New Release: After Life Lessons

[pullquote]“Years ago Emily had believed that fear could be overcome by repetition, but now she knew that wasn’t true.” — After Life Lessons[/pullquote]

This is not only true for zombies, it’s like that with book releases, too. Excitement, panic, joy. It doesn’t become lesser or easier, which seems like a fair trade.

This one, has a very special place in my heart for a number of reasons: it’s a work of friendship and love and synergy, and the creative process behind it was one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing I’ve ever done. It’s good not to be alone, to bounce off ideas, to encourage and care together.
ALL400-6001After Life Lessons is also my first self-published venture. It’s a step that scared me a lot less because I had Lorrie there with me, all the way. It meant being able to touch, feel, breathe every step of the process and now I’m tied to every part of this book and nothing has ever felt quite so much my own.

It’s a good feeling. And a nauseating one, because damn, it’s good to have someone to blame, just in case, hehe.

I’m proud of what we did with After Life Lessons, I’m proud of what it is; I’m proud that it’s different and everybody remarks upon that, I’m proud that it’s finally out and of the countless hours of work that went into it.

So after Lorrie blogged about this on the 8th. This is my own little belated Happy Release Day to myself. And I’ll get some cake and take a deep breath and accept that now is the time to let go of an obsession that driven me for months, that now, the book is yours, no longer mine.

If you’re here on my blog, that means something to me. That means this is reaching the right person: Thank you. Thank you for your support and your interest. And thank you for believing in this incredibly exciting time in publishing.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Smashwords

Below, you’ll a video I recorded this morning and you can listen to the first chapter. I was a little bit sick, so excuse the voice, but I didn’t want to put it off any longer. I hope you enjoy. You can also read along to most of it here: Excerpt I

Strong Female Leads don’t Cry… or something.

Writing for women is tricky. I don’t want to take away from writing for men or writing for all genders, but in the perfidiousness of patriarchy, we  women seem locked eternally in the act of policing each other and that does add an extra component.

We do this constantly, almost without realizing it. We police ourselves – our bodies, our eating habits, our emotional expression, our sexual experience; and then we do it to the women around us. We write blogs that call for J.K. Rowling to stop writing, stop clogging up the market — while we leave the men and their bulky bibliographies alone. We say this one is too fat, and that one looks too anorexic; this one seeks too much attention and that one just shuts herself in – how can she ever hope to find a man?; this one is a prude and that one’s a slut. Of course all it means, is that the woman polices herself differently than we police ourselves, she has sex differently, cares for her body differently, engages with men or other women differently than we would (or can) – than we have internalized as the right way to behave. And we forget how many strings bind us, how deeply we have permitted ourselves to be locked in the simple struggle of being ourselves.

IMG_6989smallI don’t think men do that. Not like this, not many of them, anyway. Lily Myers in her poem “Shrinking Woman” said something that stuck with me. To her brother, she says “We come from difference, Jonas, you learned to grow out, and I learned to grow in.” We filter, we listen, we modify ourselves and analyze because we were taught to do so from birth. Even my mother – a liberal, a hippie, a stout feminist who struggled all her life because she raised us as a single parent – admitted to me once, after I pressed that she treated us differently. That while she made my brother coffee when he was sleepy, and cut him up vegetables so he’d have something healthy with his pizza, while she left him alone to study (because it’s more important and he was busy), I was expected to eschew pizza altogether (and received sighs and looks when I didn’t), to cook healthy, to be part of the household, to do the dishes and mind her feelings. All of those are good things – but there was no proportion: my brother got so little of these admonitions and I got all the rest. And I don’t blame my mother for this. She only learned from my grandmother, who still does the same to every woman around her. I listen to her talk, and every single one has something wrong with her – from her sister, to my mother, to me, to her neighbor – of my brother she only speaks kindly, tolerantly. And how could she not? My brother is wonderful, he’s the best man I know (and he took all these pictures of me) — but she doesn’t know him at all.

Every single friend of mine has a mother who policed her food, her weight, her sexual identity, the volume of her voice – or any of a million things that we now police in ourselves, the women around us, probably our daughters one day and definitely, definitely the fictional women we read about. And here we are at the reason why writing for women is tricky.

Fictional women have to be just flawed enough not to strike us as too unrealistic, as so much better than us that it becomes uncomfortable – but they also can’t be too flawed or our teachings kick in. She has to be “strong” but not arrogant; she has to be able to accommodate our own ego without leaving us behind.

In what I’ve read and what seems to be well received – this leaves us with two basic archetypes. One is the “least offensive woman possible”. She’s the girl with very little character of her own and  who every reader can project herself into – the Bella Swans, basically. As far as I can tell – and have seen expressed in this way a lot – she is just necessary to play out the fantasy of the perfect guy, but she should be almost negligible in her effect. It’s all about him, the less the reader has to think about her, be confronted with her the better. She can be seen, but not heard, basically.

IMG_7112smallThe other archetype is the “strong female lead”, the fighter chick, the one who won’t cry a tear over some idiot, who knows how to play with her sexuality to get what she wants or eschews it altogether. These girls are tough, confident, sometimes even brash and they yeah, they kick ass.

I like a girl who can kick ass!

But we also ended up, yet again, in a strange position where we constantly pit these two against each other, and that ended us up at a very strange idea of what strength looks like in women, and reversely what weakness is.

In an author group I attend, someone recently proudly reported that she realized how much her character cried in the novel and promptly fixed it all as to not make her look so weak. Another large sheet comparing all the recent YA heroines with each other, marked almost all of them as having “poor self-esteem”.  Talking about feelings, having feelings and expressing those is becoming whiny and annoying and that makes me uncomfortable.

We live in a world in which guys are under this strain all their lives. To show emotion, they learn this from their fathers (and if they have better fathers than that, they learn it hard at school), is to be a girl, a sissy, a momma’s boy. And so they shut it down. We are faced with a generation of men who have no idea what they are feeling, because they were bullied into shutting it down. Men who can rape unconscious girls not because they are cruel, but because they have been taught that compassion and pity and kindness and sweetness is an unacceptable trait in their social circle.

And I don’t want that for women, and I certainly don’t want it for female leads.

That’s not what strength is.

 

I think I’m a pretty strong woman. I have ambitions and I work for them. I stared at a razor IMG_7125smallblade and stepped off the ledge and got help instead because of the people I love. I do things that scare me every day, I am loyal to my friends. I have convictions and I stand up for them.

But I also cry all the time – from a public service announcement about equality, to a movie, to just because I got a bad review or because I’m scared of the future. I have panic attacks and anxiety; I overanalyze everything I do and everything anyone says to me. I secretly think I am terribly ugly and nobody could ever love me.

And I am still not weak. I can be strong and cry. I can be strong and be afraid. I can be strong and quaver at the thought of my crush seeing me naked for the first time. Strength is not the denial of negative, hurtful or worrying emotions. Strength is to go on in spite of them, accepting them and limiting their power.

Strength is to stick up for friends even if that scares you, even if you could never do that for yourself. Strength is to have convictions and to stick to them — but strength is also to alter them when you grow older and learn new things. Strength is to say you were wrong and that you’re sorry, more sorry than you could ever say. And strength is to love and to trust and to be alive and open and vulnerable every day. Strength is to let people in and to show yourself to them, for who you really are.

That’s the kind of characters I want to read about.  Strong women who cry.

Word-Counting and my Quest for Better Accountability Trackers

Productivity is a strange thing, especially for me. I have a way of not believing myself that I was productive pretty much the moment I finished something. Writing has this wonderful and practical way of showing me exactly how productive I was (or a good approximation thereof, because amount of words /= expended effort, of course, but at least it’s a rough guideline). That’s why writing feels good, even when it doesn’t. Even when I have to force myself, because at the end of the day, my wordcount rose and I did something.

It’s also why I think I avoid editing. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it. I do – I like cleaning up manuscripts and making them better. However, in my head, it doesn’t feel productive. It feels like nothing happened, I produced nothing. Some days I end up with fewer words on the word-counter than before! And even if there are more, it doesn’t seem to count because it’s already a finished manuscript that I counted in last year’s wordcount.

I think, therefore, it’s fair to say that while keeping myself accountable is a good thing – I got way obsessed with the whole word-count thing. In the next ROW round, I’ll try to eshew a daily wordcount as a goal as well, to try and un-obsess myself ;).

For now, I stopped writing down the amounts I write every day. Instead I started trying out the whole Pomodoro technique. The cute little program Tomatoes lets you keep track of all your 25 minute intervals and lets you tag them with project names. In that way I can see easily how much time I expended on shortstories, on writing, on editing or anything else I wish to track there. I’ll try this for a while :).


~ ROW80 – Round 1 – Sunday Check-In Week 8 (I think) ~

Goal #1: Complete Trading Tides (Driftwood Deeds sequel, ~30k). ♥ completed.

The finished manuscript is with my publisher and I consider this goal completed.

Goal #2: Complete After Life Lessons Edits + get it ready for publication. ♥ On track.

We sent out the ARCs and have been working a lot on promo. All that’s left now is to format the print edition and do one last check through the text.

Goal #3: Complete By The Light Of The Moon Edits + get ready for publication. ♥ On track.

After spending the last two weeks editing Where the Wind Settles and Trading Tides, I am finally making some head-way here. It’ll definitely carry me through the next week at the very least.

Goal #4: Complete Forest Fires edits + start shopping it around. 

No change.

Goal #5: Write a total of 80k (on my own) in that time. ♥ On track.

After a quick check (yes I counted, math with months is not my thing) we are now 55 days into the 80 days. Please correct me if I’m wrong, I can’t even really seem to figure out which week we are in and how many there are left!
Anyway, as I was mostly editing in February, and I still haven’t found a way to adequately count the amounts of rewrites I do, I’m a little behind at 46k (between Trading Tides and three short stories I wrote for submission calls). In a different, way, however, I feel on track. I never meant to do all that much writing this month, that was the point and I’m still confident that I can catch up on writing in March.

Goal #6: Start a new project with L.C. Spoering, as well as one of my own. ♥ On track.

1. Lorrie and I started planning After Life Lessons: The Interlude, and went over the stories that are already written. We’ll get to the others ready in March.

2. I finally decided on my next writing project. I already knew I wanted to do something in erotic romance again, to keep up the little bit of momentum of Driftwood Deeds and also, because I do really enjoy just telling erotic love stories. It’s fun.

This new – as of yet untitled project (I don’t even know if it’s one book or more) will take a young music student into a jazz club where she takes a part time job and falls in love with the dominant owner, a jazz musician himself. I have a feeling I want a bit of Mmf in there as well, we’ll see. But I started outlining it this weekend and I should start writing next week.

Miscellanea.

– Read several books (now up to 20/50)
– Wrote 2 short stories and submitted them.
– Getting pretty good at integrating housework as well as yoga into my schedule.
– Found a better way of valuing my editing.
– Designed a homepage for a client.

My Writing Process

It feels like I see this meme around everywhere right now and trying to find three people who haven’t done it yet and aren’t yet invited was actually a challenge. I myself was invited by my friend Chele Cooke who discussed her writing process last week. I also want to mention Kelly Matsuura who’s turn it was also this week and who would have been on my list of invitees otherwise.

I also want to apologize for posting this a day late. I was without internet for a couple of days – yes, the horror! – and only just found my way back online.

My Writing Process

1) What am I working on?

I’m currently in-between manuscripts in terms of writing, actually. I finished Trading Tides (the sequel to Driftwood Deeds) a few weeks ago and I haven’t quite decided what to write next – mostly because I wrote up a storm last year and had a bad case of first drafts piling up on my hard-drive.
Instead, I’ve been working on a couple of short stories for submission calls, and most time-intensively, I’ve finally been editing. First Where the Wind Settles (a contemporary lgbt-ish YA I wrote last year), then Trading Tides, and right now, I’m working on the edits and rewrites for By the Light of the Moon, which I will re-release in May.

As for my next project, I honestly don’t know. It’s quite likely, though, that I’ll start working on the last installment of the Breaking in Waves series just to finish that up. It will be called Saltwater Skin and return Iris and Paul back to his seaside village a few months after the end of Trading Tides. In contrast to Driftwood Deeds and Trading Tides, however, Saltwater Skin will be told from Paul’s point of view.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I have been thinking a lot about people’s personal literary heritage. I grew up reading Michael Ende and Ottfried Preussler, two German giants of children’s fiction and both loyally committed to telling fantastic stories – stories with monsters and heroes, with ghosts and time-thieves, books full of the allegories only speculative fiction can reveal like this. It took me a long time to like books set in real world, and by the time I did, I read classics and contemporary fiction. I basically went from Middle Grade to Literary Fiction and I missed out everything in between. I’ve never read much genre fiction and by time I tried to, I was so used to the beautiful melody and cadences of masterful writing, that I found it challenging to be swept up in it.

But I still love fantastic stories and speculative worlds. And I love writing erotica for what it means about women and empowering us in shaping a clearer idea of what turns us on. So, the truth is, that while I love writing genre fiction, I still don’t read a lot of it, and I think that accounts for what makes my stories different.

I like to write about people who aren’t glamorous or all-powerful. I like them to have mental issues, or odd flaws. I like them honest and raw, dirty and complex, and I like to try bring a sense of my literary heritage in my own prose. I care about empowering women and minorities, about being honest about sex and people, about all kinds of things that find their way into my writing.

I may also have a less than normal desire for fast pacing, action and genre restrictions. I love meandering, character-driven tales, and I love crossing genres. That’s also what I like reading, and in the end, I suppose that’s what I try to do: to write what I want to exist in my reading landscape. Sometimes that is risky, and sometimes it pays off.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I write what I write because it excites me. That’s really all there is to it. I can’t make myself work on something as time-intensive and personal as a novel without loving it, without feeling moved by what I want to achieve. That’s also why I refuse to stick to one genre – sometimes I just need the thrill of the new.

I also write what I feel currently capable of writing. Sometimes, I have an idea, a really good one and it spins into a fabric of story in my head — and at some point I realize that I just don’t have the skill to write that yet. Then I make extensive notes and let it rest and maybe one day I’ll get back to it. Writing teaches me something new all the time, and some ideas I feel capable of realizing right now, and others feel still too big, too complex to tackle.

4) How does my writing process work?

To be honest, I’m still working on that one, tweaking it a little with each manuscript, and I’m beginning to think that a process that works for one idea, just doesn’t for another one and then I have to make adjustments. Writing, to me, is such a living, breathing thing, it’s hard to cage it into one clear process to follow. Roughly, however, it tends to go like this:

1. Spark and Percolation

I will have an idea – actually I usually have lots of those and only a few ever make it anywhere. That’s what percolation is for. I’m always working on something and whatever the idea, I can’t just start – I don’t work that way. I’m too OCD to let a half-finish manuscript lie around while I start a new one. So I have time to turn it over and over in my head, to make a few notes, think about it some more etc.
I usually start out with a setting or a general theme – then I flesh out the characters, figure out a plot etc. and for a long time that all stays a kind of imaginary construct with a few notes so I won’t forget.

2. Planning

I don’t always go over into planning like this. Quite often, I will write a few chapters and then plan – just because I need to get a feel for where the narrative is going before I can do this. Or I will know the ending, but only actively plan the next few chapters at a time.
However, most likely – I’ll do a rough, full plan of the novel. Sometimes I like to work with the 3-act-structure just to help me along, at other times, the plot is so clear in my head already that I don’t need any aids.

I have noticed, though that I have a MUCH easier time writing when I have a rough idea of each chapter: who is in it? What happens? What do I want to achieve in it?
But I don’t do this for every chapter before I ever start writing – it’s too complicated. It’s why I don’t play chess very well. Like in chess, there is one variable I can control (my moves) and one variable which I can’t control (my opponent’s move) – and in order to plan mine, I have to figure out what my opponent will do. I can only do that for a few moves – or a few chapters in advance. Writing, or more accurately, my characters aren’t my enemy of course, but they still have a way of adding an extra variable into the writing process. They sometimes just do things or shoot me new ideas, or reject others.

So in conclusion: Yes I plan, but my overall outlines are very rough and liable to change. Then while I write, I will usually plan the next few chapters in more detail.

3. Writing

If I stick to the process outlined above, I am usually pretty fast. I generally set myself a minimum writing goal of 1000 words per day, but especially when things are going well and my plan doesn’t need a lot of alterations as I go, I tend to write 2-3k a day.
I usually try to write in shifts: I do a morning shift and get in between 500 and 1000 words, then I take care of emails and social media and sometime in the evening I do another shift. Sometimes more than one, it depends. I don’t write well around noon/afternoon, so that’s when you find me clicking around online while listening to an audiobook or watching the umpteenth rendition of one of my favorite tv shows.

While I write, I try not to edit as I go – although that, too, isn’t a fixed rule. Sometimes my head is so full of other stuff, of everyday worries or just general junk, that it helps me to edit what I wrote the last day, just to get my head back into the story. At other times, I am so “in” it, I just soldier on. In all my manuscripts there are entire chapters that I read for the first time when I look over the first draft – it’s usually very surprising, because those are the ones I hardly remember writing.

4. Editing

I generally edit in stages. First I do a read-through – a few weeks after I finish the first draft. In this read-through, I try to get perspective over the entire story, the plot arc and the different strands of narrative. I will also do minor edits, fix typos, fill in missing words etc. in this round.

Then, I’ll let it percolate again. I try to take my time with this, really try to figure out what is working and what isn’t. Cutting any larger amounts of text or realizing it needs any larger amount of new writing, is painful and my natural response is to shrink away from it. So, it takes a while to get a clear idea. The bigger the changes, basically, the longer this takes. And then eventually, I’ll go back in. That sounds dumb, but that’s pretty much all there is.

Finally, I will turn it into a .mobi file and read it again on my kindle. In some kind of alchemistic process, this changes the way I read, and I get way more nitpicky about sentences. I suddenly see comma mistakes, words that use twice in one paragraph, and weird phrases that make no sense etc. That’s the final round before submitting manuscripts. If I self-publish, obviously, there are more.

And that’s it. That’s my writing process. Obviously, by the time I edit one manuscript, I am usually already writing the next etc. but generally, rinse and repeat. 🙂

This was awesome! For next week, I invited my very talented writing partner L.C. Spoering, as well as my brave publisher of Driftwood Deeds and fabulous writer herself Harper Bliss.

Life of a Blogger: Introvert of Extrovert

The wonderful book blog Novel Heartbeat has been doing a nice feature to get to know each other, and talk about ourselves aside from books, writing and reading. This week’s feature is about introverts and extroverts, a topic that’s been on my mind a lot recently.

I’m an introvert – and like many introverts, I’ve seen this as fundamental flaw in my personality make-up for most of my life, always trying to push against it, to force what came so easily to extroverts (going out, enjoying parties, being spontaneous etc.). And while I was vaguely aware that there were some positive side-effects to introversion, I did find it hard to really treasure them as much as I should have.

549105954It didn’t really help that I did not understand what introversion really was. And most people don’t – we equate it with shyness or, if we already heard that this is bullshit, then with something nebulous about how we gain and loose energy, which rang true to me, but which I still didn’t quite understand. Reading Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World that won’t stop talking by Susan Cain has helped me a lot in defining myself on the introvert spectrum and in starting to carve out ways for me to understand myself, be kind to myself and reap the benefits of introversion.

Here are some examples:

Shyness
(Not the same as introversion, shyness is the fear of negative feedback, which also extroverts can have)
I’m not shy. I’m often apprehensive about social encounters, I don’t like going out, etc. and I am not great at initiating conversation at a party or get-together. However once I’m there, interacting with people,  or when it’s a scheduled one-on-one meeting, I am engaging and I talk a lot, and nobody would believe me that I spent the night before tossing and turning with anxiety.

In her book Susan Cain also talks about this in terms of self-monitoring. The theory postulates that high self-monitors realize can take on different personas at different times, as they are called for. They can pretend to be extroverts by doing what extroverts do in certain situations. Low self-monitors do not, they are the kind of people who prefer to be themselves at all times – even if that is shy and sullen sometimes. Both are good qualities, I think. I often wish I had the courage to just be myself, but it’s also said that high self-monitors put others at ease and make communication easier. It’s a really interesting read.

High Reactivity
(The theory that some people – notably introverts – react more strongly to stimuli, get easily tired from them, and so remove themselves from them in order to feel calm. Extroverts, in contrast, are often low reactive, and thus seek out more stimuli to keep themselves from getting bored.)

High reactivity can be found in a myriad of ways – in pure physical manifestation like increased salivation when a drop if lemon juice is deposited on the tongue, and increased sweating when nervous, all the way to psychological ones, like heightened feelings of shame.

Ever since I was a kid, criticism has stayed with me for a long time. I am 28 now and I still remember instances in school and university when I got answer wrong and then couldn’t look the teacher in the eye for a week. It makes absolutely no sense, but that’s how I am.
I react more strongly to loud noises, too, my friends tease me for it: my entire body jerks upright and I do this loud, ingenue-like gasp of fright. It’s a reflex I can’t stop, it just happens. Last Christmas, we were playing Jenga with my family and whenever it was my turn, they’d make a loud noise next to my ear. And yeah, I dropped the damn stack a few times.
I am highly reactive, I get dizzy when I feel shame or embarrassment or the flush of love. I start crying at stupid commercials and criticism stays long and deep inside me. But now that I know what that is, I find it easier to accept and to understand where it’s coming from.

High sensitivity
Another common attribute of introverts (although a minority extroverts manifest this as well) has to do with being sensitive towards other people, other lives. It postulates that these people care more about the world, the environment, or just the way the woman working at the local supermarket feels after a long day of rude customers. Highly sensitive people take on a lot of emotions from others around them, are often very empathic, and care deeply. They are people who work in charities and non-profit organizations, who even brave public speaking or lobbying in order to help the planet.
And while this is more awkward to talk about, I really do think that it is the little prize at the bottom of social anxiety and introversion. It is important to me to smile at people, to make them feel good when they are around me, to help them and listen to them when they don’t. The fate of the world, of minorities and really, everybody, moves me deeply and I’ve spent years puzzling why that is not the case for so many people.

It also makes it easier for me to write because I think deeply about a lot of things and a lot of people; they feed my ideas and my appreciation of the world around me. High sensitivity can also help being analytical – whether we use that to analyse our flaws or how people perceive us, or the next big scientific theory or work of art.

 

In the end, I’m really getting to terms with this introversion thing – with taking the time just for myself, with accepting that multi-tasking is just too highly stimulating for me, that I can say to my friends – I’d love to see you one-on-one, but I’m gonna pass on the party. It’s just who I am.

So now, check out what some other people had to say about their feelings on introversion and extroversion:

The inspiration myth and the limits to writing anyway

It’s been a while since I’ve believed I needed inspiration to write or muse or that sudden urge that drives you into crazy writing highs. I’ve had those, usually because I kept working and some days it’s a bit of a drag and others you couldn’t imagine a more perfect way to spend your time.

I like having a writing routine; I like being accountable to myself – to say: it’s not okay if I just don’t write all day. It’s how I get things done and it’s been working really well. I owe that to the sage advice of many who cured me of any notion that writer’s block exists, or that excuses count for anything, or that I have to wait for a divine intervention to sprout words onto the screen.

This week, though, I think I found a limit to that rule. I finished the first draft of a novella last week and my plan was to let it rest for a week or two, finish up the After Life Lessons edits, work on some other projects that need editing and to spend my daily wordcount on erotic short stories for submission calls. It seemed reasonable. I don’t like stopping in the middle of longer projects to write short stories, and neither am I great at diving into the next big thing without any time to digest the last.

So I made plans, and because I wrote them down and because there’s no such thing as writer’s block and excuses don’t count, I worked on those short stories last week. I also did my last editing run of After Life Lessons and did some mayor rewrites on the first 4 chapters of a YA novel I wrote last year. The short stories, though… they didn’t go so well. I finished one, and got through half of another, but it felt like pulling teeth. And for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why. This was not supposed to happen. I had cracked the writing secret, hadn’t I?

And yes, this will come as no surprise to anyone but it still took me a week, a lot of self-doubt and bad moods to figure out: I don’t have to be inspired — but I have to be excited. I can force myself to work on something I love even if I don’t feel like it that day, but I can’t force myself to write something I don’t want to work on, something I only write because I put it on a list and rationally, the timing is good, even though I pretty much need a break from erotica after finishing Trading Tides.

My head is already wrapped up in more zombie stories and ideas for the After Life Lessons sequel. It’s spun in fantastically awesome circles coming up with an idea for a YA book about an anarchist witch – and no. I had no awesome, exciting idea for an erotic short. Or, the one I had, was for the submissions call that’s the furthest away, so I benched it and tried to force some others.

I’m not gonna do that anymore. Next week, I’ll concentrate on editing and rewriting. That’s what’s important to me right now – not bragging rights, that I never stood still. That I kept producing, that my word-count at the end of the year will be more impressive than the last. None of that matters to me at all.

And I might have to reread this a few times, to make sure I stick to this. A little force is good – but too much, and you’re just unkind to yourself.


~ ROW80 – Round 1 – Sunday Check-In Week 5 ~

Goal #1: Complete Trading Tides (Driftwood Deeds sequel, ~30k). ♥ On track.

Still sitting on the finished first draft and letting it rest as I planned.

Goal #2: Complete After Life Lessons Edits + get it ready for publication. ♥ On track.

Definitely and absolutely on track. I got through my last copy edits last week and now Lorrie is doing hers — and it looks like we’ll have our clean ARCs next week as planned.

Goal #3: Complete By The Light Of The Moon Edits + get ready for publication.

I decided to edit Where the Wind Settles first, but I edited 4 chapters on that, so I’m pretty happy with that. I realized that the rewrites will be pretty extensive, switching point of view for most of the novel, so it takes time. Feels good though :).

Goal #4: Complete Forest Fires edits + start shopping it around. 

Still no changes. And as Lorrie is moving house and already rather overworked, I don’t think we’ll get to it next week either.

Goal #5: Write a total of 80k (on my own) in that time. ♥ On track.

Ish. As I said above, I didn’t write that much last week – I think it was about 4k on short stories and about 3k on rewrites. So, it’s on track, ish, but I wasted a lot of time trying to force something I didn’t want to be doing.

Miscellanea.

– Read 3 books (now up to 11/50)

– Wrote 1,5 short stories.

Discussing Driftwood Deeds: Subs and Agency

This post was originally published on Eroticaforall, in the course of my release tour.

 

Giving a Sub Agency

In the real world, the sociological term of human agency defines the ability of humans to make choices and to enact these choices upon the world. In this way, a person with agency can change or influence the conditions of their institution or society. We all know some of the great examples where a single person has changed a lot about the world in which they live – from Alexander the Great to Henry VIII all the way to Rosa Parks. But it doesn’t have to be something quite as large. Human agency can be found in choosing where to live, what to do with your life and who to spend time with etc. In societies, secularist democratic models afford humans agency where strict religious or totalitarian models reduce human agency, i.e. limit their choices and the ability to affect the world in which they live.

DriftwoodDeedssmallIn fiction, a character’s agency is their ability to influence the plot. Characters who only react, do as they are told and never come up with ideas, just follow the lead have very little agency, whereas those who make choices, come up with plans and who shape the plot through these choices and ideas have a high degree of agency. Usually we find the highest degree of agency in the protagonist(s).

Now, this is where the obvious problem arises when we’re writing or reading about submissives. Their very nature, the very thing they crave is to be led, to not make decisions – and so they are often left with hardly any agency and are perceived as weak, sometimes even pointless. Even though this desire to submit may be shared by the reader, most of us still find it intellectually difficult to truly enjoy and like a character with no agency.

So how can we give submissive characters agency without taking away the fantasy of being led?

– Making it very clear that she submits because she WANTS to submit, not because he wants her to or because she is expected to.

– Giving her an emotional and intellectual thought process about submission, and the ability to express them to reader and dominant alike. In this way she can shape the experience with him.

– Showing that the dominant’s agency is also absolutely limited by her limits, consent and willingness to submit to him.

And that’s it really. Personally, I like to stray away from scenarios like clubs or auctions in which a sub’s agency is further limited by not being allowed to choose her partner, but even there it can be employed quite easily when we remember what agency is and how it works. Happy bdsm’ing everybody! 😀

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Remember my big New Year’s Giveaway, go enter now or it won’t be much of a contest ;) . And if you bought or received a free copy of Driftwood Deeds (or downloaded one somewhere lol), I also have a giveaway for those of you kind enough to leave a review of it.

Driftwood Deeds is available on Amazon.com, B&NARe Romance and Smashwords.

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Review: The Delicious Torment / Alison Tyler

Before we launch into a discussion of this rather brilliant novel, I want to say a few things. I owe a lot to Alison; we work together on several anthologies and other projects like her Smut Marathon and I can no way claim an unbiased review. So, I’m just laying that out here – I’m biased. I like Alison. I like her style and her ideas and I like that she’s a genuinely kind and interesting person, which is why I feel confident and happy to endorse her on my blog.

The Delicious Torment is the second installment in a series of books that started last year with Dark Secret Love (which I discussed here). Where the first book follows the vaguely autobiographical heroine Samantha into her first experiences with bdsm, different dominants and sexual partners in an intense journey of self-discovery, The Delicious Torment describes her long-term relationship with Jack, a Dom she committed to at the end of Dark Secret Love.

18007140In terms of my personal reaction, I found it easier to empathize and love Samantha of book one. Her discoveries weren’t exactly like mine, but there was a sense chaos and drive that felt familiar of that time in my own life. In The Delicious Torment we dig deeper into one specific relationship and here, I had to leave a part of me behind, because I did not like Jack (not one bit) and what he and Sam were up to just wasn’t my kink, so to speak.

On the other hand, that allowed me a different kind of enjoyment in the book. I could read it as a novel, not as erotica and I really loved the way Alison set it up, showed us the characters, their flaws and the careful, slow way in which a relationship grows. She is an amazing story-teller and I so appreciate this series for it literary appeal, not just the hot scenes (which it has plenty!).

Jack and Sam moved in together at the end of the first book. He works all day in a high-powered, well-paid profession, while Sam writes at home. And then we meet Alex, Jack’s assistant, who starts to take on tasks that go above and beyond his job – like spanking Sam on Jack’s behest or following her to find out where she goes. This development of trust (and the lack thereof on the part of Jack) is one of the main themes of the novel and I loved the development here, until Sam confronts Jack and they can start to move on. Alex remains however, until Sam finds out how deep his feeling for Jack go and she has to decide whether she is okay with turning their relationship into a triangle.

I loved Alex. Even when he was a little shit, I liked him – or rather is catalytic role in the story. Getting to know him was probably the most emotionally rewarding part of my reading experience and I loved the ending he got (sort of, but we’ll get to that).  I also still adore Sam, she’s strong and interesting and I like reading about her.

Jack, though, well… honestly at this point, I’m rooting she and Alex leave him in the next book. He is the kind of domineering person who seems to crave power in every single aspect of his life (which I already find a little icky) but he seems to feel like it’s fine for him to hold back from Sam, have secrets, cheat, not give her all of him etc. but not for her to do so (obviously). I also don’t think he communicates well, he breaks limits they set together and when she has honest issues, he sort of acknowledges them, but then turns back into domineering Jack, turns them around on her in mind games and power play. He sets up a relationship in which Sam cannot honestly talk to him without the threat of punishment looming over everything – and while, yes, a huge part of her wants that punishment, I did feel like there was a rather dark streak through all of this. I especially disliked how, at the end, he forced her to make a really important decision pretty much on the fly and while they were in an intense scene. That doesn’t feel fair, that kind of play really messes with your head for a while and I think honest communication about the relationship has to exist apart from that side of things or it starts to feel abusive — like actually quite a few things he did throughout the book.

So that’s how I felt reading it. The book gave me insight into a world of bdsm I will never personally know, but that is vastly fascinating to read about – even and maybe especially the darker elements of it. And on top of that it was a brilliantly crafted and well-written story. I love the honesty in this series, the lack of frills to dress it up in order to make it more accessible – it is what it is, and I love it!

You can purchase a copy pretty much anywhere where they sell books and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a deeper and more honest, unglossed view into the world of sadomasochism and bdsm in general.

Alison Tyler | Cleis Press

Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

Reading from Driftwood Deeds

I’m about half-way through penning the sequel, and Driftwood Deeds is still going strong. It has received some good reviews on goodreads and I couldn’t be more happy about the way it is turning out.

Today, I decided to read the first two chapters and I hope you enjoy it!

Driftwood Deeds – Audio Sample

http://www.lailablake.com/Podcast/waiwow/DD_sample.mp3

(or click here for the direct link: bit.ly/1aP6IPJ)

Please remember that I am still hosting a give-away until the end of the month – which is drawing ever closer! Find all info below.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Discussing Driftwood Deeds: Bdsm and Feminism

A few months ago, I came across a brilliant little text image on pinterest that read “My bdsm will be feminist – or it will be bullshit.” Suffice to say, it hit home like any other major first-pumping moments of my life, sparking something like “Oh my god, yes!” in my happy little head.

by Shiri Eisner

I grew up always feeling the tension between the two – being sub and being feminist. It can be a bit of a mindfuck (pun intended ). For a long time, my feminist side was almost asexual; on feminist days, porn and stories, even fantasies did nothing for me. And then I had sub days, sub weeks, or months where feminism kind of went out of the picture for a while. It took me years to understand how to combine both and how that affects my bdsm for the better, just like that quote read.

Now here are some ways to make bdsm fiction feminist and empowring, and not – as many claim – reinforments of the patriarchy:

1.  Giving the sub agency.

For me, I do like a sub that has a feeling of innocence, I understand the appeal, especially because this way the reader can be introduced to bdsm alongside her – but she can still have agency. She can be educated, funny and aware of what is going on. She can voice opinions and discuss what they are doing together.

2. Consent and Communication

Now, I think all bdsm should rest on this – but because books often have a very accelerated time-frame for the relationship, we sometimes lose this a little bit. I love seeing happy, enthusiastic consent and enjoyment of the bdsm deeds. I also love it when they both talk about out it, and reflect on it together.

3. A truly respectful Dominant

There is a lot of thought going into how a sub shows respect to her Dom, but I think the other way around has to come across just as much. If he honestly respects her as a person, as a woman, for her intelligence or caring or skills etc. I will root for him through the entire story and, almost as importantly, I will respect her for choosing well.

So there we go. I tried to do all that in Driftwood Deeds, tried to create a hero I can root for and a heroine who walks that line between innocense and empowerment. It ended up being such a positive and exciting experince that I can’t wait to share it with readers and see how they feel!

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Remember my big New Year’s Giveaway, go enter now or it won’t be much of a contest ;) . And if you bought or received a free copy of Driftwood Deeds (or downloaded one somewhere lol), I also have a giveaway for those of you kind enough to leave a review of it.

Driftwood Deeds is available on Amazon.comARe Romance and Smashwords.

Detail of female hands tied up