Saturday, January 31, 2009

I Should Be Writing

I should be writing today. It's been a while since I've worked on a
story. Oh, I've done editing, and kicked around ideas, but I have yet
to yield to that space where a story consumes me and I have to let it
flow out.

I'm used to these lulls in writing now. Once upon a time, it put me on the edge of panic. How could I not have a story? I always had a story. But that was before I wrote them down. Now I accept the ebb and flow of creativity. If I don't have something, it's time to recharge. After a while, I getantsy . How much recharging could I need? But even that's a good sign, like a scab itching. That means it's
almost time to start again.

It's also time to think about my options. Should I look through the calls for submissions? Something there might inspire me. Or should I concentrate on a novel? I have three in my mental queue. There's Vampires! In Space!, another YA
novel, and then there's the one that worries me. This may sound strange, but I know I have a novel that has break through appeal. The two short stories I've done with these characters (Georgie and Jack from the Booty Call Caper and Georgie Cracks the Case) have already gotten a lot of attention. If I wanted to write a commercially
successful erotic novel, and if I wanted to be on the novel-a-year track, this would be the way to go. But...

I don't fear success. I've had some. Just enough to be gratifying. Do I want more?
What I don't want is to be stuck in the novel-a-year, the-same-thing-but-different rut that writers with the big houses get sucked into. I enjoy my eclectic mix of science fiction, lesbian, gay, het, contemporary, BDSM, vanilla, horror stories. I like being able to go to my publishers with, "This is what I've got," rather than, "Here's what you told me to write." And unlike many writers, I have no real desire to make my living off my writing. I'm okay with it being a mildly lucrative hobby. Plus, and this is a big one for me, I like being able to finish a novel before I pitch it. Yes, that's all wrong. No one who isserious is supposed to write on spec, but the freedom to write at my own pace and tell the stories I want to means a lot to me.

So even though I have the complete novel in my head, and I've already written about 40,000 words of it, I'm not sure I'll turn to Jack and Georgie first. Not that I'm making any decisions right now. I don't have to. Because even though I should
be, I'm not writing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My Smut Runneth Over

I read a lot of smut. Smut meaning erotica. Literary erotica, not erotic romance. (If you want to know my definition of the difference - erotic romance is written in the genre style of romance novels. Literary erotica is written in the genre style of contemporary literature.)

Since I review erotica for Erotica Revealed and the Erotica Readers and Writers Association websites, I read at least two erotic novels or anthologies a month. Then there are the books I read to keep up with friend's work, the reading I do to keep up with my publisher's other writers, the books that get great reviews, stuff that
catches my eye, and the flotsam andjetsam of other sites, trends, and whatnot. And that's just the erotica.

I read other stuff too. I just read Orlando by Virgina Woolf, The Tipping
Point, and a writer's craft guidebook that made me wonder if the writer
ever wrote anything except books to tell writers how to write books.
(I've decided those are useless, but I get sucked in from time to time.
Once again, I've found Poppy ZBrite's words to hold true: "You don't learn how to write novels. You learn how to write THIS novel.")

With all this smut, you'd think I'd get tired of reading it. Honestly, yes, reading some of it is like a forced death march over the Russian steppes in February. I know that many women get off from submission fantasies, but reading them is a special slice of hell for me - usually because they are all the frickin ' same. (I swear there's a checklist circulating to these writers. Master calls with stupid command. CHECK. She wriggles uncomfortably at her desk before obeying him and taking off her panties/putting on the special panties/inserting the buttplug/inserting the vibrator. CHECK. A small moan escapes her lips. CHECK. ad nauseum) That's just one of the cliches I'm subjected to time and again. The strangers who meet in the bar, but it turns out they're married. Don't get me started on the food stories. The "I bought sexylingerie and now I'm suddenly a different person" story... The writers who offer up that sort of stuff are usually beginners, so they lack the craft to make it
rise above the cliche. Even worse, they don't read in the genre they're writing (grrr), so they don't even know that the clever little story they thought up has been done to death.

But then there are those other writers who can take the most mundane story and infuse it with such brilliant writing that oh! Such a joy to read. I'll savor every word. Or there are the writers who can come at something from such an oblique angle that even though I think I know where it's going, I can never be sure. And then there are the ones who never forget it's about sex. With flawless aim, they hit right into the heart of the matter and aw fuck, who cares what the story is about? It's hot! Who could ever be bored with that?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sex and Horror

There's been an interesting thread on horror on the Erotica Readers and Writer's Association writer's list today. What frightens people is different, although many people, myself included, chimed in that what people are capable of is scarier than anything a paranormal creature does. At least we can be reasonably sure that demons and devils won't affect our lives, but we're surrounded by people.

No one got into the topic that I would have liked to have pursued, and that's how
closely aligned horror and sex writing is. There is erotic horror, of course, but I mean in a broader sense. As genres, both horror and erotica bypass the logical part of your brain and aim forthe primitive core. Both manipulate (I don't mean that word in the worst sense) readers into feeling something. You could argue that romance does too (my favorite description of romance is "emotional porn") but love, despite all the lofty words spoken about it, is a luxury item in the emotional hierarchy. Strip away the thin veneer of society, and what remains as motivators are fear and sex.

The primary tools of horror and erotica writers are similar. Horror and erotica stories are rich in sensory language. I can't think of other genres that invest as much time describing texture, color, sound, flavor, etc. I guess the difference is that horror wants the chill to run up your spine to your brain, where erotica wants that chill to run down your spine to your genitals as well as zinging your brain.

I'll be interested to see what else writers on that list have to say about
horror. I wonder if they can pinpoint what made the stories scary. It's
wonderful insight into the emotional buttons a writer can push. The difference
being, I suppose, in how you stroke those buttons.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

One Eye on the Sky.

I had a great weekend hanging out with DL King. Our quest for Mexican food led us to Balboa Island down in Newport (We ate pupusas and tortas at an El Salvadorian place), La Super Rica in Santa Barbara, our local "been here since the dawn of time" cantina, and the drive-through of several Jack In The Box restaurants.

Besides sitting in a traffic jam on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu above Sunset Boulevard, and shopping for flavored balsamic vinegar in Balboa, DL and I also met Stan Kent of the Shoe Leather series fame for a very fun lunch. If I hadn't been driving, I would have drank more than a single shot ofsaki . Stan is fascinating, funny, and smart - the perfect combination for a rather ribald lunch conversation. We talked about erotica and the LA version of In The Flesh erotica reading series which Stan is now running. He had some great ideas. I'm looking forward to next month.

The weather was flawless. It was in the low 80s, unbelievably clear skies, and just cool enough near the beach at night to kind of need a jacket. Some people were calling it false summer, but I've lived in LA long enough (but not long enough to call it home. I don't think I'll ever feel like any place is home.) to know that this is typical January weather here. This is when we start looking to the skies and fretting about rain, but it's hard to imagine rain when it's so incredible outside. There were high clouds today though. If you're not from around here, you're probably saying, "So what," but in LA clouds are rare unless a winter storm rolls in. So it could be that monsoon season (they've recently started calling it that) is really on the way. (Although I think they should stop trying to make it sound exotic and call it what it truly is - mudslide season.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

While the Rest of the Nation Shivers

I took C out for dinner just because. Just because I didn't feel like cooking. I had one of those days where my brain felt like a hamster on a wheel. Just when I thought I saw a glimmer of an answer, I realized my brain had looped right back to where it started. So I picked up C and took her down to the marina. We sat on the outside patio and watched the sun set while we ate. We had a great conversation about manga and the how much meaning is coded into the design of the characters. Yes, I spent ten minutes discussing the deeper meaning of a character with no eyebrows, and even longer discussing body proportion and hands. It was the perfect conversation to get my brain off the hamster wheel. Too bad I was driving, because a drink would have been the perfect cap to the meal and the day.

It was so clear today that as we were headed for the beach I saw a Channel Island I've never seen before. I can usually catch glimpses of Catalina, but this is the first time I've ever seen Santa Barbara Island. (Maybe since it has no elevation to
speak of. Santa Catalina has mountains. I was so shocked there was another channel island that close that I had to look it up to figure out the name). It was probably still 70 degrees outside, but the patio heater felt good while we were eating since I didn't have on a jacket.

You're just hating me right now, aren't you? But before you pack up and move here, I have one word for you.

Earthquakes.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Connections

When I started writing for publication, I was amazed at how interconnected people were. As I talked about writers and publishers, it was always this two degrees ofseparation conversation that was more about who they were connected to rather than what they wrote or published. I figured that was just the way of world of queer press
worked. Then I became part of the erotica writing world, and it's the same thing. It's a good thing that (compared to many writers) I'm an extrovert. I'm so fascinated by these connections that I've started connecting people I think have similar aims, or if I think one has information the other person needs, just to see what will happen. Sometimes nothing does. But sometimes these leapfrog tangents bring everything together in unexpected ways.

Was it only a year ago that I read at the In the Flesh reading in New York? Maybe two. Anyway, Rachel Kramer Bussel, of many anthologies fame, hosts a great erotica reading series in New York called In The Flesh. Friend (and Erotica Revealed head honcho) DL King showed me around NYC and went with me to the reading that night.

The erotica writers I know in LA have been lamenting the lack of good reading opportunities, (LA is not a reading-friendly town) so of course I was thrilled when
Rachel launched an LA version of In The Flesh. (I'm so grateful she didn't take it to San Francisco - a much more literary city - even though it would give me an excuse to go there more often) Rachel was out here for the inaugural event. We talked a bit about cupcakes (of course!) and the new anthology she was promoting at the time, Rubber Sex (Cleis) (Which DL King has a story in, and I reviewed for Erotica Revealed after getting interested in rubber outfits when DL came to LA and let me feel up her new black rubber skirt. But I digress) It was the night before BookExpo America, so Maxim Jakubowski was in town and read that night (he's writing the intro to the Coming Together: Against the Odds anthology I'm in, but that's a whole other tangent.) Also at the reading was Stan Kent of the Shoe Diaries fame. I've been hearing raves about Stan and his books for a while, but never got around to reading one until... well, I'll get to that.

A couple months ago Stan asked if I'd be interested in reading at In The Flesh. He was standing in as host. I was, of course, thrilled. And terrified. But thrilled. In
The Flesh LA had moved from a Venice Beach location to Hustler Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard. Also reading that night was Jolene Hui, who I first met at a reading for Iridescence (Alyson), edited by Jolie du Pre, who also read at the In The Flesh New York I read at. Come to think of it, she read her story from Iridescence that night.

So last week, DL said she was coming out to LA this coming weekend. What did I find in my email this AM? A note from Stan Kent asking if I'd be interested in reading reviews from Erotica Revealed at In The Flesh LA each month. I passed on the e-mail to DL (since it's her website, not mine), and now it looks at if Stan, DL, and I are going to meet for lunch this coming weekend, and DL will be doing a reading by phone for this coming In The Flesh LA. It seems Stan is the new host of In The Flesh LA, along with the charming Jolene Hui.

(So now I'm really glad that I picked up Stan's first book in his shoes series at the last reading, and that I got around to reading it last weekend (It hadn't drifted to the top of my reading stack, but I figured I'd been hearing about his books for so
long that I should just go ahead and read it first) Now I have to buy the rest in the series, because an erotic story about a girl who relives the sex when she puts on shoes someone has had sex in, and who uses those powers to hunt down psychos, has me hooked.)

When people talk about publishing being a game of who you know, I'm sure they mean it a different way than I do. I don't work on book deals or agents or that sort of thing when I talk to writers and publishers, even when I'm at Saints and Sinners Literary Festival (New Orleans. May 14-17 this year. Best writer's conference, ever. You should go) Saints and Sinners is networking ground zero for me. (Although I'll admit that some opportunities have come my way because of it, I've never actively sought a book deal there.) I'm more interested in finding out what people know, not what they can do for me, and try to figure out who I should connect them to. It's fascinating. Really.

Monday, January 12, 2009

It's Been Quite the Week

I got my edits on one of my novels and had six days to turn it around. Got that done with one day to spare.

Got word that my story The Booty Call Caper was accepted for the Coming Together: Against the Odds anthology.

The Broadly Bound anthology that's been languishing due to writer turnover and the editor's ill health suddenly came together and we're on the bio and blurb (ugh!) rounds, with edits to follow. I have a feeling that will come back from edits with a very tight deadline. Excited to be between the covers withDL King, Beth Wylde, Cassandra Gold, and the ever devious Syd McGinley. (Syd and I are fellow Torquere writers with mutual admiration for each other's Doms.) Alessia Brio, my editor on Coming Together, has been tapped to do the cover art. I haven't worked with Phaze Publishing before, and now suddenly I'm in two of their anthologies.

It looks as if the bisexual anthology I submitted work to well over a year ago is also suddenly reaching critical mass for publication. (I submitted it knowing she didn't have a publisher, but for her, I was willing to wait for a while.)

DL King has a new Vampire anthology with a short deadline from Cleis, so I expect to hear if my story made the final cut from the powers that be at Cleis (who have final say on all stories) by May. (I posted the call below, but note that the deadline has changed to mid-April so that the book will make the autumn release schedule in time for Halloween. It's going to be close.)

I got the print copy of my YA novel in the mail today. There is nothing like the thrill of holding a book with your name (well, one of your many names) on it.

And oh yeah... according to Amazon, Zane's Caramel Flava II anthology will finally be released in June of this year. I'll believe it when I see it. I'll believe it when I see the check. It's only been three years. And they don't respond to emails. Grrrr.

Still to do: write that blurb for Broadly Bound. Did I mention I hate writing
blurbs? The only thing I hate more is a synopsis. I guess I'll get on that, just as soon as I finish this blog entry. (and any other really important things that come up, like cleaning out the fridge)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Booty Call Caper



My story The Booty Call Caper has been accepted by Alessia Brio for the Coming Together: Against the Odds anthology.

Against the Odds is the latest in a line of charity fund raiser anthologies that Alessia edits. This time the theme was mysteries. While it's difficult to write a short mystery story, it can be done. I look forward to seeing what the other contributors came up with.

The Booty Call Caper features my sort-of-detectives Georgie (don't call her Georgeanne) and Jack from my short story, Georgie Cracks the Case (Torquere Press). Georgie makes a booty call to Jack, which he gladly answers, but before they can get down to business, she mentions something odd she noticed at work. Jack has to check it out before he'll put out. Frustrated, Georgie agrees to take him to the scene of the crime - even though she's not sure there was a crime.

These two are so fun to write. Exhausting, but fun. Georgie and Jack somehow manage to solve cases even though they're both more interested in witty banter, dry martinis, and steamy sex.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Undead

I always say I hate vampires. Every other writer I know groans when vampires are mentioned. And yet, I spent a couple hours talking to DL King about vamps last night because she's editing a vampire anthology for Cleis, and after we said goodbye, my mind was whirling with vampire story ideas.

I guess I don't truly hate vampires as much as I dislike vampire stories. Is there a more Freudian monster in existence? No. Are they Gothic as hell? Yes. Do they fit into modern life? Yep. Are they easily adaptable to cheesy erotic romance novels? Um...

That right there might be the problem.

I've read too many poorly written, over the top, purple-prose vampire stories, usually not by choice. It's like aversion therapy. I hear "vampire," and I flinch. That's really unfair as there are some wonderful vampire stories out there, but I hesitate to read them because I've been burnt one too many times.

So please, for my sake, if you submit a story to DL King's anthology, make it fresh. Re-examine the folklore. Stay away from red velvet, men with long hair, and billowy white curtains and nightgowns.

The call:
Call For Submissions:

Sex with Bite--Vampire Erotica (Title TBA)
Edited by D. L. King
To be published by Cleis Press
Deadline: March 1, 2009
Payment: $50 and 2 copies of the anthology

D. L. King is looking for super-erotic vampire stories

The allure of the vampire... There's no denying this fascination with immortality, with the eternally beautiful, strong and sexy. Creatures who take what they need; stealing the life force from those unlucky enough to cross their paths--or possibly those whose luck leads them to the most thrilling experience of their lives. What makes these lust-filled creatures so irresistible to our kind?

We've seen lots of romantic vampires of late. Those aren't the ones I'm looking for. I want blood quickening, heart pounding, dangerous, intelligent, maddeningly beautiful, hot as hell vampires. I'm not looking for love, or maybe I'm looking for love in all the wrong, bad, scary places. Think of beings whose carnality can't be sated, innocence caught in lust's snare, those who can't help taking a walk on the dark side--or turn the tables. Send me something different; something we haven't seen before, something molten.

This anthology is primarily heterosexual, but I'll consider GLBT stories. Remember, no underage characters, please. Stories should be between 2,000 and 4,000 words, double-spaced, 12 pt Times New Roman or Courier New. Please indent the first line of each paragraph one-half inch and do not include extra lines between paragraphs.

Send your story as a .doc or .rtf attachment and include the title, pseudonym (if applicable), your legal name and mailing address to vampantho@gmail.com. Subject line should read: Submission: TITLE. Please include a 50 to 75-word bio and direct any questions to the same address. Original stories only. You must own all rights to any reprints.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Heading Into Hell Month

This is the worst time of year for me at me day job. I spent the past
two weeks getting everything set and ready to go. Unfortunately, one
thing isn't working. I know what will happen when my boss comes in
tomorrow. I'm going to tell him I need an hour of his time. I'm going
to bring my numbers to him. And he's going to say what he always says.
"You're this far already? You're a miracle worker." (He's a wonderful
person to work for) But...

I won't be satisfied at all. I wanted
to be at miracle stage plus one. I wanted to really knock his socks
off. Instead, we're going to spend an hour crawling through numbers and
find something completely obvious I did wrong. And I'll want to kill
myself.

The worst part of this is that all weekend, I couldn't
sleep because all of the details were going through my head. And when I
did fall asleep, I had nightmares that I was back working for the
Hideous Troll and his Storm Trooper Bitch Enforcer. You'd think nine
years away from them would be enough time to get past the trauma. You
wouldn't think any job would leave such scars on a person. But it
isn't, and it did. The only satisfaction I get is that through the
grapevine (former co-workers who loathe them as much as I do) I've
heard they took a massive hit this year and thebusiness is in trouble.
Good. I can't think of anyone more deserving. But until they get out of
my head forever, I won't be able to enjoy their misfortune as much as
I'd like to. (and yes, I'm that petty.)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Reviews Are Up

The January reviews are up at href="http://www.eroticarevealed.com/current_reviews.php?panel_id=1">Erotica
Revealed.

I'm glad to see Jean Roberta enjoyed The
Secret Tunnel by James Lear as much as I did. I'm reviewing it for the
February edition of The Erotica Readers and Writers Association website.