Few people in Corvallis know that Tony, besides writing stories under his own name (which isn’t Tony, just to be clear), also uses the pen name Arcadia Berger. Tony’s stories bring in very little, though he says he hopes he will make a living at it eventually. Berger makes somewhat more with “her” erotica.
Tony does not try to make any distinction between erotica and pornography. “What turns you on is erotica. What turns someone else on is porn,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with writing a story which arouses the reader sexually, even if what arouses them might seem icky to other people.”
Most of the erotica Tony writes is on themes that appeal to him. Most of the sex scenes are heterosexual, although in some stories you will find a man with a man, a woman with a woman, a woman with a transsexual man, or a woman with a werewolf.
Yes, Tony writes about werewolves. Also superheroes, aliens, and politicians. Most of his erotica has some element of the fantastic to it.
Tony thinks he may have invented a new genre which he calls demotion porn, stories in which someone suffers a loss of status: a doctor whose license is suspended and can only find work as a nurse’s aide; a business executive who loses her job to a rival and winds up forced to work as his secretary. He’s also fond of a theme he calls “Taming a Tomboy,” in which a no-nonsense, jeans-wearing woman is forced, tricked, or blackmailed into dressing in a more feminine way. “Men are ‘feminized’—forced to wear dresses and makeup—in porn all the time,” he said. “Why shouldn’t it be done to women as well?”
The superheroes in his Masked Passions series are all in the public domain. They are characters whose copyright has lapsed but who are still well-known: the Black Terror, Dracula, the Black Cat, Sherlock Holmes. Some public-domain characters have corporations ready to sic lawyers on anyone who uses them, so he avoids characters like Tarzan and Plastic Man.
Most of Tony’s stories are part of a series. As the length of a series increases, he bundles three of them and posts them as a collection at a price slightly lower than the separate publications. This “new” book draws a little more attention to the series as a whole.
After Tony has finished a story, usually between 5,000 and 10,000 words, he prepares it for posting. He formats it, adding a table of contents with links and copyright page. He pastes together a cover, usually with an out-of-copyright image which he finds through an online search. “It’s interesting what comes up when you do a search for a term like ‘woman with wolf’ or ‘MILF in straitjacket,’” he said. No doubt it is.
When a book is ready, he posts it to Smashwords, which advertises it on many different platforms: Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Smashwords’ own site. More often than not, Smashwords tells him that their computer has flagged one or more problems: the text is incorrectly formatted; the cover picture is wrongly proportioned; a link is not functioning. He corrects the errors and resubmits the story.
Occasionally, a human checker finds a problem, such as that it’s not clear that a character is over 18. Tony changes the text to, in this case, make the character’s age explicit. To be on the safe side, he has begun adding a line to the copyright text. On one story, the disclaimer reads: “All characters are over 18 years of age. Specifically, Cat-Man is 18, Lash Lightning is 23, the Blue Beetle is 28, Slenderman is 997, Xela the Jungle Girl is 37, and Fantomah is 14,004.”
Once a story has been posted, he puts up a notice on Berger’s blog and Tumblr feed. He sends free copies to people he thinks are likely to post reviews. He’d like to promote his writing more vigorously, but isn’t sure how to go about it.
Tony tries to keep a low profile about being Arcadia Berger. He’s not ashamed of writing erotica, but he knows a lot of people would treat him differently if they knew about it. Worse yet, people might treat his kids differently. So he displays a certain degree of caution.
I asked him if he ever worries that he’s doing something wrong by writing erotica. “No,” he replied without hesitation. “People have been trying for a long time to prove that porn is bad for people, makes normal people crazy or makes crazy people crazier. Attorney General Ed Meese spent almost as much money investigating porn as Congress has spent investigating Benghazi, and with the same result: nothing.
“I think reading porn is as healthy as any other form of sex, and I make no apologies for liking sex.”
By John M. Burt