Make money writing erotica. It’s harder work to create complex stories of art.

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People read books for many reasons. Lots of them just enjoy a good plot. Others get their groove on as they enjoy rich, unique characters, or people and places drawn with superb details.

Rock HardThen there are the books that tell stories with subject matter you don’t see elsewhere. There was a time when erotica like Olivia Cunning’s Sinners on Tour books could only be found in adult bookstores. (That’s why they call them bookstores, although many of them don’t sell any printed matter by now.)

But today we can buy books like the Sinners without even putting on pants, straight off Amazon. The covers really help. But the books’ novelty doesn’t lie in the characterizations, or the plots, or even the subject of erotica. Erotica’s everywhere now, like duckweed.

If this sentence — “Jessica’s confident smile faded as the grade on her final paper burned its ugly red image into her retina” — doesn’t yank you out of the Dream State of the Story — as John Gardner calls that hypnotic effect — then the Sinners series will give you exactly what you’re seeking.

There’s two reasons that Olivia was able to write six of these, plus two more in the One Night anthology series, in just four years. The first reason she does eight books in 48 months is that Olivia has great work habits. (If she was on an auto assembly line, she’d never back up the manufacture.) The other reason is that these aren’t complex books. There’s a rule of thumb that says the less time a book takes to write, the less complex (and rich) it reads. Compare Twilight to Harry Potter to see what I mean.

Good books do need sex and erotica. Sex is a part of who we are. Erotica books must have both sex and love; the rest is often just a setup for those elements. Pornography just needs the sex. That’s why the cover lines in this series promise that you’ll enjoy the love as much as the sex. If you’re reading these on Kindle, get the Kindle Unlimited membership. This Series is among the 600,000 titles in Kindle’s Netflix-of-Books club.

Unlimited is a poor deal for bestsellers, for books rich and with high art (Potter), or anything you can check out at your library. But it’s great for titles like these. I’m not sure how Olivia is compensated for getting checkouts from Amazon’s Unlimited library. But it might be better suited to the effort I can see to create a salacious series.

Do you enjoy a good erotica read? Do you enjoy it enough to try to write one?

Is it about the sexes, or sex?

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Every evening at the Writer’s Workshop group meetings we discuss a handout we call On Chair — because it’s left on the group members’ chairs as they arrive, or set down during the break for brownies. Last night I dropped off “Pry open your characters with sex,” revised with more detailed notes from the Small Spiral Notebook article by Steve Almond, “A 12-Step Program to Writing About Sex.”

It’s a ticklish subject. One group member asked, “Are we talking about the sex of a character, or characters having sex?” It was a fair question. We’re talking about characters interacting with sex, the character-driven scenes which are about relationships as much as they are about intimate moments.

The best book I’ve found on this subject is The Joy of Writing Sex by Elizabeth Benedict. In her acknowledgements she, well, gushes about the joy of the assignment, to write about writing about sex:

In addition to being paid to read sexy books and think for long periods about nothing but sex, another perk of writing this book is that I always have something to talk about at dinner parties that everyone wants to weigh in on, which is more than can be said about writing a novel. I am certain that I will never have it so good, conversation-wise, as I did while writing this book.

Benedict’s book is a recommended text for my upcoming “Writing About Sex” seminar at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, but I picked it up at Powell’s iconic bookstore in Portland, in the summer of 2003 when I studied at the Tin House Writer’s Workshop. Slim volume, worth owning — especially for the sly looks it can draw at the coffeehouse while you read it. Everybody’s interested in the subject. That’s why the writing about sex is so essential to knowing your story through the hearts of your characters.