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Plunder Update

In my 2017 Year in Review post I noted that I was about halfway through the Plunder rewrite. It is not only finished but my betas are gleefully ripping the second draft (which ended at 76+k words) and I’m doing rewrites to prepare to send it to my final beta, a really talented editor/IRL friend, Jessica Augustsson after which I’ll send it to publishers. This year. I’m committing to it.

Since I’ve been hyping this book for what feels like damn near forever, here’s another sneak peek.

William took a long, slow inventory of her body. She had raven hair cut in a sassy short cap, and bright green eyes. What did her father think of that? The man hadn’t struck William as progressive. A sharp chin, raised in defiance. The shirt and breeches looked borrowed, and the dingy bit of rope holding up her pants taunted him, daring him to give it a tug and sink to his knees to worship her. Bree’s cheek’s flushed, and she bit her lip. Her arms came up and crossed over her breasts—delicate, gentle mounds he looked forward to tasting. His breeches suddenly felt suddenly tight.

“Your father owns the Maya.” He played dumb.

“Is he alive?” she asked.

He nodded. “There’s no need to shed his blood. But there was also no need to keep those in charge above decks. Makes the lads more afraid.” He glanced down at the gash in her shirt. “Seems to rile up lasses, though.”

The sound that came from her was almost a growl, and he grinned.

“You’re unmarried?”

“Yes. What of it?”

“I find it hard to believe no man has tried to marry you.” He really did. She was fire and passion, and he felt drawn to her like a moth to a flame. Were the men near her school complete milksops that they felt threated by her?

“I find proposals tedious.”

Surprised, William burst out laughing. He closed the distance between them and traced a path from her collarbone to the dirty rope holding up her breeches. “Virgin?”

She paled. Then she lifted her chin in arrogance. “Not after tonight.”

He laughed. “What am I to call you, minx?”

“Brianna. Bree. And you? What shall I call you? Blackguard? Criminal?”

Her brashness was an aphrodisiac. He answered her with a kiss. His mouth was gentle and her lips opened for him. Her arms trembled as she slid them around his neck, instinctively pulling him closer. His hands stroked down her back, cupping her bottom, pressing himself against her.

“William,” he murmured. He nuzzled her neck and he felt a shiver run down her back. “My name is William.”

She shoved him away. “What game is this? You proposition me, hold me hostage in your quarters and then kiss me like a love-struck cabin boy?”

It was a direct hit to his ego. He flinched, as love-struck cabin boy hit a little too close to home. He was sliding down a slope with no handholds.

His voice was rough with desire when he spoke. “Any wench can open her legs and ignore a man pumping above her. That’s a hollow victory. I want your complete surrender. When I take you, you’ll know who it is inside you.” He stepped close to her once more, bent to her ear and whispered, “You’ll want me there.”

Petticoats and Push Up Bras

 

When I was in college, one of my jobs was to work as a costumed tour guide at The Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum as it was known in those days. I led a “re-enactment” of the Tea Party on a rotating basis with the other tour guides. We’d start off in a town hall set up, and then I’d lead them down a gangplank to a reproduction ship called The Beaver (yes, really) to a crescendo of throwing (Styrofoam, attached to the ship via a thick, long rope) chests of “tea” off the deck of the ship.

I also happened to be dating my boss.

No, I never had sex on the ship, but rumor had it that employees had gotten it on below decks.

Which led to the idea of a story set at my old workplace…Petticoats and Push Up Bras.

Here’s a snippet

My lips met Jeff’s hungrily as my back collided with the hull. I pushed Jeff’s tri-corn hat from his head so I could fist my hands in his thick brown hair. He parted his lips to let me explore uncharted territory, and his tongue teased mine as his hands traveled over my cotton shift.

Jeff broke the kiss. He gently pulled at the shift’s neckline. Peering down, he shook his head. “I don’t think they had blue lace bras in the Colonies,” he tsked. “No Ye Olde Felicity’s Secret for the maidens to shop at. I think I’ll need to check under your skirts as well.”

My breathing was shallow, as if I were still corseted. It was one thing to flirt and make out with Jeff, but entirely another to take it that far. I wavered, tempted by the pulsing between my legs. My relationship was on the rocks…

Footsteps on the deck above reverberated above us.

“Zombies!” I squeaked.

Jeff did a double-take, not quite stifling a snicker, “Did you just say zombies?”

Andrew’s voice echoed through the hull. “I think you’ll find this is a great location for your company party. We’ll do the full show, and then some of my actors can circulate while others serve hors d’oeuvres. This way.”

Jeff and I peered around the tea crates. Red high heels slowly descended the steps.

Jeff pulled me backwards, covering my mouth. “Shhh! There’s no reason for them to look back here. The interesting displays are out there.”

“What’s the big deal? We can just tell them we were closing up the ship,” I hissed, about to stand up.

He tugged me back down. “It’s not the first time I’ve gotten caught closing up the ship. Drew won’t believe you. C’mon, Hannah, please?”

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