Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Accidental Pornographer, Part Three: It Ain't Easy Being Sleazy

Everybody loves a good "get rich quick" scheme, and lately, writing pornography e-books is one of those schemes.

Read Part One: The Pornographer Rises
Read Part Two: The Fall of the Pornographer

The TL;DR version of that is that back in 2012, I, on a whim, posted an erotica short story on Kindle under another name and suddenly found myself deluged with sales. In 2013, however, Amazon began aggressively seeking out and blocking the kinds of "taboo" porn I was writing, and I found my sales never really recovered.

Nonetheless, I was still making good money from it, combined with my other books -- $500 - $1000 a month, generally --  so I decided that when I left my last job, I was going to really work at it a bit and see if I could get my income from books up over $2000 a month.

I visited a lot of cool places since I left my last job in July: Vietnam, Turkey, Peru and Ecuador. The fucking Golopogas Islands, man! Czech Republic and Hungary, too.

When I wasn't with my girlfriend, you know what I was doing in the evenings, usually?

Writing porn.

Writing enema porn.

Not that I find anything at all erotic about enemas, I should say, it was just a thing that clicked with readers and my largest selling titles all had enemas in them.

So I wrote enema porn.

In addition, you know, to cuckolding porn, gangbang porn, BDSM, etc.

I swam with hammerhead sharks at Kicker Rock, I traversed fabulous jungles in the Amazon basin of Peru, I surfed in Montanita. I bathed in the mineral waters at Karlovy Vary and in Budapest.

And I wrote enema porn.


I didn't work nearly as hard at it, as I might have.

I did it, but I no longer enjoyed it.

It began to feel not really dirty or disgusting, but just ... tedious. Sad. Pathetic, even.

For inspiration, I immersed myself in exploration of 70s exploitation. I watched tons of old "sexploitation" films on YouTube to get ideas. I listened to lots of documentaries and podcasts about 70s and 80s porn, including the highly-recommended The Rialto Report podcast, which has a lot of funny and poignant tales of porn stars and directors of that era.

You can look at my Google Plus page to see a comprehensive look at the YouTube exploitation films I've watched recently, or at least commented on, but here's a really weird sleazy offensive demeaning one, just as an example:


I always liked sleaze, don't get me wrong. I used to collect old men's adventure paperbacks when I was a teen, which usually leaned more towards tawdry violence than tawdry sexuality, but there was plenty of both. (People ask me which blogs I read - that's about the only one I follow loyally.)

But I can't say that I have recently felt like some awesome independent-location writer, surviving by my wits. Or even some sort of live-by-your-own rules bohemian.

I felt like a sad fucking middle-aged man doing what is probably one of the most solitary and perhaps one of the loneliest jobs there is.

I mean, all the stuff about how watching porn fucks up your amygdala -- imagine how much WRITING it fucks up your amygdala.


As mentioned, Amazon has opaque and ever-changing standards of what is unacceptable. Towards the end of 2014, Amazon sent me an e-mail saying that if I submitted anything else that was blocked, my whole account would be banned:

During our review process, we found that this content is in violation of our content guidelines. As a result, we cannot offer this book for sale. If we identify additional submissions with similar content that violates our guidelines, we may terminate your account or you may lose access to optional KDP services.

So I had to back off, as I post the ETX books and the porn books from the same account, and I didn't want to get that blocked and lose ALL my income.

So I worked on building my brand, with an author's website, based around some of my more thriller-based erotica stuff -- five sex scenes and a fight scene, versus six fight scenes and a sex scene as in the men's adventure pulps -- but I haven't had any more success than usual yet. (I really kind of hate all that SEO and keyword stuff and I'm not good at it.)

Not posting much of anything in December or January, sales plummeted. In fact my 2014 total book sales were down about 20 percent from my 2013 sales, according to my tax records.

Porn sales seems to have really short half-life now; things will sell hundreds of copies for a month or two, if you're lucky, but then they seem to fall off quickly to nothing. I have one title that sold thousands of copies in 2012 and maybe like a few dozen copies total in 2014. One recent addition to my porn canon sold 100-something copies in October when it was released, with a similar number of Kindle Unlimited "rentals"; this month it has sold 5, with 4 rentals.


The latest aspect of the erotica e-book scam is to put hardcore erotica in the "romance" and "short story" sections of Kindle, rather than "erotica" -- there's all kinds of really foul stuff there now.

But I'm guessing that within the next three to six months, possibly sooner, Amazon will go on another tear and start blocking and banning, like they did with erotica in 2013.

But there's still a few bucks to be made. One guy made more than $7000 in a month writing gay cuckold porn. (Maybe if I made that much I'd feel better about this. Maybe.)

Even the positive, wholesome young Robert at 30 Days to X seems to have switched from self-help to porn slinging, after becoming disillusioned with affiliate links and blogging.

So I don't know what to tell you, kids. Sure, there's money to be made there, surely more money than most English teaching positions, but ... I mean, shit you can probably make tons of money sucking cock down at the bus stop, too. Or cheating old ladies out of their pensions with promises of marriage.

Is this really all we aspire too, though?

Sigh. Anyway, back to my latest enema porn adventure.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Get Rich or Die Teaching: A Cautionary Tale

Everybody loves a good "Get Rich Quick" scheme, and lately teaching in the Kingdom is becoming one of those schemes. 

I used to get e-mails all the time like "I'm considering giving up my high-paying job as a lawyer to teach English in Brazil so I can get laid more. Can you give me some advice?"

Now I get e-mails like, "I'm giving up my hard-partying life of getting laid constantly as a teacher in Brazil so I can go teach in Saudi for a few years and save some money. Any advice?"

Anyway, another cautionary tale:

One of the guys who started at the same time as me, at my last hellish-but-highly-paid position in the Kingdom, was remarkable in how young he was. He was 27, I think, the only guy on the staff in his 20s. (He'd been teaching at the high school level in America since he finished college, I believe, so he had the credentials to get the job.) 

He was amazingly clean-cut and wide-eyed, and I'm wondering now if he was a Mormon. I think he said he was from California, although not from one of the big cities. 

Anyway, he was married, and had a young baby, new born. They'd been married since they were nineteen and had been high school sweethearts. 

This was not the typical English teacher demographic, to say the least. Some of the guys were married, but almost always to foreign women, and they had almost all been teaching abroad for years.

He had a grand plan, he said. He would work the job for five years, and save enough money to by two houses in America, one to live in and one to rent out. Then they'd return to America by the time the kid was ready to start school. 

"That's a plan, all right," I agreed. 

Now remember, in addition to the heat and the general difficulties of life in a restrictive Islamic society, and the job being pretty unbearable, the place we were posted was no fucking garden spot. It was a small city at the edge of the Gas Oil Seperation Plant, and the air smelled like rotten eggs and asphalt most of the time. 

These bushes survived due to underground hoses

Apparently this was a halal slaughterhouse

And what's more, they were living not in one of the nice compounds, but one of the crappy trailer park compounds. 

They lasted about six months. The wife returned to America within three months, taking the child and threatening divorce. He was contracted for a year but he ended up just not coming back from his first vacation given the various difficulties and paperwork involved in ending the contract early. 

"The plan is what you have until everything gets all fucked up." -- my wilderness survival instructor

Read about more Middle Eastern adventures in REQUIEM FOR A VAGABOND

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Love Story

All right, a never-before-told love story for Valentine's Day:

Back in 2005 in Russia, there was a girl in my classes -- advanced, test prep level, FCE, CAE, CPE -- who everybody seemed to think was a good match for me.

I'll just call her Natasha.

I was getting old enough, at 35, that people around me were concerned that I didn't have a wife or serious girlfriend. I went out with the girl from Kazkhstan that summer, but we broke up fairly quickly.

Everybody seemed to think that Natasha was perfect for me, however.

She was bright, spoke English well, pretty, and (unlike most of the girls I knew) was serious and honest. She was the new breed of Russian that was still fairly rare then -- she had morals and integrity and wanted to work hard and get a good job, not just fuck a rich guy.

She drove me home from work every day and was a frequent fixture at our English teacher parties and gatherings. She didn't drink, or not much, but we'd dance all night somewhere, occasionally. She took me out often to shops or sites in the area.

No sex, though. No making out. I think we held hands, once or twice.

People were constantly telling me we should get together. I suppose they must have been telling her that, also.

Problem was, she had a boyfriend.

She'd been going out with him for years, but was now constantly fighting with him. He wanted her to sit home and be a typical Russian housewife, and she wanted to get a job and work first. She lived in one of the villages on the outskirts of Vodkaberg - more like a suburb, I guess - and he was a typical village boy who spend a lot of time working on his car and drinking vodka with his friends.

She talked to me about breaking up with him. I made vague conciliatory comments.

So then one summer day, she invited a whole group of English teachers -- and students from the place I worked -- to her dacha. Her boyfriend was there for a while -- he spent most of the time washing his car -- but he left early to go to work.(He worked in the security department of an oil company and frequently had to work on weekends and holidays, when people often stole a lot of stuff.)

Uncharacteristically, she had an argument in public with him before he left. He wanted her to end the party early and she said she would never be the kind of girl that sat around and waited for her man, that she wanted to have a life.

The afternoon proceeded as they do at dachas: barbecue, alcohol, singing, dancing, swimming in the pond nearby, picking flowers and helping granny with the vegetables.

Exercising my right to bare arms
One of my drunken colleagues had a particular romantic streak, and he said, "Today should be the day man. Tell her that you love her, or you'll regret it the rest of your life."

I responded with some kind of vague comment, I'm sure, though I can't remember exactly what.

There were quite a few village girls there, including this girl, who I'll call Lyudmilla:

That's a snake there. In her hands, I mean. I know your eye is not immediately drawn there. 

Natasha told me that Lyudmilla was not a girl she liked particularly, but Lyudmilla's parents wanted Natasha to hang around with her because Lyudmilla had a tendency to be a naughty girl, and they thought Natasha's good example might straighten her out a bit.

Lyudmilla was pretty much on me like white on vanilla pudding, from the beginning of the day. She got drunk and hung all over me and finally just invited me into the upstairs bedroom.

Those are grapes. 

So what did I do?

Well, what do you think I did?

So this insulted not only our hostess, it also made one of my colleagues angry, who had a thing for this Lyudmilla. In fact he later threw a drink in my face as the evening tapered off to its drunken finale.

Needless to say we never got invited back to the dacha.

I tried to follow up with Lyudmilla, but it turned out she had a boyfriend also - and in fact got married about a month later.

Natasha continued to hang around with the English teachers some. I suppose I later even thought I had a chance.

(Unsurprising and fairly common is the attitude of the man who feels he can not only have his cake and eat it too, but enjoy shitting it out on the floor to make everybody emit horrified laughter.)

But she started coming around and leaving after a half-hour, saying she had "something to do" and it turned out she was using the English teachers as an excuse to go to Vodkaberg and get away from her boyfriend so she could meet with a guy she worked with, who of course in short order became her new boyfriend.

She finished her classes and stopped hanging around with the English teachers, as she started working full-time at some office job.

I got an SMS from her in 2007 asking if I'd like to have lunch with her but I made some vague excuse.

I never saw either of them again. Even on Facebook or Vkontakte.

The Grim Reaper of Love

Read more Russian adventures in the book VODKABERG: NINE YEARS IN RUSSIA.

Monday, February 09, 2015

The Re-patriation Chronicles, Part Three: English Teacher K

Another entry in my interview series dealing with the travails of trying to STOP teaching English abroad.

How long did you work abroad, and where?

I worked for one year in South Korea.  If you zoom in on Google Maps, my apartment was basically in the middle of the "S" in Seoul.

What made you decide to return to the US?

Several reasons.  I wanted to return to my girlfriend (long-distance relationships should be avoided at all costs).  I did not like the location of my apartment.  It was positioned right near a walkway, so I could hear businessmen and motorbikes rushing by at all hours of the day and parts of the night.  Of course, if I had requested a new living accommodation, I am confident that my school would have tried to give me one.  Living in a metropolis like Seoul also started to wear at my desire for privacy, open space, and fresh air.  This was especially difficult because I had never lived in a city before.  Finally, Seoul started to depress me.  Businessmen work for twelve hours at a time and students go to class for up to fourteen hours.  Of course, I was aware of the excessive worth demands that Koreans place upon themselves, but seeing it in person made me quite disgusted.

But there is something deeper to my apathy and antipathy toward Seoul.  I realize that a lot of it stemmed from my foolishly- insular behavior.  Seoul, and South Korea for that matter, are not interested locations as far as natural beauty and landmark beauty.  Let's be honest, South Korean cities are hives of concrete boxes with garish signage and the landscapes are mostly mountainous without any unique beauty.  The richness of Korea lies in its people, and I avoided its people.  I should have made more friends and been more social. 

What were your experiences like trying to find a job? 
I'm not sure if this question relates to finding a job in Korea, or finding a job upon returning to the US.  I'll answer both.  Finding a job in Korea was fairly straightforward.  I applied directly to the EPIK program and selected Seoul as my city.  I decided to choose the safe public school route because I didn't want to worry about the drama and risk involved in working at a private institution.  Looking back, I appreciate this decision.  Working at a public school was very rewarding.  I was guaranteed a 8-4 work schedule, a delicious and massive lunch, and all of the teachers and staff were tremendously professional and helpful.  My elementary school was apparently one of the most prestigious in Seoul.  I was clearly the most unqualified person there.  The school also has a Taekwondo program that was so good, they performed for Queen Elizabeth when she came to Korea several years ago.  I was able to jump in and learn some moves.  In class, was always with a co-teacher, so discipline wasn't a huge problem and oftentimes I only had to teach half a class.  It really was a sweet TEFL gig.

I was told that the program, and Seoul in particular, was challenging to be accepted to.  I didn't have a CELTA, but my stellar undergraduate resume, my major in English, and a few letters of recommendation from professors who earned English PhDs at Oxford seemed to be enough to secure the position.  When I arrived at orientation, I found that nearly everyone else had similarly worthless degrees, all the truly-wise people staying in the U.S. and earning real money.  But hey, they aren't getting a "cultural experience," are they?

When I returned to the United States, I found that, as I suspected, few people were impressed by me teaching English abroad for a year.  I had to wait a year for graduate school, so I found a basic part-time job to earn some cash and spend time with my girlfriend.  Talking about teaching in Korea is certainly an interesting discussion during the interviews that I did have, but most of my jobs applications have been rejected.  I blame that partly on my academically-oriented resume and major.  

I do think that it is very important to plan what you will say to a company back home when you apply for a job.  Don't write on your resume, "English Teacher."  Write "English Instructor."  Don't write, "taught kids English."  Instead write, "Developed the English curriculum for the school, taught four grade levels, and managed after-school programs and camps."  You need to use every trick in the business book in order to make TEFLing stand out.

What do you like/not like about living in America?

Coming back from Korea, the first things I noticed about my fellow Americans were that they were fat, unmotivated, and generally lazy.  They are also rather disrespectful.  Americans are also really slow when walking in public and checking out at grocery stores.  We have an over-reliance on vehicles and no one can survive in this country without a good vehicle.  After spending a year walking everywhere in Seoul and only entering a vehicle once, I was terrified by driving for several months.  I would get extremely panicked even being in the passenger seat.  And why shouldn't I be?  70 mph with another two-thousand pound vehicle three feet away?  How suicidal can we be?  So yeah, returning to the US, even after a year of having complete access to English entertainment, made me notice a lot of problems with my country.  I still love it and can't imagine spending the majority of my life anywhere else.  Still, I'm ready to leave again.

What are your plans for the future?

I'm going to graduate school to pursue a career.  I really want to be a professor and I have the credentials to get into graduate school.  So I'm going to go down that path.  However, I'm interested much more in traveling now.  I've deeply considered pursuing the JET Programme to teach in Japan.  I also want to work for a North-Korean activist group called LINK (Liberty in North Korea).  I'm a huge activist and would love to be on the front lines smuggling North Korean defectors from China to South Korea.  Truly, it would be a rewarding experience.

What advice would you give to people in your situation or future TEFLers?

Do spend at least a year teaching in another country.  You hear people--myself included now--complain about different cultures.  But I very much appreciate the knowledge that I gained that allows me to denounce different cultures with more authority.  Sometimes, that's all you may gain from traveling: discovering what you don't like and why.

* * *
Couldn't have said it better myself. And all you readers out there in reader-land, feel free to e-mail me at englishteacherx(at)yahoo(dot)com if you have a story of TEFL teaching or of returning to your home country you'd like to share.