Take your genre and sweep it off its feet.

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I don’t usually cross post much because I like to keep my author self and my personal self fairly separate, but I thought I’d let you know that my fifth book, Spinning Tales, has just come out. It’s available at Amazon and Bold Strokes and other places you can buy books.

And to tie my separate identities together, I’m going to talk about the writing bit, which is what I try to talk about here occasionally. (See what I did there?)

It’s a fairy tale about fairy tales. I started with a plot idea when I saw a cottage on top of a building in New York, which was selling for 3.5 million. It’s a lovely place, and it got me thinking about what kind of magic a place like that could have.

I love fairy tales. I love the dark morality, the sometimes pure WTFness of the stories, and the sometimes gentle characters you find in them. And I got to thinking, if I wanted to write my own fairy tale, what would it need to have in it? What are the genre elements I’d need to employ? And then I thought, and what if the fairy tale was about fairy tales? That’d be fun.

It was fun. It was a ton of research into the world’s fairy tales so I could create a world outside ours that we were still familiar with (an important part of the fairy tale genre). It was planning; what was the quest about? What journey would they go on? How does the character grow from her experiences? What fantastical characters are there, and how do they move the character’s story forward? What magical item will make an appearance? How do we deal with evil, and destiny, and villains and heroes? What moral question am I going to tackle? (another important genre element). And how am I going to write it all and keep it fun and not preachy?

I don’t know if I succeeded, but for my first attempt, I’m pretty happy with it. I took fairy tale tropes and played with them, moved them around, and tried to do something a little different.

So my writing advice today: play. Challenge yourself. See where you can stick with genre conventions but twirl them around and dance them down the hall until they look like something new. And, perhaps most of all, know your genre conventions. That’s really, really important. If you don’t read crime, don’t write a crime novel without understanding how that genre works. Seriously. You’ll save yourself hours of frustration if you know your genre. And then you can play with it.

If you’re interested in Spinning Tales, you can find it here.

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Just roll me onto the stage…

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I’ve got baggage. Like, cargo planes of it.  Last night, I mentioned the need to share our stories, to put our authentic voices out in the world. So I’m going to do that now, because I know other people are experiencing the same issue…

So, last night we were given an award from Rainbow Heritage, an organization here in Nottingham that’s all about supporting the LGBTQ community and celebrating the people who have done work in the community each year. It’s a fabulous organization that’s tied into the LGBTQ Nottingham Switchboard, which is an amazing resource for people who need to reach out and find others in the community. I used it when I first moved to Nottingham to find writing organizations where us queer folk were welcome.

They nominated us for an award for two things: 1. for doing our memoir projects with various LGBTQ groups in the city, including over 50s, LGBTQ youth, and trans kids. And we’re in the midst of a large scale project now in conjunction with the local museum and the British Museum. 2. for the annual LGBTQ book festival we’ve been running since 2009 (making this our 10th anniversary), that celebrates queer fiction and brings together authors and readers from all over the place.

Very cool, right?

So what was I stressing about like a cat with its tail smoldering? What I was going to wear that didn’t make me look fat. I tried on various outfits, and…fat. FAT.

I talked it through with my wife, and I said that I knew, logically, that I wasn’t undeserving of the award just because I’m fat. I mean, I’d never look at another big girl and think that, so why would I think it about myself? And yet…

We stood on stage, took the obligatory photo, I said some things (and left things out, god damn it), and we sat back down. And I thought, I wish I wasn’t so fat and ugly. I felt like a lace-wrapped roly-poly bug, but without the cute acrobatic-ness.

I go to the gym when I can. I have Fibro, so there are days I’m not up to it. I don’t eat terribly, for the most part. I’m just…big. And maybe now that I’m in my 40s I have to accept that I simply need to keep being healthy (gym, veggies, etc) and accept that my body is now solidly in middle-aged Latina mom territory. That this is the way I’m built. So be it.

I think this is my next piece of baggage to unpack. I’m tired of lugging it around.

Cupid’s kids.

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I had a run of bad dreams last night. My wife woke up crying from one of hers, too. I don’t know if the stress of the day got to us, or if we ate something funny from the noodle shop. Whatever the reason, I think we’ll both need a nap today.

But among the bad dream things, I was making a speech to a room full of writerly types, and I thought I’d share the essence of it, because it’s very much on my mind today. I was talking about love and compassion…

 

Love can make you feel like there’s nothing you can’t do. It can make you jump out of bed in the morning, ready to face the day. It can also break you, and leave you thinking you have nothing left, that you gave everything. It can be beautiful, and it can be dark. It can be both. It can be the thing you live for, or the thing you think you’ll never find. Or the thing you’ll never take a chance on again.

But if we stop to consider a synonym for love, another child of Cupid’s that sometimes hangs out and chats philosophically about the crazy humans, we can talk about compassion.

The compassion that comes with stopping not just to drop a coin into the homeless person’s hand, but to make eye contact, to exchange a kind word or two. To be nice to the kid driving you crazy because you know under that bravado is the kind of fear that eats you alive. The compassion for the work collegue that’s falling behind because life is spinning out of control. The compassion for yourself, when you’re feeling beat down and overwhelmed, so you don’t beat yourself up, but rather treat yourself like you would that collegue. It takes a second, a few seconds, an awareness that life isn’t perfect and it gets messy and we’re so isolated in our jobs and cars and houses and belief systems, that we sometimes forget to stop and simply be kind. Compassion is a gentle, all inclusive form of love that we can all practice, no matter where we stand with Cupid at the moment.

 

I think dream me was trying to tell me something, and I’m going to spend time contemplating what she was talking about.

 

Call for Submissions: Silk and Leather

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CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Silk and Leather: Lesbian Erotica with an Edge  

Editor: Victoria Villasenor

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Publication Date: Spring 2020

Theme: Short story lesbian erotica

https://boldstrokesuk.wordpress.com/2019/02/05/call-for-submissions-silk-and-leather/

What happens when inhibitions get left at home? When you’re ready for something more, something that pushes your boundaries and makes your wildest, wettest, fantasies come true? What would you do if no one was watching? Or if they were?

Send us hot stories that happen on the wild side. Leave the everyday behind and find the place where silk and leather meet, where you can taste forbidden fruit and revel in the new. See where the path leads when you take a chance at doing something you never thought you’d do. Take control, submit, try on a new identity, play in a new location, take on new sensations… Be creative, be compelling, be brave. Take your characters out of their comfort zones and see where it leads. Stories should include hot and passionate physical encounters with emotional depth to make the characters and setting come alive.

We’re open to a variety of genres, and we’re always happy to see diversity. The central figures should be fully developed and compelling. From gentle and sweet to hot and hard, send us what excites and arouses.

Deadline for Submissions: May 1, 2019

Guidelines for Submissions

  • Unpublished short stories only
  • Word count: 2,000 – 5,000 words
  • Electronic submissions only to: boldstrokesuk@boldstrokesbooks.com
    • e-mail header: Silk and Leather_ Author Name or Pseudonym _Title
    • MS Word document attachment (story)
    • E-mail body: story title, author legal name, pseudonym if any, address, phone number, e-mail address, word count, 50 word bio
  • Story Format:
    • Times New Roman; 12 pt
    • Double-spaced; standard paragraphing; no HTML
  • General Info:
    • Submission receipt within 7 days; Submission decisions by July 15, 2019
    • Multiple submissions (no more than 2) accepted
    • Payment: $50 and 2 contributor copies

 

The Truth About Being a Writer

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I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue. This giant, awkward, socially inept, elephant in the room.

I’ve been in the field for a while now, in various capacities. I’ve listened to the wailing, to the arguments, to the ‘but…but…my voice!’. I’ve read the reviews that make me want to poke hot spoons into my eyes and cut off my fingers so I never write again. I’ve bled on other people’s manuscripts, only to have them tell me I’m a douche-hat who has the sense of an ostrich trying to bury its head in cement.

So, today, I’m thinking about what the truth of being a writer is. This entire perspective could change by tomorrow morning. Or even after I’ve had my full cup of coffee today.

But here it is.

Writing is hard. I’ve lost count of the amount of people who have said ‘I could write a book. No problem.’ Or who have compared it to a hobby, much like washing dishes, picking lint off stranger’s clothes, or cleaning ash from the fireplace. But the truth is this: writing well is damn hard work. Just like any craftsperson, you don’t just pick up the tools and make something beautiful without knowing how the tools work.

You practice. You try things, and sometimes they don’t work. Sometimes someone bleeds on your manuscript, and you have to suck it up. Because writing well is hard. Learn, study, and practice. Get better. Don’t assume you know everything and everything you write is perfect. It isn’t. It never is.

You earn your stripes. Yeah, we’ve all heard the stories. Some author who never put a word down to paper had an idea, and their first book made them a billionaire, and now everyone will buy anything they write.

Know what? That’s not you. Or me. Or 99.9% of the other writers out there grafting for every perfect word. You aren’t going to build your audience and have people flock to you when you’ve written one book. Or two. Or, maybe even ten. You have to write, and write, and write. And learn (see above). And get better with every book. And when you’ve got a whole bunch of books out there, and you’ve learned and gotten better, then you can worry about the fact that you only have 2.3 followers on Twitter and the only FB messages you get are from women with enormous breasts from other countries. And they’re certainly not asking about your books.

It takes time. Earn your stripes.

It won’t always work. If you’ve read your reviews, or other people’s reviews of other books, you know that people can be incredibly cruel. They can take issue with your cat, or your choice of socks. Both of which have nothing to do with your novel. They can also be very kind. But the fact is, you’re not going to please everyone, and sometimes, a book you thought was great won’t get the audience you’d hoped for, and a book you thought was just okay will get accolades. And sometimes, a book fails to take a breath. It happens.

So keep writing. Keep learning. Get better.

Write because you want to write. Not because of people. I think this is the most important one. We live in an age of instant response, of social media spreading the word and telling us who is out there. Of favorites list that we don’t get on, of reviews from ‘respectable’ places that never see the light of day. Of having to market ourselves to let people know about our beloved words.

All of that can suck the life out of you, and your creativity, faster than an anteater can eat an anthill. Or faster than grandma will box your ears for laughing in church.

Write because you want to write. Write because you have stories to tell. Write because you love the creation of something that wasn’t there before. Write to still the voices in your brain. Do it for the love of it. Not for the people. One will often come along because of the other.

That’s the truth of being a writer.

It’s hard. You get better. It doesn’t always work. Do it because you want to.

Rusty Eel Memories

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Memories are funny things.

We kind of think of them like Polaroids, like snapshots frozen in time.

But they’re nothing like that. The slippery eels of memory distort, stretch, and shrink as they slide through the murky subconscious of our brains.

What you remember is a belief of a memory–“It happened like this…” but then, someone else tells you about the same moment, and it’s a different memory. Because it’s not a moment frozen in time, but a remembered perception of a moment that’s now faded and rusty, like the car left in the field for a decade or two.

I am currently at the age my aunt was when she died. When she passed, I was in my early twenties, and forty-two seemed a million miles down the road. Now, as I sit here giving advice to our adopted daughter who is my age when my aunt did the same for me, I wonder if she hears me. What her perceptions will be of this time in her life.

I know now that I never really knew my aunt, because when you’re twenty the world is all about your own oyster and all its dramas. I wish I could go back and really talk to her, really understand who she was. She was an artist, a journalist, a whizz with numbers, a smoker, a drinker. The number of people who turned out for her funeral was stunning; we had no knowledge of the life she lived beyond our little family unit.

My memories are sepia tinged and worn at the edges now, and I question them because I can see that I’m only remembering the moments through the me-colored lenses of a messed up twenty-something. The same goes for the moments with my parents and situations. How much of that memory is shaped by perception rather than what actually happened? Can we remember without putting all our ‘stuff’ on top of the memory? Or is that simply not possible? The fact that someone can remember the same moment you’re remembering, but completely differently…does that make all our memories both valid, and invalid?

Random meanderings for the day as the holidays approach, bringing with them a host of bittersweet and weirdly shaped memories.

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