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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

My first experience as the editor of an anthology

typewriter

Part of why I went radio silent for so long was that I was genuinely overwhelmed this fall. I hadn’t originally planned on being so busy, but between campaigning for Hillary Clinton by phone banking fellow Democrats in Asia, helping my daughter study for exams that counted for 50% of her grade for the year (the second grader, for the record—thanks, Singapore public schools), and editing I was buried in work for about ten weeks straight.

As a first-time editor with a firm deadline in mind, I felt like I was trying to harness lightning in a bottle. Back in September, I posted that I was reading the entries and that I’d stumbled upon an embarrassment of riches. After sorting through all the entries, I came up with the final list of acceptances that alternated poems and stories. This meant I also came up with a list of “no’s.” I can honestly say that doing the rejecting sucks, although not quite as hard as being rejected.

I set nine deadlines with a week of buffer space in case something came up–and my daughters’ joint birthday party took up all of my time for several days, so I ended up pushing things back a few days–within that margin of error. They were

  • Contracts Out
  • Contracts In
  • Edits Out
  • Editing Period
  • Edits In
  • Compile Book Into 1 Document
  • Book to Authors for Typo Review
  • Book back from Authors
  • Book to Publisher

I had three giant charts on my wall. One was the bullets above with the deadlines. The second was for my poets and the third was for my prose authors. Each title had a horizontal line with boxes for contract in, editing, final edit, typo review. This allowed me to see who was in what phase of the process.

Over the course of those nine deadlines several unplanned things happened. People didn’t return their contracts, a “sweet romance” story was pulled by the author–I think because she second guessed having her story featured in an erotica anthology–leaving a gaping hole in my anthology at the last minute, and so on. That put me in an awkward position as it was late enough that I couldn’t pull up a rejected story and start the editing process from scratch–or write something brand new myself at that point–so I ended up recycling one of my older stories, “Baby It’s Hot Outside,” a version of which was in Summer Loving. I’m still a bit uncomfortable with that solution, but without it we wouldn’t have hit the 50k word minimum to get a print run.

Every editor has their own style. Depending on the author and the story, the amount of communication and revision varied from one/two emails to many. I wanted to ensure that the authors retained as much creative control as possible, as that has been my preference as a writer. I’m certain that my authors’ opinion of whether I achieved that goal will vary, much as my experience has varied over the years.

Will I do another anthology? Maybe. Not immediately. The process was exhausting.

I have a few anthologies I want to submit to as an author. I need to focus on writing the next draft of Plunder. And my daughters, who know I write books but that they’re not old enough to read them have asked me to write them books. So my plate is pretty full.

Perhaps after submitting Plunder.

In the meantime, you can pre-order the digital version of Under the Mistletoe and the paperback edition is already on sale at Amazon!

under-the-mistletoe

This charity anthology will benefit Project Linus, which provides hand-made blankets to children in crisis.

Save

Save

Under the Mistletoe Cover and TOC

:blows dust off blog:

I’m so sorry to have gone mostly radio silent over the past few months. I can tell you that editing the anthology was no small feat, incredibly complex, and that I am so pleased with the results. I’ll blog more about what it was like to be a first time editor, but today I wanted to show you the cover and the Table of Contents.

under-the-mistletoe

I’ve organized the anthology to take the reader on a journey from Dec 1st to the 31st, alternating poems and stories. The poems and stories run the gamut from sweet to kinky with everything in between. Under the Mistletoe will soon be available for pre-order, and will be published on Dec 1, 2016.

Table of Contents

Santa, Kinky by Blacksilk

Kid Comet by Delilah Night

All I want for Christmas is Sex by Sheryl Collins

Carpe Marine Christmas Package by Muffy Wilson

Silver Bells by M. Marie

Tugging Reins by Sonni deSoto

The Twelve Days of Christmas by DJK

Strip Dreidel by Rob Rosen

Under the Mistletoe by Ramona Thompson

Accosting Santa by Sommer Marsden

A Thaw in Midwinter by Jaylan Salah

The Green Lady by Malin James

A Christmas Eve Snow by Marcia Conover

Summer in December by Tamsin Flowers

Patriarchal Winter Night’s Dream by Jaylan Salah

Hush by Maria Duendí

Winter’s Majesty by Stacy Savage

Christmas in Minneapolis by CeCe Marsh

Crossing the Road on a Winter Hike by Jaylan Salah

Baby, It’s Hot Outside by Delilah Night

Frosty by Corbin Grace

Adrenaline Rush by Bob Buckley

Goosebumps by Stacy Savage

Should Auld Acquaintance be Forgot? by Ashe Barker

I can’t wait for all of you to have the opportunity to read it!

My Plunder Playlist

**Disclaimer–Yes, I’m a total romantic version of pirates fan. It was probably inevitable that I’d write a pirate novel. I’m going to mention the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. If you haven’t seen them, see Curse of the Black Pearl and skip the rest unless you absolutely feel the need. I will say, though, that Mick Jagger as Jack Sparrow’s father was an inspired bit of casting.**

Music is as instrumental to me as breathing (pun intended). So when I’m writing, I usually have a playlist going in the background, and not just to block out Sofia the First or Teen Titans Go. When I wrote the short story version of Plunder, I didn’t have a song or a playlist in mind. However, when it came time to write the novel, I decided one was necessary.

I was wasting time on Youtube, as one does, when my recommendations came up with this…

 

I had no idea that my life was missing this, but it was. I then spent several hours watching Peter Hollens videos.He has an amazing catalog, including any number of gorgeous duets with his equally talented wife Evynne.

Not only was the Pirates medley awesome, but it made something click for me about Plunder.

My heart is pierced by Cupid

I disdain all glittering gold

There is nothing can console me

But my jolly sailor bold.

–My Jolly Sailor

The thing about Plunder is that both Bree and William are sailors, and they’re both crazy in love, despite their constant banter/fighting. So the lyric work both ways…Bree about William, William about Bree.

I immediately bought the song, and it is the cornerstone of my playlist. Because they did such a great job, I went over to the Pirate of the Caribbean soundtracks. I have the entire Curse of the Black Pearl soundtrack, and from the World’s End soundtrack I added “Drink Up Me Hearties Yo Ho” and “Hoist the Colours.”

Interestingly enough, My Jolly Sailor Bold isn’t on the soundtrack of Stranger Tides, despite it being the song the mermaids sing to enchant sailors so they can turn vampire, drag them into the water and eat them. However, you can find countless covers on YouTube.

 

Disney, however, didn’t write this song. It seems to be based off an 18th or 19th century shanty, depending on which version of My Jolly Sailor Bold you believe to be the origin song. To read more, go here.

So, my playlist (all of which can be bought on Amazon or iTunes, depending on your preference) is The Peter Hollens Pirates Medley, Hoist the Colours, Drink Up Me Hearties Yo Ho, and the full Curse of the Black Pearl soundtrack.

Happy Pirating! I should be finishing my edited version in the next few days and sending it off to betas. Once that happens, my playlist will look a lot more like this…

Sidenote–Check out Todrick Hall’s videos, too. He’s so incredibly talented.

First drafts suck and the process of writing a novel

first draft suck

Last week I finished the first draft of the novel version of my short story, Plunder. I wanted a minimum length of 50k and ended up at 42k. There’s so much that needs to be cut or repurposed, like the chapter of exposition. There are secondary characters whose names I lost track of, and ones who need to be fleshed out. There is a lull about two-thirds of the way through after I break up my couple  that needs a lot of work. Tertiary characters flip between being alive and dead because I lost track. It is a jumbled, disorganized mess. But that’s okay.

edit without mercy

The biggest challenge I’ve faced with the novel is the sheer scale of the story.

Where Capturing the Moment had two main characters and two secondary characters, Plunder has two main characters, and tons of secondary characters. The nature of life on a ship means that I had to flesh out some portion of the crew, and with something like seven named secondary characters on two ships, it’s easy to lose track of who is who and what their personalities are.

Plunder is told from Bree’s perspective, unlike Capturing the Moment which showed both Meg and RJ’s points of view. It is very challenging to not tip my hand or give things away before their time. William is an alphahole, but I need my readers to still root for he and Meg to figure things out.

I have realized that in order to effectively edit the novel I need to create

  • a master document wherein I list all the characters and details about each of them
  • a chronological timeline.
  • chapter by chapter summaries–some of the exposition in a later chapter was dealt with in casual conversation earlier.
  • a sexual summary–style, position, allegories I use for orgasm. I don’t want to get repetitive, or miss out on something.

editing

I’m not going to start editing yet. I’m still too close to the story. My plan is to take a few days off, write a short story or two, and start the edits in June. I’ve shared the document in all it’s disastrous glory with my husband, but I will spend a month (or more) polishing it to the best product I can create.

When I wrote Capturing the Moment, I knew that my setting was accurate because I based it on my own visit. As I said in my guest post with F dot Leonora, I’m a photographer like Meg. I had to look up some details about art and the proper name of an instrument, but I was on solid ground. With Plunder, I’m dealing with a foreign time period and selective historical accuracy. The closest I’ve come to being a sailor is working as a costumed guide on the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum in college. I know nothing about rigging or the other jobs on a ship in the 17th. Research is only going to get me so far. I’ll need to consult with someone who knows their stuff as Bree is supposed to be a skilled sailor and fix the details I’m bullshitting today.

Once I’m done with edits, my husband will give it one last look. When both of us have signed off on it, I’ll send Plunder to my betas. They’ll need time to read and provide their comments.

During that lull, I’ll work on other projects.

When I have beta feedback, I’ll digest their thoughts and then revise Plunder further. I may send it to one more round of beta support or editorial support. A story is never really “done”–it just reaches the point where you are going to send it in or futz with it forever. I also call this the I keep editing, but now I’m making it worse instead of better. That’s the point where I’ll submit it for publication, and cross my fingers.

pirate 1

What does first draft, unedited hot mess look like? Here’s an example…

She was just about to head back to William’s cabin when it happened. A wave rose up and slapped the Ghost, tippping it starboard. She thought she heard a scream, and looked up in time to see the man from the foretop falling. He hit the gunwhale and slipped off into the sea.

“Man overboard!” Bree screamed, but her words were drowned out by the shrieking wind.

The starboard side of the foresail was unmanned, and began to flap. Bree might not be a pirate, but she was a skilled sailor who knew her rigging. She took a deep breath and dashed over to the ratlines and began to climb. The ropes were slick with rain, and she fought to keep her footing. Once at the crossbar over the foresail, she grabbed a piece of rope and knotted it about her stomach as the missing sailor should have. That would hopefully keep her alive if she fell, and she retied the knots that had gone slack.

The storm was like a living predator, snarling as it attacked its prey. Lighting slashed across the sky. She was soaked to the skin by the drowning rain. Waves tossed the Ghost, water sometimes crashing over the deck. Bree clung to the mast, keeping a close eye on the sail, listening for orders.

Bree prayed that the Maya was safely moored somewhere far from this storm. The thought of losing Marcus and James was unbearable. She looked for William, worried that he, too, might have fallen victim to the storm, but he wasn’t near her, and she couldn’t see the aft of the ship. Her heart twisted, but she remained focused.

The storm quieted, but she knew it was just the eye, and that the eerie calm wouldn’t last.

“Lass!” The pirate above her at the fore topsail called down.

She looked up. “Yes?”

“Can’t decide if you’re brave or dumb as a rock, but good work.”

My thoughts

  • “just” is one the worst offenders when it comes to filler/unnecessary words in my writing
  • Living predator? As opposed to a dead one?
  • I really know nothing about rigging, although I looked up proper names for things online
  • “the man from the foretop falling” what?
  • Would tying a rope around her waist save her if she fell? Really?
  • The storm needs more description. Do more than those few sentences.
  • She cares about Archie, the ship’s boy she befriended as well as Marcus and James

It’s not a bad passage, but it’s a really important one in the story. It needs expansion, more details (including support from someone who knows something about ships and sailing), and other editing support.

Here’s the thing, though. You can’t edit what you haven’t written. I wrote this, so now I have something to edit. In a month or so.

Social Media and the Writing Community

why I write

When I was a little girl dreaming of being a writer, all I ever pictured was sitting at a computer and seeing my book in a store. I doubt it was ever that straightforward, but the advent of social media has dramatically changed the reader/writer relationship. Personally, I maintain this blog, a Twitter feed (where I talk about my various tv show addictions as well as writing), a goodreads page, and a facebook page to interact with my readers.

Six years ago this week my family moved to Singapore. Living ten thousand miles from my friends and family back in Boston has made me more reliant on social media than I was before the move. It seems totally natural to me to look to Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the lives of my loved ones and to use them to keep in touch. There are a number of people from home whom I’m no longer in close contact with because they don’t use Facebook.

 

friendship

Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are where I’ve found my writing community.

Twitter is where I made friends with Tamsin Flowers and Lynn Townsend, and Malin James among others. Tamsin, Lynn, and Malin are special cases because our friendship has transcended Twitter to personal friendship. I beta for Lynn and Tamsin, and they for me. Tamsin and I have skyped.  When I was so sick last year, Alison Tyler sent me a scarf she’d knitted. Were I near them geographically, I have no doubt that we would hang out.

Without social media, I wouldn’t be friends with Oleander Plume, F dot Leonora, Jade A. Water, and so many other lovely people who make the internet a warmer, friendlier place to be.

So while I often spend time on social media that I could use to write, I don’t have any regret. (Except when I’m doing it purely as a method of procrastination.)

If you are a reader or writer–reach out. We’re here to make those connections. Alisha Rai responded to my email with really helpful advice about book covers. If it weren’t for social media, I wouldn’t have met most of my friends in Singapore. I’m so happy to receive tweets, comments, and emails from readers wanting to connect. So reach out!

Whether you’re a reader or a writer, or just want to argue over nerdy thing with me or ask me questions about Singapore and chewing gum, I’m here.

Writing Schedules, Pantsing vs Plotting, and a Sneak Peek

I recently spent a week fully immersed in what I hope will be my first full length-novel, Plunder (based on the short story soon to appear in Rogues). I had an absurdly productive week unlike any other writing experience, except the one I had when I wrote the first draft of the Plunder short story, am now roughly halfway done with the first draft.

pirate 5

However, I am a pantser, not a plotter. So what I have is an incredibly rough half of a book that will require extensive editing.

Does this mean I don’t know what’s going to happen next? For me, it means I have the complete arc of the story in my head, and am filling in all the empty spaces.

It’s easy to say that I’ll refine the first half and then write the second half, but if I learned anything from the ghost novel, which holds the record for most starts and zero finishes of any story I’ve ever written, ever, it’s that you suck it up and keep going.  My goal is to write the entire first draft and then fix it.

It’s only apt that I pepper this post with pirate memes not only because Plunder is a pirate story, but because even when I have plotted a story, my characters have committed mutiny and gone off to do whatever they want despite my outline. I have learned that I write more effectively by pantsing than plotting.

pirate 4

When will the first draft be done? Damned if I know. People talk about daily word counts and schedules, but as Jade A Waters said in her post called “The Process,” I kept fooling myself into believing I have a systemized process, and it’s become abundantly clear I’m full of shit. I laughed with delight when I read that line, because I find it to be so true for myself as well.

I’ll write in the mornings, when the kids are at school–Oh crap, I have to grocery shop. I don’t want to grocery shop with my four and seven year old, do I?

I’ll write in the afternoons, while the kids are absorbed in tv–Assuming I can block out Sofia the First or whatever other inane tv show is on/am not on Ms 7’s case about homework.

I’ll write in the evenings, after the kids are in bed–Well, sure, once I’ve done the other at home things, and if I’m still conscious enough to not fall asleep at the laptop/have enough energy to do anything other than watch tv listlessly. Or if I don’t have a freelance article due.

I’ll write on the weekends, when Mr. Night is around to run interference with the kids–Sometimes. Sometimes we actually want to do stuff as a family.

I don’t have a hard and fast policy because my life isn’t regimented enough to have one at this point (and probably never will be as I’m just not that organized). I have hopes that I’ll finish it before Capturing the Moment comes out on March 29 (pre-order will start March 14), but have accepted that it may not be.

pirate 2

I think that Plunder came along as well as it did during my intensive writing week was due to the fact that I love this story. This is a story I am happy to give up my free time to, and characters I absolutely adore. William is an alphahole (a term I only just learned thanks to Ilona Andrews post on that trope–btw, I loved her book, Clean Sweep). Brianna is an equally alpha heroine who has no desire to bow to the whim of any man. All she wants is to be a sailor, and eventually the captain of her father’s ship, the Maya. Both William and Bree are strong personalities with lots of opinions about everything, and throwing them together is often delightful.

If anything, I think the reason that things have slowed down is that they are currently apart because William was, well, an alphahole. Entirely his fault. I’m finding it hard to keep the story moving until they meet up again. Which is not to say that the middle bit is bad (although it’s a draft so it probably does suck–all first drafts suck), but rather than I have more fun and thus write faster when they’re butting heads.

pirate 3

Speaking of William and Bree, here’s another glimpse into their story

“What are you doing?”

“Darling, clearly it’s your nature to argue over everything, but it’s a blanket. It’s warm. You sleep under it.”

“I didn’t say I was ready to sleep.” Bree plucked the blanket from his hand and tossed it back to the floor. “I’ve yet to fully explore your territory with my tongue.”

“If you must. I suppose I can close my eyes and think of my duty to cartography.”

Bree’s hand had been trailing through his chest hair. At his comment she grabbed a fistful and yanked.

“Vicious little vixen.”

“Damned pirate. Turn over.”

“Aye aye, wench.”

All mine.

Her hands roamed his body. Freckles were scattered over his back, and Bree pressed a kiss to each. She had never considered a pirate would have such a banal thing as a freckle.

“Where did you get this?” An odd scar marred the perfection of his buttocks.

“Slight disagreement with a shark.”

She dug her nails into the cheek.

William sighed deeply. “Slight disagreement with a fishing hook. Rum was involved.”

Bree laughed with delight. “Turn over, and let me see what other wounds have been inflicted upon you. I wish to catalog them all.”

He turned onto his back. “What of the wound you gave me, minx?”

“A memory I shall always cherish.” Her tone was tart, but her eyes were soft as they made a study of his form