Tag Archives: writing

“Sex & Cupcakes” by Rachel Kramer Bussel stops by on its blog tour!

I first saw Rachel Kramer Bussel’s work in anthologies of erotica.

I should clarify; I’m choosey when it comes to my literary smut. I’m not one of those people who loves reading descriptions of two people eating in an erotica anthology. It may be absolutely delicious writing, and I love that, but when I pick up an anthology of sexy writing, I want to read about sex. I want to read about people connecting, physically and emotionally and sensually. If that great meal is prelude to some high class (or low class) fucking, then brilliant. But otherwise–it’s just not my preference.

I’ve loved Rachel Kramer Bussel’s anthologies for fulfilling both of these categories–exquisite writing combined with stories that leave me needing some serious personal time with my toys. So when I had the opportunity to read a pre-release copy of Sex & Cupcakes and participate in the blog tour, I leapt at it.

Like many women, I grew up on Cosmo and Seventeen and Sassy, and it’s only been recently that I’ve started to find people my age who look at sex like I do. Who think it’s messy and wonderful, and sometimes way too much to handle. That it’s hysterically funny when sweaty bellies make that farting sound, and that if your partner can’t laugh at that with you, then they are probably going to end up being a really lousy lay.

Sex & Cupcakes

Sex & Cupcakes, like all good sexy writing, engages and challenges me to rethink what is hot. We find out how Kramer straddles the dichotomy of the real-world her, and the one online, the one who, as she puts it, has three names. She holds nothing back, talking about how she got started in this industry, the comments that people make in regards to her boyfriend, who is overweight, her struggles with orgasms being the be-all-end-all of sex, and why she doesn’t need a spreadsheet in the bedroom. She thinks about sex in a way that feels familiar, friendly, and open to me. If Dr. Ruth was a tiny old lady scolding you about sex, Sex & Cupcakes invites you over for coffee, tosses your coat onto a hook, then invites you to flop on the couch and tell it what you really think about the date you had last night.

While I love Kramer Brussel’s anthologies with a passionate that one could probably write erotica about, I hope that this is only the first of many excellent works on modern sex from this exquisite writer.

Sex & Cupcakes is available on Amazon and iTunes. For more stops on the blog tour, look here.

Reflections on my first convention & blogger blackouts

This past weekend, I took my self-published dark fantasy novel to Vermont ComicCon as a vendor. I’d last been to a con in college, so it was a pretty exciting thing. First signing event, first vendor event, lots and lots of firsts.

I’d love to be one of those people who could construct for you an organized narrative of how things progressed, but unfortunately, that sort of writing only seems to happen in my fiction. So let’s make a list of awesome things that happened at the first VTComicCon:

  • Selling and signing books! After years of going to various events and seeing the authors behind the tables, it was pretty awesome being the one there with my pens at the ready.
  • Seeing all the amazing cosplay. I’m more likely to be found in my geeky T-shirts than rocking a styling X-23, but I have so much admiration for people who have the visual creativity to put together some of the amazing costumes I saw. I tweeted some of my favorites.
  • There was a moment when an author came up to my table-buddy and myself and shook our hands, and said “I’m going to be published in a month, how do I get one of these tables, and what do I need to know?” It blew my mind, being the one who is considered to have the authority to answer those questions. Very very cool.
  • Being in a room with so many people who are passionate about the thing they love. I was very strongly reminded of the great answer Wil Wheaton gave a while back to the question of what’s awesome about being a geek, and that it’s not about what we love, it’s about how we love it. It seems like every time I look at Twitter, there’s authors being jackasses to bloggers, there’s Gamergate, there’s nasty and miserable crap happening everywhere. No good.

About the blogging blackout. I support it, both as an author and as a kind-of-blog-reviewer. Book bloggers do not exist to be the PR machine of authors. Book bloggers are book geeks. They do it because they love it, not just reading, but sharing the books they love (or don’t love) with their fellow book geeks. They deserve respect, especially because their love is so useful and important to us. I don’t feel like I’d be doing anything more than lip service by saying I was participating in the blackout, because nothing I’ve reviewed recently, or plan to review in the near future is a new release. I’d be lying if I said I was doing that deliberately.

I may spend the next week focusing on more writing topics rather than reading topics, or talking more about what the con meant to me. I also have an exciting bit of news that I’ll share tomorrow!

Publishing is a business, people.

Or at least, it’s supposed to be.

Back in the days when I thought an MFA would help my career, I attended a talk by Bruce Coville, one of my absolute favorite writers of all time. In a talk full of gems (“If America valued children, teachers would be paid like ball players, and ball players would be paid like teachers,”) Coville said that one of the greatest tricks the “establishment” (my word, not his) had pulled off was convincing artists that they are not business people.

This stuck to me, and while I fall pray to moments of being an artiste when I’m writing, I’ve worked hard to always be a businessperson when it comes to the work of actually getting my stuff in print and out into the world. Because when I’m at home and writing, and it’s just me and my fountain pens, it’s all about whether or not *I* think the paper and the ink are worth it, but once I try to push those words outside of my house, there are business decisions to be made. I get that, and I try to be understanding when my artistic whims have to flex to other people’s business decisions.

Perhaps this is why I lose patience when publishers do not run their businesses like businesses, but instead like sledgehammers they can use to get their way.

When I signed with Ellora’s Cave this summer, I signed a three book contract, essentially. The first contract was for Sweet Mistake, and the second and third were “To Be Determined.” My editor and I discussed some ideas for what those other books might be, but nothing was firmed up, as I wanted to see how Sweet Mistake did. I ended up writing and sending them a longish Quickie to fill out the second contract, and am still waiting for a response from my editor for that.

Today, in light of all that’s happened, in light of the impossibility of promoting a book through Ellora’s Cave in light of the (correctly!) agitated atmosphere in the book blogging community, I sent notice to EC Contracts division that I would be unable to complete the third contract.

The response I got back had no salutation (Dear Ms. Croteau) and no sign-off. What was in the email didn’t even relate to my situation, as it specified that there was no contract language for rights reversion at this time.

I emailed back saying yes, I was aware, and that was what I was trying to tell them.

They informed me that they were not terminating *any* contracts at this time, and that I was contractually obligated to write that book for them, and that I could not write it for anyone else, or write it and self publish it.

Since the contract was for a TBD concept, that means they have claim on the next piece of erotica or erotic romance that I write. My choices are to write it for them, or to stop writing erotic romance entirely.

Because holding authors hostage is a totally valid business model.

I am beyond enraged, and anything I write from here on out is just going to be an angry rant, so I think I’ll just drop the mic here and walk out for today.

Becoming a romance writer

This isn’t a thing I actually did on purpose, if you can believe it.

The story starts like this: I was about eleven, and a family member who was about my age knew that I loved to read, and wanted to give me an awesome Christmas present. Somehow, he got his hands on a subscription card. The deal was that you sent in this card, and then the person that you registered would get six books in the mail every few months. He thought this was the best thing ever, and signed me up right away. Neither of our parents knew about it until the first shipment of books came.

As you may have guessed by now, the books in question were a bunch of the Harlequin imprints.

My mother took the books away, but I figured out where she’d hidden them, and took them back. I read them all, and hated them. There was something cloying about those romances, about the way the heroines always let their men come first, no matter what else happened. I hated the secret babies and the ugly ducklings and the smart girls who pretended to be stupid. Oh, I hated those girls the most. But you know what I loved?

I loved the sex scenes. Oh my goodness, did I ever.

So I read the sex scenes until the books fell apart, looking up words like turgid and tumescent in the dictionary, and trying to figure out how they would relate to a penis. (This was 1991, after all, and we wouldn’t have internet access for another four years at my house). But other than that, I went back to my Stephen King, and my Mercedes Lackey, and my Anne McCaffery.

I loved the romantic elements in those books. I sobbed over Talia and Dirk, Vanyel and Stefen, Elspeth and Darkwind. But I didn’t try to read romance again.

When I started to write my own books, I found romantic plotlines creeping into the stories, but they were never the focus. And then, I went through a really bad patch for a lot of reasons (this is a theme I run into for a lot of people who get WAY into genre fiction, and it always interests me), and I found the works of Lani Diane Rich. I devoured every single book she’d ever written, then moved on to her alter-ego Lucy March, and her roommate, Jennifer Crusie. I realized that something had happened in the world of romance in the twenty-mumble years since I’d been away, and I found that I wanted to play in this world in a way I never had before.

I’d started my freelancing career writing blogs, both for independent clients, and also for content mills. All of that work dried up over night, though, and I went looking for more places to write. I found my way to oDesk, and I found a request for erotica. The pay was better than any of the blog offers I’d found on the site. I stared at it for a while, and then I shrugged my shoulders, and thought “Well, why not give it a try?”

One try turned into another, and within about six months, I was paying my bills by writing erotica and erotic romance in a work-for-hire environment.

There’s something incredibly freeing about just writing the story. It’s made me a better writer overall, because I don’t doubt myself like I used to. And because I don’t want to sell my work for a flat fee forever, I’m here, working on writing things for myself, that I can eventually sell, and hopefully see royalties for.

I never thought this is where I’d end up. Especially, all the drama with That Publisher that everyone is currently trying to weather. But early on in the debacle, someone tweeted something about how Romanceland is like a big French family (going with the heritage I can actually lay claim to here); we may not all agree with each other, but holy hell, if you unite us together? A force to be reckoned with.

I know I’m just a wee baby in this word, but I’m glad to be a part of it.

Today was supposed to be…

…the most exciting day of my writing life to date.

I’ve actually been planning today for years. What I was going to say, how I was going to do the Big Reveal. The cutesy things I’d reveal about the story.

I don’t get to do that.

I got this in my inbox last night.

SweetMistake_HiRes

I’m not going to link to the publisher. I’m not going to tell you where to buy it. I don’t feel right asking you to purchase it, because it seems fairly obvious that profits from that publisher are going to silence free speech and reduce blogger rights (IN MY OPINION, lawyers, go the hell away). But I couldn’t face letting it just die in my inbox.

I just wanted you all to see.

I want to say as well that my experiences with my cover artist, my editor, were amazing, and everything this was supposed to be. I’m quite proud of this little story, and the work that went into it. But I said it on Twitter last night, and I meant it: some things are more important than our individual sales or even our careers. This is one of those things.

Thanks for sharing this moment with me, even if it’s not what it was supposed to be.

Freelancing has improved my writing process

My 25 year old self wouldn’t recognize my writing process any more. That’s a good thing.

When I was 25, writing looked like this:

  • Stare at the computer for a while, wondering why the story isn’t writing itself
  • Log into World of Warcraft and pretend that writing will happen tomorrow.

Once I had kids, things had to get organized if I didn’t want to give up entirely (and I didn’t). My process started to look more like:

  • Bargain with husband for child-free time
  • Write for five minutes
  • Help wrangle for a diaper change
  • Write for two minutes
  • Make a sandwich for someone
  • Write for thirty seconds
  • Realize someone else needs to nurse
  • Decide that Virginia Woolf was really on to something with that Room Of One’s Own thing, and you’re going to look into that. As soon as the children stop screaming for thirty seconds.

My spouse was wonderful, and was a true partner during those years, but kids take energy (so much energy). As much as I could, I wrote at downtime at my day job, spending my evenings transcribing my fountain pen scribblings, which was possible even when I wasn’t feeling utterly creative.

Since writing is now my full time job, things had to get much more organized. I’ve found a few little tips and tricks along the way. For example, my older daughter is in school full time, while my younger daughter is in preschool three days a week. If I make both their lunches first thing in the morning, I don’t have to stop working to make lunch for my younger daughter on the days she’s home with me.

Barring interruptions from the kids, my writing day now looks like this:

  • Start with any blogs due that day; try to complete these within 90 minutes or so.
  • Move on to personal fiction or edits due under contracts. Work for approximately 2 hours on my fiction.
  • Work on freelance fiction. 3000 words a day minimum are necessary to meet budgets and pay the rent
  • Paperwork time! An NDA that needs to be signed and sent, a contract that needs review, an application for a new content creation site, all of that goes here.

Some days, it takes twelve hours to make it through the list. Yesterday, I was free by noon, and got to spend some quality time with my family. My 25 year old self would be shocked. I like to think she’d also be impressed.

(Photo by MeaganJean, used under CC 2.0 licensing)

Sweet Mistake releases on 10/10

So. Ellora’s Cave.

If you visit the romance-author blogosphere pretty much at all, I imagine it would be hard to miss all the current goings-on. If you have missed it, Dear Author┬áhas a very detailed sum-up of what’s happening, along with the most recent developments.

Here’s where things get interesting for me: I signed with EC right before the most current dust up. I signed a three book contract. I was over the moon with delight.

A few days after I sent in my edits on Sweet Mistake, the news broke that the company had ended contracts with the vast majority of their freelance editors and cover designers, leading a lot of people to question whether or not the company was going to remain solvent for much longer.

I’m fulfilling my contracts with EC, and I’m not in a place where I feel comfortable urging people not to buy my new book. But I also don’t feel right pretending like I don’t know this is a controversial place to be published right now. I don’t want to disrespect authors who’ve gone the go-round a lot more than me and who are asking their readers to buy something other than their books through Ellora’s Cave.

I am moderately peeved that it’s 14 days from when my book is set to release, and the website still has a “coming soon” cover, instead of the cover that was chosen for it. I am more than moderately peeved that the company has not officially responded to the news of the COO and the Managing Editor resigning, and then the company owner expresses her frustration with “witch hunts” on her Facebook page. I wish that I’d paid more attention to the Absolute Write forums, and this company’s history of non professionalism. But can I go from there and say “Don’t buy my first book”? I don’t know.

So. I’m apparently taking a very firm stance of not standing. I’ll be sitting over here in the corner, writing.

And here’s where I find myself.

Six months ago, I quit my day job to embark on a career as a freelance writer.

It wasn’t my first choice, if you can believe it. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid, but I always figured I’d have to maintain a day job, squeezing the words in between dinner and bedtime. I actually started freelancing in 2012, making enough income in that first year that I needed to claim it on my taxes.

But then, life happened, as it is wont to do. My husband and I had been piecing together childcare for a lot of years, and too many pieces came apart at once. The logical solution became for me to leave my job, and see what I could do about making this writing gig go full time.

license free image downloaded from pixabay
it would be better if it were a fountain pen.

I’ve been moderately successful at it for six months now. By moderately successful, I mean that we’ve mostly managed to pay our bills with his job and my writing. I mean that I have stories in two anthologies, one published and one forthcoming, and that I have a book contract with Ellora’s Cave. I have feelings about Ellora’s Cave based on the rumor mill that is churning fullsteam right now about the company, but I’m still excited that Sweet Mistake will be available on 10/10/14.

I hope to be here every other day or so, and I hope you’ll join me.