Archive for January, 2010

What’s the iPad Mean For Us?

January 29, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m following the stories with a lot of interest, because I think this new gizmo is going to have a big effect on writers – but particularly on writers of erotica.

Our stuff sells like crazy on digital devices, and Apple, with their iBook plans, just opened up a whole new piece of territory for us. When I say territory, I’m talking Louisiana Purchase territory. Already Amazon is revising some of their less than author-friendly policies to try and stay ahead of the Apple wave:

And the Kindle hasn’t been bad by any stretch of the imagination. This thriller author broke it down: As he says, he wouldn’t be doing that well without the start from a traditional publisher, but once established, it sure sounds like you can keep your own books out there and coasting.

I’m looking forward to hearing from publishers on their thoughts about the iPad.

Categories: Uncategorized

Michaelangelo Thought He Sucked, Too

January 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Just something to keep in mind on those bad days. I saw this on Slate:

I’ve had a crush on the man from Florence ever since I read The Agony and the Ecstasy. On some level, it pleases me that the greatest artist in history would say, while painting the Sistine freaking Chapel, “I’m no painter.” I’m no Michaelangelo. Still, it’s a comfort knowing everyone questions themselves when in the throes of creation.

Categories: Thinking Tags: ,

Tax Time

January 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Lots of stuff is deductible for the freelance writer and aspiring author. (Hint #1: Your home office is technically deductible – but if/when you sell the house to move, you have to pay some of the money back. Feh. I move too often to want to deal with that.) I have an accountant, because part of handling the business end of a writing career is knowing when you’re in over your head.

My accountant is quite accustomed to my spreadsheets. (Hint #2: The accountant doesn’t actually need or want your receipts. You keep those in a box in the event of an audit – which is somewhat more likely for the self-employed. Just give the accountant a reckoning – I track everything on a spreadsheet during the year, and print it out for him in January.) He approves of my anal retentive nature when it comes to categories and itemizing. He is long since accustomed to seeing an entry for the annual copy of Writer’s Market, for example.

But I really don’t know what he’s going to make of my entries for various Spice, Ellora’s Cave, Samhain, and Blaze titles under the “research” subheading this year.

Categories: Thinking Tags: , ,

The Hierarchy of Rejection

January 27, 2010 1 comment

The Making Light blog is one of my all time favorites – written by some of the best editors in publishing, lurked at by some of the finest minds in reading, it’s one of the few blogs that always delivers.

I found it by accident. Six years ago, I was procrastinating instead of writing query letters for a travel article. I was reading posts at Rejection Collection (no longer seems to exist – it was a site devoted to publishing rejection letters), and the site host posted a link to Making Light. One of the Making Light owners had also been reading posts at Rejection, and posted a response.

That response ranks up there as the most brilliant, succinct, life changing deconstructions of the publishing process I’ve ever read. The most important thing it did, of course, was give me perspective.

When you read it, especially if you’ve been writing for any length of time, you will either slap your forehead and cry “My god, it’s so obvious, why didn’t I think of that?” (or you’ll want to reach out and slap my forehead and say “My god, it’s so obvious, why didn’t you think of that?”).

If you read nothing else today, scroll down to #3: The Context of Rejection. That list is gold. I do freelance editing, and to this day, I mentally assign a number from that list to the manuscripts that cross my desk.

And if you have a few more minutes, read #5 and keep it in mind when you think of the people in charge of rejecting us.

Music Before Writing

January 26, 2010 Leave a comment

First, let me say that I am something of a Philistine when it comes to music in the car. I liked the 80s. I enjoyed its pop music. Styx, Bon Jovi, Meatloaf – these performers made the finest roadtrip albums that balls and big hair could produce.

But what I listen to before I get down to writing is a different matter. Language processing is no different from any other kind of processing, and garbage in = garbage out. I don’t listen to anything while I’m writing – I can’t focus, else – so I didn’t think it mattered what I had blasting while I did chores and deleted email. I was surprised, then, that my writing was poorer if I listened to poorly written lyrics before buckling down to work. But it’s true. My vocabulary is more limited, my dialogue becomes trite, and worse. The effect fades the longer I work, but I have a toddler, for crying out loud. These days I don’t have the chance to work long enough to overcome early Madonna.

But if I listen to, say, Ani DiFranco, or Simon and Garfunkle, or Anne Lister, or any other musician for whom words matter, I find that it loosens up the writing muscles.

Y’all noticed that? Got any suggestions for me to add to the writing warmup tracklist?

Categories: Writing Tags: , ,

Self-Deprecation Doesn’t Belong In My Toolbox

January 25, 2010 2 comments

Today’s entry in the neverending sweepstakes of shame: Even when I’m talking to other erotica authors, I find myself apologizing.

I’m serious. I need help. To acquaintances, I don’t talk about my writing at all. To friends, I minimize it as porn. To close friends, I both minimize it as porn AND downplay the erotic elements. And to potential colleagues, I apologize for it being too vanilla and not edgy enough.

I write what I myself would enjoy reading, for crying out loud. My entire life has been spent learning that I am not a special snowflake. For every thing I enjoy, there are thousands of other people with the same exact preferences. Millions, even.

I like reading M/F, M/F/F, and F/F. I like reading mild kink and threesomes. But I do not like double penetration, Sam I Am, I do not like it in the can. I do not like the whips and chains, and I do not like the golden rain.

For crying out loud, my entire goal is to write mainstream erotica. I should be thrilled that my preferences are so much in the middle of the stream that I can’t even see the shorelines. Today’s exercise is going to be working on telling other writers what I write, and doing it without caveats or apologies.

At a Crossroads

January 23, 2010 4 comments

I just got word that as of March 1, I’m out of a day job… again. It’s interesting. I think of myself as being very integrated, with my subconscious mind and my conscious mind pulling together like two horses in harness. If I run into a writing challenge, I just go to bed and noodle over the story while I fall asleep. In the morning I wake up with a solution.

In this case, I think my subconscious knew something the conscious side didn’t. I’ve been beefing up my LinkedIn profile for no reason that I could see. I’ve also been talking to old colleagues out of the blue. I’ve been networking so much, in fact, that while my current boss was telling me on the phone how sorry he was that he has to cut me loose, I was sending instant messages to friends who might have jobs for me.

So my subconscious mind has done a great job of making the transition easy. My conscious mind, however, hung up the phone and burst into tears. This is the third time I’ve been laid off in three years. The thing I do is considered icing, not cake, and when venture capital dries up… companies cut the icing first.

Here’s what this has to do with writing: I’ve been a freelance writer and editor as a side job for ten years, and I do those things full time in between “real jobs.” (Real job being defined as one with health insurance and some nice accountant somewhere taking out taxes and making Social Security payments.) And this week marked the first tentative steps towards success with fiction – a rejection with feedback, and an offer to submit directly to an editor, bypassing the dreaded slush pile.

I have a friend, who (unlike me) believes in signs and portents. She thinks I keep losing “real jobs” because the universe wants me to focus on my fiction. I’m not sure I’m willing to go that far, and I’m darn sure that while I will no doubt sell something in 2010, it won’t be enough to make up my lost income. But for the first time in the history of my friendship with this lady, I desperately want to believe in signs. And isn’t that a sign of its own?

I’ve got some thinking to do. Feedback is welcome.

Categories: Thinking

PSA: TOED the Line

January 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Dear New York Times,

I know things are hard. I know the copy editors have all been fired in an orgy of cost cutting. But if I ever see “towed the line” in the Gray Lady again, I’m going to stop giving you even my pittance.

Categories: Uncategorized

Inspirations, Part One

January 21, 2010 1 comment

In high school and college, I was a theatre person. You can tell by the pretentious spelling of “theater.”

At any rate, many of my friends were somewhere on the GLBT spectrum, and before there was the internet to help the friends of Dorothy find each other, there were bookstores with rainbow flags out in front.

Browsing in one of these is eye-opening for little straight suburban girls. It’s a good way to see that the same work of art can be interpreted through multiple lenses. For example, as a twelve year old girl, I had discovered Mercedes Lackey, and collected the entire Valdemar series. As a college student, standing in a faaaaaabulous bookstore, I discovered that Mercedes Lackey was considered a gay-friendly author.

Now, in Valdemar she had a few gay supporting characters, one lead character (in that he had his own trilogy), and made it clear that homosexuality is not a choice or something to fear. Bear in mind that because I grew up reading her approach to the topic, I didn’t actually realize how monumentally unusual that was in mainstream fiction during the late 80s and early 90s. I thought her attitude was the norm and anyone saying otherwise was freakishly bigoted. When I said this out loud in that bookstore (remember, straight suburban college freshman), I was made aware of how poorly informed I was.

I haven’t gone as off topic as you might think. Mercedes Lackey is absolutely one of my inspirations. She writes clear, popular, page-turning genre fiction. She produces, among other virtues, proof that genre fiction can follow a formula without being formulaic.

But in that bookstore, I also discovered a writer called Lindsay Welsh.

I read two pages of a book called “The Best of Lindsay Welsh,” and I marched it right over the cashier because it set my hair on fire.

I identify as a straight woman. I am married to the most wonderful man who ever drew breath. And this lady’s erotica is still my go-t0 book when the night is cold and the husband is sleeping.

What was so revolutionary for me was that it clearly wasn’t porn. The writing was terrific, with great characters. I felt like I was right there in the story, feeling the things being done to the character’s body.

The other thing that melted my brain was the language. Up to that point, I’d seen two variations in word choice:

A) His rigid member nudged into her tender womanhood.

B) His gigantic penis sprayed cum on her face.

Welsh didn’t use any embarrassing euphemism, avoided spelling variations I associated with men’s magazines, and still made it explicit. And hot. So hot. Wow. Hair on fire. I practically have “Provincetown Summer” memorized at this point.

I didn’t start writing erotica then, but flipping pages in that bookstore was the moment where I realized stories could be erotic and well written.

I Should Be Less Surprised Than I Am

January 20, 2010 2 comments

I fished out an old manuscript, because I am currently desperate for something to send to an editor wondering if I’ve got anything more romance-ish, less erotica-ish. I remembered really liking the basic story. I also remembered tossing it in the metaphorical drawer because it was boring me, and even five years ago I liked writing sex scenes more than I liked writing sweet romance. (This was well before the e-pub/e-reader thing exploded, and before insane sales of e-reader erotica proved that lots more people will read it if they can do it without anyone seeing them do it. Kind of like actual… it.) Anyway, I’ve actually been thinking about that old thing. So I went fishing.

And holy cow, I was a terrible writer.

I went through all my old abandoned stories. There is a definite turning point where my work went from sadass to badass, but it’s not at the point where I started writing erotica as I thought. If you read the first post on this blog, you will note that I thought that two days ago.

But no, it’s the point where I purchased and read Self-Editing For Fiction Writers. I’m not kidding. I checked my spreadsheet from the year where the change occurred (remember, books you buy to further your craft are tax-deductible), and the month I bought it is when the manuscripts stopped sucking.

Please bear in mind – at the time that I bought this book, I’d been selling non-fiction pretty consistently. There really is a world of difference between how you edit the two types of writing.

Renni Browne, Dave King, if you’re out there: You are an entire barrel of awesome sauce.

Categories: Editing, Writing Tags: ,

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