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2017: The Year in Review

It’s about that time of year again when we take stock of the year that has been and think towards the year that will be.

2017 was rough. I oversaw an international move from Singapore back to the US. I had fantasies of doing the full rewrite of Plunder during the two weeks my children were with my in-laws. That didn’t happen.

myths monsters mutations

Once I was ready to start writing again (aka my kids were in summer day camp for half of the summer/were both in school in the fall) I spent a great deal of time rewriting and expanding “For Love of Snow White.” from a few thousand words to over 10k. It was published earlier this month in Myths, Monsters, Mutations.

pirate 2

Now I’ve returned to working on Plunder, and I’m only at about the halfway mark. It’s expanded from 50k to nearly 60k, most of it written in the past month (or roughly 1/5 the amount in the NaNo challenge–such is life).

I’m learning to forgive myself for not writing as much as I think I should. I am not yet someone who can burn out 3-4k words a day, or even 2k. I need to learn that that is okay–that I have other commitments that will affect the ebb and flow of my writing.

That said, I am committed to finishing Plunder in 2018. I also aspire to write one to two reindeer stories as this is the first year in the last four where I didn’t write or publish one. I’m considering editing an anthology as well.

 

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.

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 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.

Happy Pride!

In honor of Pride Weekend here in San Francisco, here are all of my queer stories, for free!

A Reindeer by Any Other Name (North Pole Chronicles #2)–m/m–He just gave the most sacred word at the Pole air quotes. Is this love?

Comet 2.0 (North Pole Chronicles #3)—f/f—The new Comet has no time for distractions with only twenty-three days until Christmas, but falls head over hooves for Jillian.

Love is a Virus—f/f—Captain Lily Dawes should be focused on the illness that is incapacitating her ship.  If only Ensign Patel weren’t so tempting…

Keep the Shoes On (Flash Fiction)—f/f