Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday - What the Fuck, It's Only a Buck

In my attempts to get back in touch with the American normal-person zeitgeist, here's a special Black Friday offer for you, so you can stay home and not get stabbed or trampled.

This latest edit of TO TRAVEL HOPELESSLY has a couple of new chapters in the section about Bangkok -- I always thought the book was a bit brief about that very eventful part of my life. (The new chapters are based on blog posts / old journal entries I made here, by the way, so it's not entirely new material or anything.) Also hopefully weeded out the last few typos, and given it better and clearer formatting including a hyper-linked table of contents and well organized front- and back-matter.

Here's a coupon to get it here at SMASHWORDS in the e-book format of your choice for 99 cents. Coupon Code: YK46M

And this latest "director's cut" edit of VODKABERG has a new short section or two, plus a new line-edit (though I suspect a few stubborn typos are stuck in the cracks), a hyper-linked table of contents to each year, better-organized front- and back-matter, and links to "bonus material," specifically the Return to Vodkaberg posts I made this year.

Get it here at SMASHWORDS in the e-book format of your choice for $1.00. Coupon Code: EM73V

Why was I spending time doing that, when I should be working on my next memoir? Well, I had to get that voice back in my head again, right. And refresh my mind on the contrast between the young X and the middle-aged X, because both of them are going to be in the next book.

Oh and another bonus track: don't forget that HOW TO SURVIVE LIVING ABROAD is still free on Amazon and also free on Smashwords, new edition with contributions from well-known bloggers and average anonymous shmoes alike.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Doin' Dubai with Crazy Bob

"Hey X! Come check out my Chinese whore!" shouted Crazy Bob from the hallway. It was about 4:30 am.

I was dozing drunkenly on the sofa of his expensive apartment overlooking Dubai Marina. Bob had been working in the Emirates since the previous October, and had gotten the nice apartment at Dubai Marina in hopes of bringing his Russian wife and daughter there, but his wife had eventually declined to move there, describing Dubai as "hot and uncivilized." Bob had been unable to get any job in America except for day labor, however, so he was sticking with the Emirates.

Would you pay $2000 a month for this view? Sure why not.


I'd arrived that evening, October 31st, and we'd celebrated Halloween in relatively good style at the Barrasti beach bar at the Raddison. There were plenty of costumes and Halloween cheer, only perhaps hampered by the 80% - 20% male / female ratio. (And the $10 beers, maybe, but we're men of the world with decent salaries now.)

Bob had been a little pissed that an Indian girl he'd been banging had blown him off for the evening, instead running off with a tall Dutch guy. "Crazy slut," he said. I was returning with the beers I'd waited in line for ten minutes with and had missed all the drama. "She's drunk all the time. Her friend just tried to tell me that she was out of town for the weekend but then I saw her with that big tall fucker."

"She sounds like your soul-mate," I said.

"I can't be polite or faithful when I'm drunk, either, that's one thing we have in common."

We drank and hung out. The bar sprawls out of a couple of levels onto a beach with a number of tables and a stage, with interesting view of all the Blade Runner style buildings towering overhead.

When Crazy Bob gets drunk, he usually can't control his urges and begins groping the asses or breasts of random women. This kind of maneuver might get you some anger from an Eastern European girl, but will tend to drive a British girl, of whom there were many in the bar, into complete hysterics, and indeed that happened, when Bob ran his hand up the leg (right to the crotch) of a British girl in a sexy nurse's outfit standing near our table. (The girl herself was not particularly sexy, I should add.)

Amazingly we didn't get our asses kicked; the security guards only asked him to move to a different table.

"British girls, god I fucking hate them," he bemoaned. "They come over here and think they're princesses. The Emirati guys will fuck anything, and they buy them tons of shit. And the Emiratis don't work so they don't have anything to do but lift weights and exercise all day."

"It seems to be mostly British engineers in here," I said.

"Yeah, they'll fuck anything, also."

"They're not discriminating like you," I say.

He mentions that good-lucking Persian girls we'd met a few weeks previously, on another visit. "That girl had the plumpest, silkiest pussy I've experienced lately."

"Silkiest ..."

"Kind of really like, slick and smooth, you know?"

"As opposed to full of gravel, like usually?"

"No, you know, really like moist and ... plump, that word comes back to me. It really like forms around you, you know?"

"Actually I think I do know what you're talking about. Real smooth and silky on the inside, I think I do know what you're talking about. Why don't you call those girls tonight?"

"Jesus Christ, you don't want that. We don't want to spend that much money." He mentions that he'd taken one of them to a nearby bar and spent over 1000 dirhams (about $266) on her, just a few drinks and some smoked salmon appetizers.

"Well that says more about the bar, maybe, not the girl. You can't just invite them over for tequila shots?"

"Jesus no. They're used to being driven around in Ferraris and shit. It's really disgusting. Completely the opposite of Russia."

"Yeah, for our sins, I guess. That's why I wanted to come here. Cleanse myself."

Crazy Bob is ten years younger than I am. "I certainly don't feel cleansed. I'm drinking maybe a bit more than I did in Russia actually. You know, you get a lot of middle-aged British women coming over here for sex tourism now."


"Oh yeah. Most of the teachers I work with are middle-aged women. And take a look at all those would-be cougars over by the bar there."

"Mmm, indeed. Now that you mention it, one of the guys I work with was telling me about working as a TEFL teacher in London, and all the men working there were involved in acrimonious divorces with their Eastern European wives, and all the women there were involved in acrimonious divorces with their Middle Eastern husbands."


When they finally kicked everybody out of the bar at 3:00 am, Bob said he wanted a whore.

"Come on, there's a parking lot near here."

"Where the whores are?"

"Not exactly," he said. We charged over to a nearby parking lot and he began scouring the ground. "See, the escort agencies put these little business card things under people's windshields, and then they throw them on the ground ... ah! Here are a few. Koreans, that's what I want, but they always have Chinese and try to pass them off as Korean."

"Is there some big difference between a Korean and a Chinese?" I ask. "I've never noticed that much difference. I mean, I've had sex with a number of women and the vagina always runs in a vertical direction. Find me a horizontal one, that might interest me."

He showed me a few business cards with pictures of sexy Asian nymphs and phone numbers offering "in home massage service."

"Don't you have any of these cards at home?" I asked.

"No, because I get disgusted with myself and throw them away."

"Doesn't that mean you'll probably regret this?"

"Yeah, of course," he says. "Let me use your phone, I don't have any time left on mine."

So at 4:30 am the whore rang the door bell.  She seemed to be okay looking, and I squinted at her, trying to focus my blurred middle-aged myopic eyes. I knew you'd need to check out her stomach and ass though, to get a real idea about her, but they were hidden by her tight clothes.

"I asked for a Korean but I'll bet you anything she's Chinese," said Bob, standing there in his boxers. the girl doesn't comment. I'm wearing cargo shorts and black socks, so we probably looked like (yet another) bad orgy in the making.

I took a glass of salty Dubai tap water. The stuff on Bob's kitchen counter tells a number of stories: broad-spectrum antibiotics, a tub of protein powder, vitamins, a coffee mug imprinted with a picture of Bob's daughter, now nearly 2 years old.

"You're just going to sleep?" asks the Chinese hooker.

"Yeah, I'm just going to sleep. I'm an old man and I need my rest," I say.

I climb back onto the sofa, cover my face with a t-shirt, and immediately go back to sleep.


I'm awakened by Crazy Bob asking: "Hey X, you want a beer?"

I check my watch; it's 9:30 am.

"I couldn't sleep," he says. He cracks a beer for both of us and I take a grateful swig, rubbing the sleep muck out of my eyes. The pervasive and purifying Middle Eastern November sun is streaming into the room.

"How was your Chinese whore?"

"Oh man, not worth it at all. Why didn't you stop me?"

"You wouldn't have listened. How much?"

"She charged 350 dirhams (about $95) but of course she didn't have change so she just took 400. Barebacked her too, in the end. The condom fell off, and I didn't bother to put it back on. I hope I don't get the clap again."

Bob is well known for his refusal to wear condoms. "Even here, you get it? I thought they had to pass medical tests to get in the country, it would be safer here."

"Jesus, no, I got something so virulent all the skin on my leg and hands turned red, just a few hours after banging some whore. There's all kinds of awful STDs around here."

"Well, you can be comforted that Vietnamese Black Rose Syphilis is just an urban myth. Your cock isn't going to turn black and burst open like a flower of rotten flesh. That's just a myth."

"The people at the clinic are starting to know my name," he said.

"Like back in Vodkaberg."

"That doctor at the clinic in Vodkaberg really got mad at me the fifth or sixth time I went in there." He stands up and imitates the middle-aged female doctor. "Presevatif nada, panyatna?"

"Did the hooker look okay when you got her unwrapped?"

He makes a face. "Not particularly. She had a gunt."

"Stretch marks?"


"Well at least you can hope the money goes to a good cause; her kid back in China."

"The money could have been going to my kid back in Russia, which is a better cause."

We discuss money a bit; he says that he sends half his salary to them every month, but other than that manages to not only blow all of it but also rack up some credit card debt every month.

His apartment is pretty bare; Bob lives without media. He has no TV and no internet connection at home. He checks the internet at work occasionally, he says, though it's heavily blocked, and sometimes goes up on the roof where he can pick up an unprotected wifi signal. "But there are some security guards up there so I can't watch porn or anything."

We discuss the TED talk about how porn destroys the amygdala. "For most people," I say, "that's a bad thing but I think you might actually need your amygdala destroyed a bit."

"You know, actually," he says, "when I want to jerk off I often go to the beach and do it in the water."


"Yeah man, it's awesome. Find some girl I like in a bikini and swim around somewhere I can get a clear view of her and let one go. It never takes long, and nobody can see what I'm doing."

"That's pretty crazy even by Crazy Bob standards."

"Haven't you ever jacked off outside anywhere? It's great, I really feel like I'm sort of ... one with nature."

"I mean, I guess I have on camping trips. Oh, and driving. I used to have to drive five hours to see my dad a lot, and I'd do it while I was driving sometimes."

He thought that was pretty funny, and said he'd never done that.


We bitch about our jobs a little bit; I'd been trying to get on with the outfit he works for last year, but my mother being diagnosed with cervical cancer had made me unable to start when they'd needed me in January.

I mention that the woman -- managing director of the English program -- I'd been corresponding with about the position had been surprisingly snippy when I'd told her about my mother's illness, and he says that she was a well-known alcoholic who was now in a mental hospital.


"Yeah, complete breakdown at work, just started crying and couldn't stop."

"I know that feeling," I say and he laughs as we crack a couple more beers. "Anyway, they offered me the job in the Kingdom in January and I thought it would be a big step up professionally, but it's just another shitty TEFL job. At least they pay well."

"Yeah, my job really sucks but yours sounds worse."

"Yeah, at least you can have some semblance of a life," I say. "You know what I can do in the evening where I live?"

"Jack off?" he suggests.

"Yeah. I can't even go to the supermarket unless I know for sure when the prayer times are, otherwise I have to stand on the street for thirty minutes. I'm seriously thinking of quitting, by the way, and looking for a job here."

"The worst part of this one is just that they move us from Emirate to Emirate all the time, there's all kinds of political bullshit." He'd worked in Sharjah, Fujeirah, and now was back in Abu Dhabi. "That wouldn't be a problem except I have to change my registration address for the visa. I'm supposed to have a legal address in Abu Dhabi. I had to go get fake papers at a camp full of human-trafficked construction workers. You wouldn't believe what those guys pay to live in those places, by the way."

I think of the $600 a month I'm paying to live in an old trailer park down the road from the sewage-treatment center. "Yeah, I would."

"Anyway," he says. "Let's go get some breakfast."

We walk down to a trendy cafe full of tanned expats, expensive cars slowly prowling by on the street outside, and sit and eat our omelets and drink strong coffee and bemusedly watch the world go by.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Accidental Pornographer, Part Two: The Fall of the Pornographer


I guess it was about August 2012 when the first of my porno stories got blocked on Amazon.

I'd been churning out porn e-book stories steadily all spring and summer, and was at that point receiving monthly deposits of $1000 or more from Amazon, and quarterly deposits of $200 - $400 from Smashwords. (I think my best month total was about $1600) My girlfriend had been turned down for a student visa; that left us plotting a holiday for September and me stuck in America.

Sure, I saw my friends and family and ate barbecue and all that; but I also wrote porn.

I went to work, baby. I researched all the tags, jargon, and abbreviations popular porn authors used; I guerrilla marketed my shit in the Amazon Kindle erotica forums. I spent hours researching the best-selling "erotica" titles and then the various fetishes they portrayed. I read about and watched documentaries about sex slaves, BDSM, spanking, and other things still more vile.

And fapping incessantly, I must admit. Not masturbating while I wrote erotica seemed like cheating, somehow. If I didn't, how could the reader?


Then I got the first e-mail from Amazon, that went a little something like this:


We’re contacting you regarding the following book(s) that you submitted for sale in our Kindle Store: 


During our review process, we found that your book contains content that is in violation of our content guidelines. Our content guidelines apply to the book interior, as well as cover image, title and/or product descriptions. As a result, we will not be offering this book for sale. 

Our content guidelines are published on the Kindle Direct Publishing website. To learn more, please see: 

The "guidelines" for defining what is obscene or pornographic are hopelessly vague, on Amazon's website and on any level they've ever tried to be decided -- the best the Supreme Court managed to come up with was "offensive by local community standards" which could conceivably include anything from a rerun of THREE'S COMPANY to Japanese snuff porn.

So one of mine got blocked. I'll spare you the details, but it involved a woman being extorted for sex by a policeman, a rather popular sub-genre of the BDSM world.

I have a feeling that it basically worked like this: Amazon would sell anything, as long as it didn't involve the depiction of minors in sex acts. BUT. There is a button on each book's page that allows interested readers to "report inappropriate content."

I think that if Amazon got any reports of inappropriate content, they'd block you. "Offensive by community standards"? Check.

But then I discovered -- if you got blocked, you could just re-upload the thing again, with a different ISBN or ASIN number, and it usually got through just fine. Even the reviews would be intact when it went back up. So all my stuff stayed up, and the money continued to roll in.


So I went to Cyprus with the Girlfriend in September, then to Costa Rica. Girlfriend knew I was making money from "erotica" stories, and didn't have any particular problem with it -- but when I invited her to  move to Cyprus (or somewhere else) with me, and live off e-book proceeds, she didn't think that sounded too good at all.

Gosh, can't imagine why! "Okay, honey, you give up your steady office job and we'll move to Cyprus and I'll write porn and you can be a baby-sitter or something. Every girl's dream, right?"

I was back in America for Christmas, and then my mother had a hysterectomy, and I was stuck in America for January. Girlfriend got a new job at a bank back in Vodkaberg.


Amazon greeted the new year by removing its tag system.

The tag system was a feature by which readers (and authors) could affix tag words to the description of their books, allowing people to search for books that way; erotica readers used these quite often to find books related to their (often very specific) fetishes. Or combination of fetishes.

Authors had been abusing tags in various ways, such as tagging their books with the names of better known or even totally unrelated authors, just to get their books to show up in more searches; this was a problem for unsuspecting readers because a guy might be searching for a book for his kids about camping and click the "young adult" and "camping" tags and get a story about some barely-legal summer camp orgy.

Offensive by community standards indeed!

So Amazon removed the whole tag system.

My erotica sales almost immediately plummeted. (ETX sales were affected, but less so.)

At the same time, two of my best-selling erotica books  were blocked; I got them put back up, but Amazon (and Google too) had both changed their search algorhythms so porn results didn't show up so much, and they'd been knocked out of the high-ranking spots they'd occupied.

Erotica sales continued to fall on Amazon, so I spent a lot of time in January posting all my naughty stories up on Kobo and Barnes and Noble, and maximizing interior linkage and all that boring shit.  (January wasn't much fun.)

But by then I already had a job interview for a very high-paying position in The Kingdom in March; I was fairly sure I'd be offered it. I took off to the Dominican Republic for February and didn't worry too much about erotica.

Sales continued to fall on Amazon, but they started going up quickly on Kobo and Barnes and Noble.  I went to Russia and Greece in April and May of this year; by that point my $1000 a month or more in sales was back down to about $500 a month in sales, but I had hopes I could get it back up there if I wrote a few more porn stories and another couple of English Teacher X books.

In July, I came back to the Kingdom where I have, if nothing else, plenty of time to write. I finished GRAMMAR SLAMMER (which I'd long neglected mainly due to messing around with erotica) and made plans to pep up my porn empire by rebranding some of the more extreme ones as horror / thrillers ... and then ...


And then on October 13, 2013, this article about smutty e-books that 'glorify sexual violence' was in the Telegraph.

The response of online booksellers was dramatic; they folded up like origami. Most of my Amazon erotica titles were blocked; all of my titles (including the ETX titles!) were blocked from Kobo; Barnes and Nobles blocked about half of my erotica titles. (Smashwords continues to provide sleazy fetish smut a loving home, though.)

So did my books deserve to be banned? Well. If you're not going to ban 50 SHADES OF GREY or the also best-selling CAPTIVE IN THE DARK, a dark tale of sexual slavery,  my books weren't more graphic or offensive than either of those.

(My best one, a series of stories that I later turned into a novel, had more thematic similarities to THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO.)

So that's probably pretty much the end of my porn empire. I made some minor changes and got most of the Amazon titles back up, but sales are minimal now. They've changed all their search algorhythms again, I'm sure.


Smut doesn't pay, maybe? I suppose it does and always has, but only a very select few manage to make it pay off forever.

The cautionary tale here, to me, is more: don't be deluded into thinking that working at home is somehow not working. And publishing on indie e-book platforms is NOT the same thing as working for yourself; you are still, basically, a slave to a powerful corporate entity who can get rid of you at a moment's notice, for reasons of their own. And remember, Amazon took 70 percent of my porn profit, since all the books were priced less than $2.99.

In fact, the only job I can think of where you are DEFINITELY and SOLELY working for yourself is subsistence farming. Anything else puts you at the mercy of, if no one else, your customers.


Well, I did enjoy it, mostly. It was nice to write pure fiction after all my guides and memoirs, and I really want to do more of that. My career as a writer is just beginning, after all. I remember reading an interview with John Holmes where he said something like, "Why can't pornography be art? If art can make us laugh, cry, be moved, why can't it make us be aroused?" No doubt, there, Cockboy!

And I realized that a thriller about sex is far closer to my experience than trying to write a thriller with a lot of like espionage or military shit that I really don't know that much about.


Well, I will probably wait a few months, and hopefully get my next memoir, REQUIEM FOR A VAGABOND into first draft stage, and then move forward with the plan to rebrand one of my porn series as a horror / thriller sort of thing. (Amazon doesn't seem to mind if you write about sex slaves and stuff if it's like a horror novel. Perhaps as it should be.)

I'm not going to fess up that titles yet, but as I said, some sleuthing around the Amazon pages for the ETX books would reveal some connections to them. I'll reveal them in my next memoir, I guess, a little Easter egg for you faithful out there.

NEXT WEEK: Doing Dubai with Crazy Bob. Speaking of offensive by community standards ....

Monday, November 04, 2013

The Accidental Pornographer, Part One: The Pornographer Rises


In 2011, I compiled many of my English Teacher X blog entries and stories into e-book format and self-published them using Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing platform, as well as Smashwords, and Createspace. (I also eventually used Barnes and Noble and Kobo.)

Almost immediately, they sold more than I'd imagined; in the vicinity of 25 - 50 copies a month for the first few months and then as I added two more, in the neighborhood of 75 - 100 copies a month, on a few occasions closer to 200.

I was very pleased, of course.

I've always been a bit hesitant with English Teacher X as a product, though; I worried that if it sold too many copies, there would be some kind of blowback on my "real" English teacher identity. (I worried about this not just for my own life, but the lives of my friends and girlfriends as well.)

I considered what else the market might bear, and what else I'd written that I liked; I began posting the paranormal adventure satire short stories that I mentioned in the last post, and considered whether I had it in me to write a thriller or a horror novel.


One day in spring of 2012, shortly before I left my first posting in the Kingdom, I was surfing Amazon. I don't remember what I was looking for or why, but I ended up being directed to a Kindle short story of "erotica."

Its crude and amateurish cover and title struck me; I used the "look inside" feature and read the first few paragraphs, which were amazingly bad, with mangled grammar and spelling and a stupid, banal, cliched description of an older guy picking up a hot female hitch-hiker and banging her with an amazing lack of synonyms for cock and pussy.

The thing that really struck me though, was its sales ranking: it was something like 8500.

(And I'm talking on the normal Amazon rankings, not just the erotica rankings.)

The highest ranking any of the English Teacher X books has ever achieved is about 40,000.

This crude piece of shit was outselling me ... by orders of magnitude.


Now since relations with women in the Kingdom are pretty much impossible, I had been having a lot of chatroom sex. I used Skype with girls I know, of course, but I'm also talking old school; mIRC. Internet Relay Chat, serving your perverse text-only cybersex needs since the mid-90s.

I had had many such chats, in a variety of scenarios, so I took the log of one that I particularly liked and turned it into an "erotica" story. I made a cool cover and formatted it; it was about 5000 words and I put it up for availability on Kindle for 99 cents.

Almost immediately, it was selling hundreds of copies, and then ... THOUSANDS of copies.  (At that price, Amazon gives the author 33 cents per sale.)

It reached the top 50 in Amazon erotica and was in the top 1000 of Kindle sales in general.

I was making hundreds of dollars a month off something it took me maybe 4 or 5 hours to write up, format, and post.


I have no fucking idea! There was a big demand for porn at that time in the wake of the success of FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY, and people were discovering you could read porn on your Kindle even in public without embarrassing yourself with a tacky smutty cover. But at the same time, there's plenty of free written porn available online, so I have no idea why people were buying so much.

And why did they buy this story?

I don't know the answer to that, either. I suppose somebody must have linked it somewhere, but I never saw where.

It sold thousands of copies every month; I immediately wrote sequels to it, which sold hundreds of copies. Then I wrote other stories, trying to gauge what kind of fetishes an stories were popular.

They sold. Almost everything sold dozens or hundreds of copies a month.

My $500-a-month e-book empire became, in summer of 2012, a $1000 + a month ebook empire, with 20+ erotica stories for sale.


What are the titles?

Well, that, I'm not gonna tell. For various reasons. They ran a gamut of smut but tended, unsurprisingly to feature older men and younger women, teachers and barely-legal students, and of course bondage and spanking.

Actually, I'll go ahead and share one with you:

This was my attempt at super-hero / dominatrix porn; I think it's a pretty good story, but it didn't really sell.  BUY IT HERE ON AMAZON FOR 99 CENTS.


I threw myself into it with my customary intense obsessive zeal, and after I left my first job in the Kingdom, I devoted myself to ebooks full time.

So, fuck yeah, I became a smut merchant. Living large on the beaches of Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic (oh, okay, and my mother's attic sometimes) selling the hot wet stuff that dreams are made of.

Until it all came crashing down this year.