As I get ready to move next week, I'm spending my last few days exploring Red Bank, packing and catching up on work, but also reflecting on my two years here, going back to being a Jersey Girl, but as an adult not a child. One of the biggest changes in my life since living in Brooklyn is that it's a lot lonelier in Jersey. Part of me is a loner, so I didn't think I minded, but some days, that sense of not having anyone to talk to, to call and go meet for coffee, to simply discuss the ins and outs of this crazy up and down career I've chosen, get to me more than others. When I feel like I'm making progress and getting things done and advancing myself, I don't miss that camaraderie as much, but when I don't, like this week, I start to hit the job listings and wonder if I will ever be comfortable in a position that forces me, every day, to push myself toward the new and different.
What I've chosen by way of books, editing erotica anthologies, can also feel like I'm in a void. Whereas for five years I ran an erotic reading series and did all sorts of other live events, I don't do that as much anymore because I am in a different place in my life, one where I'm focused on the long-term (though stay tuned as a very special sex toy store and I are talking about a reading this fall). With my books, I don't find out how they're selling for at least six months from their release date, which can feel like an eternity. Even then, I get numbers on a sheet of paper, a plus or minus next to a dollar sign, a map I'm supposed to read to tell whether my books are doing well or bombing or just plodding along. It's tough because numbers are not emotional; they tell me how many months of rent I can pay with them, but they don't tell me about the heart of the book, they don't tell me whether the choices I've made, selecting these specific stories out of dozens or hundreds, were choices that resonated with readers.
Of course, the numbers matter; the numbers are what purchased the bank check that is letting me move into my new home. The numbers are what determine whether I'm granted the opportunity to keep on editing books or not. This is, after all, a business. But as much as I'm a businessperson too, I'm also, well, a person. I didn't choose this field to get rich, though I want to learn how to make it more sustainable. I don't even really feel like I chose this field, but rather that it chose me, speaking to me when I was on the verge of babbling and flailing my way through even more law firm interviews and feeling as out of place as I ever have in my life. It chose me and whispered, You can do this. I quite unceremoniously left law school and followed this circuitous path that has now led me to working from home, alone, yet not entirely alone.
Some of the ways I connect with people through my work are precisely by reading so many authors' work when I'm editing an anthology. Then once I've chosen the stories and my publisher has approved them, I may simply email the formal details of the book to the authors, but I try to do more than that. I know $50 is a pittance, yet it's the pittance I can pay, but I hope that I can give my authors something more than that. I hope that I can introduce their work to new readers; I hope that I can, in some cases, offer videos and audio and connection. In the case of Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, I can interviews these amazing writers and get a little insight into the part I always want to know: how did this story come to be?
And before that six month mark where I see the numbers, if I'm lucky, I get to see what actual readers think of the book. This week, one that was filled with the angst of parting with umpteen belongings and packing up everything I own and wondering if I should apply for jobs at casinos and chuck the hardest parts of freelance life, I got two unexpected and delightful reviews that made me think, maybe everything is going to be okay. That made me think, people out there want these stories. That made me think, thank you for pushing me to do my job better. So without further ado, onto these two dedicated, thorough, thoughtful bloggers who remind me that erotica matters to people, deeply.
The Frisky Fairy review starts out with its amazing title: "Best Bondage Erotica 2015 AKA: Rachel Kramer Bussel Encourages My Sexual Masochism." Wow! It goes on to say:
If you’re reading this Rachel, I need you to stop picking such hot erotica. It’s making it very hard for me to do my work reading in public.She's also got excerpts from three stories up for you to read, including "The Thug" by Sommer Marsden, “Auction, in Quotation Marks” by LN Bey and "Point and Click" by L.C. Spoering. Want to read more? Excerpts from all 21 stories and buying links are on Tumblr.
See, the thing is that I got to the fourth story (“The Thug”) and my panties started getting noticeably wet. The fifth story (“Housewarming the Craftsman”) made me shift a bit, and do that thing where I let my panties slip between my labia and rub against my clit a little. The thirteenth story (“Auction, in Quotation Marks”) I was immensely turned on, and I considered going back to my tent, but I was helping my partner work a bit. By the sixteenth story (“Point and Click”) I could feel that fluttering in the bottom of my stomach that told me that I’d need to get somewhere soon or I might cum.
Next up Formidable Femme's review of Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica. It largely focuses on the queer and LGBT stories, which I especially appreciate. She crunched the numbers and found "Out of 24 stories, 8 of them featured queer characters, and 9 of them included sex toys you wouldn’t be able to find in any sex shop." Both of those aspects were extremely important to me; I wanted the concept of "sex toys" to be varied and novel and unique. I wanted it to expand beyond what we think of when we hear the term. Here's a snippet praising one of the most talked about stories in the book, "Gift" by Dena Hankins:
While I honestly enjoyed each story in Come Again, I truly loved, and was even moved by, a select few. My favorite story in the collection was Gift by Dena Hankins. Gift features two women in their 60’s and 70’s exploring lesbian sex for the first time. They have been sleeping together for a few weeks, but the story focuses on a new toy they test together, leading to a new level of pleasure neither woman has ever experienced. Gift not only turned me on, but deeply moved me as well. In the story, one of the women deals with physical disability and mobility issues. With the introduction of the new toy, she is able to reclaim her sexuality in spite of her limited mobility and engage fully with her lover for the first time. For the first time, my eyes welled with tears while reading erotica – a true testament to the undeniable beauty of Gift and Dena Hankins’ talent as an author.Want a copy of Come Again? Below are some links to online stores where you can find it, and here's where to shop local.
Buy Come Again now:
Barnes & Noble (Bn.com)
IndieBound (find it at your local independent bookstore)