Strong Coffee – On Halloween in 1923, a once skeptical professor is forced to seek out a medium to resolve a haunting in her New York townhouse. (4,100 words, murder, supernatural)
Boxcutter – There are monsters out in the desert. Nathaniel finds work in the city, killing them before they’re born, but came from the desert too. (3,300 words, dystopian horror, serial murder, monsters)
Double – After an accident in a test run of a new cloning scanner, a lab assistant ends up living with her clone. A short story about self-love and self-harm. (5,600 words, a reflective story about having sex with your clone; no happy ending)
Rejections do, at least, function as reminders to try harder. Publishers are not going to be lenient about loose plotting, characterization without context, or a profusion of unnecessary minor characters in a short story.
Perhaps I should try a few more sex stories. There has to be some way to write a happy one that also has plot and a genre element, and satisfies my contrary muse, which will always try to write the opposite of what is expected.
It turns out my hosting site may be renewed again after all. I've already moved everything to Wordpress.com, though, so I think I'll stick with it.
Despite having worked at the Genie novel enough that it now has some shape and substance to the plot, instead of writing it I seem to have started a completely different novel. it's tempting to be now because the plot is more straightforward, leaving more room for introspection, and it gives me whole new characters to play around with. I even came up with a title already. Oh dear.
If completed, I'd probably submit it to Bella Books. This is a reflection both of my fondness for Bella Books - despite the hit and miss quality of their output, an all-lesbian-works-incl-genre-subjects publisher is endearing to me - and my lack of self-confidence. They seem the most likely publisher I know of to publish a first novel that's a straight-up lesbian romance without even any sex in it.
I'm SO fond of my new characters, even though some of them still need fleshing out. Can't wait to see how they'll contradict me.
- a horror-ish story about a woman who dates her own clone
- a pulp-detectivey modern-day erotic short story
- an slice-of-life erotic short story - no real content beyond the characters, the sex and its negotiation
The Other Side - an anthology of queer paranormal romance - EDIT: Oops, turns out it's for comics. That's me out, then!
Journey to the Center of Desire - erotica inspired by Jules Verne
Best Lesbian Erotica 2015
Two give me an opportunity to write about lesbians and one is for Jules Verne fanfiction. How awesome is that?
Meanwhile, I've moved my site to Wordpress.com and closed my Wattpad account. The latter was due to a scraping scare which has since dissipated.
Happily there is a lot you can still do to differentiate your character within the steel cage of minimum requirements for attractiveness: thin, able-bodied, with few really unusual features (unless they're beauty cliches such as "startling emerald eyes"). The one thing that's usually missing from stories with conventionally attractive leads is their own awareness of their attractiveness.
I think the cliche of the "ordinary-looking girl" who ends up being desired by every hunk in the vicinity arises from the desire to write a desirable lead, but not wanting to deal with the negative traits associated with being aware of one's own good looks. The gorgeous bitch is a stereotype, from high school cheerleaders to platinum blonde femme fatales. They're vain, selfish, and expect to be catered to. They're villains.
And that negative (misogynistic?) stereotype, coupled with our cultural insistence that women be effortlessly beautiful and never vain, is stopping us writing attractive female characters whose attractiveness (whether lucky or hard-won) has influenced the formation of their personalities. And then here I am, struggling to find something to latch on to, and that becomes one of those things. I would be dishonest if I tried to write an attractive character just the same as an unattractive or ordinary-looking one.
I could go on about what "attractive" means, anyway. Attraction is not about attractiveness. If I was writing erotica just for myself, you can bet the characters would be all sorts of chubby or bony, pockmarked or crooked-toothed, with cataracts or wrinkles or splashes of birthmarks down their backs.
"Conventional attractiveness" has its rewards and trials. A woman who works hard to look good and takes joy in her beauty gets attention, including attention she might not like. She gets told to wear less make-up, to smile, gets catcalled by men who find her beauty intimidating, smarmed up by men who think they've got a shot, lied to, manipulated; she becomes the object of unwarranted jealousy and gets painted with the "vain bitch" brush, or called a whore just for looking the way she does. Less gorgeous and made-up women might not want to talk to her because they, too, find her glamour intimidating.
A woman who just "happens to be" beautiful but doesn't work on it gets told to wear more make-up, to smile; gets targeted by men who think she lacks self-esteem, and gets called frigid and a lesbian when she won't cater to their hungry gaze.
When you think about all of that, it becomes kind of easier to be "ugly", even if it means you'll never get that job. At least you're not a lightning rod for other people's desires and insecurities.
Of course your life is never made up entirely of reactions to your looks. That doesn't change the fact that these things help form your self-esteem and what you base your self-esteem on - what you're proud of and what you're ashamed of, and what kind of reactions you've had to learn to steel yourself against. Did you get that nose-ring to enforce your own aesthetic over the sexiness narrative? Did you stop relaxing your hair because you reject the idea that kinks aren't beautiful? Is your make-up your shield against the world?
Recently I've written several beautiful leads and exactly one character whose job in the story was to be sexy. It was a story for a romance collection in which the sexiness of the male lead was very explicitly required. I tried to do him justice, but I have no interest in him as a character. He is, regretfully, a sexy lamp. The female lead, though, with her shallow attraction to him and the flippant and brusque manner of her sexuality, became really interesting to me. This is someone who has chosen to make herself as physically "attractive" as possible and steeled herself against whatever negative reactions that nets her while gleefully sampling the benefits. There is no core of self-doubt, no self-hatred to drive her desire to look perfect. She knows she's attractive. She knows that's no guarantee of a lay, or of preferential treatment, and she will not take any shit from anyone who thinks it means they're somehow entitled to her. That kind of strength intrigues me.
This is the thought that brought me back:
I've been feeling insecure about a short story I wrote where two women jump into bed after a slight two-day acquaintance. It's not realistic, I thought - it doesn't sound believable. But just now as I was reviewing the story I remembered just how many highly acclaimed novels, movies and short stories I've come across where a beautiful woman and an average man have a brief conversation which culminates in her asking him up to her bedroom, as if this was always the unspoken intent of their conversation on the weather/cutlery/art. So I can also damn well have two love-starved women fall into bed, and I don't need to explain it any further than that.
I have no qualms rating Dolly Dingle, Lesbian Landlady the same five stars I gave Mrs Dalloway and The Lord of the Rings.
It was a pretty easy and simple process after having done much the same thing with Smashwords once already. One definite bonus is that they allow an electronically signed version of the tax form required for non-U.S. earners. Should I make any money on Smashwords, I've set it to be withheld until I get around to printing, signing and scanning the form for them. It seems like a lot of work for nothing, but I like to do this right.
I take guilty, nerdy pleasure from formatting, bureaucracy, fact-checking and fine-tuning. If it wasn't for the promoting and human interaction, I might want to be an editor.
If it passes their vetting system, it should be going up on sale in the Kobo and Kindle stores. Amazing. There's a special tingle in your fingertips when you get the first ISBN that's all your own.
They say Smashwords publishing is easy, but if you want to try this, do it when you have a few hours to spend. They have an extensive formatting guide, and it is not that easy if you're not great friends with Word (or Write) already. I ended up uploading a few times before I had all errors smoothed out. Not to mention that I knocked a cover together only today, too. I know they say not to, but I don't think I'm a complete doofus when it comes to image editing (she said, sure to regret it later).
But, like Lulu, Smashwords offers a free ISBN and forwards your e-book out to the big e-stores. If it works, it's still an enormous time-saver compared to having to figure out Amazon CreateSpace and whatever upload systems Kobo might have. I like their pricing options too, which include an option to have the reader pay whatever they think the story is worth, which is definitely something I'd want to try if I was publishing for charity.
All very exciting! But now I must hurry home and make dinner. I haven't eaten since breakfast.
Encantados might have been more of a Humboldt thing anyway, and I'm writing about Darwin. :)
The novel won the Pulitzer Price, but I rejected it based on the projections my mind came up with from that first sentence; well, that, and the fact that a person whose state is crude thoughts and fierce forces probably would not be able to construct that sentence. Apart from the latter, the first sentence might have been a hook as well as the turn-off, and that depended on my own tastes and personality, but it does go to show the importance of the first sentence.
What do you call a small patch of bog that cannot support weight, surrounded by bog that can? What is the English word for a pine wood mire? Does anyone use the word slough in this context? What's the difference between a bog and a morass? Dictionaries only get you so far, since they tend to equate different types of mires.
Edit: Found it on Wikipedia under "Fen". The classification is fens, marshes, bogs and swamps. Good! "Swamp" was the word I needed. Still don't know what to call the swamp's eye, or what precisely is a morass.
This is a decision governed by various concerns. In the introduction, the book managed to both put the word transsexual into quotation marks (twice) and to exclude bisexuality from a list of possible non-lesbian expressions of sexuality between women. Before that, the Contents had mentioned chapters called 'Kinder, Kuche and Kirche and the "bisexual" compromise', 'Why Some Lesbians Accepted the Congenital Invert Theory' (I suspect the answer won't be "because it fit"), and 'The Roots of Bisexual Experimentation'.
I wouldn't have condemned the contents on the basis of chapter headings without having had a peek at the text itself, but all taken together it seems the book is likely to tell me I don't exist, at least not on the terms I've accepted for myself. I can put up with that to an extent, because you have to, but I don't intend to pay for the privilege. I'm also disinclined to give money to authors who seem to insist the same of trans men. Note, I myself am bisexual and cis.
I realize conceptions of same-sex affairs and of people who take part in them are subject to change and varied across cultural lines, and that the very idea of a lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual woman, or even "woman", hasn't always been the same. I just prefer books which don't question the legitimacy of identity from a monosexist point of view while pretending scholarly objectivity, and I've grown rather sensitive to the signs.
This is still the best book I've found on my book crawl to deal with fin de siècle/early 20th century lesbian culture in the US, so I'll look it up in the library.
In other news, I may have to rethink some of my NaNoWriMo idea seeds, since several of them seem to have already been collected together in a 1930s book called Strange Brother. I covet that book, because it would have first-hand living descriptions of some of the settings I wanted to use, but it doesn't seem to be very readily available.
What I'd really love to find is some kind of a 3D tour of the city circa 1920-1925 for my potential NaNoWriMo novel, or of the locations I particularly want to use: The House of Mercy, the NYC jail on Welfare Island, the Hamilton Lodge, the Village. I may have to just imagine it instead.
I do at least need to find a good 2D map and to nail down the location of my heroines' home and the nature of the café they live above, and the background of Genie, how her ambiguous racial background would factor in. I'm thinking she presents as a White European when meeting clients, and is fully identified as a Black American when among her friends, but then what about her family? I'd originally conceived of her as coming from a White middle-class family, but am I making things too complicated? Hmm. I do want her to have a foot in both worlds, so to speak.
I've added several more "seeds" to my plan while reading this book. I realize I can't include every "seed", only the ones that actually come together with some coherence. I'm also starting to get cold feet about one of the central secrets I originally thought up, since it would involve touching on the gender conceptualization of the era, not to mention the still radical idea of children's gender, which is seen as an issue of children's sexuality - an enormous taboo.
Sometimes I worry that if I write one story about the watersports kink and comment on one poem about piss, I'm going to come off as having that kink or overly associated with it. In the same way, I'm now worrying that since I've written one short story protagonist who apart from being a serial killer also sexualizes children, I can't write another one where the possibility of pedophilia is floated as a false lead. Oh dear. I might do anyway, since it emerges logically from the circumstances I've cobbled together, though I have zero interest in writing about actual pedophilia.
I'm already thinking of using some of these seeds and locations for the sequel. Steady on, girl!