Friday, August 31, 2007


After polishing Candy Conversation Hearts, I submitted it this morning. It felt good to get that one out the door. The more I struggle with a story, the less confidence I usually have in it, but I like this one. It's been a long time in the works. Several years. Which once again proves why writers should keep all those snippets and partially finished stores. Something can always be salvaged. This story didn't change substantially, but it still took a lot of work to make it right.

One of the great things about a short story is that you can have a malicious main character and maintain that despicable personality through the entire work. In a novel, the writer, and the reader, would get weary of it. Who wants to spend 200 pages with someone unlikable? But in a short, it works. That being said, I'm glad to be rid of her/it/him. (I picture the ghost as being female, but nothing in the story indicates a gender.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I Remember

the good old days when I did the dance of joy when I sold a story. Now I go into full victory dance when I finish one. Is that progress? I have no idea. But the ghost story is finally, finally, finally, finally done. It's a bit shorter than I'd like, but there's no way in hell, other than polishing, that I'm touching it now.

Victory dance!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Happy Happy Joy Joy

You can imagine how I reacted to this. So long Gonazales. We'll hardly miss ya.

The Bill of Rights survived him. Whew!

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Looks like the US Department of Justice (talk about your Orwellian terms) decided to visit my blog again. They used to always link from another erotica writer's website, but this time they linked from a different one. Just out cruising the neighborhood, I suppose. (or looking for a quick wank while at work. Either way - our government dollars well spent.)

Really, boys, this is tiresome. If you were in stealth mode on servers that didn't point out you were DOJ (even in initials, it has that War Is Peace slogan feel, doesn't it?), I'd actually believe you were doing surveillance. But since you make it so obvious who you are , I guess this is some weak form of intimidation. Of maybe I'm just supposed to act like I don't see you peeking in my window. Sorry, boys. There isn't enough soma in the world to make me do that.

BTW - so my readers don't think I'm just paranoid: (Us Dept Of Justice) [Label IP Address]

Maryland, Potomac, United States, 0 returning visits
Date Time WebPage
26th August 2007 15:20:29
26th August 2007 15:20:55

I wish I'd thought to record all their other visits. But I will from now on.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


That ghost story is giving me fits.

Since its giving me such a hard time, I'm avoiding it. Every writer I know is a master at procrastination. We'd rather do the laundry, sort tax documents, or scoop the cat's litter box than write sometimes. This is one of those times for me.

I have two methods for procrastination. The first is improving my high score on several computer games. Sometimes, the SO sneaks in and makes the top ten list. For me, it isn't enough to top his score. I have to make it drop off the list. That can take hours. My other tried-and-true procrastination stunt is thinking. As I am currently a Brother of the Dragon (twice over!) on Rocket Mania, and the SO hasn't dared challenge my Ravenscroft scores, tonight I decided to think instead of play.

What I'm thinking about is the question: What makes a story a lesbian story?

In erotica, that seems simple enough. But it isn't that obvious. I've read stories that have two women together, and something about it says "straight male fantasy." I've also read erotic stories about a gay man and a lesbian that definitely read true as a lesbian story. So there has to be a certain quality, a queer perspective, to make it work. I couldn't give you a solid example of the difference though. As the saying goes, I know it when I see it.

But what if the story isn't erotica? Will a queer perspective make it a lesbian story? Does that certain quality apply? I think it does. Except.... my POV character is a ghost. To be more accurate, it's (she's) a poltergeist. I'm not an expert on ghost classifications, but to me, a poltergeist isn't the remnant of a human life. It's a completely different entity. So how do you make something that never was human lesbian? She's attracted to a female character. Is that enough?

I can spend hours thinking in circles on this one. In fact, I'm counting on it taking me hours to muddle through to an answer. Because the last thing this writer feels like doing right now is writing.

Monday, August 20, 2007

An Evening Well Spent

I have two stories due this month. One I sent off last weekend. It seemed like the hardest to tackle, as I was starting from scratch, but now that I'm working on the other story - a rewrite - I think I had it switched around. The rewrite is a lot harder. I worked on it four hours this evening and only got through the first five paragraphs.

I'm not complaining though. It feels good to be writing again. I've wanted to work on this story for a long time, but had little motivation. It's one of the first stories I wrote when I started working seriously to get published. It was never right though. So I set it aside for long periods andoccasionally turned my hand to fixing it, but when you're not sure what the problem is, it's hard to fix it. Now that I've had some time away from it, and a submission call to look to forguidance, I have a better idea what needs to change.

This has always been a hard story to place. Most erotic anthologies want contemporary fiction. Candy Conversation Hearts is a ghost story. If I only wanted to write stories that would sell, I wouldn't have bothered to write it. I enjoy being published, but it isn't the main reason I write. Still, I'd like to see this one find a home. Part of the problem, aside from being paranormal and being told from thePOV of the ghost, is that for an erotic story, it doesn't have much sex in it. This call for submissions, however, isn't looking for erotica. It's for paranormal stories. The little sex that I have in the story can be cut. It will still be sensual, but given the connection I see between the genres of horror and erotica, I feel that it will work.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sympathy Depression

Lately, it feels as if the indie publishing world is falling apart. Maybe it is, or maybe it's always been in flux and I'm just now realizing that Terra Firma isn't so firm. The plates are slipping and shifting in a subduction zone where big publishing houses push over the smaller ones and make them disappear forever. (Forgive the wording - we had a small earthquake today, so things like subduction zones are at the forefront of my brain)

Last year, one of the biggest distributors of books (read: wholesaler) went bankrupt. It survived, but many small presses were destroyed in the process. The fallout continues.Haworth Press, an academic press, owns the imprint Harrington Park Press which publishes many GLBT books. Haworth sold out to a bigger academic press, and according the their website, Harrington will be divested separately. That's the only news. So writer friends with contracts in hand are finding out, as I have in the past, that a contract from a publisher has little meaning if the publisher chooses to ignore it. Those contracts do not protect the writers. Friends with books that were supposed to be released this winter have no idea if their books will be printed. Friends with books already published have no idea what will happen to their books now. And of course, the employees of Harrington Park Press have no idea if they'll have jobs when they wake up tomorrow. It's possible that the imprint could simply shut down.

Early this year, when I was trying to decide which publisher to submit my novel to, I was tempted to go to Harrington. It wasn't the perfect fit, but the company seemed viable and published a good number of books every year. Many of the writers I knew had projects pending there and a few strongly encouraged me to submit. I know the editor and feel I could work with him. It was tempting, but instead I choose to submit to the publisher I thought was the best fit for my novel. That little sidestep around chaos doesn't make me feel any better though. Options are disappearing.

Even though they get little respect, e-published books are looking better and better. I have an e-published novel. It sells pretty well. Reviews have been incredible. I'd like to see it go to print though, because I feel it would do well with a male audience, and women are by far the biggest consumers of e-books. And then there's the snobbery factor. Many of the genre industry groups have declared all e-publishing to be equivalent to vanity publishing. In other words - not "real" published books. Heck, even print on demand books aren't good enough for them. Even though e-published books have been around for over ten years, these guidelines cutting of e-published authors from recognition have come down just this year. Strange timing considering that the big print publishers are adding e-publishing language to their contracts and are giving customers the option of purchasing e-books.

E-publishers have their problems too. Several have gone under. One did because it tried to get into print books and misunderstood the business. Others have simply been mismanaged. Writers I know are caught in the middle. It's coming to light that the owner of one e-publisher won't respond to emails, and several of their authors are openly questioning accounting for their royalties. One writer I know would love to walk away from that publisher and take her e-books to a different publisher, but escaping from a contract even when this is happening isn't easy.

It's been frustrating summer for writers. It's been disastrous for editors and publishers. I'm feeling it too. I can't even summon up enough energy to be the voice of reality when a writer posts a "If that's the way it's going to be, I'll just start up my own press," conversation on one of the forums I belong to. I can't even manage a snarky, "Terrific idea! And while we're at it, why don't we put on a play in the old barn!" I'm completely drained of energy. Is it possible to have sympathy depression?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Forgive Me, I Know Not What I Do

The temperatures in LA are in the upper 80's today, which is why I opened every door and window in the hovel when I got home from work today, but the lingering heat trapped in the house made me drowsy. I couldn't get motivated to do anything. I just wanted to collapse on my bed and take a late afternoon nap. And then I thought the unthinkable - maybe we should get air conditioning. The thought of cold air rippling over my bared flesh was too delicious to ignore -despite the sinus headache it would surely induce. Even though I didn't utter those treasonous air conditioning thoughts aloud, I swore I felt a ripple through the space-time continuum, and half expected representatives of the Beach Cities board to show up at my front door and ask me just what the hell was I thinking?

For those of you not from LA, let me explain something about air conditioning. While people who live inland or in the (shudder) Valley, accept that it gets hot here in the summer and use air conditioning, we who live in the Beach Cities are in collective denial. We refuse to believe it ever gets hot enough here to justify resorting to such measures. We have the ocean breezes, you see. Natural air conditioning. Just open your windows. Reliance on machines is a weakness, a Valley thing.

Normally, I'm just as susceptible to this collective madness/ superiority complex as the next Beach Cities resident. After all, last weekend, while the Southland sweltered, the beach was chilly underneath a layer of fog (yes, fog. not smog) that the sun never burned away. And, unless the Santa Anas are blowing off the high desert, we do have a constant flow of air off the ocean that keeps the temperature, on average, in the seventies year round. On average is the trick phrase here. On the bell curve of Beach Cities weather, I'm sure today is at least two standard deviations away from normal. And since the weather is being deviant, I'm thinking deviant thoughts about air conditioning.

So forgive me Realtors, city councils, and everyone else who is heavily invested in keeping the myth of our perfect temperate climate alive. In my heat-induced delirium, I know not what I do.

Now be a dear and bring me a tall iced something-or-the-other. (Paper umbrella is optional)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Two of a Kind

Occasionally on one of the many writer's groups I belong to, I'll mention that I see strong similarities between the genres of horror and erotica. Neither horror writers nor erotica writers take kindly to that. But I was recently contacted by a new erotica writer who used to write horror, and when I mentioned the similarities, he agreed. Finally.

Okay, just because someone agrees with me doesn't mean I'm right. It may mean that he's being polite. But I'll take what I can get.

Part of the problem is that I when I talk about the connection, I say that both erotica and horror writers manipulate their readers. Manipulate is not a popular word. Lots of negative connotations. But you'd think writers would be aware of the meaning of a word. Manipulate means to manage or use with skill.

What is being managed with skill? In horror, it's fear. In erotica, it's libido. Probably the most basic, primal drives in any creature with a brain.

More than any other genres, erotica and horror appeal to the senses. We use (a more PC word than manipulate) the senses to describe the setting and the action. With the right combination of sensory inputs, the trope of horror and erotica, we invite (again, a more palatable word than manipulate) the reader to experience feeling. We appeal to basic drives and elicit the desired response - a shiver of terror, or a shiver of sexual excitement.

Is there something morally wrong with that? (putting aside "moral" arguments against erotica) I don't think so. A reader picks up a horror novel expecting to be frightened. Anyone picking up erotica wants to be turned on by it. The writer is supposed to manipulate the reader into experiencing those feelings. That's the promise, the implied contract between writer and reader.

I think about things like the relationship between horror and erotica because I want to become a better writer. I feel that I can learn from horror writers. Now, I'll admit that I'm world's biggest wimp. I don't read much horror because it keeps me up at night. But I'm fascinated by how it does that to me. How do the best horror writers latch on to my imagination and skillfully force it to do their biddng? It's not what's on the page that terrifies. It's what lingers in the mind afterwards. It's in how the brain magnifies each detail into something scarier than even the writer imagined. I want to learn that skill and apply it to erotica. That may sound strange, but it's not that much of a leap. What is the first story humans ever told about ourselves? Adam and Eve. Sex and death have been intertwined in our psyches since the beginning. They are two of a kind.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Stories From Real Life

With the exception of my YA novel, I rarely take stories from my life. Life doesn't provide resolution or proper dramatic climaxes. Besides, real life is dull as dirt, unless you can at least name drop and share gossip about the private lives of interesting, powerful, famous wealthy, doomed people. My friends are interesting, but powerful, wealthy, and famous? No. Some of them may be famous one day. I hope to god none of them are doomed. Strangely enough though, both stories that are due by the end of the month I'm basing on real life events.*

* based on actual events means "might as well have been completely made up, because I reserve the right to change history to make a story interesting"

Candy Conversation Hearts quickly turns from the real to the surreal, and I doubt the writer that the story is based on would remember the reading that inspired me to write the story. (I, on the other hand, still fondly remember her perfect lips. I haven't seen her since then, but every time I see a picture of her, my heart flutters. Okay, that isn't my heart. Maybe a bit lower.)

The other story, the one I worked on today, sticks closer to reality, right until the part where it turns erotic. Frankly, being stranded out in the middle of the Mojave Desert at 2AM Christmas morning in icy rain when the temperature was hovering around freezing and the truck's heater was broken was about as erotic as, well, freezing my ass off in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere could be. (This was before cell phones. And did I mention the HUGE signs the State of Arizona so helpfully put up every 100 yards warning people NOT to pick up hitchhikers because there was a state penitentiary nearby and they didn't want prisoners to have help escaping?) So, as you can imagine, nothing about that night struck me as romantic or erotic then, or now. Except when the Marlboro Man in a rusty Chevy truck came to my rescue and saved me the four mile hike to the truck stop outside Quartzite. In real life, he drove away before I could thank him for the ride, so in the story, I'm going to make sure he gets thanked properly. And then improperly. Twice.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Show and Tell

New writers are often admonished to show instead of tell, but that's where the advice seems to end. So I'm going to give examples.


Everyone at the restaurant thought Jim was hot.


A short brunette seated on the red leather settee in the restaurant's crowded foyer forgot what she was digging for in her purse and ran a hand over her hair when Jim walked in. Over by the bar, an expensive blond thrust her hip out. Her eyebrow rose, an expectant invitation. Her lips curved up at the corners, and then parted slightly, showing a hint of even white teeth. Across the restaurant, neither the slim Latino waiter nor the two men at the table noticed as water cascaded from the busboy's pitcher into an overflowing glass and spread across the white linen tablecloth. They watched Jim.

The restaurant hostess leaned to see around the patron in front of her at the podium. She clasped a menu to her chest, lowered her chin, and watched with flitting glances as Jim sauntered through the crowd. "Can I help you?" she blurted when he reached the podium. Color flooded into her cheeks.

Got it? Probably.

If you write third person omni POV, you can get away with telling people's thoughts (not that you should, but you can). But if you write first person POV, you have to show what the characters other than your POV character think and feel by their actions and body language, because those are the clues your POV character is going to use to interpret how s/he perceives the other character's thoughts and feelings. That's right - perceives. Your POV character can only guess what's going on in the other character's heads. S/he will never know for sure.
(Just like you can't know anyone's thoughts in real life. You can guess, but you don't know.) What looks like anger might be embarassment, but unless someone articulates their real emotion, your POV character won't know. And who says, "I'm not angry, I'm worried that you came so close to guessing my deep, dark secret that's been haunting me for years?"

BTW - you can't get away with stuffing your dialog with emotional cues. No real person says, "I'm feeling really vulnerable right now," unless they're a manipulative, over-self-analyzing putz. In a book, it's clunky dialog. Show vulnerability, show fear, show rage. Never tell it.

Now an exercise:

You're a high school senior. As an early graduation present to yourself, you spent the evening at a party at the local pot dealer's house. You drank lots of beer, smoked pot, and screwed someone you just met and never expect to see again. While still under the influence, you drove home. Three hours past your curfew, you stumbled into your parent's house. Your Dad was waiting in the living room.

Now - before a word passes between you and Dad, how do you know if you're merely busted for breaking curfew, if Dad suspects you were up to more but can only bust you for curfew violation, or if Dad knows everything and is about to kill you?

Think about the message his body language is sending. How is he standing? If he's disappointed, his shoulders are slumping, but if he's ready to tell you off, they're back. What are his hands doing? Are they in his pockets, or balled into fists? Are his lips pulled into a tight line? And think about his eyes. Most expression isn't truly in the eyes. It's around them.

Now show me those cues so that I know exactly how angry he is without having to be told, "Dad was ready to kill me." Write it. Don't use a word of dialog. Don't use the word angry, or any word like it.

Go. Write.