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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.

On moving, and writing

I moved back to the US in February. It’s now nearly August–nearly six months of being “home.” Except it’s not home. Not my coast. Not my state. Not my city–definitely not this as I live in the burbs. My neighbors tell me it’s a city and that there are over 100k people, to which I reply that my last home crammed nearly 7m people into the same geography of 1/4 the size of Rhode Island. In fact, it’s a lot like moving to Singapore, only I like the food more and there’s Target.

Six months.

Six months of my children begging to move back to Singapore, their unhappiness mingling with my own until even retail therapy is no form of therapy at all. Six months of scolding myself for not adjusting better, even as I know that re-entry is often as or more painful than leaving. Six months of having my youngest home all the time because here she’s too little for Kindergarten and the pre-schools all have waiting lists. Six months of trying and failing to find a place in my house where I could write but be away from my children (especially the one who can read over my shoulder and who doesn’t need this thorough a sex education at her age) when my bedroom is half the size it was and can no longer fit my office. Six months of getting lost every time I leave the house (thank Google for Android Auto and Google Maps).

Plunder was supposed to be done nearly three months ago. After all, I rationalized to myself–it’s not like I’ll have friends there, I can just write. And write. And write. Hell, I might even finish it in the two weeks my kids are with my in-laws.  I’ve barely begun to write the second draft.

When this entry publishes, I’ll be back in Boston for the first time in nearly four years. I’m frightened it will also be too unfamiliar, too alien and that nothing will feel like home again. I’m scared that I’ll forever be in-between. Not Boston. Not Singapore. Not the West Coast. Not at home anywhere.

That melancholy, right there. That’s where I’ve been for the past six months. Depressed. Frightened. Trying to reassure my children when I’m just as unhappy as they are. Looking for doctors, orthodontists, the good Target, the good grocery store, buying a car, talking to teachers, looking for a Chinese tutor, and sometimes just too depressed to even get out of bed.

I took the first really hard steps–I told my partner that I thought I was far past the normal amount of grieving. I’d even shut out my therapist (whom I have a skype relationship of 2+ years with). I got my mental health meds adjusted to help drag me out of the darkest parts of the depression.

I’ve started writing again. Who knows if any of it is any good, but I’m at least doing it. I’m sharing here because in writing erotica we lay ourselves bare–we share fantasies, we share desire, we share romance and sex and relationships. Sometimes, a relationship is difficult, even when it’s with ourselves.

Hold me accountable to write here again. Poke me on Twitter, leave a comment on the blog, email me at delilahnight at gmail dot com and say “hey, where are you?” Writing for me = mental health.

 

Wicked Wednesday: Questions my daughter asks about my writing

This Wicked Wednesday’s theme is questions. It’s actually a timely prompt, because my oldest daughter, Ms. 7, has been asking a lot of questions about my writing.

Ms. 7 knows that I’m an author, and that when I say I’m writing the only reason she or her sister, Ms. 4, should bother me is if someone is bleeding. But now that she can read, my writing isn’t just scribbles on a computer screen. I have to be aware of where she is at all times to ensure that she doesn’t walk up behind me and read inappropriate content over my shoulder (which has happened a few times). She is a curious child who is also a bibliophile, and she has begun asking questions about my stories.

I want to talk about what I write in an age appropriate way, but also in a way that doesn’t imply shame over my stories.

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When I got the email with my cover art for Capturing the Moment, I got really excited and called my husband over to see it. Ms. 7 was around and she came over, too. When she saw the cover, her comment was “Mommy, is that man naked?”

Yes, yes he is. “No, he’s just shirtless,” I responded, steeling myself in case she asked why.

She shrugged and said, “Okay.”

I confess I was relieved.

I was raised in a very sex negative home. As someone who has been a sex educator, and as an erotica author, I believe in having a positive approach to sexuality. That sex between consenting partners is a healthy part of life. That it’s totally normal to have various partners over the years. That sexuality is fluid.

Unfortunately, Singapore is a very conservative and sexist society. I am constantly battling against the heteronormative and traditionally gendered notions she is fed in school. I once said to a therapist that I thought it was irritating that girls have to wear dresses and don’t have the option of wearing shorts. I was told, effectively, that wearing shorts would turn them into lesbians. Friends tell me that girls at their high schools with “too short” hair were considered lesbians and punished accordingly–guilty regardless of identity and regardless of the fact that it’s just wrong. The reductive attitudes toward sexuality and gender roles makes me question my choice to bring up daughters here. (Not that the US is a utopia, but there’s a wider range of “normal” there.)

Ms. 7 and have had a few conversations about sex. She knows the proper names for the male and female body parts, including genitals. She’s learned about the fertilization of an egg, and how it can grow into a fetus (or not–I’ve been open about the fact that I had a miscarriage before my pregnancy with her). Ironically, I think we’ve talked more about abortion than we have sex. But that’s because she’s more interested in the concept of being pregnant or not being pregnant. She isn’t all that interested in what happens before pregnancy (or not getting pregnant).

We’ve talked about masturbation, sort of. That it’s healthy and normal to want to touch yourself, but that your bedroom is the right place to do that, as opposed to the middle of the living room.

lets talk about sex

I know that Ms. 7’s questions will change, and despite my preparation as a sex ed teacher and my desire to create a sex-positive home, I am nervous that I won’t get it right.

I want to teach her that sex is a good healthy thing. I want her to understand consent, and to feel comfortable saying “no!” when she doesn’t want to do something. I want her to know what a healthy relationship looks like. I want her to have access to birth control of all kinds. I’d rather that she have sex in her room in the house at sixteen than going down on her partner in the bathroom of a subshop because they have nowhere else to go. (True story–both I and my boyfriend worked at the sub shop, and the bathroom didn’t have cameras, so we’d fool around in there. That’s where I learned to cover my teeth when giving a blow job because I’d never given one before. And yes, ew.)

I want to help her advocate for a better tomorrow for women and their sexuality.

On the flip side, I need to teach her about rape culture. That she will get catcalled. As a biracial woman, she will need to fend off idiots who ask “what are you?” like she’s an exotic pet. I need to help her navigate the quicksand that is being a woman. That you will get criticized for being “too ambitious.” (Just look at the criticisms of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for a zillion examples of sexism leveled at ambitious women.)

With regards to my writing, I don’t want her to think that I’m ashamed about writing explicit sex. But she also needs to know that there is a boundary as to what I’m going to share, regardless of how old she gets. If she reads any of the anthologies I’m in when she’s older, I honestly don’t want to know. I was 11/12 ish when I started stealing my mom’s books and feeling tingles when I read the sex bits, although that freaks me out as a parent when I think about Ms. 7 and Ms. 4. I think she should read erotica when she’s old enough, but it squicks me out that she might read mine. If she wants to read anything by me, I have mainstream fiction she can read.

For now, my answer is “Mommy writes books that are meant for grown-ups. I’ve written a few stories that you can read when you’re a few years older. (meaning my mainstream fiction)”

I feel lucky that her response is, “Ok. Can you write a book just for me for my birthday, then?”

That sounds like a story I’d be proud to have her read.

wicked wednesday

Writing while parenting

**I’m in the hospital, so this post was written in advance. Comment approval and response will be delayed. **

When people ask me what the biggest obstacle to writing is I tell them my children.

IMG_8690 Not my children, obviously.

Enjoy a picture of a humpback whale I took off the coast of Maui, early December 2015

 

When you are a parent, particularly when you are the primary caregiver, parenting takes up a lot of your bandwidth on a day-to-day basis. There’s the normal things-picking them up from school, overseeing homework, refereeing fights. There are the things I do during writing time instead of writing such as grocery shopping because it goes about six times faster without my kids than it does with them. Finally, there is the emotional toll–there are many night when, once they’re finally asleep (during the writing of my last post, I had to stop and put Ms 4 back to bed no less than five times) all you want to do is collapse in front of netflix and chill…and not in the #netflixandchill sense.

Part of this is the natural ebb and flow of parenting. My two are still quite young, so they need more from me. As they age, they’ll need less and will be able to do more for themselves.

go away

The thing I can solve, though, is that I often don’t honor the time I’ve designated as “writing time.” I use it to grocery shop or take a nap or spend an hour on twitter discussing whether I like the DC or Marvel tv shows better (MCU movies, DC tv shows, for the record). Once I’m out of the hospital (I know, again–no one is more over my being in here than me) I want to honor writing time better than I have in the past.

Fellow parents–how do you balance writing and kids?

Writing and Monkeys

Today I’m over at Lynn Townsend’s blog, talking about writing, Among the Stars, and monkeys.  Head over to Paid by the Weird to read my interview.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 12.49.16 pmPhoto credit: me

On the subject of banning books

I would not normally share a post from my expat blog.  But the issue of banning and destroying books in the name of “family values” affects me as an expat, a parent, a reader and a writer.  But Singapore–where I currently live–has decided to not just ban books from its libraries but to also destroy them, and I could not keep silent.

Libraries should be neutral repositories of information that trust their patrons to decide what is appropriate reading material for themselves and their families.  They should not take a side, and begin the slippery descent that ends in Fahrenheit 451.

Go here to read my blog post “And Tango makes a Banned Book.”

Where did I come from?

One of the most common questions a kid can ask is “Where do babies come from?”  It’s actually a very simple question, and one that is asked quite understandably.  But it’s often a question that freaks parents out.  The answers run the gamut from the absurd (the stork)  to the heteronormative (when a mommy and a daddy love each other very much) to the religious (God) to any number of other answers.

I’m proud to have backed What Makes a Baby via kickstarter when I was pregnant with my younger daughter.

I’m even more excited to share that it is available for pre-order from Amazon and BookDepository!.

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I think this is the perfect book to start an honest discussion with your child about where they came from.

  • It uses non gender specific language (some bodies have eggs, some bodies do not)
  • It doesn’t assume that the bio parent is the person actually parenting the child (never uses the terms mommy/daddy)
  • It mentions that sometimes the new thing made by a sperm and an egg doesn’t grow (which is important to me as the mom of a baby lost via miscarriage)
  • It notes that all babies grown differently (which is a way to open a discussion about children with special needs)
  • It notes that babies can be born via the vagina or through a special cut (Older daughter was a vaginal birth, her sister was a C-section)
  • It asks “who was happy you were born?” rather than telling you that mommy and daddy or some sort of stereotype was what awaited the child.

In doing so, it legitimizes every child.  Adopted, born of IVF, being raised by a parent and a step parent, the child of a single parent, and so forth.

I think this is a great book for kids 2-8.  Obviously as they age, they’ll want to know more, but this is the only book I like that’s out there for the youngest kids.  Please support Cory and Fiona and pre-order your copy for your child or a child in your life!