Triggers and Tough Truths

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We talk about triggers a lot, us the women and the queer folk and the people of color, us who would like the world to be a little bit better, a little bit more equal (not just a bit god damnit!) We often mean those little warning labels at the start of possibly inflammatory blog posts or articles.

I still rarely use them. Mostly because there many times when it feels like advertising instead, because we live in a society in which violence is entertainment and sexual violence doubly so. And I can’t even be preachy about it, really, because it works on me too. I also am lucky not to get triggered by blog posts, and when I do end up feeling bad, anxious and lingeringly icky after consuming an article or video, it’s usually because of subtle, strange things nobody would think of warning against.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

I want to talk about triggers in my offline life. The life we used to call the “real life,” before I grew up and realized my real life gets to be what I choose it to be.

 

He was sweet, which is unusual for a street flirt. I had an inkling he was about to ask me out when he slowed down as I approached, when he changed the side of the road to match mine when I tried to get out of the situation. I didn’t want him to chat me up, but the sun was shining and I’d had a really nice day at work and so when he did, I wasn’t quite able to shut it down. Being cold and dismissive is something I had to learn, and still have to prepare for, or the good old people please inside me rears its smiling Manic Pixie Dream Girl head.

But he was sweet.

He spoke English better than German, which tends to win me over. He asked me what I do and how I like it, he asked what I enjoy in my spare time and showed an interest. And he a sweet, smiling face that didn’t look threatening.

For the sake of fairness, I should say right now that this is not a story about how I was raped. Nothing quite so dramatic and horrible and important. But it is a story about how we got to talking about the tv shows we liked and why not hang out some time this week and watch one together, get to know each other.

I’m an introvert, a tv-hang-out session is my dream first date. And he said he was one, too. I still don’t know if that was the truth. But he gave me my number. He wasn’t pushy for mine, like most of them are. And so I texted him, and we arranged a date.

 

In hind-sight, maybe I could have been smarter. My alarm bells could have run sooner, like when he acted like I was probably surprised he found me attractive and wanted to go out with me. Or when I finally figured out in one of his texts that he’d followed me out of the train just to talk to me.

He showed up 15 minutes late – which given Cologne’s public transport really isn’t a big deal – but he immediately said, “I bet you’re surprised I actually showed up, aren’t you? I know you’re surprise. I could have texted but I thought I’d like to surprise you.”

I smiled and shook my head. I wasn’t surprised; there’s nothing surprising about a man who finds me attractive and wants to get his hands on me. In fact it is the most annoyingly predictable part of dating in general.

I offered him something to drink. He looked around, at my photos and my books and my DVDs. You know, intimate stuff like that. And he immediately hated my cat. Now, my dad doesn’t like cats either, and it’s not an issue of like-me-like-my-cat, but the way he flinched and aggressively shushed her away was unattractive. And it also put me on the defensive; he had me apologizing five times before we even started to watch something.

That at least started out fine. He took my hand after a while and it was warm and large, and for a second I managed to forget about his hatred for pets and thought that maybe, just maybe, I could be a normal person with a nice date with someone who’s actually interested in me, not just my boobs or my ass, and both of them as fast as possible, please.

 

It’s not that I am shy or prude (even though neither of these things are bad in any way). But I’ve had sex or intimate touching too early before, and it has always felt to me like I was the girl selling tickets at the box office: For a while, we are both in the same place. We interact, maybe exchange a few niceties, which end up designed to make me smile and hand over the ticket. And in that moment, he takes my body into a dark room with him and I am left on the outside, hardly even able to look in, and definitely not part of the experience.

It’s when he does all the pushing. I let him hold my hand, so it’s probably okay if he wants to put his arm around me, if he wants to kiss me before we’re 15 minutes into the show.

At that point, I told him I really just want to hang out together. I have no interest in having sex or anything like that. He plays offended for a second and then reassures me. We get a little more comfortable and the show continues. He starts kissing my neck, licking it, scratching me with his beard.

I don’t feel anything. I’m not invested in him enough, not turned on enough, just not in the same room.

“I want to touch your skin,” he says as he pulls up my shirt. I pull it down and so he weasels his hand under it.

“Oh, do you?” I ask. I raise my brows and sigh. No. I didn’t stop him. I didn’t say What about what I want? People pleaser. I hate that girl.

I stopped him when he straddled my lap, pulled up my shirt and started peeling away my bra. I said, “Hey. I’m not into this.”

He grinned, made puppy eyes and went, “Awww come on. Just five minutes.”

That’s when I pushed him off me. Hard. It felt good, for one glorious second it felt good.

And then he got angry. I don’t know if you ever tried to explain to a man who’s never even heard about feminist theory or rape culture, that no, I am not accusing him of trying to rape me. But yes, he’s doing something wrong.

It’s not fun. As you may have expected.

I asked him to leave, which he made me repeat I think a total of 6 or 7 times. Always asking whether I’m sure. His voice got loud and aggressive.

“You were okay with it! I didn’t do anything wrong! I respect women! I like you and I know you like me too, I just don’t need a month to decide whether I like someone! You didn’t say no!”

I did. But not very loud. And I certainly didn’t say yes. I didn’t say it with my mouth or with my body. I turned away, leaned away, squirmed out of his embraces whenever I could.

I guess it’s subtle – if it’s all about what you want, and I’m a means to an end.

 

When he left, I started to cry and I wanted to shower. It took me a while to realize that he reminded me all too starkly of my ex when I was 18. The boy who’d made sex a chore for me, something the man pressured, cajoled, begged, charmed out of me. Never the thing I wanted, desired. There was never enough time to get there.

I never actually said “No” to him, either. I said, “Really, again?” I said, “But we’re watching the movie…” I said, “I’m really tired, can we just cuddle?” I said, “I’m still sore.” I said, “I have to be at work in an hour and I don’t want to shower again.”

I guess all that was really subtle, too.

 

He also knew what he wanted. And when he wanted something the touching and the groping, the relentless pushing, that’s just something that happens. And when I push his hand away, that’s not saying “no” – I guess that’s saying “Try again in 2 Minutes.”

 

So I cried. A lot. And I sat, staring into space, going over everything I said and everything I did. And over the way his voice changed and his eyes weren’t cute anymore; they suddenly were the eyes of a man who could hurt me.

I had trouble falling asleep and when I did, I had nightmares and kept waking up bathed in sweat. In the morning, I was still staring into space, starting to come up with appropriate responses: the things I should have said when he belittled my feelings, when he snorted at the idea someone like me could tell him what to do and what not to do. After all, wasn’t I supposed to be grateful for his attentions?

I ended up forgetting my keys, and I cried in the bathroom at work. The service to open up my door set me back 200€ and there’s a part of me that is still sitting here, staring into space, trying to figure out what I could have done differently – yesterday and when I was 19. I’m still a hair’s breadth away from starting to cry again.

And so I write it down. It’s what I do.

 

The thing that gets me is… I could have wanted him, if he had given me a little more time. If he had talked and laughed and been a person with me, rather than a guy who’s after sex. It’s the least sexy thing in the world, the way their personalities glaze over and I don’t even recognize the fun person they were a few minutes before. And I’m just so, so tired of it sometimes.

New Release: After Life Lessons – Book Two

What does it mean to live, to hope, to love in a dying world?

That’s what the characters in our latest release – After Life Lessons: Book Two – are trying to find out once more. After Life Lessons takes you on the road with straggling survivors of a zombie apocalypse, as they try to heal first each other and then what is left of their society.

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The Complete After Life Lessons Collection

 

After Life Lessons is a Survival/Post-Apocalypse series with a Women’s Fiction bent. 

In the wake of a devastating epidemic, Emily finds herself alone, grieving and struggling to survive with her young son, Song. They encounter Aaron, an Army medic on a mission of his own.
After Life Lessons: Book One follows their journey from mere struggle to survive, into a life they slowly begin to recognize as worth living again. Once settled and fortified, they take to the road once more in Book Two in order to find Aaron’s family. Instead they find new enemies and new allies and a dangerous mission for the future of the region.

The Complete After Life Lessons Collection  $5.99

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks

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After Life Lessons: Book Two

After Life Lessons: Book Two

Years after the end of the world, the scattered survivors have begun to reconcile with their fate and are starting to build communities from the rubble. Life has been kind to Aaron and Emily, and maybe it is that infusion of hope that leads them on a winter trip to search for Aaron’s family. But the world outside their little haven has grown harsher, the conditions rough and dangerous.

Not everybody they meet on their journey allowed the grim realities to harden their hearts, however. Malachi and Kenzie – a easy-going drifter with a bum leg and amnesia, and a teenage girl who has lost everyone and everything – are on an ill-conceived mission to Mexico, while Iago and his band of nomads work to forge trading connections between the small settlements of the south. All of them will discover new nightmares on the road, far surpassing the threat of the last rotting zombies still roaming the countryside. And now they must come together to fight for peace and justice in the world they trying to rebuild.

 

After Life Lessons: Book Two — $3.99

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New Release: In Your Atmosphere – 6 #erotic stories

Just in time for valentine’s day, we’re bringing you a new collection of stories of L.C. Spoering and myself. Now, for my part, I don’t have a date tonight and where I live, more people indulge in Cologne’s Stree Carneval this weekend than make mention of Valentine’s day, but so we have the have the finer things – the books, and films, the music and the secret thoughts :).

In Your Atmosphere, Laila Blake, L.C. Spoering

We put together this anthology of couple’s stories, stories of lasting love because I think we all need such tales and remember.

Everybody knows the lure of what’s new and exciting, but sometimes it’s really the passion that lasts and builds in intimacy that captures the imagination. In Your Atmosphere celebrates the sexy side of romance and commitment in six sizzling stories about love, kink and the happily ever after.

Goodreads In your Atmosphere

 

 

Purchase here:

 

Be the Best Writer’s Block Buster – 6 Foolproof Strategies to Keep Writing

Visions of drill-sergeants march through my head and I laugh at them. What do they know about writing? Well, okay, sometimes you just have to push. There is a place for brute force in writing, but why go there when you can hack whatever blocks you in so many more pleasant ways?

First things first: Yes, I am a firm believer in the idea that there is no such thing as Writer’s Block, very much like there is no teacher’s block, no fireman’s or secretary’s block. We really need to stop mystifying ourselves. However. And that is a big one, so it gets its own sentence. However, there are pretty powerful blocking factors that occur so often that bets are, you have to deal with at least two of them if you want to finish writing anything.

 

So here are the 6 most common blocks to bust:

 

1. The Problem: Lack of Motivation.

A little obvious, sure, but a lot of the time the reason you are not writing is very simply because you don’t want to. Think about it: writing for many of us is somewhere in the nebulous area between a job and a hobby. It can feel a bit like doing your homework back in school: a lot of work every day with only a bare glimpse of the benefit at the end of a very long tunnel. But this time you are not in school: you’re an adult and you have a day job (or kids, or you’re not an adult and actually have school on top of everything). Nobody is after you like a hawk denying you video games or the Wi-Fi password until you’re done.

The Drill-Sergeant would say:

Write Anyway. Push through until your fingers bleed, you lazy mo-fo!

I would say: Be your own Cheerleader!

The reason you don’t want to write is because in your head, you turned it into work/homework/chores. This happens so easily because we’re humans and we’re idiots that way, but there are ways around it. One literally is to ruthlessly hype yourself up to write. Make a habit of thinking about your story while you do your actual work and your actual chores. Envision the awesome scenes you get to write that day, how well they well integrate and push your plot ahead. Think of the characters that you love and ask them how they feel about yesterday’s scene and how you can make them happy today.
And it may seem silly but it’s crucial in terms of brain chemistry: smile while you do it! Even if you don’t feel like smiling at first, smile anyway. It’ll become more natural as your scenes unfold in front of your mind’s eye.

Continue Reading

The End of a Series: Saltwater Skin

Bringing a novel onto paper and into distribution is a thing of satisfying (and terrifying!) beauty. But doing the same to a whole series, of concluding something that has been with you for so long, beats it by a mile as I am currently finding out!

The Breaking in Waves trilogy was not originally conceived as a series at all. My short stories simply had been accepted into several erotica anthologies, and it felt like a shame not to follow that up with an erotic publication of my very own.

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At the time, I just wanted to write a piece that was all about my own impressions of bdsm and the people who practice it, as it appeared to me, and as – in my limited reading erotica reading experience anyway – was rarely depicted in erotic romance. I wanted to write about consent and laughter, about kindness and the normality of it all. I wanted regular-looking people with a regular to modest income, who just acted like regular people who want to get to know each other and enjoy each other’s predilections (okay: more or less. The time contraction for the sake of the novella format did impose certain limitations to reality lol).Breaking in Waves Series

The point is: I was writing it very much as a statement piece. It wasn’t really about the characters or their story, but I fell in love with them anyway. And by the end of Driftwood Deeds, I knew I wanted to give them more: backstory, real character and a satisfying conclusion. And so Trading Tides and Saltwater Skin were conceived.

Trading Tides is the dark moment in the trilogy, it puts their young relationship to the test. I knew very early on that I wanted to write about distance relationships, about sustaining love through phone wires and internet sessions. Especially before 50 Shades, bdsm still felt so taboo, it was and still is hard to find local people, the pool is just a lot smaller and the chance to fall in love in that pool becomes somewhat tiny (not least of all because there are a lot of nutters around lol). So I feel like distance is an issue faced by a lot of D/s couples, and I wanted to pay tribute to that and explore it.

In the end, it was probably the hardest to write emotionally, because it revived so many old memories of my own, of fighting against a current that feels overwhelming at times, of longing and need and feeling alone in a world full of people because the one person you want to be with is miles away. But of course that also made it incredibly gratifying to bring to a happy conclusion. 

Saltwater SkinAnd then came Saltwater Skin, where Paul takes over as narrator, which posed challenges of its very own as well. He always had a very distinct voice in my head, a strong character who deserved to express all of his own thoughts and impressions and to not just be seen through Iris’ eyes.

He is definitely a character I fell for hard, and who still makes me swoon: troubled, thoughtful hero who works hard to overcome is issues to finally be the man he wants to be. Saltwater Skin will be released next week alongside a Complete Trilogy Collection (although because of issues they are actually already available on AllRomance and Smashwords), and there is something wonderful about starting into the New Year with a finished long-term project. As much as I love Breaking in Waves, its completion opens up so much space in my head, so many possibilities and new story ideas. And I can’t wait to see if readers like spending time in Paul’s head as much as I did!

I’m still giving away free review copies, by the way. So anyone who would like to review Saltwater Skin (or other books in the series as well) in January or February, please contact me at laila@lailablake.com!

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Driftwood Deeds, Breaking in Waves #1, Laila Blake goodreads-badge

Trading Tides, Breaking in Waves #2, Laila Blake goodreads-badge

Detail of female hands tied up with rope goodreads-badge

 

 

Gift Inspiration Driftwood Deeds

If you’re anything like me, two weeks before Christmas you’re probably not exactly done with your Christmas gifts. For me, that is because my family is made up of die-hard pragmatists when it comes to material things, who almost impossible to find presents for. So I researched gifts for people who appreciate such things in a series of book inspired gift ideas.

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My Breaking in Waves series is set by the seaside, full of ocean treasures, long lost stories and love.

Etsy: Sea Glass Necklace, by lacylauragray — $7.50

In the first book, Paul takes Iris on a walk by the sea-side, to an abandoned beach where he finds all the raw materials for his work-work: driftwood and rope, sea-glass and rusty fishing gear. They walk around the place in wellington boots, searching for treasure and forging a very first connection.  They find little glittering fishing lures, and pieces of sea-glass glittering in the sand.

 

“So you think I like broken things?” I asked after a long time, voice warm and tinged in this quiet, restful moment. Paul Archer looked at me over the rim of his cup, which he held in both hands to drink as though it was an Asian bowl.

Etsy: Asian Bowl with Chopsticks Holder by SwampFires, $25.00

“I think you understand them, notice them,” he corrected, then tilted his head, put the cup down and pulled his glasses from his face. He wiped the hot water condensation from the lenses before resetting the glasses on his nose in that charming gesture. “And maybe, you feel drawn to them, too.” (Driftwood Deeds, Chapter 3)

Although primarily a screen-writer, Paul likes to work with his hands. He makes beautiful things out of driftwood: furniture and decorative objects. Later in Trading Tides, she makes a bed-side table for Iris because she needs somewhere to rest her books when she’s asleep. He likes the stories he imagines in old wood, long cut from its tree.

Driftwood Dock for iPad and iPhone, by Docksmith — $120.00

It has history embedded in its markings, a history of growth, and then another long story of getting lost and found by the beach. Driftwood inspires him to write, and — in a way — driftwood inspires him to be the person he wants to be, the person he grows into throughout the series.

Paul is like a knotted, washed out piece of wood, Iris finds on her day at the beach. A piece of driftwood that compels, inspires her with its beauty and its history, with the soft sheen of its form. And she takes it with her, slowly working new life into a man who long thought the most exciting parts of his life were in the past.

Handmade Leather Paddle, by ThePaddleman — $40.28

Instead, they start their tumultuous love story – and of course it’s not simple. Great passion never comes easy. But then Iris doesn’t like easy. She likes pain and the test of endurance. She likes the way Paul reaches for a leather strap to spank her rear.

“You didn’t want to wear any of them,” he says after a while. I pause, try to gather my thoughts. Then I shake my head.

“But you want to be mine?”

HIS & HER’S Leather Infinity Cuff Bracelets, by MemorylaneJewelry — $80.00

“Yes!” There’s a sharp, hot knot in my stomach and I reach for his hand on the wall, cover it with mine. “Of course I do. I am. And I want… I want to wear something of yours. I want to be reminded all the time. Just…”

“Just what, baby girl?”

“I think maybe I want something of yours. Something that’s you. Or me. Something that’s about us. (Trading Tides, Epilogue)

Leather Journal, by CLWorkshop — $40.00

And, of course, in the very last book – Saltwater Skin, which will be released in January – Paul has given Iris more than a leather cuff, and a collar. He also gave her a diary, he bound from the same piece of leather. A diary for her to him, to write in her thoughts and her feelings, to express everything she finds hard to say out loud — like all of us should.

 

 

Lastly, there are still the books – ebooks for now, although there will be a print edition of the full collection in the new year! But then, who doesn’t love a book appearing on their eReader, a new one a friend enjoyed before us?

Driftwood Deeds, Breaking in Waves #1, Laila Blake goodreads-badge

Trading Tides, Breaking in Waves #2, Laila Blake goodreads-badge

Detail of female hands tied up with rope goodreads-badge

Pre-order on Amazon

Release date: Jan 6th 2014

 

 

Wordcount-Binging and the Quest for Flow

It is a truth almost universally acknowledged in writer circles anymore – see what I did there? – that bringing as many words as possible onto the page in each sitting is the key to writerly success. Espoused everywhere you look, from the ever-popular Nanowrimo to blogs, podcasts and self-help books for writers, the basic idea seems to be that finishing a book is hard, and the easiest way to get through it, is to do it as fast and painlessly as possible. Get the words out there, vomit them onto your text processor, and most importantly: don’t think about it at all. That’s the way to Flow. Flow, that magical word that has been making the rounds for a while, state of infinite creative potential when the mind is linked-up, perfectly aligned to spill out your inner genius.

I don’t know how ADD we have become as a culture that we think it necessary to explain and mystify the benefits inherent in a state of enduring and enjoyable concentration, but that’s all it seems to be. Despite being often compared to a runner’s high, that feeling athletes seem to get when the rush of endorphins from physical exertion overpowers pain and exhaustion, there isn’t actually any link between the two. I shouldn’t have to point out that one includes the exercise induced rush of hormones and the other, well, doesn’t.

Now, I am the last person to diss Flow. Flow is amazing. I just seriously question whether Flow really has anything to do with the word-vomit we are often called upon to expel into our manuscripts. To clarify: we are supposed to just write down whatever comes to mind without caring about spelling, phrasing, the beauty of words, sentence and melody or even the appropriate wording of dialogue. Least of all should we think about theme or repeating topics, motifs and metaphors. The resulting text might require more editing (according to some sources up to several times the amount it took to write), but that’s supposedly worth it, because the important thing is to get it out of your head as soon as possible.

Now, I am the last one to complain about our generation’s obsession with speed, but… really? I am not in the position to judge other writers and what they enjoy about writing – but while I agree wholeheartedly that prolonged periods of concentration and the efforts to increase your writing output in an effort to keep the story alive and active in your head – I can’t abide by the dogmatic nature of the rest of it.

First of all: As a translator, I achieve Flow all the time.
This is relevant here, because you cannot stop thinking, evaluating and constantly assessing the whole picture while you translate. Now, according to Flow-espousers, this should prevent Flow. My inner critic is on 100% of the time, I constantly check terminology, look up words, compare them to earlier usage within the text, make sure this is the best way I could possibly express any given sentiment etc. And still I achieve Flow.

In fact, I achieve Flow faster and easier than I do in writing. That’s not because I enjoy translating more. I don’t. But I believe simply because translating is a more immersive activity, just BECAUSE you have to concentrate so hard on so many things at once. You can’t help it. In writing, it’s easier to waver a bit, not to be fully invested in the task at hand.

Secondly: I simply cannot enjoy shoddy worksmanship, no matter how many times I tell myself that I will edit it later. For me, writing is primarily a set of skills, not some magical spring inside of me that produces the clearest water if I just let it run free. I enjoy finding just the right words to unlock just the right feeling while I write. That’s what makes it fun for me. Finding out just how a character would say something is so integral to the character development, I can’t imagine leaving that until the very end. And yes, I love theme. Sure, some emerge later on, but I start every book with certain themes and motifs, and yeah, I do keep them in mind while I write.

After all: Finishing a book isn’t actually that difficult.
It is when you do it for the first time, because if you’re like me and most other people, you are constantly plagued by worrying if you can actually do it, if it’s worth all this misery when it sucks so much anyway, and why in the world you would do this to yourself to begin with. But once you have finished that first book, it’s just as difficult as any long-term task you choose to engage in and that has to compete for your attention with your Netflix account, with sleep and friends, and the normal fluctuations in creative self-confidence.

It’s definitely not difficult enough to warrant this desperate close-your-eyes-and-think-of-England approach. Besides, if you’re anything like me, this is exactly the approach that will mess most with your self-confidence.

I’m the kind of person who has to read back a few paragraphs in the morning when I start writing. And there is NOTHING that will kill my motivation faster than seeing how bad my own writing was the day before. I need to see something that at least resembles the standard I want to see in novels or else I’m hanging in my chair, close to tears about my lack of talent, faster than you can say Flow. And bam, the creative confidence cycle has hit rock bottom again.

Instead, I could write a just a little bit more slowly (I still tend to reach at least 1000k in an hour), but write deliberately, thoughtfully and with intention. That way I actually enjoy what I’m doing while I do it, and when I reach back the next morning, I am full of motivation for the next stretch.

And yes, I see no reason whatsoever why writing the book faster only then to take longer on editing is in any way a win for me at the bottom line. I enjoy writing a lot more than editing. So how stupid would I have to be to rush through the thing I enjoy only to pile up more work for me in the area I enjoy less? Not to mention that editing gets exponentially more painful the messier the first draft is to begin with.

The only thing that matters in the end is that we, each of us, finds the writing process that we find enjoyable.  But concentration and thoughtful writing doesn’t have to be anathema to Flow and good, speedy writing.

It’s Not All About Plot!

Every second genre book, it seems, features these descriptions somewhere in its product description: they are fast-paced, action-packed, and plot-driven. Short, dramatic sentences underline the idea.

Nobody is safe. It’s the end of the world as we know it. Death lurks around every corner. She must solve the riddle or pay with her life. Your basic summer block buster description. Only… I kind of despise summer block busters.

Now, obviously, I recognize the value of a well-structured plot. I even get the action elements and the driving suspense, especially in Dan-Brown-style thrillers. That’s part of the deal. I just don’t understand why all so many others genres are this quick to adopt the strategy. Are readers really looking for a breathless thrill-ride when they pick up a fantasy or sci-fi novel, or even more puzzlingly, when trying to decide on their next YA or general fiction read?

Some definitely do. But there’s also a valuable and vocal part of the reading community who don’t. Personally, I almost always forgo books advertised this way, and when I stumble onto one that follows this principle without making it quite so plain in the description, I tend to end up disappointed. It’s just not what I am looking for in my reading experience.

Cassandra Clare’s books, for example, always strike me as too plot-heavy. And she is by far not the only one in the YA/Paranormal/Fantasy/UF etc. community. I actually think she creates great characters and hints at really interestingly interwoven relationships, but whenever we get a little more into those, another plot point crops it short and sends the reader careening into another plot complication that doesn’t ultimately change the outcome at all.

Plot, after all, is only one ingredient in the whole book recipe. It may feature more prominently in thrillers and mysteries, but each genre mixes the available components a little differently and I, for one, think we should continue to celebrate that. There is world-building, to name just one, which may just be a subtle after-taste in contemporary romance, women’s fiction or many general fiction stories, but it can be deciding factor in Sci-fi/fantasy novels. Harry Potter, for example, isn’t perfect in all respects for me, but the world-building alone is so uniquely imaginative, quirkily adorable and well-crafted throughout, that I will never say a word against the series and probably love it for the rest of my life. Another great example for this would be Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series.

My personal favorite is character development though, and with it the development of different relationships as well (including, but definitely not limited to romantic ones). The moment plot concerns are starting to override character developments, my reading enjoyment starts to slump drastically and if the trend continues throughout the book, it will leave me feeling unsatisfied and a little empty. Like fast food, maybe, except who am I kidding Fast Food is awesome. (Can you all tell I’m sitting at work and haven’t had breakfast yet?)

In my Lakeside series, the first installment By the Light of the Moon is definitely the plot heavier one, whereas the sequel A Taste of Winter focusses more on character development. That’s why I think the latter is a lot better, but I also know that not everybody feels that way. Some readers liked the increased plot density of the first book, and to be honest, as a book of mine, it probably had ample character development too and maybe I overdid it a little bit in the sequel, indulged in what I like to read and write best.

I like plot. I’m a plotter myself. It is important to me to figure out what will happen throughout the book and which plot twists can best lead characters and readers to both the final climax and a satisfying ending. But I also balk at creating unnecessary twists just so that every chapter ends in cliff-hanger, to send characters and readers on wild goose chases only to come up empty and be pretty much in the same position they were three chapters ago. I’ll always rather spend those chapters on getting to know the characters and how they feel about it all, how the plot events changed their world and how they accommodate and react. Some of my favorite scenes in A Taste of Winter are the ones that show Owain dealing with the prejudice faced by his kind, and his determination to overcome it, for example, or Moira finally growing up and coming into her own strength in the relationship.

But those scenes slow down the reading experience, I’m told by countless how-to guides to writing. They put the brakes on that non-stopping thrill-ride, while the characters enjoy the landscape, go for a drink in a road-side café or park in a lonely alley for a clandestine blow-job. I get that.

But then, I’ve always been a friend of landscapes, road-side cafés or clandestine blowjobs, myself. I care more about having a good time getting to my destination, than to get there as fast as possible.

Now I want to know about you, though! How do you feel about the plot/character development proportion in novels?

Feminism & The Adult Industry

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For years some of the most well-educated, scholarly individuals have dedicated a portion of their studies to a subject that could make the rest of us blush: Porn. It’s been evaluated for insight into human sexuality, relationships, culture, societal standards of beauty, and recently, it’s infiltrated the discussion of feminism.

feminismSex-positive feminist writer Wendy McElroy, wrote an educational article for Free Inquiry Magazine where she discussed feminist views on pornography. She claimed that most feminist opinions on pornography can be broken down into three basic categories. The first are those who oppose pornography, with a large portion believing that it’s misogynistic. The second category take an agnostic approach, believing a woman is entitled to do whatever she wants with her own body. Members in the third group refer to themselves as being sex-positive or believing in the idea of sexual freedom. Those in the third group are the ones most likely to also point out the potential benefits that porn can provide women with, and are believed to have formed in opposition to the anti-pornography feminists within the first category.

However, personally speaking as a feminist, I find that I most relate to Adam and Eve contributor/blogger Dr. Kat. For those unfamiliar with Dr. Kat—her doctorate is in Human Sexuality/Clinical Sexology—she frequently discusses the need for society take away the stigma of sex, make it less shameful, and embrace it for the beautiful act that it is.

Although she works to empower women by helping them have more satisfying relationships and sex lives, she’s also sympathetic to the idea of some being turned off by pornography. It’s part of the reason why she’s also quick to mention that no matter where you stand on the subject, the adult industry has been listening to all sides of the feminist argument, and it has been making changes to the types of porn being produced.

Today, more companies are choosing to make pornography that either caters towards a female audience or shows an equal share in pleasure by both parities invovled. The Guardian quoted female pornography director Anna Arrowsmith, who (although she doesn’t overtly say so) sounds like a feminist herself by saying, “I have fought long and hard for women’s right to sexual expression and consumption, as well as for freedom of speech.” Arrowsmith focuses her films far away from the overtly fantasized if not cliched “narratives” of horny school girls and nymphomaniac nannies in order to tell stories of love and passion that women can relate to. With films such as hers growing prevalent in the industry, feminists can feel comfortable in enjoying them because those involved are being treated as equals, not as objects or toys in a misogynistic fantasy.

A feminist group has even taken it upon themselves to reward those like Arrowsmith who are taking part in the movement, creating the Good For Her Feminist Porn Awards—better known simply as the Feminist Porn Awards, according to The Week.

With the wide range of pornography available, it’s likely that there will be something within the industry that you don’t prefer. But at least it’s a step in the right direction to create a portion that isn’t demeaning. Whether you enjoy watching pornography or not, the question remains: Are female porn stars or those that enjoy pornography (even slightly) performing a feminist act? Since there’s no rules on what type of feminist you have to be, you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Does feminism have a place in pornography?

3 Reasons to Stop Worrying about Book Piracy

First things first: I am in no way advocating illegal downloads. And yes, I would hope that anyone interested in my books would take the official route. I mean, seriously, it’s the price of a cup of coffee, and you have no idea how much it makes me smile when I check my sales and there was a tiny jump in numbers.

But I keep seeing a lot of anger and worry and generally negative feelings created by finding books on pirate sites, and I always feel like that might be misplaced. Especially when it coincides with worries about income from writing, as though they are really connected. And in the end, I think it’s much better to accept piracy as a reality we can try to use in our favor rather than getting upset about it every time. And here is why:

1. I am not actually losing anything.

No matter often the dvd piracy warning has flickered over our televisions, we HAVE to admit that there is a difference between stealing a material good and stealing an immaterial copy of a digital file for their own use.
Yes, to produce an ebook costs money, and a lot of time. But to replicate one doesn’t cost a thing. And the value of an ebook is freely scalable. You can sell it for $9.99 or $0.99 and both are equally valid, and depend on your business model, how many you hope to sell, the genre expectations etc. Now we all want to make a living off writing, and I think we deserve to get there, but that’s a different conversation. When we are talking about piracy, I am not losing resources, time or any other costs if someone, somewhere downloads an illegal copy of my book.

This would be different of course if someone took my intellectual property and sold it on or plagiarized it. Then yes, I am losing the income they steal from me – but I do think illegal downloads represents something of an inbetween, no matter now much big companies are trying to bully legislators into considering it theft as much as any other theft.

2. Numbers of illegal downloads do NOT represent income I might have had

Now, people download for all kinds of reasons. Some genuinely can’t afford to spend money on books because they have a family to feed. Others are data hoarders, who just generate pleasure from collecting stuff – far more stuff than they could ever read. Yet others are serial downloaders, who — for whatever reasons, some more valid some less — have decided that the current copyright laws are outmoded and they don’t feel they are doing anything wrong in downloading.
Whatever I think about any of these people: None of them are likely to have bought my book if it hadn’t been available on a pirate site. So if they hadn’t downloaded my book illegally, they would never have gotten their hands on it at all, or in many cases wouldn’t even have heard of it.
That wouldn’t do me any good. Now, I prefer being read to not being read, and yes I would like it a lot more if someone simply contacted me, and told me that they would love to read my book but can’t afford it right now, and I’d gladly send them a copy… BUT I grant that not many people are likely to do this.

I can frame it this way in my mind, though, and stop getting angry.

The goal is to create media that makes people want to spend their money on, and to be to good to those loyal readers.

3. Creative media start to become goods of emotional value

If we look at the music industry, which is always a few steps ahead of us in terms of alternative movements, indie productions and digitization, what we are seeing more and more, are sites like Bandcamp where in many cases, the customers pays what they want to pay. Many artists have their own shop on their websites that functions much the same way. I.e. instead of a fixed price, pricing becomes an open field in which the fan/listener/reader types a figure before they click pay.

And what creators are seeing is that in general, they don’t make less money.

This is one of the most interesting things about the internet and content creation. We are seeing the same thing at Patreon, Subbable, Kickstarter and many more. We WANT to attribute value to the content that makes us happy. Some people may be able to pay 2$ others 10$, and that is a model that makes a lot more sense for digitized products that have no tangible, material value of their own. Because why shouldn’t my book be cheaper for a high school kid or mother of four who gets minimum wage, than for someone with a good, steady income? That sounds totally fair to me because to that mother of four, 2$ signifies the same financial burden as 6$ for someone who has three times her net income.

And publishing is traditionally a little bit elitist isn’t it? There continues to be talk about how “special” books are and, I think most of us mystify the idea of being an author, too. But once we step away from that – like many indie musicians stepped away from the hyped and idealized rock-star ideal – what we are left with is this: we are creators of content. No better or worse than a musician, someone who paints a weekly comic strip or produces a web series on Youtube. But where all of those have embraced new ways of attributing value to content and making it profitable enough to live off being a creator, we indie authors still feel shackled to the old model of the publishing industry when we should be opening our minds to new ideas.

Now obviously, this isn’t exactly tied to piracy, but the music industry has had to deal with that a lot longer than we have. And still indie bands are thriving as much as before. And many of them have openly stated that they don’t mind it when their music is downloaded, because they know that people who fall in love with their stuff will buy the next album, if they can. And I think we should try and approach piracy with a similar state of mind.

If just because it’s better for our general happiness :).

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