atlantic?} about PayPal’s decision to not allow the sale of certain “erotica” {Again with the quotes.} content using our service. Specifically, PayPal doesn’t allow our service to be used to sell content relating to rape, incest and bestiality. We’d like to set the record straight.

Here are the facts. Unlike many other online payment providers, PayPal does allow its service to be used for the sale of erotic books. {Exactly what other online payment providers disallow the sale of erotic books? I can't think of ANY, much less many.} PayPal is a strong and consistent supporter of openness on the Internet, freedom of expression, independent publishing and eBook marketplaces. {*cough* Bullshit. *cough* PayPal is, and always has been, a big bully. It freezes accounts and stonewalls dispute resolution. It passes judgment on what LEGAL content its customers can buy or sell.}  We believe that the Internet empowers authors in a way that is positive and points to an even brighter future for writers, artists and creators the world over, but we draw the line at certain adult content that is extreme or potentially illegal. {Excuse me? Potentially illegal? What happened to innocent until proven guilty, and precisely when did PayPal become a legal authority? If laws are being broken, the responsible thing to do is to report them to the authorities, not to take the law into your own hands.}

An important factor in our decision not to allow our payments service to be used to purchase material focused on rape, incest or bestiality is that this category of eBooks often includes images. {Your information is inaccurate, especially the use of the word often, and you would know this if you'd bothered to examine a fair sample of the work in question rather than using a nuclear warhead to kill a flea.} This type of content also sometimes intentionally blurs the line between fiction and non-fiction. {And you know this how? You're inside the author's head? You're equating first person point-of-view (a literary device, incidentally) with non-fiction? Are you trying to sound like an idiot?} Both these factors are problematic from a legal and risk perspective. {How? Seriously. How? Exactly what part of selling ebooks do you think is going to land PayPal in trouble with the legitimate legal authorities? Has James Patterson yet been arrested for murder? Was Heinlein ever charged for his incestuous fiction? Stephanie Meyer for pedophilia? Suzanne Collins for child abuse? Were ANY of the vendors or payment processors who enabled the sales of these books ever at risk of prosecution?}

So the business risk {Pffft!} associated with this content forms the basis for our policy, which has been in place for many years. Some feedback {Feedback. Is that the same as chatter?} we’re getting is a belief that PayPal is forcing its moral beliefs on others and restricting people’s right to free speech. {Free speech is a government construct. You're restricting people's choice, and you're insulting them in the process.} We can tell you with 100 percent conviction that this is not our intention. While we understand that people don’t always agree with our policies, this decision has nothing to do with our personal views on the content or any desire to limit free-speech rights. It has everything to do with running a sound business and complying with our legal responsibilities. {You have yet to detail precisely what laws are potentially being broken. It's fiction. Do you not understand the definition of the word?}

PayPal is a payments company. {And as such, it should not insert itself between buyer and seller. It should simply process the LEGAL transaction and get the hell out of the way.} The right to use PayPal’s service is not the same as the right to speak.

We have not shut down the e-book publishers {No, you've just cut off their supply of oxygen and caused massive loss of income and productivity over the last couple weeks as they scramble to adapt to draconian, inconsistent, and illogical policies.} and are working with the small number of affected merchants to come to a mutually agreeable solution that allows maximum freedom of expression, while protecting PayPal from the brand, regulatory and compliance risk associated with this type of content. {What risk? What regulation? Compliance with what? Laws and rules are typically written. So, show me.}

We hope that our customers enjoy the services and features that we work so hard to get right and understand that our policies are simply a way to conduct business in a fast-paced world.

We always welcome your feedback {Which is why you've censored all comments, eh? Yeah, that's welcoming. Hypocrite!} – but please know that we’ll continue to keep this policy in place as long as it protects our interests as a business.

–Anuj Nayar, Director of Communications, PayPal

Yes, it IS censorship!

It's just not government censorship. No, this is free market censorship. Y'know the free market? It's that handy capitalistic tool that conservative forces trot out as gospel when it suits their purposes. Yup. That's the one being stomped on with this PayPal bullshit. There is a substantial legal demand. There is a robust legal supply. PayPal and other payment processors are inserting themselves between supply and demand like some arbiter of morality.

Before I go any further, I would like to tell those who glibly advise "Just use a different payment processor." that I've spent the last two weeks attempting to find one. Sure, they exist. They, too, are refusing to transact sales of transgressive/taboo erotica, even those who typically handle the extremes of the adult industry.

Ergo, this is bigger than PayPal. Next up the chain of control are the credit card companies and banks. That alone should scare the shit out of anyone who values liberty, and those who have responded with a shrug and a "So what?" are only fueling the oppression. (Rather easy to do if you're sitting on a pedestal looking down at the struggling masses, too.) If you think that oppression is going to stop with hardcore erotica that you, personally, may find offensive, then you are naive in the extreme. Add something meaningful to the dialog or shut the fuck up.

As Selena Kitt (who is far more influential than I when it comes to negotiating with both vendors and payment processors) notes in the comments on Joe Konrath's blog:
If you're honest with the processor about what you're selling, THERE ISN'T ONE.

That's right, there's no viable alternative. And I've not been sitting on my ass doing nothing, trust me.

I have had, literally, dozens of conversations with CC processors in the past two weeks and I have a colleague who has talked to at least that many herself and we have both run into the same thing from every single one – NO CC processor will allow anything related to incest, pseudo incest, bestiality or rape for titillation. Period. Including all those processors that normally take extreme adult material like CCBill and Verotel. (Those places that normally process "porn" payments...)

My recent foray into high risk and adult merchant processors (including those offshore - the ones that process the really, really, REALLY hardcore porn stuff) has proven even further that this is the CC processors and not just PP who is behind this, that this is a new mandate, and it's being enforced and will continue to be enforced across the board.

I was referred, through several channels, to a guy who could get an account for *anyone.* He told me personally that his company dealt with some of the most “fringe” and risky Internet businesses out there.

He turned my application in to his underwriter who came back with an immediate NO due to “illegal activity.”.
So, where does that leave us?  We are at a critical juncture. We either bend over and take it, or we fight back. I'm fighting back. I recommend you do so as well. Here's how:
  1. Use cash whenever possible. Credit card companies make money on every transaction they process. Each cash transaction chips away at their power.
  2. If cash is not an option, use checks or your bank's bill pay service instead of credit cards.
  3. Use your bank's EFT (electronic funds transfer) service for online transactions if a vendor offers it as an option. I realize most people prefer not to enter their banking info online, so I would recommend setting up a separate checking account just for this purpose. Then, if your information is ever compromised, it mitigates the potential damage.
  4. Move your accounts from for-profit banks to a credit union. Credit unions are member-owned and not for profit business with similar federally-insured protections as banks. (Sound like part of the #occupy movement? Uh huh. There's a good reason: the issues are related.)
Each of the above can be implemented without coming out of the "erotica closet" as either a writer or a reader. Further:
  1. Write to PayPal (and its parent company, eBay) to express your outrage/concern that it is filtering your selection of reading material. You're an adult. You can decide for yourself what you wish to read.
  2. Write to Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover and let them know that you do not approve of their interference. Suppression of the free market is not economically responsible behavior for any company, much less one in the financial services industry.
  3. Sign the online petition. (I don't put much stock in these, but it's sure as hell not going to hurt.)
  4. Use your blog, Facebook, and Twitter to spread the word. The more noise that is made, the more likely the issue will be subject of discussion in board rooms and shareholder meetings. Social media and our voting wallets are the most powerful tools in our possession.
Additional steps for authors:
  1. Let your readers know that their access to your work may be being filtered by vendors and payment processors, and give them information on how & where to voice their concerns about this oversight.
  2. Include an author's note in all of your books that contains (at minimum) a link to a page containing a complete list of your publications.
  3. Vendors need your books in order to... vend. You are as much their customer as are readers. You are the supply being demanded. Let vendors know that you expect them to go to bat for you, or you will opt to publish even your non-taboo work only with vendors who will and do fight for their authors.
  4. Do not attempt to publish your work with niche vendors unless your work fits that niche. It makes some Romance readers, writers, bloggers, and vendors behave in unseemly and hypocritical ways. It also takes the righteousness out of your indignation.
For more of my ranting on this subject, please check out my appearance as a guest on Eden Connor's blog.

peace & passion,

~ Alessia

Saturday, February 25, 2012

PayPal-Imposed Morality

Did you think I was just blowing hot air when I posted yesterday about Big Brother?  Over the last week, PayPal has bullied every vendor that uses its service to conduct business to remove books containing certain unsavory FICTIONAL erotic content from its catalog or have its account suspended.

Many (if not most) of these vendors rely heavily on PayPal for transaction processing. Account suspension would (at least temporarily) be akin to closing up shop. Revenue would plummet, at least until another payment processing system was implemented.

Since my post, Smashwords caved, and the latest is A1AdultEbooks, a niche bookstore for hardcore BDSM:


This is an urgent announcement to all authors and publishers who either currently have books on Fiction4All and A1AdultEbooks or who have done so in the past. If you have left us in the past this announcement will not specifically apply to you, but it will apply when and if you decide to publish with us again.

As some of you will be painfully aware, PayPal is clamping down on what content they will allow in the arena of erotic literature. Specifically they are clamping down on the areas of `underage`, `bestiality`, `rape` and `incest`.  The first 2 categories are not relevant to Fiction4All and A1AdultEbooks as we have never accepted such content. However, we do have some potential issues with the new PayPal definitions of `rape` and `incest`.

PayPal are clamping down on what is widely referred to as `pseudo-incest` - adult relationships between step-parent and non-blood related offspring.

They are also widening the definition of `rape` to include any non-consensual sexual activity. We have always had a policy banning `rape` when mentioned as such but we now have to consider the wider implications of the `non-consensual` definition being applied by PayPal.

Because of the changes being imposed by PayPal, Fiction4All has been forced to take the same decision as almost all major publishers - with immediate effect we will no longer publish or offer for sale books where the title, cover or synopsis suggests a book contains either incest or pseudo-incest relationships.

We have a bigger problem on some sites in that BDSM is a major theme in many of the stories we sell. It may be that if PayPal complain about those stories we will have to stop using PayPal on those sites for a while until we can resolve what PayPal and the card companies will and will not allow. That is a headache for the future.

For now, the definition of incest and pseudo-incest is more clear cut and one we can act to take control of. This is a pro-active measure to prevent PayPal removing their services from us, which would have a major impact on all sales.

We will be going through our list of titles over the next few days and removing from sale any title we consider is likely to breach the `incest` and `pseudo-incest` definitions now banned by PayPal and we will email you individually if we have to remove any title from sale. Such titles will then be `blocked` so they can not be returned to sale.

We will also be updating our publishing guidelines for authors and publishers to reflect this as soon as possible.

I have already discussed things with a few authors and I think some titles which look like they may fall into the banned categories, can be changed so that they are more accurately titled and described (if this can apply to your books then please let me know).

If all you write is erotica between consenting, non-related adults, or between husband and wife, then this does NOT affect you.

I`m sorry to have to write in this vein and add another layer of misery to a lot of people who have been experiencing the clampdown on their own, but as this already affects Amazon, Excessica, BookFinder, Apple, Sony, Barnes and Noble, and many others, I think it is only a matter of time before all ecommerce sites will be affected. As to the future - if you are an author, sadly I suggest you stick to what is known to be safe to sell!

Kind Regards
CEO Fiction4All (including A1AdultEbooks)

Now, eventually -- precisely because there is a market for the types of fiction being targeted -- the industry will adjust. Until then, authors who put food on their tables from the sales of such fiction are quite screwed. Those who "merely" want a venue for their artistic expression can offer their work via email or other means. Literotica is a popular host of free content that doesn't shy away from edgier work, and it has a huge audience. Yes, it mixes the pearls with the swine. Then again, some claim that indie publishing does the same.

Think this doesn't impact you as an author, a reader, a publisher, and/or a vendor because you don't deal in "that kind" of erotica? Take off your blinders.

peace & passion,

~ Alessia