New Release: The Big Book of Submission

Today, I have the honor introducing you to another new anthology I have the pleasure of being a part of. The amazing Rachel Kramer Bussel, editor, wonderful writer, blogger and all around bad ass, has done it again and brought together a real gem of short erotic fiction, especially for those of us who like a little spice in our life. 

The Big Book of Submission comprises 69 short stories, glimpses into the world of bdsm and submission. And that’s exactly its strongest point. I am a huge fan of brevity — and not because of my generations infamously short attention span. A novel, even a regular short story takes you on a journey, from beginning to end. But these stories just spirit you away for a few minutes and leave your mind all fired up, ready to imagine a whole world. They inspire the reader. They quicken the pulse and leave you wanting, and that’s exactly what makes them so delicious.

Laila-after-the-Dentist holding copy of The Big Book of Submission.

Laila-after-the-Dentist holding copy of The Big Book of Submission.

Isn’t that what we are looking for in erotic fiction? Something that gets our own imagination going?

I highly recommend this collection, especially if you’re on the look-out for something a little different, for a whirlwind of different fantasies to immerse yourself into. Besides, check out this amazing line-up of writers (complete with snippets from every single story!). Oh, and if you don’t want to take just my word for it – here is a whole list of people endorsing it on their beautiful blogs!

For my own story, Housebroken, I was inspired by a photograph of a young woman, lying in a patch of sunlight on dark hardwood floors. Dust particles made the air shimmer, and there was this stunning contrast between her soft, light skin and the hard, dark floor-boards beneath her.
She was like a kitten, enjoying the sun on her belly. I wanted to write about this kitten girl and her mistress, and their loving and kinky life that allowed her to be so uninhibited, as to lay naked in a patch of sun.

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Available from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk!

 

Exclusive Excerpt: After Life Lessons – The Interlude

Have you read After Life Lessons yet? If so, I have a treat for you! A few weeks ago, L.C. Spoering and I released a little bonus collection of short stories called After Life Lessons – The Interlude. It’s just a bit of fun to tie us over between books, and to go into some details that we couldn’t fit into the tight structure of a novel.

And the best thing, newsletter subscribers can get it for free! Or you can buy on Amazon or Kobo. 🙂

 

Blurb

At long last, Emily, Aaron and Song have found a home on the small farm in Kentucky where Annika took them in. Knowing nothing of the trials and journeys that lie ahead of them, they can allow themselves to heal – in mind and body – as they become farmers and gatherers, as they become a family.

After Life Lessons – The Interlude offers nine snapshots of their lives from the perspectives of the different characters. It paints their present and digs up their past, and leads the reader through two years of rest, until Aaron, Emily and Song are ready for their next adventure in After Life Lessons – Book Two.

After Life Lessons – The Interlude contains scenes of graphic adult content.

 

Excerpt: After Life Lessons — The Interlude

Aaron.

The barn at the edge of the property is still in view of the house, looming large in front of what must have been a field years back and now sprouts weeds and wild flowers.

Annika doesn’t know if it’s sound, or if anything has been kept in it for decades. Inside, the light filters down through cracks and rotted holes in the roof; old birds’ nests perch feathered in the eaves. The whole building rattles with the wind, but my unprofessional inspections show it sturdy, termites unaware of its existence, just like the rest of the world.

We tied the horses up outside. The weather has mostly held recently, but we built a tent anyway, with a tarp unearthed from the cellar. The horses seem amused by this, as much as Song and Lani, who duck in and out to offer handfuls of grass to the horses in the heat of the sun.

They’re back at the house, now, for lunch and for school– Annika’s damned strict about school. I’ve been in the barn all morning, working on the roof, in the loft where it joins the wall. I’m not confident enough to climb up on the outside, and it doesn’t seem to need as much work as I feared.

Emily is worried about the floor, says it’s supposed to be softer for the horses’ delicate hoofs, but I figure we can worry about that once we have them secure. I don’t like thinking about them out there, tied up in the dark, presented like a buffet. We take turns watching them, unknotting their ropes, feeding them. It’s not a permanent solution.

In the long run, we’ll need a fence, too, a place for them to graze. There’s enough meadow behind the barn, but it’ll take some planning and a lot of wood, and some skills I’m not totally sure I possess. I think we’re all trying not to think about it. One step after the other.

From up here on the ladder, I can see her– Emily, heaving a can of water around the garden. It’s so heavy it seems to dislodge her hip as she leans away from its heft. She’s gained weight herself, and muscle, and, as she moves, her face arranges itself in that determined grimace I’ve grown to know.  It makes me smile, and I stop affixing patches to the holes in the roof. I am mostly hidden from view, so I indulge myself: she’s kind of impossibly cute like that.

She’s wearing jean shorts and a flannel shirt, red and way too big for her, so she’s knotted it around her stomach and in the crook of her arms. The rubber boots make her feet look unnaturally large as she trudges through the soft earth.

She likes the garden, keeps adding almost every day. Either she digs up new patches of earth, or tries to rally enthusiasm to find more crops in the neighboring properties. She’s good at it, too: she has that smile and the determination of a mother.

She eventually catches me watching her, and waves, and I wave back, only a little sheepish. I’ve tried to reason with myself, but mostly have given up– I’m allowed a few weeks, months, years, right? My arm’s barely healed, after all. A guy who faces death gets to moon over his pretty girl and act like an idiot for a fair amount of time after that.

When she moves my way, I climb carefully down the ladder. She’s got the bucket, still, and I assume she intends to water the horses, but I enjoy pretending she’s coming to see me anyway.

“You know it doesn’t have to be perfect, right?” she asks, that cheeky grin on her face, even as she peers up at the roof. “We just have to make room in there, give them a proper place.”

Her accent makes words sound like she’s gone and dug up a dictionary, even if I know they’re not special, or even unusual. Proper, from her mouth, sounds Shakespearean.

“Might as well do it right the first time,” I say, my own accent as jarring as ever next to hers, and I instinctively try to flatten it out, the way she tells me not to– it’s just something I do, out of habit.

She ducks under the stallion’s neck without letting go of the halter she took hold of. It brings her so close, I can smell her hair.

“Are you okay working up there?” she asks, her small hand sneaking up my shirt.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” I’m instantly distracted, and the mare whinnies behind me, like she can tell. We still haven’t given them names; Song and Lani can’t decide. It’s the first thing they’ve ever fought over.

“You know…” Emily pulls her shoulders up like a kitten. She looks sad, and then winces when the stallion tries to make a sudden grab for the water, biting mare and little one out of the way, and yanking at Emily’s arm.

“Are you worried about me?” I can’t help the sing-song my voice takes on, and she makes a face at me. I’m grinning again, as wide and dumb as ever. She pokes her tongue out, that cute pink thing, and I want to pull her close, get her away from those animals.

“Just… protective,” she smiles, but she’s distracted, restraining that damned horse. The barn can’t be finished soon enough where I’m concerned.

“Wanna come see how it’s going?” It’s transparent, very much so, and she snorts, and then laughs, looking over at the little horse.

“You need an inspection?” she asks, raising her eyebrows.

I look up towards the main house. Everything looks quiet; the kids are likely busy with their math and reading for another hour at least. It can’t be selfish, I reason; it makes sense in my head.

“Come on.” I take her hand. When she smiles the way she does, I wonder how in the world I got this lucky.

[…]

Forbidden Fruit: Blog Tour and Interview

Among all the happy release news this month, this is probably the most exciting. I have been in more anthologies with Cheyenne Blue than I can name off the top of my head, and I have always adored her stories, her style and her approach to erotica. So now, not only did she chose one of mine for her fabulous anthology, as luck would have it, I also get to interview her on my blog today.

Settle in comfortably, you’re inffcb for a treat. First you get to know the awesome person that is Cheyenne Blue, you also get a glimpse at her story Out for the Count, published in her fabulous new Ladylit anthology Forbidden Fruit: Stories of Unwise Lesbian Desire.

 

Cheyenne, you’ve just made the jump from writer to editor – is this a truly new field for you? What drew you to editing an anthology?

Forbidden Fruit: stories of unwise lesbian desire is the first erotica anthology I’ve edited, but it’s not my first editing experience, nor my first anthology.  I’ve edited for a now defunct epublisher, as well as freelance editing, both fiction and non-fiction.  A few years ago, when I was living in Ireland, I put together an anthology of local writing that was sponsored by the local Arts Council.  That was a great experience that whetted my appetite for more.  And what’s more obvious than the genre in which I’ve written and contributed to anthologies for over ten years? When the opportunity arose at Ladylit (www.ladylit.com), I jumped at it.

Forbidden Fruit has been a wonderful editing experience, and that’s due in a large part to the seventeen wonderful contributors and the lovely people at Ladylit.

What was the hardest thing about the selection process?

The rejections.  I’ve had loads of them over my erotica career and so I know firsthand that they’re not a nice thing to receive.  They’re not nice to send either.  I received many good submissions that I had to reject either because they were not the right fit for Forbidden Fruit, or because they were too thematically similar to another story.  For example, I received three stories in which the forbidden fruit was a partner’s or ex-partner’s mother. All excellent stories, and I was very sorry to reject two of them.

I’ve always really enjoyed your writing – do you have a special approach to erotica?

Thank you! *beams*

I don’t have a special approach to erotica.  As with any fiction I write, erotica has to be firstly a story, and then a story with sex in it.  If sex isn’t an integral part of the tale, then it doesn’t belong there.  I have a folder full of unfinished stories, snippets, and ideas (it’s huge) as a result.

Where do you tend to draw your inspiration from?

Most of my stories start from a somewhere.  That is, I have to have a setting in my head before I start writing.  Even if I’m writing a story set in a generic bar, in my head it will be a bar I know on Colfax in Denver, in Brunswick Street in Melbourne, or a backcountry bar in Arizona.  It has to be a real somewhere for me to write about it, even if that “somewhere” is not a noticeable part of the story.  Then the characters can spring from someone I saw somewhere, or whose conversation I overheard in a coffee shop.  Things get extrapolated from these basic starting points.

 

Can you tell my readers a bit more about your story in the collection: Out for the Count?

My story, Out for the Count, is about Linn, a casino security guard, who befriends a card counter in order to identify her and bar her from returning to the casino.

I have a relative who very successfully supplements his pension by card counting.  His tales of big wins are matched by his stories of being escorted from the premises by casino security.  I’ve always thought that scenario offers great potential for a story, and it seemed like a good match for Forbidden Fruit.  Plus I took advantage of having my very own technical advisor on hand (for the casino aspects, not the sex!)

 

Here’s an excerpt:

The keys she saw in Francesca’s purse do indeed fit a Lexus. A silver late-model one. Linn sinks into the leather seat, fakes a wide-eyed look around. “Lovely car,” she says, and leans forward to twiddle the radio dial.

Francesca slaps her hand away, and as Linn feigns hurt, Francesca picks up her hand and presses it to her lips, kissing away the red mark.

This time, Linn’s gasp is not feigned. The touch of Francesca’s mouth on the back of her hand sends a jolt of silver desire along her arm. One touch from the red lipsticked mouth pressing a kiss to her flesh, and she’s molten. Wide-eyed she stares at Francesca.

Francesca withdraws. “Did I read you wrong, darling? If I did, it’s a first. I thought you knew what you were getting into. You don’t want poker tips any more than I want to give them.” One side of her mouth lifts in a half smile, and she seems amused.

Caught off balance by the directness, Linn stammers an apology, but Francesca leans across the gearshift and presses her lips to Linn’s. She kisses her hard, her mouth firm and assured. Her hand rests on Linn’s thighs, pressed protectively together. A shaft of desire pierces Linn’s belly. She knows the parking garage is covered by CCTV, she knows that Raoul may be watching this, but right now, she doesn’t care. She wants Francesca with a fierceness, an immediateness that equals Francesca’s own post win high. It’s doubtless going to be a euphoric fuck for Francesca, but Linn is there with her, and if Raoul is watching—well, she will make her excuses to him later.

So she kisses Francesca back, pushing her tongue into Francesca’s mouth, and tasting the lust that leaks from her. But she keeps her thighs together; Francesca is probably so high she would fuck here in the parking garage, uncaring of security cameras. But Linn won’t go that far. Indeed, she thinks, she will stop this soon. But not just yet.

She breaks the kiss. “Your hotel.”

Francesca starts the Lexus. Linn lets her hand settle on Francesca’s thigh as they follow the ramps to the exit.

Outside it’s dusk, and away from the casino there are only the quiet streets of a town which reeks of desperation. Linn’s fingers explore higher, up to the juncture of Francesca’s thighs, over her skirt. And then, when that isn’t enough, she reverses direction, lets her fingers crawl down to her knee and repeats the process underneath the skirt. Francesca’s bare skin is smooth and warm. When Linn’s fingers touch the edge of her panties, they are damp.

******

 

The next stop on the Forbidden Fruit blog tour is Allison Wonderland http://aisforallison.blogspot.com  who is interviewing Ava-Ann Holland.

Leave a comment on any post in the Forbidden Fruit blog tour to be entered into a random draw to win one of these great prizes.  Prizes include a paperback copy of Girls Who Score, lesbian sports erotica edited by Ily Goyanes, Best Lesbian Romance 2011 edited by Radclyffe, Wild Girls, Wild Nights: True Lesbian Sex Stories edited by Sacchi Green, an ebook of Ladylit’s first lesbian anthology Anything She Wants, and a bundle of three mini-anthologies from Ladylit: Sweat, A Christmas to Remember and Bossy.  All of these titles contain some stories written by the fabulous contributors to Forbidden Fruit: stories of unwise lesbian desire. You must include an email address in your comment to be entered into the draw.

 

Forbidden Fruit: stories of unwise lesbian desire is available directly from the publisher, Ladylit or from Amazon, Smashwords, and other good retailers of ebooks.  Check out http://www.ladylit.com/books/forbidden-fruit/ for all purchasing information.

Is it the Times that Change, or is it us?

Gilmore Girls inspired insights into our life and times

I have never been a fan of old movies. Those timeless classics everybody should have watched at least once. It’s different with classic books, but — with a small and notable number of exceptions, like The Breakfast Club — I never seem to get into movies made before I was born.

it-happened-2It took me a while to figure out why. I admit I like color, and a clear picture. I also modern acting, where the old-timey kind often feels surreal and artificial. And most of all, I like the kind of stories it takes guts to tell, and that changes. Something that took guts 50 years ago, in today’s world comes across as somewhat conservative, after all.

It doesn’t seem like that with classic novels. Look at anything from Shakespeare to Pride & Prejudice and Jane Eyre, to Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary, on to Of Human Bondage, Oscar Wilde, To Kill a Mockingbird1984 and Slaughterhouse Five. All of those are still brave, even if some of them were written centuries ago, they still pack this undeniable punch that’s hard to ignore.

I don’t get that with movies. I have a friend, a cineaste, who tries to change my mind on this constantly. From time to time, I give in and watch whatever he makes me watch. Most recently It Happened One Night (1934), which was supposed to be sweet and romantic and full of understated sexiness… and all I could find was sexism and an icky guy with a mustache. Sounds similar, but it kills every buzz before before I can say “Oh, hi there!”

I’ve always felt vaguely bad for this. Not too terribly, because I get classic novels, and so clearly fill at least one quota of sophistication, but still – it’s a bit hard to admit that you’d rather watch Love Actually, or The Incredibles or, more likely, Parks & Recreation or Community or Game of Thrones for the umpteenth time, than to try out Casablanca or whatever it is. I’m that girl who prefers the 2005 Keira Knightly Pride & Prejudice over the 1995 Colin Firth one. I tell you, they’re not pretty, the looks I get.

Now, Netflix finally came to Germany a few weeks ago (hello beautiful addiction), and now my queue is full of old Gilmore Girls episodes. Now, you have to understand… I LOVED Gilmore Girls when I was a teenager. Loved it. Everything about it. It was my #1 addiction show. Not Buffy (that came later, I still blame the German dubbing), not Charmed (close second lol), always Gilmore Girls. I even had all the seasons on DVD, and then left them at my Ex’s place before we broke up and never saw them again (lesson learned)! So naturally, this whole Gilmore Girls coming to Netflix this October business left me very, very excited.

Then I started watching.

And suddenly, Gilmore Girls is an old movie to me. Or well on its way, anyway, and it made me realize what it is about the media of the past that aggravates me so much. I had the same problem trying to watch That 70’s Show a while ago, but I thought it just wasn’t my thing (with the constant cutsiefiction of sexual harassment as a thing sweet, adorable lonely guys do).

Gilmore Girls is supposed to be about free spirits and dorky outsiders, girl-power and emancipation, liberal girls who don’t give a damn about tradition and do their own thing, and do it well: in short an extremely awesome, feminist show. At least, that’s what it felt like to me when I was that age. Yes, I still love their quippy play-by-play, but now I wish it had more substance.

And now I don’t know whether I changed, or whether we just grew as a society. I just feel like a series trying for the same idea today would be so different (see the early cancelled Bunheads, for example, a more recent product of Amy Sherman-Palladino with a lot of the same cast). Or maybe a show I would like today would have to be. Maybe more like Lauren Graham and Mae Whitman’s mother-daughter relationship in NBC’s Parenthood.

The point is… movies and TV series are informed by the times in which they were made, and I suppose I just discovered I have zero nostalgia for the past. I LIKE diversity in my series (and I mean more than one Korean best friend and using the word “gay” as a joke/punch-line/insult). I LIKE honesty in the stories we tell, rather than glossing over the hard bits, and tv series are the perfect outlet for that. Much better than movies, with their fixed and limited time-span, can be.

In the end, I think today, Gilmore Girls feels conservative, chaste and weak in its message. It’s disappointing and not nearly as much fun to watch as I thought it would be.

I am keeping this running tally of disappointing moments, like when Lorelai uses gay as an insult, or Rory is disgusted at the idea of nursing a baby in public, or the constant slut shaming and fat phobia (especially galling considering they eat exactly like people like them imagine fat people eat). Or the crazy stereotypical sexist representation of Rory’s friends in Chilton (the ultra competitive bitchy one — and I know Paris ends up more fleshed out but it takes almost two whole seasons to get there, the boy-crazy “slutty” one and the dumb, nice one). But what gets me most are those overarching themes.

The basic premise that Lorelai’s parents have a right to be disappointed she didn’t turn out their carbon copy is never actually questioned. Lorelai apologizes, she even says she’s some kind of special freak, but the idea that parents get to be this actively disappointed for 15 long years because their child chose a different path is taken for granted. No mention that children have a sense of autonomy, that they are individuals, or that parents shouldn’t even try to brainwash them into becoming just like them.

And then there is Lorelai’s insistence not to get any help from her parents. And it makes sense with her character, but in today’s world where a single income is rarely enough to support a family, it sets an impossible standard for single-parent mothers. And the whole self-made person, never-ask-for-help-from-anyone bit could have come right out of some conservative politician’s mouth (who also was born to wealthy parents, giving them an extra boost in the world not just in money, but in the expectation that it’s possible to be that self-starter, and having room to fail). What is so wrong in helping each other? Why is that such a terrible thing?

And don’t get me started on the men and boys in their lives.

Dean is presented as the “good guy” compared to Jess, but Dean has crazy anger management issues. He may not get into fights, but he threatens violence, he yells, and treats Rory like a possession no other man is allowed to look at (see Tristan, Jess). There are several points in the story where Rory looks actively afraid of him, and with good reason. He’s clingy and manipulative and abusive, but no, he’s the golden boy. The nice one, and Rory is the bad girl for falling for someone less crazy, someone who intellectually challenges her and actually makes her laugh.

Can we also talk about the fact that through the whole of the first season, it’s sooo scandalous and worrisome that a 16-year-old girl has a boyfriend? And everybody makes claims about how boys that age only think of one thing, and can’t be trusted and omg the drama. And then in the show, Rory actually doesn’t have sex until she goes to college (and even then it’s one big drama), even though she was practically never without a boyfriend all through high school, perpetuating this idea that girls are supposed to virtuous and not want it anyway or that sex isn’t a good, happy thing between two people who love each other? Aren’t we as a society ready now for women and girls who have desires and fun, and don’t have to choose between being smart/intellectual and enjoying sex?

And then there’s Lorelai. I never got the much-hyped “chemistry” between her and Luke. I always loved Max, and I still do. But I see what everybody means now. It’s exactly that “chemistry” that leads so many women who’ve read too many romance novels or see n too many romantic comedies to believe that when a guy is grumpy and quiet, that makes him mysterious or someone to save and she ends up miserable, when she could have been with a good, caring man who knows how to communicate and use his words, who actually shares her interest and matches her intellect so she doesn’t have to play dumb, or alter herself to flirt with him.

But the writers were very insistent to write out any man who actually fits with Lorelai: Max went suddenly marriage crazy, and we didn’t even get a resolution are any kind of goodbye. Christopher, who I then rooted for, gets a phone call that his ex is pregnant… and so there’s always grumpy old Luke to turn to. That’s not fate, or chemistry, that’s cruel writers ;). And I get that, I’m a writer: torturing your characters is part of the deal, I just don’t buy the overarching love story she and Luke are supposed to have.

Sorry for the rant, I suppose I needed to get that off my chest.  And really, it’s not all bad, it’s still just as sweet and witty as it always was. It’s just not that crazy happy perfect show anymore that it was when I was young.
What I’m trying to say, though, is that no matter how bad it seems sometimes… I really like the times we live in.

We may have sexist assholes stealing naked pictures of famous women and spreading them over the internet, but we also have Jennifer Lawrence, who refuses to apologize for having made the pictures in the first place – who refuses to apologise, in short, for being a full human being with emotions and sexuality, and calls this “leak” by what it is: a sex-crime.

We may have internet trolls harassing, threatening and virtually beating up women who dare to speak out on women’s issues – but at least we’re talking about them.

And I’m not saying that all tv shows are better now, that no sexist or racist or homophobic stuff happens in movies. But I think it’s easier to find shows who go a different way, and not only am I grateful for that as a viewer, I also think it says something about us as a society. Namely, that it doesn’t always get worse at all.

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.

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.

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 :).

photo credit: Free Grunge Textures - www.freestock.ca via photopin cc

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?

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?

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.

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