Friday, 18 May 2018

FWA - Fun With Acronyms

I write a lot of fiction centred around female nudity, especially public nudity, nudism, and exhibitionism.  I'm certainly not the first to do that, and before I was a writer I was a reader. 

From the time when I first began reading this type of fiction (in the form of 'streaking' stories), and later also seeking out pictures and videos with the same themes, I have gotten to learn that there are a lot of acronyms used to describe what the scenario you are reading about or watching contains.  While they might be impenetrable to people who don't know this particular field/kink, they are very useful to those that do.

I recently contributed to a discussion on the Literotica forum about such acronyms and I thought I would expand here on some of the examples I gave and what, to me, I expect to find when reading a story with those tags.

CFNM (Clothed Female/Nude Male)
Probably the most fetish-y of the tags, this usually denotes a scenario in which a man is nude in front of a woman, and he is a submissive while she dominates and/or humiliates him.  She might mock his nudity or penis size, force him to perform the duties of a slave, exhibit him for other women, force him to masturbate in front of her or others, or masturbate him herself (usually not in a loving way!).  Of course, like all good BDSM the man is a willing participant in this, usually (as is the case with most non-consensual stories) being initially persuaded against his will before discovering that he likes it.

Less commonly, it can also mean a male exhibitionist exposing himself to a woman in a less power-dynamic based way (for example, a man agrees to model nude for a female artist friend, and through this sexy times ensue).

CMNF (Clothed Male/Nude Female)
This can also be BDSM-based; a female slave/pet who is naked for her clothed master is not uncommon.  Most people who write these type of scenarios have read at least one John Norman Gor book!  Usually an element of humiliation is involved but sometimes the nude/clothed balance is used just to denote who is subservient to who; lack of clothing 'lessens' the parts of the submissive's identity that are independent of the master.

However CMNF can also be more broadly applied, to scenarios where a woman is naked in the company of a clothed man for mutual pleasure or her own pleasure.  Stories where a man has a female partner who is an exhibitionist fit this category.

CMNM (Clothed Male/Nude Male)
Basically the gay version of CFNM.  Submissive male is naked as part of being dominated by one or more other men.  Usually the clothed male is dressed in a way that denotes extra power (suits and uniforms are common).

Less common, this can form the basis of gay first time/experimentation stories, although usually these quickly become NMNM!

CFNF (Clothed Female/Nude Female)
Can be lesbian dom/sub scenarios, even in a broad sense (strict college professor forces female student to strip for punishment, for example), but not exclusively.  Sometimes in CFNF scenarios the "dominant" character is the one naked, with their nudity denoting sexual confidence rather than submission/humiliation.

Best Friends With a Naked Girl is a CFNF story in which, for the most part, the nude female (Becky) calls the shots, and the clothed female (Lisa) allows Becky to assert her wants onto her.  Becky is constantly portrayed as the more confident of the two, and the one more in touch with her own sexuality.

ENF (Embarrassed Nude Female)
The classic 'caught naked' scenario.  Character finds themselves naked in front of other people when they don't want to be, and end up red-faced by being exposed.  Of these categories this is the one most used in mainstream fiction/cinema (think Daryl Hannah locked out of her house naked at the start of the movie Roxanne, or the "character X walks on on character Y in the shower" trope in many sitcoms).  In erotica, the character usually ends up aroused/excited by the experience (again, as is common in scenarios which begin in non-consensual experiences).

While ENF could begin with a character losing their clothes and instantly plunged from comfort to humiliation, another popular scenario is for a character to begin with consensual nudity (e.g. skinnydipping or nudism) which later progresses to them being seen naked in a way they did not want to be.

CNF (Confident Nude Female)
A less common term, but basically the opposite of ENF.  Here, the woman is naked in front of others because she wants to be, and she knows exactly what she is doing.  Often the excitement in the story comes from the juxtaposition between her confidence in her body and sexuality, and the reactions it causes in others.  Usually, these are stories about female exhibitionists, although "this is me in my natural state, deal with it" nudist characters are also common.

My favourite type of character to write.  Becky in Best Friends is your textbook CNF - she has no embarrassment about being seen naked, even if it causes embarrassment in others.

Can show up in mainstream stories; think Alexis Dziena walking around naked in front of a surprised Bill Murray in Broken Flowers

OON (Only One Naked)
A progression from CxNx stories where the character is naked around and in front of a whole bunch of people.  Their nudity is more greatly emphasised because they are outnumbered by people who aren't naked.  Can be humiliating (being seen naked by many people is worse than being seen naked by one) or exciting for them (if being seen naked by one person feels good, then the more the merrier!).

Nude in School/College type stories like DH Jonathan's The 'Volunteer' use the OON scenario (nobody else is walking around naked except Dani, and she is frequently in the company of a great many clothed people); in this instance, being the only naked person "others" the character and marks them as different as usually in these situations nudity is not socially acceptable.

Stories of nude life-modelling for art classes are also in this realm.

NIP (Nude In Public)
Fairly self explanatory.  Character is naked in a public place where nudity would not be the norm.  I tend to restrict this tag to stories where characters are nude in places where it is almost certain that other members of the public will see them (for example, the street, a college campus, a shopping mall, a subway station, a movie theatre, a public park...) - a hike nude in quiet woodland might technically be public, but the expectation of the reader of an NIP story is usually for greater exposure than this.

Character who is nude might be an ENF or a CNF, or start as one and end up as the other!

F2S (Forced to Streak)
I don't see this much any more, although it used to be more common as there was a web forum dedicated to such stories.  In them, a character is naked, usually in an innocent way (skinnydipping or being accidentally locked out of a house naked are common) and then discovers their clothing is missing, or destroyed.  They are therefore left with no choice but to run naked from a place in which their nudity is concealed, through a more public setting, until they reach safety (either home or their car, or some means of clothing themselves).

Of course, as with the other stories in which the character is naked against their will, they might well find as the story progresses that they actually find the risk and/or humiliation exciting.

F2S could also be confused/interpreted as Forced to Strip, which I suppose might be one reason it isn't used much (although such stories, in which a character is undressed, or made to undress, against their will, tend to be tagged as Forced Stripping in my experience).

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I'm sure these aren't the only acronyms in our world of erotica, and I'd love to hear new ones I've not encountered before, or your take on what you expect when you see those above.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

'Brave Nude World' is now available

My second novel, Brave Nude World, is now available to buy as an e-book from Amazon (for Kindle).

Brave Nude World tells the story of an alternate near-future United States in which public nudity has become legalised, and protected as a right by law.  In the years following this legalisation, the practise of going nude in public rather than wearing clothes starts to become more commonplace, and a new nudist movement begins to grow and become more visible, especially in urban areas.  However, society is still catching up with legislation, and people are still adjusting to the idea of naked people in their midst, with old taboos only gradually being eroded.

The novel is told from the point of view of Rachel, a 24-year-old designer living in a big (unnamed) US city.  Rachel has never felt inclined towards being a nudist before, but in the world of the novel, where she sees naked people on the subway, in the park, on the street and in the workplace, she becomes more fascinated by and drawn toward going nude in public and, in experimenting with this, finds herself exploring new sides to herself, including a hitherto undiscovered exhibitionist streak.

My attempt in writing this story is to bridge a gap between my interest in writing about nudism/naturism, and my interest in writing erotic fiction in which exhibitionism and public nakedness figures prominently.  The world of the novel is a "realistic" nudist utopia - there are no barriers preventing people from going about their lives naked save some remaining social taboos (which are explored in the text).  However the main narrative is as much about Rachel's self-discovery and evolving sexuality as it is about her finding a place in this new and more permissive society.

I've read many stories of alternate worlds to our own in which going nude in public is permitted (and in some cases even enforced) but none which consider the gradual social changes that would need to accompany any legal changes before nudists could freely walk the streets unclad without a care.  Brave Nude World is my attempt to show a society in stages of transition, as it approaches the clothing-optional utopia imagined by some naturists, without being quite there just yet.

I hope the novel will be appreciated by naturist readers who will enjoy the premise and aren't uncomfortable with sex and sexuality (and who can understand and appreciate the discussions the central characters have about sexuality in a clothing-optional society) as well as my core audience who just like reading about girls going about in public with no clothes on.

You can get Brave Nude World here:
Amazon

Friday, 6 April 2018

"She breasted boobily" - when men write women badly

It's been a good few days if you like seeing social media moments in which some women draw attention to and make fun of something crappy that some men do, and then some men become enraged and treat this as the collapse of a free and just society into a fallen, brutal police state where being white and male is the greatest of all punishable crimes.

So, much like any other week, really.  Except that this time it's involved writers and so I've enjoyed it a lot more.

It's not a new thing to acknowledge that some male writers struggle, having of course never experienced real life as a woman, to write fictional female characters who seem authentic.  Maybe it's also a problem when women write men, although I can't say as I have personally noticed. 

What the Twitter discussions I have seen this week have sought to draw attention to is that more than a few men write women, even in first person narrative, as if they are being perceived by men; what gets called the male gaze. They proffer, before we learn anything else about them, a description that emphasises their physical attractiveness - in particular, the attributes that heterosexual men might find most appealing about them. In fact, sometimes that is all we learn about them.

And of course it's really important that we know their breast size and what their boobs are doing at that moment.

Now, plenty of good male writers don't do this.  But I've certainly read some examples that made me cringe and I'm sure these and others ring all the more inauthentic for the women reading them than they do for me. This is particularly true when the story is written first person with a female narrator - in other words, where the male author is trying to tell the story in a woman's voice.  This is where I imagine for many woman readers, as well as male readers who have at least met women, some stories can really lose their authenticity.

Where I have been thinking about this is how it relates to the genre I write in - erotica.

Erotic fiction is a genre often written by women, with the biggest selling names (EL James, Jilly Cooper, et. al) all ladies. But there are men writing erotica too, and where we do, we might well choose to write from a female point of view.  There are all sorts of reasons for that - sometimes, narratively, it just makes sense for the story we want to tell; other times it is a more commercial decision, an understanding that (in heterosexual erotica) male readers might be (needlessly) squicky about reading stories about other men, whereas both male and female readers might well enjoy a story about a woman.

Now, perhaps in some ways, it's hard to make all the same complaints when men write women in erotica. The majority of comments on Twitter about this aren't talking about erotica, after all; they're pointing out when this happens in more mainstream genres (especially literary fiction, young adult realism, and popular fields like science-fiction and fantasy).  In erotica, some of these tropes happen because they are supposed to.

For example, it is hard to see the problem with a female character seeming like a sexual fantasy of a woman in a story which is specifically about a sexual fantasy woman, and inviting the reader to picture the character in an arousing context is arguably actually necessary in a story which is supposed to provoke arousal.  The male gaze which contributes to the sexualisation of women's bodies in other media has less dominance in a medium where all bodies are sexualised by the very nature of the story being told.

But even erotic authors can fall into a trap of giving inauthentic voices to female characters and even in erotica this can be intrusive and spoil the reader's enjoyment of the story.

I say this not as a writer who believes himself to be capable of writing authentic women - I'm not on my high horse here, I'm down in the crowd with the rest of the peasantry.

(Looking back on my work it seems a mixed bag of successes and could-do-betters - I tend to avoid some of the worst and most obvious potholes of men-writing-women but as for whether the end result has any authenticity - especially given that my tendency is towards stories which can't help but objectify the women in them, because of the recurring exhibitionist themes - I cannot say).

As a male writer, I'd love to use this as a learning opportunity, to look at what women writers and readers are saying about men writing with female voices and be mindful of it in future writing.

Nobody is saying men shouldn't write female characters and female voices, or that books can't be sexy and titillating where it makes sense for them to be. You can still write about boobs.

But surely male and female readers can both enjoy better a story where the characters feel real, fleshed-out and rich in dimension, over one where all we really know of the narrator is that she has big breasts and looks good in a dress?

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Brave Nude World: A Preview

My next novel, Brave Nude World, is coming soon.

In the novel, public nudity is no longer a crime in the United States, and a new generation of nudists has begun to become visible in towns and cities around the country.  In this brave nude world we meet Rachel, a 24-year-old designer living in the big city.  Rachel has never considered nudism before but in a world where much more freedom is possible, she finds herself gradually and inexplicably drawn to the world of the nudists, and all the possibilities and problems it brings her.

Below is an extract from this forthcoming work.

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Summer, or at least the season’s earliest form, arrived in the city, and I began to take my lunch in the park.  I do the same every year – it’s pretty common for us office types to take an hour or so and catch some rays there, so it’s always fairly busy.  Some days I even wear a bikini under my work clothes, so I can work on my tan over lunch.  I’m not especially vain but I’m blonde and I think my skin looks better when I’ve caught a little sun.

Of course, this was the year of the nudie, and so for the first time I noticed that the sunbathing people in the park included some who had taken off all their clothes, and decided to sunbathe naked. It was probably only a half-dozen people – at the most, ten, although I didn’t sit and count them.  Some were in pairs or in a group together, some were solo.  Just laying or sitting on the grass, chilling out, minding their own business – men and women.  But all of them nude.

It was the most naked people I had seen in one place, but for some reason it was also the least surprising.  It made sense that if you were going to go nude in public, you would do it on a fine sunny day, in the middle of a green space like the park, to work on your tan.  The girls in the subway station or guys like Chris and Martin didn’t really make sense to me, but the people tanning in the park somehow did.

That’s probably one reason why, after not many more visits, I decided to join them.
I’d been to the park a few lunchtimes that week, and had been doing my usual trick of going to work in a sundress and bikini, and whipping the dress off for half an hour to tan, read and eat lunch before getting back to the office.  But that day, call it fate if you like, I’d accidentally dressed hurriedly, and had worn regular underwear rather than a bathing suit beneath my dress. No big deal though, I thought when I realised my mistake, I didn’t need to sunbathe every day.

But lunchtime came around, and as I headed to the park I noticed how it was particularly hot and sunny today, and it began to seem like a real shame that I wasn’t going to feel the sun on as much of my skin.  Then I reached a suitable spot, and my eyes spied nearby two blonde women, about my age or maybe a couple of years older, who as I watched removed all their clothing and lay down, naked, on the grass to tan.

I wondered to myself.  Dare I do it?

I knew the law was on my side. But here, in the park, it also seemed like culture was on my side.  While the vast majority of people visiting the park were clothed or (like I had planned to be) wearing swimwear, the two women weren’t the only nudies visible.  It felt, to me, like a place where to be naked would be considered not just legal, but within the limits of what was socially acceptable.  I decided, with a little smile to myself, to give it a try.

I’m not a prude about my body.  Get me in the bedroom with a good looking guy and I will fling myself around in sexy underwear or nude with complete abandon.  I’m never self-conscious in the women’s locker room and, hey, I live alone so sometimes I walk around naked in my apartment.  Who doesn’t do that?  But those were all one thing – taking my clothes off in a completely public place in the middle of the city is another thing entirely for me, and I felt flutters of nerves at my decision.

Not so much, though, to put me off doing it.  I decided to move nearer to where the other two nude women were – safety in numbers and all that.  I didn’t want to get too close, though, in case they thought I was coming on to them or something.

Satisfied that I was in a suitable spot – nearer to the nude women, farther from everyone else – I took a deep breath and pulled my dress off over my head.  I paused for a moment, looking round.  Then I reached behind my back, unhooked my bra and wiggled out of it.  Finally, I slipped my panties off and laid my clothes down on the grass.  I rolled over onto my stomach, using my dress as a blanket between the grass and my skin.

I looked around me, cautiously.  Absolutely nothing had changed.  No people were coming to attack me, or arrest me, or perv over me.  Nobody was really even looking in my specific direction.  They were all just busy engaging with their own lives, absorbed in their own worlds.

I was completely naked, in a park in the middle of the city, in sight of who knows how many people – and everything was fine.

I lay down and enjoyed basking in the sun for a while, feeling the warmth on my bare butt, before rolling over again on to my back.  I put my arms up behind my head.  I was totally exposed now.  I looked down the length of my body – the peaks of my breasts, nipples pointed at the sky.  My ribs, the flat curve of my stomach, dented with the well of my belly button, then leading down, a tiny, barely-visible trail of silky hairs connecting with the fine, patch of curly light brown hair on my mound.  I don’t shave my pubic hair but it grows fine and neat so it looks as though I spend a lot more time on personal grooming than I actually do.

The notion that I was nude in public was somewhat exhilarating.  I thought back to my only real previous experiences with nude sunbathing; specifically the first time I tried it – as a teenager, in the back yard of my parents’ house while everyone was out.  Then, I jumped and reached for my bikini at every noise, imagining mom, dad, my brother, the whole high school football team and the marching band about to come streaming through the gate and catch me tanning in my birthday suit to try and eradicate my white marks.  It had been such an anxious experience that I had not dared to repeat it more than a handful of times in my life, and when I moved to the city a series of apartments had meant I no longer had any sort of yard in which to tan.  The parks had become my yard instead, but I had never dreamed I would one day sunbathe not just fully nude in these public places, but with a confidence I’d never had at fifteen or so.  Who could ever have expected that?

After a while I realised that the other two women, whose examples I had followed, had slipped their outfits back on and left.  I alone in this area of the park was nude.  Yet I didn’t feel uncomfortable or worried.  I was no different to any other sunbather, other than that I had not even a bikini covering myself – but my experience had taught me that this was a safe place to lie almost-nude in the sun, why not fully nude?  Public nudity was allowed now, and it was only the social contract we observe – and my own sense of modesty – that discouraged it in me.  But here, with no friends, family or colleagues, only strangers minding their own business – here nakedness seemed a reasonable state to be in.

My lunchbreak over, I reached for my clothing.  I experienced a peculiar sense of disappointment as I dressed.

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Keep an eye on my Amazon author and Goodreads author page to see Brave Nude World when it is published.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Forced Nudity in The "Volunteer" and the Tami Smither series

It's probably become apparent now, but a central theme of my writing is scenarios in which a person (usually a young woman) is without clothing in a place where their nudity is the exception, rather than the norm.  Whether it's Becky in Best Friends With a Naked Girl streaking around the library at Lisa's university, or Rachel in my forthcoming novel Brave Nude World riding the subway naked, I seem to have a real weakness for putting naked people up against clothed people, often in public places.

In the majority of my stories, the people are naked because they want to be, because it's fun and enjoyable for them.  But imagine you weren't naked in public through your own choice but because you were somehow required to be - and for a very long time!  In other words, forced public nudity.

The concept of forcing a character to go naked in public concept relates broadly to the BDSM side of  the public nudity theme in erotic fiction.  To make a character be naked in front of other people is often to make them vulnerable, embarrassed, humiliated.  It's therefore the perfect action for a dominant character to do to a submissive one.  Much of this type of fiction is written in that mould.  A character does something they shouldn't, and is forced therefore to submit to the whim of an authority figure who, out of their own sadism, decides that the character should be forced to be naked in public.  It might be a mean boss making a secretary strip while at work to keep her job after a bad mistake, or a pervy college professor forcing a co-ed to attend class naked after they are caught cheating on a test. But the point is the humiliation and degradation of the naked submissive, who is robbed of free will and subjected to embarrassing exposure to teach them a lesson.

I was thinking about this concept in relation to what is one of my favourite public-nudity themed stories; The "Volunteer" by D H Jonathan.

On the surface, The "Volunteer" seems to be in keeping with that dom/sub, forced-public-nudity-as-humiliation power dynamic.  Pretty college student Dani screws up and cheats to get ahead, and is caught out by an influential sociology professor, Dr Slater.  Dr Slater uses the information about Dani's transgression to essentially blackmail her into taking part in a unique sociological experiment - she will test her fellow students attitude to nudity by attending class, social events and anything else on campus completely naked for the remainder of the semester - and pretend it is all her own idea.  The effect of her behaviour on others will be observed via a microphone and earpiece.  At the end of it, she'll not only have avoided academic punishment for her crime, she'll also be rewarded, enabling her to graduate debt-free and with the highest faculty recommendations to carry her to her future career.

It would seem, then, that we're about to have a classic dom/sub relationship between the professor and the student.  Dr Slater will force Dani to be naked, Dani will hate it, and the Doc will get off on the subsequent humiliation and degradation of the pretty girl while all the while sternly forcing her to do her bidding.

Except that isn't the book at all.  In fact, rather than desiring Dani's humiliation, the sociologists genuinely believe in their research (for some very personal reasons for Dr Slater, we later learn) and don't view what Dani is doing as any sort of punishment at all.

The only reason they blackmail Dani into "volunteering" is because they have been unable to find a genuine volunteer to take part and carry the study to a viable conclusion.  Desperation (remember, the Doc has some particularly personal reasons for wanting her research to succeed) pushes them down this dubious path, not a desire to assert authority or sadistically punish pretty girls.  True, they behave unscrupulously at times, and are ultimately no heroes.  But their motives remain somewhat higher than simply desiring Dani's sexual humiliation.

In the key scenes where Dani is persuaded to take part, or continue her participation, she always has a choice - she isn't going to be stripped against her will.  She can accept the consequences of her actions in cheating, and take the academic punishment that might well mess up her future dreams.  Or, she can undertake participation in an experiment where she will be naked in public for two months, in front of all her friends, peers and teachers, without even being able to offer the excuse that she's taking part in an experiment - but which will be over after that and, coming out of the other side of it, she will have financial security and a strong chance of getting the future she has always wanted.

Dani agonises over this choice - after all, wouldn't you? - but in the end she agrees to volunteer.  It might not have been a great choice, but she starts the experiment with the view that going around campus naked is the lesser of two evils compared to owning up to her misconduct.

Of course that lasts about two minutes before she realises what she's let herself in for - but rather than assert their authority and force her to stay naked against her will, the sociologists are supportive and even kind, constantly monitoring her safety as well as gathering their data.  Their role in the narrative, like many of the supporting characters, is to enable Dani's nakedness to continue even at points where she finds it unbearable - so, for example, a lecherous teacher who tries to assault her is quickly found out and dismissed - and they do so by making it more possible for Dani to cope, rather than by simply asserting their authority and threatening her with expulsion.

I'm inclined to compare The "Volunteer" to an earlier "naked in college" story - the Tami Smithers series, which begins with The Unintentional Nudist.  In this series, a college freshman panics when she is caught streaking on campus - an activity for which she fears she will be expelled - and explains her nakedness by stating that she has taken a religious vow to never wear clothing again.

Of course, Tami is then forced to make good on this hasty declaration and begin attending classes and everything else in the nude, not because she wants to, but because if she doesn't, the administration will know she lied (and is using the religious aspect of her story to claim protection from punishment on the grounds that it would be discrimination).

Where Tami's story and The "Volunteer" differ (aside from the fact that D H Jonathan has obviously put a lot more thought into shoring up his premise than the author of The Reluctant Nudist did: both require suspension of disbelief but Tami's story demands several crane-loads of suspension) is that Tami is from the start at odds with the authority figures in her college.  They seem to know - or outright know - that her story is a pack of lies - but as long as she walks the walk, they can't question her talking the talk.  As long as she continues to go everywhere naked, they can't prove she has lied - after all, who would ever pretend to be a person whose religion obligated permanent nudity if they didn't have to?  As her nudism is some sort of protected religious activity, to avoid a potentially costly discrimination suit, they have to force a confession from Tami that she made up her "religious nudist" status to cover up campus misbehaviour.

So they endeavour to either catch her out, or make her experience of being nude on campus so horrible and sexually humiliating that she gives up and confesses her lie.  They take sadistic delight in placing this naked girl in scenarios deliberately intended to maximise her exposure and embarrassment (for example, forcing her to do work placements in customarily male-only environments, or act as a life model in a series of ever-more-explicit poses) while constantly monitoring her behaviour for any sign of inconsistency in her religious nudism.  Even when, in later stories she leaves campus to visit home or travel, Tami finds the fear that the administration are still monitoring her means that she has no choice but to continue to be naked everywhere she goes, on the off-chance that some spy for the college might see her if she put her clothes on.  And of course, the more she does it, the worse consequences she will face if she ever cracks and confesses - her crime escalating from 'streaking on campus one time' to 'spending four years walking around in public completely naked' - so the more incentive she has to keep going.

The contrasts and commonalities between the two stories show two approaches to writing a "forced nudity" narrative.  Both are stories of young female college students pretending to be some sort of devoted nudist by going everywhere in public.  Tami has to pretend to be undertaking a religious vow, and Dani has to pretend she's a body freedom activist so that the integrity of the social experiment remains uncorrupted.  Both stories have to construct their narrative in ways that mean the protagonists continue to be naked in public long past the point where a real life woman would have said "screw it, I'll take the punishment for my original crime" and put her clothes back on.  And both use a young college student's natural obedience to authority figures to make that happen.

In the Tami stories, the authority figures are there simply to make Tami be naked 24/7 - they force her to endure the endless parade of humiliations they dream up in the hope of breaking her spirit.  But in The "Volunteer", the authority characters are, for the most part, on Dani's side. They want her to be able to continue her public nakedness even though they know it is difficult for her, and their primary concern is with keeping her safe.  They may have selfish reasons for doing so - they want their experiment to succeed - but from that selfishness comes a supportive factor that leaves Dani much less alone in her endeavour than Tami is.

It's one of the things that makes The "Volunteer" the better story, in my opinion.  In Tami's tale, humiliation upon humiliation is piled upon her while all the time she longs tearfully to be able to clothe herself and end this trial by endurance; as a reader, we start to become weary of her persistence.  Just take the punishment, you find yourself exclaiming as Tami once again laments her naked life and stares with longing at some clothes in a shop window.  No matter how much her college education means to her, her endless suffering seems somehow a disproportionate endurance.

But The "Volunteer" isn't about Dani enduring suffering.  It does a much more successful job of making her an agent in her own continued nakedness, as she gradually adjusts to each new experience and finds that, actually, this is something she can manage to pull off.  Of course, then events begin to escalate beyond the wildest imaginings of the sociologists - and beyond Dani's control - but by then she is in too deep and, again, manages to not just endure but adjust to and even enjoy her experiences.  The ending (which I will try not to spoil) leaves you in no doubt that Dani's experience of public nakedness has been a defining and ultimately positive one, no matter how difficult it was along the way.

Tami Smithers never gets a definitive conclusion.  Her stories are written by a multitude of individuals whose intent is to give the reader as much time to play in her universe as possible; and here status quo is the enemy, as instead of evolving and growing as a person, Tami starts and ends each new story the same utterly humiliated young woman, ever the victim of determinedly sadistic authority.  The stories about her aren't bad, although the original is kind of flat some of the later ones are written well and enjoyable to read up to a point, but I much prefer The "Volunteer" for Dani's spirit and agency than I do Tami's gritted-teeth endurance of her various authors' whims.

Read for yourself 
The "Volunteer" by D H Jonathan can be bought as an e-book or paperback from Amazon.
The Tami Smithers stories have various authors and can be found all over the internet.  The original story, The Unintentional Nudist, can be read here.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Covered Up

Don't judge a book by it's cover, they say.  Unless it's actually a real book and not a metaphorical one, in which case the cover is actually quite important.

My debut novel, Best Friends With a Naked Girl, has a brand new cover, courtesy of a wonderful illustrator (Danielle aka CYNVII) whom I commissioned to draw it.

The process of working with someone else to create a book cover was a new one to me.  My writing has always been a solo venture: from the days when I first joined Literotica, to putting my book up for sale, I never talked about my work with anyone else. 

Funnily enough, as I was contemplating this post, I read about fantasy author Terry Goodkind, his dissatisfaction with the cover of his latest book as arranged by his publisher, and the fallout over his very public and pointed criticism of the cover, which unsurprisingly came across a lot like a mean-spirited attack on the illustrator, who was only following the brief given to them by the publisher.

Luckily, as a self-published author, I never had a publisher; my communication was direct with the illustrator.  They were not someone from the world of erotic fiction and, as far as I know (I've never asked, but one assumes...) had no interest in the specific themes of my writing which are, let's face it, pretty niche even in erotica.  But, they did illustration for money, were fine with doing somewhat NSFW art, and most importantly to me, had a style that I really liked.

That was the reason that, when I published Best Friends... back in January, it had a quite different cover.  I'd always wanted the book to have an illustrated cover. I'm a huge fan of Terry Moore's Strangers in Paradise comic series, (which definitely inspired me to write stories about women with complicated, non-heteronormative love lives despite being a straight Cis male).  I was in love with Moore's art style and the simple character-showcasing covers of the collected editions I own, and wanted something similar for my own work.

I also wanted something that would mark my book out as something a little different in the world of erotica.  A lot of erotic novels have covers that are quite similar (not quite this bad but definitely following a theme), using photographs of ladies in sexy lingerie or shirtless, handsome hunks, for a generic "this book has sex in it" message.  There's nothing wrong with those sorts of covers, they are kind of a classic, and many self-published authors have only limited options to create their book covers - not everyone wants to pay a graphic designer, after all, especially for a book that might only sell 100-200 copies across its entire lifetime.

But the sexy lingerie girl didn't, in my head, fit with what I wanted to suggest my book was about.  Sure, there is a buttload of nudity, masturbation, and sex both straight and lesbian.  But it's also supposed to be a cute, funny and ultimately romantic story about two chalk-and-cheese girls who find common ground and, maybe love.  I wanted my characters, having a good time, front and centre and the only way I could imagine achieving that was to draw them.

Only problem was, as an author who had never self-published a book before, I didn't have the first clue about creating a cover.  I tried my hand at doing my own (I'm not a terrible artist, I did a few album covers and t-shirts for bands back in the day) but I didn't have the necessary skill or software.  I tried approaching artists I admired who already drew work with erotic or nudist themes: all of these had their own projects which they were passionately committed to, and did not want to take on commission work.

I was very keen to publish, though, so I ended up knocking up a cover using Amazon's own app that it offers as part of the Kindle Direct Publishing service.  It did the job - fortunately I'd been able to find a photo that conveyed some of the spirit of fun I saw in my work - but it wasn't what I really wanted. 

Plus, it was a little too NSFW for the e-book retailers.  A downside to writing erotica is that if you make everything sound or look too sexy, the people who sell it will get cold feet - but if you make it completely sexless, nobody will take an interest.

Now, admittedly my image choice (a clothed blonde grabbing a naked brunette's breasts from behind) was a little across the line, but I hoped that, because there weren't any visible nipples or genitals, I'd be able to get away with it.

Of course, I didn't.  Smashwords rejected me for premier status (meaning my book would only be sold through their website, it wouldn't be put out to other retailers like Barnes & Noble) and over on Amazon, while you could still buy my book, it wasn't going to turn up in most searches unless the person doing the searching had disabled the site's ever-present adult filter. Some (clumsy) editing later, Smashwords were happy, but I was left wondering why I was insisting on having such a risque cover, when it wasn't even the cover I really wanted in the first place.

So I went back to looking for illustrators, and through the art community DeviantArt I found Danielle.  They had done a commission a couple of years back that was very Strangers in Paradise and their more recent work had a really awesome mix of stylised cartooning and physical realism which I felt was perfect.

Fortunately, unlike Terry Goodkind I was in full control of what was being commissioned, I gave Danielle a very detailed description of what I wanted, including how I had pictured the characters - I even included a photo I had seen that showed the sort of pose I had in mind. Danielle sent me drafts for approval and I made any changes I asked for (which weren't many, mostly it was just Becky's skin tone) and the overall experience was very positive. 

And the result speaks for itself.  I'm really happy with it and while I know it won't be everybody's cup of tea (I'm sure there are some readers who preferred the old cover) it's definitely different to what's on the front of most of the erotic and nudist fiction I see on the book retail sites.

If there's anything I would take away from this process, it's that things run smoothly when you show respect to the artist that you are asking to do the work.  Danielle, contacted by a random chap who wanted them to illustrate a self-published erotic novel, could have told me to get stuffed (or, more likely, just deleted my email) - instead, they were happy to work with me; and I like to think that part of that was because I didn't come across like a terrible pervert in my contact with them (in spite of the fact that I am actually a terrible pervert).

Secondly, show respect but also, pay them.  Unless a person offers to work for free, don't expect them to.  I was clear from the start with my illustrator that I knew I was to be a paying customer, that I was interested in their work but also needed to know the cost of that work and, once it was confirmed this was something that was affordable to me, I was in agreement that I would pay, and pay on their schedule and terms.  If you enter into an agreement that an artist is going to produce work for you for money, give them the money you agreed (unless they don't deliver the work, of course).  There is an element of trust involved, and I'm sure some artists have let clients down, but far more what I hear is artists explaining how they have been told that they should work for free because they can get "experience" and "boost their profile", which should be better than any financial reward.

It's true some artists may choose to work gratis in return for the experience, in order to improve their skills or make a name for themselves with prospective future clients - but that is down to the artist to choose to do that, you can't act as though you have a right, as the person commissioning them, to expect they will give their time and energy for you and expect nothing in return except that some people might see their work and think of hiring them.  Once again, if they don't offer to work for free, don't ask them to.

I'm hoping Danielle will be able to illustrate the cover of future novels I will publish, but if they aren't able to, I will look for another illustrator and whoever I work with, I will remember those two things - treat them with respect, and pay them what you owe.

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Best Friends With a Naked Girl can be bought as an e-book from Amazon, Smashwords or Barnes & Noble.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Writing About Naked People

It's been two weeks since I first threw my debut erotic novel, Best Friends With A Naked Girl, out into the world of Amazon Kindle.

Sales have exceeded what I expected (in that I have sales - I fully anticipated that nobody would ever buy a softcore niche-fetish coming-of-age lesbian love story from a first-time author with no experience of selling or marketing a book), and I've been working where I can on raising the book's profile with potential readers using social media.

To that end I've spent rather too much time in the world of naturism on Twitter.

Why naturists - or as some would have it, nudists?  Well, I admit that the majority of naturists wouldn't consider reading an erotic lesbian coming-of-age story about exhibitionism (or at least, wouldn't admit to it!), but there are certain themes in my book that cross over a little with that particular world.  Becky identifies as a nudist as well as an exhibitionist, after all - and there's a strong philosophy about accepting nakedness, about being proud of who you are and about problematic societal attitudes to women who choose to not be covered up all the time.

So I've been seeking out particular Twitter figures who promote naturism and pro-nudity stuff to try and subtly make people aware of my work.

There's another reason for this; I'm a little more familiar with that world, having been involved in social nude recreation for several years now, having first become interested in it in my mid-20s.  Although I choose not to apply the term naturist to myself, I'm not averse to doing naturist things, in particular nude spas, beaches and social events.  I keep the writer side of myself away from these things (hence the pen name) because there are some in naturism who would not approve of the fact that someone who writes sexy stories about naked girls might also be taking part in a nude social event - while I feel both my writing and my nude recreation are compatible, I know others don't share that view.

But regardless, I've found myself suddenly putting my view across about nudity and nakedness, and naturism, on social media, rather than just focusing on my writing.  I do have certain opinions about these subjects; many of which I try to communicate in my fiction.  I try to give a sense of fun and enjoyment of nudity; try to depict social and casual nakedness as well as the sexual side of what is enjoyable about being nude; and try to present a very "body positive" viewpoint from my characters.

I use nudism in my work too because it's a useful short-hand explanation of why a character might have no compunction about taking off their clothes in front of friends or family or even a stranger.  It's an established trope, showing why a character might not have a taboo about nudity even when others around them do.

I also use nudism in my work because I enjoy writing characters, especially women, who have a certain amount of self-confidence.  If you're someone who routinely gets naked with or in front of other people, you are likely to be someone who has confidence in yourself, and that is the sort of person I like to put in my stories.

What I don't like to do is what some other authors of erotica do, which is to use nudism and nudists in an absurdly cartoonish way in their fiction; for example, writing a story about a "nudist camp" which is full of partner-swapping swingers, group orgies and even incest.

That's not interesting to me as a writer, it belongs to the past, to 1970s sex comedy films full of "naughty nudists".  I don't think it's very sex and I also find it very unrealistic.

What interests me more are modern day, 21st century attitudes to nakedness and nude recreation.  My characters are usually young people aged 18-30, they aren't really interested in the seaside-postcard, holiday-camp version of naturism.  They're more aware of things like Instagram body-positivity, the neo-hippy movement, and general changing attitudes to body shame that are happening across their generation.  How do these people explore their own identity within these type of ideas?  How do they explore their sexuality with them?

Sex and sexuality is often a taboo subject in naturism, for the simple reason that naturism seeks to break the instant linking of nudity and sex, arguing that mixed gender, cross-generational nude recreation is perfectly natural and not likely to produce any more sexual feelings than socialising clothed would.  That's not something I disagree with personally, and I can support that with my own experiences.

But I'm also writing about sex, a lot of sex.  The main narrative purpose of my books is to describe sex and relationships, and the main thing people are reading them for is the sex.  I hope they also enjoy the characters and the plot but, well, it is erotica, there's going to be some fucking in there and they're going to be disappointed if there isn't.

As it happens, I think the sex in my stories is fairly soft-core.  It's smutty, sure, and descriptive, but it tends to just be quite mainstream in terms of what the characters get up to.  Many excellent erotic writers take their wagon far down the roads of kinky, explicit, hardcore filth but I'm happy hanging out in the parking lot.

But is the association between characters being nude and identifying as nudists, and them being described having (relatively soft-core) sex something that means my work gives a version of nakedness which naturists would find objectionable?

I would hope that it would not, and that people with an interest in both the innocent, positive side of being naked, and the fun and sexy side, find something in my work they like.  Ultimately, I write what I want, but it's nice to think some people at least enjoy and appreciate it (and of course, buy the book!)

Best Friends With A Naked Girl can be read now on:
Amazon Kindle
Smashwords