Squelching the Sophomore Slump

Jerry L. Wheeler

This year has been quite heady for me, but it all really started in September 2010 when my first anthology of erotica, Tented: Gay Erotic Tales from under the Big Top, was published by Lethe Press. It got some great reviews, but gay circus erotica is—to say the least—a niche market, and I was ecstatic to simply get my firstborn out into the world.

And then it became a Lambda Literary Award finalist.

I had put it into nomination with faint hope and $35.00, and I don’t think anyone was more surprised than I was when I checked the website the morning the finalists were announced to find that Tented was among them. Coincidentally, I had been contacted by the judging coordinator of the Lammys to judge another category, so the Lammys loomed large for me. I made reservations and plans to go to NYC.

I lost. Or as my friends say, I didn’t win.

And I was okay with that. As the losers (or not winners) on all awards telecasts say when the cameras are on, “It’s just an honor to be nominated.” And it was—especially for my first book out. My powers of rationalization then took over, and I considered how difficult it would have been for my next project to measure up had I actually tripped my way to the stage and took home an award. Losing (or not winning) never looked better. But Tented had achieved some measure of success, and I had to make sure the next book was up to snuff.

As my introduction to Riding the Rails suggests, a personal experience with sex on trains led me to want to do a whole anthology with that theme. There’s such a wonderful connection to the past with trains, not to mention so many opportunities for sex, that I  knew authors would be intrigued by the concept. And if my authors are intrigued, so are my readers.

With all my anthologies, I strive for themes not normally explored in erotica. Whenever I encounter a list of Calls for Submissions, I’m chagrined by the lack of variety in those calls—it’s all daddies and college boys and twinks. I like something new and different—like circus sex (and yes, there were clowns in that book). And train sex. And restaurant sex (that’s the book after Riding the Rails, called The Dirty Diner, due out July 2012 from the wonderful people at Bold Strokes Books).

And, apparently, authors enjoy writing for those calls. I received some amazing stories for Riding the Rails—historical stories, time travel stories, interplanetary stories, psychological stories, even a story about a sex angel. Of course, it helps if you have a core group of authors to work with. I usually put a closed call for submissions out simply because I like knowing the people I work with. It seriously cuts down on the drama. But again, you have to keep things fresh, so I’m always adding and subtracting names from that list.

And Riding the Rails has some of the best and brightest names working in erotica today, featuring established favorites (Jeff Mann, Dale Chase, William Holden, Gavin Atlas, ‘Nathan Burgoine, Rob Rosen, Hank Edwards, Rick R. Reed, Erastes), up and comers (Joseph Baneth Allen, Jeffrey Ricker, Daniel M. Jaffe, Jay Neal, Dusty Taylor) and first publications (J.D. Barton) with an incredible array of stories—some hilarious, some bittersweet, some romantic, some creepy and some flat-out weird. But all of them have the hottest sex you’ll ever see on trains.

My cure for the sophomore slump? Come up with a creative concept, surround yourself with as much talent as possible, edit with scissors instead of pruning shears, find a supportive publisher and …

… maybe this year I’ll get to use that acceptance speech.

1 Response to “Squelching the Sophomore Slump”

  1. 1 Carsen Taite December 12, 2011 at 8:50 AM

    I love the unique themes of your anthologies. You’re destined to get that Lammy.


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