Wicked Wednesday–Aspirations

Becoming a published author has been a life-long aspiration of mine, and I have several stories that prove it.

For example, here is my story “Bee Queen” from my third grade book, Animal Fairy Tales.

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Bee Queen

by Delilah (age 8)

The bee queen was very upset. She cried ever since the bears had found their honey tree. My children are dying. They’ve nothing to eat for weeks. I’m going to go sting those bear good and proper and so will all the bumblebees, hornets, honeybees and yellow jackets.

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We still teach them a lesson. As soon as Captain Stinger is ready, we’ll take care of those bears. And they did just that!

But my third grade magnum opus was “The Last Unicorn,” which I previously published. Read parts 1 and 2 if you want a good laugh.

wp-1453292076597.jpgThirty years later, Totally Bound published my first book, Capturing the Moment.

Does that mean all my aspirations have been fulfilled? Nope. Next up is a full length novel, and seeing my book in a bookstore, and not just on Amazon. Dreams and aspirations are what keep us moving forward.

Click below for more stories of aspirations.

wicked wednesday

Wicked Wednesday:The challenge of writing a threesome

I’m a little late for Wicked Wednesday (it’s just after noon on Thursday here in Singapore, but it’s still Wednesday in many parts of the world), but I still want to talk about threesomes.

The first time I remember imagining a threesome, I was still a teenager. I was really into Nelson (the band with the twin brothers fronting it) years after they were a mainstream success. Much as teens today are #teamwhoever in a YA love triangle, I found myself struggling to figure out which of the twins I liked more, basing my opinion of the day on whatever teen magazine I read.

after the rain

It was the first time I thought “maybe I don’t have to choose,” and proceeded to make out with my pillow (as one does) pretending it was one and then the other or not caring which one I was kissing. I didn’t have the language to say I was fantasizing about a threesome because the pre-Internet world was a very different world.

With twenty-odd years of experience, I can see the evolution of my interest in threesomes as well as my understanding of all the various permutations of acts and bodies. However, I’ve yet to incorporate one into a story since making the shift to professional author, and that’s because it’s very hard to write a good threesome.

 

When you write an m/f sex scene you can use their names or the pronouns he/she to make it clear who is doing what at any given moment.

Things get a little more tricky when you’re writing a 2 person sex scene with people who identify as the same gender. Pronouns are much less useful–which s/he? Body parts become ambiguous–who’s dick is that? In writing Love is a Virus I learned that you end up using character names in same-sex erotica a lot more frequently than in m/f sex scenes.

Threesomes take the difficulty of writing a same-sex erotic scene and dial it up a notch. Either two or three of the participants will identify as the same gender. You now have three mouths, six hands, six nipples (and possibly some number of breasts) and three sets of genitalia. It is a delicate balancing act to ensure that the reader is keeping track of the participants, even if the characters themselves are not.

Is your threesome your character and their partner with a “guest star,” or are you writing a polyamorous relationship, or a triad? This affects the chemistry and the interaction each person has with the others.

Writing erotic romance with two characters is hard, but with three you have to contend with issues of jealousy, whether someone’s family can know about the relationship, the relationship dynamics of three people, and so forth.

One of the authors I’ve seen execute this well is Alisha Rai in Glutton for Pleasure (which also features male twins).

This is not to discourage you from writing threesomes–people enjoy them in life and in fantasy–but rather to get you thinking about how to write a threesome scene that works on all the levels.

wicked wednesday

Clichés

I recently spent some time with my “Literotica” folder of work. These are stories I wrote in my first few years of writing erotica, circa 2001-2003. I’ve talked about my horrible, cliché-riddled Star Trek: The Next Generation fanfic (and when one chapter got posted to Fark and Wil Wheaton saw it)

q tip

But, my friends, the overused tropes didn’t stop with the Wesley Crusher fic. I also wrote about Q. Once I began to think through what a Q’s seemingly limitless power could do in bed, my Mary Sue character tossed Wesley aside for Q in a multi-chapter mess.

fireman

My final series (as opposed to stand-alone short stories) was about a girl torn between her new police officer boyfriend in NYC and her fireman ex in Boston. (One stereotype? Why not two?)

While on one hand those stories should never see the light of day, on the other I can see the seeds of my voice as a writer. I wish I still had the multi-chapter fanfic opus a penpal and I wrote together set in Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar world (for my nerds, we met via the Queen’s Own zine in the 90’s). Or the Christopher Pike rip-off I called “Curse of the Silver Teddy Bear Necklace,” so I could see how I’ve as a writer.

I do have one example, though, my two part post(1, 2) of my third grade magnum opus,

The point is that no one picks up a pen and is an amazing writer that day. You grow and you accept feedback and rejection and you will eventually get there–maybe my decade between starting to write erotica and publishing it was pushing it a bit, but I took years off in there to have kids, get married and go to grad school.

It’s okay to have clichés–in fact, sometimes it’s fun to play with them just to turn them on their heads. I have a story called “Doctor’s Orders”–the anthology is in limbo at the moment–where I specifically set it up to look like the playing doctor trope, only to put in a last second twist that changes the entire story. Tropes are okay as long as you make them fresh again with your writing.  Everyone knows the couple in the romance novel will fall in love–it’s the journey that’s interesting.

cop

And that police officer/fireman/college professor love triangle? Maybe that has some potential after all.o

***I wrote this in advance and may still be in the hospital, or at home recuperating on pain meds. Please be patient if it takes a while for your comment to be approved or responded to.***

Being a Writer in a Heartless World–Guest Post by Jaylan Salah

Jaylan is a new friend from Egypt via Twitter. I loved her beautiful prose on her Tumblr, and was so excited when she volunteered to do a guest post here on my blog. I love what she has to say about being a writer.

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Being a Writer in a Heartless World

First of all, thank you Delilah Night for having me here. Visiting a blog feels like visiting a friend’s home for the first time. And the first impression, even if it never lasts, always has this tinge of excitement and anti…cipation.

Sorry Dr. Frank-N-Furter. I couldn’t help but quote.

Once upon a time, writers were considered sacred human beings.

They were gods, demi-gods, prophets, creatures everybody got so curious about but knew they were unattainable. Something of the extreme extraordinary, an untouchable, in peculiarly a bad and a good way.

This is not the case nowadays.

Apart from a few people who actually find something that they really want to do, being a writer has become a wish, a desirable profession. Why? I honestly have no fucking clue. But still, as days go by and social media become crazier and more invested in people’s lives, writing becomes even more of an everyday act. How would people fill their Facebook statuses and their Twitter boxes if not with words? Yes, jobs like graphic designers, photographers and actors have also acquired too many admissions to count, but these are all “braggy” professions, ones that could bring their seekers –despite their lack of talent- actual profit.

I mean, even lousy graphic designers could make a living out of designing book covers for amateur writers, or designing logos for startups that have no clue why they started up. Photographers would find it so damn easy to make a living out of taking photos of their friends’ as they get married, get fucked or simply want to celebrate a newborn baby, not to mention how many girls are into modeling and for that they would go through thick and thin to have their sultry, sexy photos taken by an “affordable” professional photographer.

As for actors, well, people have been dying to become actors ever since Hollywood became Hollywood. It’s the easiest way to get girls –and guys- make money and become popular which is –in itself- the epitome of happiness for some.

But why writing?

When did writing become so fucking interesting and alluring? Why is it an object of affection with all the mess that comes along?

And who the Hell am I to speak?

I mean; I am relatively an unknown. In my country I am a struggling film critic and still haven’t published a damn book. Internationally I am a struggling film critic and poet. Who am I to judge or give an intervention?

Let me introduce myself.

Jaylan. Late twenties. Single. Hedonist. Feminist. Wolf (yes I was one in my past life and yes I believe in reincarnation and yes…that shit has also become cool and trendy I have no clue why). Writer.

Other passions include: Cinephile. Dancer. Spiritual. Singer.

That’s it?

Not really, I have a lot to offer the world. For starters, I left a decent –but boring, hellish- government job in November 2014, and ever since then I’ve been a full-time writer.

Do I make money out of this? Yes, I do. Does it offer me social and financial security? Not really, actually not at all, putting in mind I am not as active-proactive as I should be.

Then; why Jaylan? You may ask.

Actually two friends who used to be really close to me warned me against leaving my full-time job. The decent, boring and hellish job where I wasn’t getting paid as much as I wanted but at least I was considered an individual, with a job. It felt more respectful back then. I tried applying to many full-time jobs afterwards but honest to God everytime I set foot in one it felt like death; or even worse.

This doesn’t mean I made a perfectly right decision by becoming a full-time hippie. For starters, I don’t have a permanent source of getting paid. Secondly, I have no clue whatsoever what office politics mean, not that I care but still it kinda seems like a very important quality to acquire, or so I’ve heard. I take side jobs from time to time; content writing, content editing, literary translation, copywriting, etc. They’re all rotating in the same constellation but they’re what I can do to push myself forward without…

Yes, now to we come to the important part.

I cannot not be a full-time writer. Some of my very successful friends have been able to adapt, see what the society wants and BOOM! Go for it. They want me to get married, I could get a husband in a week. They want me to have a respectable job, one where I sign entrance and exit, I could do that in maybe a month or two (even though jobs are only offered to you in times where you are too busy to care, whereas when you are desperate for a job, you rarely find one).

The point is; do I want to?

The answer is no. I don’t want to become anything but a full-time writer. I have taken too many jobs to support myself and always dealt with that writing “thing” like a side dish, but now –as we speak, as I write this long post for my dear friend Delilah- it’s my main fucking course sans aperitif. I have a novel work-in-progress, a short story collection and a poetry collection in English. They are all my babies now. I have to tend for them daily; feed, bathe and change diapers. They changed from being words on blank Word docs into human beings, manifesting in the surrounding space and talking to me, confronting me about words I have or haven’t written about them. Using me as the human vessel that they need to communicate through with the strange ass world.

So writing? Yes, this fire burning within. This muscle that you need to work on and train everyday. This disease that doesn’t leave you. This joke that you make up for yourself with the “writer’s block” myth only to justify laziness or batshit boredom or disappointment from multiple rejections.

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Before I go, I leave you with this piece. A short poem where I wrote extensively about writing and how lonely nights greet me as I sit down and try to write:

“Originally published in theProse.com, May 2015”

Spending the Night Trying to Get Inspired

I close the door
Inspiration is an illusion, you know
Troposphere, smelling gas from a canister
Puffing out smoke
Milk glass moon
All you can do is piss on the mountain
Watch the world go brown
I try to write, but nothing comes out
Inspiration is one tricky bastard
A cobra, dancing right and left
I bend down to write
My spine grows out of my skin
My flesh bursts with a thousand loti
Angular vertebrae bask in the moonlight
Trying to taste the tears of the sacral cacti
My skin has a life of its own
and so does my spine
My armpits grow a forest
of unknown Asteraceae
plaits and plaits of blooming petals
Snakes that reach up to the seventh seal
Cobras that dance to the dreams of lonely writers
spending the nights in handcuffs
under covers, working on their lost inspiration
treading softly on lonely hearts, sleepless souls
and glasses of crescent-shaped milk
dipped in oysters of dark-rimmed moon

jaylan tumblr

 

Feel free to visit my tumblr blog

I swear there’s free booze for everybody and much more craziness than I intend to.

I almost lost everything

I wish that this update would be a breezy account of the next rewrite of Siem Reap. It’s not.  Warning, medical stuff ahead, some of it scary but nothing graphic.

The weekend of Easter, I ended up in the hospital with a nasty kidney infection. The next morning I had surgery, but contracted sepsis (when your blood becomes infection) and within 24 hours had gone into septic shock. I spent several days in the Intensive Care Unit, during which I slipped in and out of lucidity. I hallucinated. It was hellish, but once I was stabilized I was moved back to a regular room to have further tests and to get a course of IV antibiotics.

ER

There have been many terrifying things about this experience, and it would take me hours to unpack all of the physical and emotional consequences for me and our family.

When I was finally stabilized, the first thing I wanted to do was write. But my coordination was so off that this was all I could write…

Kujw na=—==U;cw ffh sick beofel evfgoe osel o ehn I cane wigh seupiscffeated by uti,

You can make out a few words, but it’s mostly gibberish.  At the time, I started sobbing because I didn’t know if I would get better and write again, or if this condition would rob me of that. My elder daughter had a bout of septic shock at a very young age and she lost a kidney among other complications, so my fear was not unfounded.

As my health improved, so did my coordination, and I can now type/write again. When I made my first successful text, I almost wept.  Any writer can tell you that there’s not much money to be made in erotica, but that we write not for the money but because we can’t not write.  Writing is as critical as breathing for me, and the time I’ve spent without writing feels empty.

typing

Today is day 12 in the hospital and I’m a bit stir crazy.  I have a private room, but I spend easily 23 hours a day here.  I leave to go on walks, but the farthest I can walk is a lap around the floor.  I tried to go down to the first floor drug store, and was shaking and nauseous by the time I paid; I needed a wheelchair to get back to my room.

I’m lucky–I’m poised to make a complete recovery, although I’m quite weak now.  It will take time to gain stamina back (the gym is definitely a no-no for now), but I’ll be okay.  I’m in the process of seeking out a mental health professional to deal with the other side effect of septic shock–I have a bit of PTSD and will break down randomly.  That’s improving each day, too, as I move further from the event, but both my husband and I will carry the scars of this event.  I’m glad my littles are too young to really understand or remember almost losing their mom.

I could have lost everything.

I figure I have two options–be terrified of everything and wrap myself in bubble wrap or take away the lesson that life can be cut short without warning by something as simple as a kidney stone and to live it without worrying so much.

I worry about everything.  I want to make a good impression, I want people to like me.  I dress and wear my hair in a respectable mom style. But I’d rather streak my hair blue and wear a Harry Potter or something shirt.  To embrace my geeky side without fear.

I’m going to take a page from RuPaul’s book and make this my new mantra

What other people think about me is none of my business—RuPaul

RuPaul

 

 

Interview with my editor

Although I’ve been writing erotic fiction for roughly 11 years now, having an editor is a thing for me.  I first worked with an editor when I wrote for Carnal Nation.  I first thought to work with an editor for my fiction after Carnal Nation shuttered its doors.  I tried a few people, but I never found the right person.

A friend of mine offered to look at a story of mine last year.  I sent it over to her, and thus began my professional relationship with Jessica Augustsson.  Over the past year, I’ve really seen the quality of my work go up.  We’ve worked together on (if I haven’t lost count, and I think I may have) 5 short stories, and she is now editing as I work on my novel.  She is my go-to reader, and I can offer no higher praise than to say that I credit my recent acceptances in no small part to her editorial eye.  I’ve also learned what some of my “usual suspect” faults are as a writer, and now when I edit my own work, I have a sharper eye for those faults.

Worth noting-my blog is very much a first draft/off the cuff writing, so don’t blame any of my faults on the blog here on her!

I thought it would be fun to ask her some questions and publish her answers on the blog.  I know many of my readers are also writers, so you may find her answers enlightening.

pith_helmet_2Holder of the metaphorical red pen…

1-How did you become interested in editing?

Oh, gosh. I don’t know really. I think maybe there is something in the things we love to do that emerge even at an early age? I have distinct memories of my grandfather teaching me to read using magnetic letters on an old coal-burning stove we had in our house when I was a kid. Throughout school and well into college, I always enjoyed my English classes, both the literature aspect AND the grammar aspect, but never had an inkling of what kind of career one should have with an English degree. So even though they were the classes I loved the most, I sort of pushed the idea aside. I was focusing on political science, particularly international politics, which is a bit ironic too, I suppose. 🙂 And then out of necessity, once I was living and attending university in Sweden, I needed a way to earn extra money. Well, the English department had a deal with the business school, and some of us English students would edit their business theses. The pay was pretty low, but it was at a time when every little bit helps, and I really sort of enjoyed it, even though the subjects might not have been all that riveting. (I have a LOT of semi-useless knowledge about Sweden’s wood pulp industry now, and how a recent name change did NOT go over well in France! *grin*)

Then, off and on, I did some editing and translating for some software companies through people my husband knew. Then finally after finishing my Master’s, I became a technical writer and editor for a software company in 1999. After about seven years with them, I worked for a company that assigns projects to freelancers for just under a year before going out on my own. I learned some really valuable things while working for them, such as what sorts of texts people tend to want editing for, what various publishers expect, and the large and small differences between different English speaking countries’ general editing rules, as well as a few different diplomacy tools for working with a variety of clients. However, these sorts of companies that farm out projects take an extremely large chunk of the fee, and it was just unsustainable for me in the long run, as far as living expenses and such, to continue working for them.  Fortunately, when I took the leap of going out on my own, a few of the clients I’d asked about giving me possible references decided to come with me.

So my way of becoming a copyeditor was perhaps not the typical track. I’m not really aware of how things might be for those who worked directly for publishing companies or newspapers.  I do know many companies like to have lists of freelancers who’ve proven reliable, and through word of mouth, I’ve managed to get myself added to a couple of those lists.  But that channel of work doesn’t provide much, so self-advertisement is still key for freelancers.

2-What sorts of things do you edit?

Hmm… I really think it might be easier to say what I _haven’t_ edited. 🙂

I really enjoy my work because the variety is so…er…varied! From medical and scientific journal articles to museum leaflets to erotic and science fiction short stories to full-length fiction and non-fiction manuscripts. I’ve even helped ghost-write a novel and some short stories.

3-When an author sends you a piece, what is your process?

I always offer a sample edit, so usually that’s the first thing I do. I find this gives me a chance to see what level of editing might be needed (and gear my fee and time allotment accordingly), and gives the potential client a chance to see what kind of edit they’re going to get in return. That way, if they just don’t feel like we’re going to mesh, they can decide not to hire me. That’s usually fine by me, as sometimes it can be more work to discuss disagreements than it is to simply edit a document. (This sounds really awful, doesn’t it? Basically, I try to offer suggestions to improve grammar, flow, clarity, etc., and if a client decides not to go along with that suggestion, that’s obviously up to them. But I’ve had clients try to explain to me with each and every item why their way is better and want to know in detail why I made the suggestion I made. (Which, by the way, I have no problem with explaining, but in one case the client asked this repeatedly for weeks for everything I edited and it ended up being such a time and mental energy suck.)) In any case, I like to give people the view of what to expect up front, so they can make a determination as to whether they’d like to use my services. Based on comments on my website, you can see that most people are pretty happy. 🙂

Anyway, after that, I’ve found with shorter works, I edit them, just using the first-time reader eyes to inspire thoughts and questions as I go through, which can help point out places that need clarification, etc. Then I send the work back to the author and they can look through, make changes if they like, and send it back, as I always include a quick second read-through in my fees. This is because I know writing and polishing that writing is a process and not just a one-time fix-it-and-it’s-done deal. Sometimes when we change things, other little errors can creep in, too, without us realizing it, so I always try to keep an eye out for those in the second read-through.

For longer works, I usually do basically the same process as above, but on a chapter-by-chapter or section-by-section basis. I used to do the whole thing before replying, but I found through the years that if only a short section is edited at a time, this gives the author a chance to see the comments in say the first chapter, notice this is something they have a problem with throughout the novel, and they can fix the second chapter before sending it to me for the first edit. This gives them a better edit, since I’m not only highlighting the same thing throughout, and helps them develop their writing skills at the same time.

4-I’m sure every author (me included) fantasizes about getting back a piece with the “perfect! No errors!” back from their editor. Does that ever happen?

🙂  No, I’m afraid not. Not even on my own writing! Fresh eyes will always find something. I have a couple of people I trust to edit my own work, but for real story submissions and things like that, I’m never going to send out my work unlooked at by someone else. No matter how good a writer you are, how excellent your grammar skills, there will always be a typo, a reference error, a subject-verb disagreement due to having changed a sentence somewhere along the line. Plus, when we write, we’re trying to get mental images down into words on paper (or the computer screen). When we do this, a lot of material gets left in our heads. We see it clearly because we know what’s going on. But someone else who reads it won’t have all the data you have, and so a lot of my red marks in stories have to do with that–helping the author complete the picture on paper so it matches as closely as possible the one in their heads.

5-How do you balance yelling an author where their work needs help/clarification/etc and not making them cry. I ask because your comments always motivate rather than deflate me.

Diplomacy definitely turned out to be a lot bigger part of my job than I’d first imagined. But there has to be this understanding that people’s writing work, whether it’s a story or a PhD thesis, is their baby. And here I am slashing it up and sending it back to them as a big red, blobby mess. The important thing to do is much of what psychology teaches. You don’t tell somebody that they did something _wrong_ or that they wrote badly. Writing is so subjective anyway. So instead of merely saying something is unclear, for example, I will try to also add a suggestion or a question showing what kinds of questions the part that’s unclear is prompting in my head.

6-Do you have any advice you wish authors could hear before they send you their work?

That a quality edit is going to take longer to edit than they think. Time and time again I’ve had people send me really long theses that are due the next Monday or full-length manuscripts that they think should be ready for publication in a month. As a substantive editor, I know it’s going to take longer than that for even the absolute best of writers–and no, it’s not _just_ because I’m slow. 🙂

The other thing which is tied back to the previous thing is that many authors think that they just hand their manuscripts over to me and I hand them back a ready-to-publish copy–that I’m going to “fix it” and all will be done and pristine. People need to understand that the editing process is a back and forth thing. It’s going to require just as much work (or more) from them as it is from me before they have a publishable copy of anything. This is also why it takes a long time.

Then it would be nice if they also knew that once an agency or publisher has accepted their work, they will likely run it through another editing stage. This does not mean they have wasted their money on me. What I do is substantive editing, and what the in-house editor does is final editing that prepares it for publication by going through and generally polishing, fixing formatting, and some mild line editing and typo corrections–yes, those are going to creep in too. Even the best of us are human. I help people get their foot in the door as best I can. But there will almost always be a bit more editing to come. Writing’s a looooong process.

JessEdit.com