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Formatting Your Manuscript
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Hard Business
From Greg Herren
Who Is Telling This Story?
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Sexy on the Page
With Shanna Germain
Plotting Erotic Fiction
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Description, Action & Dialogue
Fucking on Paper
Ten No-Nos of Erotic Fiction
Climactic Moments: First Draft
Critique Groups
Revising Your Erotic Story
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Just Submit Already
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Two Girls Kissing
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Verb Tense Confusion
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The Fundamentals of POV
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Erotica is Serious Work
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The Write Stuff
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The Time is Write
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2007 Smutters Lounge

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Get All Worked Up
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The G.O.P.
All Worked Up About Hate
Real Men


Pondering Porn
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Good Sex: A Physics Lesson
Meet Frankenstein
Thoughts on the Orgasm Gap
The Very Bloody Marys
The Doomsday Erection
Online Threesome Porn

Pondering Porn
with Ann Regentin


The Very Bloody Marys



I don't review books very often. In fact, it might be better to say that I don't review books at all, and the reason is that I'm very picky. I spent a few years reading them for money—yes, you can do that if you're in the right place at the right time—and as a result, nothing surprises me. I don't care what plot or character you throw at me, I've read it before somewhere else.

Murder mysteries are the worst because I used to read them obsessively, and good ones, too, like Rex Stout, Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. Unless the characters or setting really grab me, it usually takes three chapters to figure out who the killer is. A quick check to the end, and I'm done. I also don't much care for vampire stories, mostly because I don't find cold immortality particularly sexy. I prefer my heroes warm-blooded and human.

So what the heck was I doing reading a book called The Very Bloody Marys (Harrington Park Press; May 1, 2007), a gay vampire murder mystery? Even weirder, why couldn't I put it down?

Okay, I did put it down from time to time. I had to eat, shower, sleep, take care of my kid, that kind of thing, but for the most part, I read because in spite of covering two of my least favorite genres, it was a damned good book.

Our hero is Valentino, a smart-ass, marginally competent trainee in the shadowy world of vampire law enforcement, whose boss has gone missing.

This is a serious problem. San Francisco is now host to the Very Bloody Marys, a trio of scooter-riding vampires who consider the city to be their personal buffet, and it's Valentino's boss who's responsible for ridding the streets of these outlaws.

In the absence of his boss, they're Valentino's problem, and they're not Valentino's only problem. Other, very powerful, people are looking for Valentino's boss, and our hero spends his nights searching San Francisco's supernatural underworld with something ugly on his tail, hoping to deal with the Marys before he ends up dead, permanently this time. His boss was a force to be reckoned with. Anything that can take him out can make mincemeat of our hapless gayboy.

The beginning is a kind of slapstick noir that reminded me a bit of Peeper by Lauren Estelman, a comedic send-up of the classic, hard-boiled detective novel. The Very Bloody Marys, though, smartens up as Valentino does, without losing it's humor or edge.

There are other good things in here, too, like a nice view of the Castro at night and the kinds of underlying hard questions that can set a good book apart from a merely entertaining one, but I suspect you're not interested in that. I suspect you're waiting for me to get to the juicy part. What about the sex? Is the sex hot?

Well, the truth is, there isn't any sex in the book at all.

So why am I reviewing it?

Because of the author. The Very Bloody Marys was written by none other than the man who's been called the greatest living writer of erotica. Yes folks, M. Christian has emerged from the bedroom fully dressed, and he's looking pretty good.

I'm not surprised. Why should I be? After all, one of the things we all keep insisting is that good writing is good writing, period. M. Christian just put his rejection slip collection where his mouth is and wrote a book that proves it. There are no missing sex scenes here, nothing that indicates that he's doing anything other than what he normally does, which is write good stories.

In the hands of a good writer, sex is one tool out of many. It can move the plot along, provide new insights into the characters, and act as a turning point or a backdrop for other events. It can even distract the reader, like a stage magician's sleight of hand, or it can distract a character from something the reader can see clearly.

It also takes skill to write sex scenes well. A cruise through the sites where everything submitted is published can inspire belly laughs, or winces as well as arousal. Sex is so intimate and personal that when it jars, it jars especially hard. If you're going to write it, you have to make it good.

The skills involved in writing good sex come in handy when you're writing other things. Being able to give the reader the impression of having several things flying at them at once is useful whether you're writing orgies or three-against-one fight scenes. Being good at creating intense sensory impressions using relatively few words is also useful no matter what genre you're in.

If the good writing is good writing thing is a test, M. Christian passes as far as I'm concerned. It's one thing for a writer to jump from a non-explicit genre into the explicit, because it's assumed that smut is easier, but those of us who start out with the sexual are frequently assumed to be doing it because we're talentless hacks who have to add sex in order to sell books. M. Christian is one person at least who proves them wrong.

There is a second reason why I'm reviewing this book, and it has to do with writers who use multiple pseudonyms. There's a very old stigma attached to being prolific that has worn off so slowly but surely over the years that I can't remember why it was there in the first place, but I know a lot of writers used to hide the real volume of their output behind multiple pseudonyms.

The habit of switching names when switching genres lingers, and I personally find it frustrating. My delight at finding an entire treasure trove of hitherto undiscovered books written under an entirely different moniker has been spoiled by my annoyance at being unable to find them sooner.

But how the heck was I supposed to know? Readers may be ravenous, but we're not psychic. We can't possibly figure out that a favorite writer is playing around in another genre unless we're told, which means that we cannot buy those books. Changing names when changing genres can result in lost sales.

Think it doesn't matter if you write erotica? Think again! My bookshelves are overflowing, and only about 10% of it is erotica. The rest is a mix of non-fiction, literary fiction, fantasy and suspense, and this doesn't include my library check-out records. If I knew that one of my favorite erotica writers was writing something else, I'd read it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, given people's general paranoia, I may never know.

There are several examples of writers who have jumped genres, taking some readers with them, and the aforementioned Estleman is one. He writes both westerns and mysteries, plus dabbling in non-fiction with a collection of essays and a writer's manual. I haven't read his westerns because the genre doesn't appeal to me, but his mysteries are excellent and he has won enough awards in westerns so I feel I can recommend him there, too.

There are other such authors. Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels/Barbara Mertz splits her time between mysteries, romantic suspense and Egyptology. Nora Roberts also writes mysteries as J.D. Robb; Ruth Rendell doubles as Barbara Vine.

In short, genre jumping isn't unusual, and the old stigma surrounding being prolific is long gone. Readers tend to absorb themselves in the characters and worlds created by their favorite writers, and they can get so demanding that the writers can't keep up. Being prolific is more than just a good thing. Sometimes it's a matter of survival.

As far as the stigma surrounding erotica is concerned, it's possible to write under the same name in more than one genre without it being your real name. Madeleine L'Engle writes literary fiction, poetry, non-fiction and young adult novels, all under the same pseudonym, and although her desire for privacy isn't for quite the same reason, the principle remains the same. 

M. Christian is a pseudonym, too, and it's on his gay vampire detective story and his gay vampire sex stories, as well as his science fiction, gay, lesbian and straight erotica, and enough other work to have made that pseudonym easily recognized by those of us with certain tastes.

I'm glad, because I would never have heard of this book if it hadn't had "M. Christian" on it in big, black letters. As I said, it's not what I normally read for fun, but I enjoyed it tremendously and I think a lot of other people will, too, especially those who like M. Christian's erotica. His voice is clear and distinctive no matter what he's writing.

After all, we have to get out of bed sometime, not so much because sex gets boring but because there's a lot of other fun things to do. Following Valentino as he chases the Very Bloody Marys through the San Francisco night turned out to be one of them.

Ann Regentin
www.annregentin.com
July 2007


The Very Bloody Marys by M. Christian

(Harrington Park Press; May 1, 2007; ISBN-10: 1560235357)
Available at Amazon.com / Amazon UK


Ponder Porn with Ann Regentin in ERWA 2007 Archive.

______
© 2007 Ann Regentin. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

About the Author:  Who is Ann Regentin? Read her bio on the Erotica Readers & Writers Association.



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