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Have you read Under the Mistletoe?

Last year I released my first anthology, Coming Together Under the Mistletoe.

Under the Mistletoe is a December themed anthology of poetry and prose featuring great stories by Ashe Barker, Malin James, Sonni de Soto, Sommer Marsden and more. The anthology opens on December first and a reindeer learning she’s joining Santa’s Team with only a few weeks of warning and ends with a couple reuniting on December 31st.

All proceeds go to Project Linus, a cause very dear to my heart–they give hand made blankets to children in crisis. My elder daughter, Athena, received one when she was in the Intensive Care Unit as an infant, and it was a kindness that was a bright moment in a time of darkness.

Winter themed smut plus a good cause? Who can resist? If you’ve read it, please leave an Amazon review, even if it’s just “great anthology.” Author and anthology visibility is highly dependent upon the number of (positive) reviews, so I can’t stress the importance of reviews enough.

Open Calls

My dear friend/editor has open calls for three anthologies (one erotica, two non-erotica). She’s such a great editor to work with. Jessica can help you take your work to the next level because she’s willing to work with you to build a stronger story rather than overwrite your voice.

Here are her open calls…

Wavelengths

Sometimes communication is not as straightforward as we might expect. From body language to Morse code, conveying messages comes in a wide variety of forms. How do we get our message across? Whether you’re talking with other species on this planet or another, we’re looking for your loquacious conversations!  (not erotica–DN)

Sensory Perceptions

Loose your imagination’s libido in this very spec-fic collection of erotica tales. We want plot-focused stories with enrapturing storytelling where the erotica and romance enhance the story rather than being the main goal. Your level of explicitness may vary—the important part is the tale itself. We can’t wait to read your stories!

unrealpolitik

Some of the best speculative fiction stories today have derived from the tumultuous political times of the past from authors seeking to highlight injustice or simply work through their own frustration. We are indeed living in interesting times, locally and globally (and intergalactically?). Whether the subject is government or espionage or even something only tangentially related, we would love to read your stories!

 

 

 

 

Why I’m not doing NaNoWriMo

I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) several times and “won” once. Since I’ve had kids I’ve usually tried to do it, and failed every time.

Chris Brecheen’s post NaNoWriMo: The Good, The Bad, and The Really, Really Ugly inspired me to write this post, but I agree with many of his reasons not to do it, and I’ll use my own experiences to highlight why. Chris’s points are in black.

It’s a terrible month to do it. As a mom I’m already overwhelmed by life in general. However in November I have one child’s birthday (and birthday party), Thanksgiving with all the attendant cooking and the added bonus of my children at home for three days, the usual family commitments–rock climbing/gymnastics/Mandarin/karate, along with the day to day stuff. Now I’m sure I could find things to complain about every month, and the pace of my own writing reflects that I have never really found the balance between writing and family, but November seems like a rough month in general.

Some people stop writing because of it/It instills a sense of failure.

However, even though I know Nano is a popular event among aspiring writers, I implore people who have never had any real experience writing a high word count every day not to participate or at least to lower the word count or in some other way practice self-care. I wish I could tell you they always listened. But we don’t live in the magical sugar cane land of rainbow unicorn farts and candy corn mountains. Instead, Charlie gets his kidney cut out, and what I have is a collection of friends and acquaintances in various levels of existential crises about whether they’re even really writers and how impossible writing can be. They burned out like shooting stars and slammed into the unforgiving wall of Nanowrimo.

Because of Nano, there are some people out there who AREN’T writers anymore.

The one year I won, I felt like a million dollars and I felt inspired to start a blog that I dutifully wrote in for two years until I had a kid. However, it should also be said that the one year I won I’d just had back surgery and wasn’t allowed to do very much. I basically stayed in my house alone, watched tv, and wrote. NaNo was the thing that brought me back to writing after not having done much of it in six years. However, the first time I attempted and failed NaNo, I didn’t shrug it off. I did feel like a failure. I didn’t exactly stop writing, but I stopped believing I could write a full book. I stopped and started and failed to write several books, which reinforced that belief. I couldn’t even get them to fifty thousand words, much less more, which reinforced that belief. Completing NaNo isn’t a measuring stick by which you can define your ability to write.

People think they’ve written a novel. Fifty thousand words is a lot but as Chris points out, it’s also a totally abitrary number. For most anthologies I’ve been involved in, it’s the bare minimum for a print run. It’s nearly two hundred double spaced pages. But by most publishing house’s standards, it’s a long-ish novella. A full on novel is usually nearly double NaNo’s goal of fifty thousand words. Further, like Chris points out, there’s a whole cottage industry around NaNo that preys on the winners, offering to publish their books for a fee. Or authors shoot themselves in the foot and self publish without an edit. I certainly felt “done” and was super proud of my “book.” I even printed it out and had it bound. That doesn’t make it a book and more importantly it doesn’t make it a good book.

It emphasizes word count over everything. Let’s build on that–it’s all about vomiting up a first draft. About halfway through Not What His Mother Expected (I know, terrible title) I realized that the main couple wasn’t the interesting part of the book. His sister and her girlfriend would’ve made a far better star. But I didn’t start over and rewrite it as Not What HER Mother Expected. I kept going because you’re not supposed to edit–you’re just supposed to vomit out your ~1700 words a day–and part of the reason NWHME sucks is that it really shouldn’t be about the main couple. Further, there’s no real emphasis on the all the work that comes after. There’s no EDitDEcember (and Jan and Feb and and and). There’s no real value of craft.

Personally, I learned my craft first when I wrote, obviously. You can’t edit or improve that which you never wrote. I started on Literotica.com, which I highly recommend for erotica authors. I found a supportive community, which in turn encouraged me to write more. I got better by writing more stories. But I didn’t really get better until I started editing. Finding good beta readers who didn’t stroke my ego, but rather told me what sucked was bruising. I still brace myself when I get comments from betas or editors. Writing fifty thousand words one time did prime the pump, so to speak, but it isn’t what made me a good writer.

I stopped writing this entry to go and find my NaNo story. The prologue was so bad I could barely get through it. Honestly, it’s so bad I can’t even bring myself to share anything beyond the title with you.

Word count matters eventually. Short story submissions usually have a minimum and maximum word count. As I said above, short story anthologies usually have a minimum word count to get a print run, and publishing houses each have their own rules about what constitutes a short story/novella/novel. But you will not be published (outside of self publishing) if you don’t edit.

Also, word count outside your novel doesn’t count for NaNo. This blog post is over a thousand words and I wrote another blog post for my other blog about moving my cat to Singapore. Probably about the daily NaNo word count between them, but neither “count.” Technically, neither does any of the editing/extending that I’m doing on Plunder because it’s not a new, shiny story that I started on November 1, 2017. And I find that irritating because all of it is writing. Maybe in thirteen years, when my youngest is in college I could do NaNo as a personal challenge over and above whatever novel I’m editing and blogging (or whatever we’ll be doing in thirteen years) but certainly not this year.

So no, I’m not doing NaNo, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. If you want to do it, go for it. But be aware of the high “failure” rate and don’t beat yourself up for not finishing. Don’t beat your chest and think you’re done when you do finish (well, beat your chest because it is an accomplishment). I’ll cheer you on, but I’ll do so from the bleachers.

Seeing my photos (Wicked Wednesday 282)

It’s ironic that this week’s Wicked Wednesday prompt is Mirrors. Monday I posted a snippet of For Love of Snow White, which included a mirror scene. Today I’m going to talk about photos, both sexy and not.

I hate having my photo taken. I never like what I see. I hide behind the camera more often than not, preferring to take photos of others. So it was one of the most difficult experiences of my life to decide to do a boudoir photo shoot—it wouldn’t be just photos of me, but increasingly nude photos of me. Would I like some of them, or would my self esteem be shattered by photos that reflect the negatives and imperfections I see in the mirror after nearly 40 years of being subjected to a media barrage that my value lies in how fuckable I am (and at times in my late teens/early twenties I based my self-worth on whether people found me fuckable).

About a month ago, I posted about doing a boudoir photo shoot. I purposefully wrote that before I’d seen my photos because I was worried that my own insecurities in looking at photos of myself might taint my memory of the shoot.

Well, I’ve seen the photos and we selected 16 to keep. Here are two examples of photos I’m really happy with…

I can honestly say that the experience is very high on my list of things I was terrified of, but am so glad I tried. I have been very self conscious about my body for decades and to see photos where I actually feel like I look sexy is new and a little scary. It calls what I see in the mirror most days, and gives me a hint of what my husband sees that I can’t.

 

wicked wednesday

 

I’d definitely do this again, and not just because it gives me a glimpse of what’s on the other side of the looking glass.

My take on Snow White

Once upon a time,a long time ago in a kingdom far away from California, a young woman wrote a story about Snow White for literotica.

I started with two premises in mind—what if beauty was a curse, and what if the Evil Queen wasn’t evil? The result was a short story called “For Love of Snow White.” I wrote it in 2002 and barely thought of it for over a decade. But I saw a call for submissions that would fit the story, so I pulled it out of my archive, polished it up and sent it in. My editor asked me to expand it–which I did by about 10k words. The resulting story is still called “For Love of Snow White,” and while it is not erotica, it is a dark feminist take on the Snow White story.

Here’s a snippet

The carriage ride to the convent was long, and my book held little interest for me. Idly, I took my mirror from the pocket of my gown.

“Mirror, Mirror in my hand, who’s the fairest in the land?”

I received the answer I’d dreaded for five years. I was told “You, my queen, are lovely as a pearl, but your beauty cannot compare to the girl’s.”

The new god’s curse had struck in full.

“Mama!” Snow greeted me with a warm embrace.

“Snow! Let me look at how you’ve grown!”

No longer garbed like a novitiate, Snow White was breathtaking. She had hair as black as midnight cascading to her waist. Her skin was pale as the snow she was named for. Snow White’s eyes glowed bluer than any sapphire. Her lips formed a perfect red bow. She was dressed in a blue gown that accented her womanly curves and she moved with a grace that even I envied. Her voice was soft, yet carried a note of seduction that she seemed unaware of. She had reached her majority and her powers, although untrained, were at their full strength.

The king and priests had spoken—she was to leave, no matter what the head of the nun’s order thought of it. I took her home, too distracted by the mirror’s revelation and worried by Snow’s beauty to take advantage of the two hours alone in the carriage. She was silent, looking out a window rather than wanting to talk. Perhaps she was thinking of Charmaine. I should’ve taken her to the stone dance right away, bespelled the driver, anything. But how could I know what was to come?

You can read my almost novella in Myths, Monsters, Mutations edited by Jessica Augustsson, forthcoming from Jayhenge in 2017

I did a boudoir photo shoot

*This is not a sponsored post. I was not asked to write this post. I received zero discounts or perks.*

I’ve wanted to do a boudoir photo shoot for a long time now. As an amateur photographer I’m fascinated by sexual photography–naked or nearly so bodies, fetish photography, the whole nine yards. I longed to be a model in one of those photos, but the voices in my head that said I’m not pretty enough or thin enough drowned that desire in a bog of self doubt. I generally hate how I look in photos, with the exception of my wedding photos (which the voices remind me was twenty-five pounds ago). But beneath all of that was a sense of inevitability.

Several months ago I was introduced to Groupon (remember, I just moved back to the US–I’d heard of it but it wasn’t as big a deal as it is now when we left in 2010). One day I was idly scrolling through offers in my area and stumbled across a discount for a boudoir photography shoot with two photos for a steep discount.

My partner turned forty last year and I turn forty next year. No matter what the voices in my head said, he has always found me beautiful.  decided to push my boundaries and do this shoot for him. Or at least I told myself it was for him.

I booked my date and because of childcare and travel issues had several months to dread and second/third/hundredth guess my decision. Initially I made up a bogus appointment to explain why he needed to take the kids one day while I went into San Francisco. I’m a terrible liar and my excuse fell apart, so I told him what was up. He was incredibly supportive and together we crafted the four looks I would shoot with.

The price of the shoot was just the beginning. I hadn’t thought about all the details.

In the months before the shoot…

I’ve had back surgery, and was told heels were off limits for me. But I wasn’t about to wear flats in a sexy shoot. I bought three pairs of heels and a pair of dominatrix boots.

I bought a new piece of lingerie.

I bought new lacy panties.

I bought a man’s white shirt as mine didn’t look so fresh, and I wanted a better fit.

Celebrate Your Sexy sent me an email to ask me questions, including how do I feel about photos of myself and what are my concerns. (Top concern–I’d hate the photos and it would wreck my fragile self esteem).

The week of the shoot….

I got my eyebrows, lower arms, under arms, and full legs waxed.

I got a pedicure and acrylic nails.

On the day of the photo shoot…

I couldn’t find one of my outfits and had to rethink an entire look. This totally freaked me out. (It was on top of my bureau so I wouldn’t lose it–which I discovered that night.)

I had my hair and makeup done.

When my stylist asked what I wanted done with my hair I said “make it look like I just had really good sex.” My straight hair was curled and teased. Since I was (mostly) going to keep my glasses on, we added fake lashes and just did some liner on my eyes. I did a blood red lip (fiery liquid lipstick from Stila–it is my go-to and the only red I’ve ever tried that didn’t look pink-y or orange-y).

All of this added up to way more than the photo shoot cost. A more secure/more cost conscious person could probably do without these extras, but this is my journey.

The experience…

I was ready about an hour before my shoot, and I sat in my car so as not to sweat my make-up off in the insane heat wave that gripped the Bay Area a few weeks ago. This gave me plenty of time to contemplate if I wanted to take anxiety medication.

I drove to the location of the photo shoot with a carry-on suitcase full of clothes/shoes/props and texted the photographer that I was downstairs.

The photographer immediately put me at ease. We talked through my outfits and shoes. She let me plug my phone in and put on a playlist (regret–should’ve had a better playlist as it wasn’t something I’d really thought about or planned for). We talked about my props and which outfit they went with, etc.

We set up my four outfits, and I changed into the first one–a sexy red dress with red heels with a matching black lace bra and panty under it. The photographer started me off on the bed, moving the lights and herself around me. She walked me through poses, and told me to tell her when something was just not okay for my back or any other reason. Some poses were indeed uncomfortable, and I gained a small appreciation for what it must take to create ads and layouts in magazines (apart from photoshop).

My second outfit was a turquoise bra and panty under a white men’s shirt and black heels. I posed with a copy of Capturing the Moment. I wished I’d brought my own laptop, but the photographer lent me hers. I’m hoping I like one of these photos so I can use it here on the site.

My third leaned hard into kink. A nightie with a vinyl/pleather breast bra top, black lacy panties, and dominatrix boots that on my five foot two/three inch frame went nearly into my vagina. I posed with a riding crop with a sparkly handle and one with a heart-shaped surface.

My fourth? Mesh with nothing under it and black heels. I should have felt self conscious or uncomfortable, but by that point I felt comfortable with the photographer, with my body, and most shockingly–with the camera.

The photos…

I’m seeing them on Friday. I wanted to write about the experience before I saw them, and then I’ll write another entry about that experience.

Final thoughts…

I had such a positive experience that I volunteered to model in a plus sized lingerie show next month. It was a safe space.

After the shoot they give you a pamphlet with next steps and it’s not until you reach that point that you learn the ridiculous per photo costs. However, this seems to be a standard thing in the world of boudoir photography. So the selection process will be brutal, or at least I hope I like enough of the photos for it to be a difficult decision.

I’d definitely recommend Celebrate Your Sexy if you go into it knowing the photos are really expensive. They shoot all over the US.

Here’s hoping that I’ll have an excellent Friday morning.

I write sex books

My older daughter, Athena (not her real name) in her first week in an American school made a new friend. The friend’s mom was volunteering for playground duty, and upon meeting Athena asked her what myself and my husband did for work. My husband’s job is innocuous–he’s a programmer.

“My mom writes sex books,” Athena tells her.

Fast forward to last week. I meet the mom for coffee–it’s my first time hanging out with her and I’m hoping to make a good impression. The story comes out after I said I write romance novels.

I am mortified.

That afternoon I shared what I’d learned with my daughter, and asked why she’d said that. I wasn’t angry with her, I just wanted to know why.

“That man is naked on your cover. He’s not wearing a shirt.”

She means RJ.

I asked her what she thought sex was.

“I don’t know.”

Cue my buying Sex is a Funny Word from Amazon, and asking her to say I write books, or I write romance books instead of sex books.

My friends have found this whole story hilarious. I am moving from mortification to amusement as well.