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Side Effects of a Good Read

I’ve spent the last week dragging around with a brutal cold. I’m very seldom ill, and almost never ill enough to take to bed. But this time, without full brain function, it seemed the expedient thing to do — lousy timing or not. While I groused and grumbled between sniffles and sneezes, aches and pains, I also made a discovery. I did have enough brainpower to lose myself in a good read. Since I wasn’t sleeping well for the first couple of nights, I took full advantage, binge reading Pippa DaCosta’s wonderful Veil series while snuffling and coughing and feeling sorry for myself.

 

I’m on the mend now. Though I’m still dragging, still dealing with the after effects. But here’s the thing. Being forced to take some down time and fully indulge in the pleasure of a good read was worth every sniffle and ache. It’s not that I don’t do my best to make sure there’s reading time in my schedule. It’s just that it’s often the first thing to go when that schedule gets tight. It’s sad that it takes a nasty bug to remind me that reading is far more than just my duty as a writer. It’s far more than just a frivolous pleasure; it’s a priming of the pump, a feeding of the creativity, a grounding for the storyteller in me.

 

Creativity cultivates creativity, and being inspired by the works of other people’s imaginations is one of the best ways I know of to be more productive and more creative myself. Sadly that fact is one of the easiest things for a busy writer to forget. I’m willing to bet it’s one of the easiest things for most of us to forget, whether we write or not.

 

I used to read every novel with the idea of learning how to be a better writer – whether the novel was a good one or not. Now I’m way less likely to even finish a poorly written novel. Time is too valuable. More often now I hold out for the really good novels, and I read them for the sheer pleasure of being drawn outside myself into another world, into another person, into an experience far different from my own. Coming off a good read, I’m reminded just exactly why the ancient storytellers in some cultures sat with kings and queens as their equals.

 

It’s far too easy to pick up all of our information in bits and pieces off social media and the Internet. We’re connected in ways we could have never imagined even twenty years ago. But while all the information we could ever want and, in some cases WAY too much,is available at our fingertips, the magic, the real magic, only happens when we slow down, back away and let the storytellers enthrall us.

 

My New Old Desk

 

Some things just make us feel really good about ourselves. Few things make us feel better than finding a bargain we love. I love to shop at charity shops simply because one woman’s junk is another woman’s treasure – right? I LOVE a good browse about, and never more than when I’m doing some redecorating. That’s how I found my new old desk.

 

I’m very intimidated by redecorating because I live in my head so much and seldom pay attention to my immediate environment, but this time, my redecorating is all about claiming a space for myself. I’m sure every writer – every person — for that matter, understands how essential claiming our own space is. Many of you know that I’m quite tunnel-visioned when it comes to my craft. I’ve kept my head down writing hard for such a long time that I haven’t bothered to claim any space except for my end of the dining table. While tunnel vision can be a good thing for a writer in the throes of a story, it can also keep us from seeing the obvious. Neck and shoulder problems and a wonderful trainer who suggested that part of the solution would be to have a space that was dedicated especially to my work have made me realize, I need to claim a proper space. It’s not that there hasn’t been the opportunity all along, but the room that was earmarked to be my study devolved into a junk room when I had to have surgery not long after we moved into our house. The longer I put off the claiming of space, the more stuff we accumulated. Now it’s cluttered with the detritus of too many moves and the serious accumulations and hoardings of two pack rats.

 

 

God! I’m a psychology lesson happening to myself, aren’t I? As my mind clears from the mad rush to write more and more and the wild fantasies all writers have when the task is new, and the excitement comes from just having someone actually reading our books, from seeing our books in public places, I find myself seeking space. I find myself longing to hone my craft in new and different ways – paths on which my heart leads me. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that those desires coincides with the purchase of a new ‘old’ desk.

 

The desk is like my mind, a bit on the used side, but ultimately, a hidey-hole for my craft, for my imagination, a place to shut it all away for just me. When it’s closed, no one even knows that it’s there. Ooh, I love secret places, don’t you? But when I open those doors, I’m gone – to another place, to another time, to another planet. I’m someone else, I’m multiple someone elses all with a story to be told. Opening those doors is another reminder that, to paraphrase Joseph Campbell, I get to follow my bliss! I get to pursue your deepest passion every day. How lucky am I? The desk is a symbol of where it is I go when I write. It’s a bit battered. It’s used. It has secrets, secrets I’ll never know. But now it’s mine. Now it opens to me. Now my stories and my secrets will fill it every day.

 

I’ve dusted and cleaned and tried out each little compartment and cubby hole inside, filling it with my treasured tools of the trade. At the moment, the room that’ll be my study isn’t ready, but my desk is ready. It’s temporarily making itself at home in my living room right next to the jumble of workout equipment, and I’m making myself at home with it. I can’t keep from wondering what stories I’ll write in this space of my own, and what adventures will result from the simple act of laying claim to space.

 

Taking Risks: Writing with Wild Abandon

fitbit-image-2-writing-wit-wild-abandonimg_6549That’s right! You might as well get used to it. I’m on a writing high at the moment, just over the halfway point with NaNoWriMo 2016 and loving every minute of it. So it stands to reason that you, my lovelies, are going to get a few of my navel-gazy, ‘gawd I love to write posts.’ For those of you who just stepped outside your caves for the first time in awhile, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, the object being – you guessed it – writing an entire novel in one month. I joyously participate every year if I possibly can by taking risks, by writing wildly, recklessly and eccastically for a whole glorious month.

 

I have to admit that when NaNoWriMo comes around, all bets are off. The house gets cleaned even less often than it usually does. The garden clean-up goes on hold. I drink lots of coffee, eat lots of one-handed meals, and reach for insane word counts. NaNoWriMo is the only time of year that I generate almost as many words on a daily basis as I do when I go to Lyme Regis every year on writer’s retreat. To be honest, I’m beginning to think that planning the time, setting November aside, making that effort to focus in and write a novel in a month is going to become at least as essential to my writing year as the retreat.

 

The thing is, each year I do NaNoWriMo, I take more risks and I write more innovatively. As a result, I come away from the experience a better writer. It’s not so much about word count. There are days when a few paragraphs are so essential that I may get nothing else done because they need to be perfect. When they are, that’s a victory in itself. What it is about is taking risks in a safe container. I have a month, only a month, and for some strange reason, I’ve always thought of November as a particularly short month. To me it always seems even shorter than February. Maybe that’s because it’s the last chance to breathe before the holiday season hits like a battering ram and there’s no slowing until after January first. All I know is that if I’m doing NaNoWriMo, I love, love, LOVE November! If I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, I hate, hate HATE November. It’s cold its bleak, it’s wet and windy and the days are short and dark and you know with that sense of cold in deep in your bones that summer is not well and truly over, and even Indian crest-05e1a637392425b4d5225780797e5a76Summer has had its last painful gasps. BUT absolutely NONE of that matters when I’m writing hard.

 

Bring on the coffee! Bring on the novel I’ve always wanted to write, but never had time for in a genre I’ve never been
brave enough to tackle before and I am SO close to nirvana I can almost taste it!

 

This year’s wonderful discovery for me has been something truly amazing with my FitBit. Yes, I know, live by the FitBit,
die by the FitBit, but write by the FitBit??? Oh you betcha!

 

FitBit encourages people to get up and walk 250 steps every hour. Good advice whether you’re a FitBit addict or not. It takes almost no time to do, and it gets me out of the hunched position over the computer. If I’m stuck, it also gives me time to walk through the problem. However, if I’m truly not ready to break, I’ve discovered that I can walk and write on my iPhone at the same time. OK, it ain’t elegant, I’ll admit, but it works! I walk, I write, I live very happily, and healthily in NaNo-land.

 

Eep! My walk alarm just went off. Must! Walk! Steps! And think! Be right back.

 

Yes, now where was I? Right! It’s sort of like a mini timed writing, a mini sprint, in NaNoWroMo terms, only it’s timed by steps rather than minutes. Okay, it’s sloppy and messy, but it works! Besides, sloppy and messy is what writing is all about. It never happens neatly or orderly. It’s either a mad scramble to get it all down fast enough or a pull-your-brain-out through your left nostril effort that leaves you exhausted and raw. Either way, it gets messy. Perhaps that’s why I love it so much, it’s permission to get messy, permission to give over control to those magical 26 letters and those squiggles of punctuation from which great stories, from which ALL stories are formed. Wow! I just gave myself chills!

 

Oh, and if you’re wondering, here’s the blurb for my NaNoWriMo WIP, my first ever scifi novel. Proud much???

 

imagesPiloting Fury Blurb:

“Win the bet and the Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer, Rick Manning’s
slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered Diana “Mac” McAlister never lost a bet. All her she life she’d dreamed of buying back her freedom and owning her own starship, and when the Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands the Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. But she does. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 1st mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out the Fury is way more than a cargo ship. It’s a ship with a history – a dangerous history, a history Mac’s been a part of for a lot longer that she could imagine, and Rick Manning was not above fixing a bet to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.

 

Blind-Sided and Tunnel-Visioned

writing-imageIt’s crazy times at Grace Manor right now. Yup! You guessed it. I’m finishing up Blind-Sided, the sequel to In The Flesh. I’m at the “runaway train” part of the writing when the novel not only takes on a life of its own, but takes over  my life as well. I’m at that mad rush to the end in which my mind is on one thing and one thing only — finishing the book. Right now I’m eating, sleeping, and breathing Blind-Sided. My world has been reduced to the dilemmas of my characters and my efforts to gett them to the end of the novel in one piece with, at the very least some, HFN. Everything else falls by the wayside until I write those two magical words THE END.

Well, actually, that’s not the end, because then I’m bereft, but this year, I have NaNoWriMo and another novel waiting in the wings to help me through the empty nest period. In the meantime, if you’ve been noticing my absence on social media and wondering if I’ve fallen off the planet, I haven’t. And since you’re all so patient and lovely, I thought I might share just a little bit of Blind-Sided.

Please remember this is a work in progress. It’s the author’s equivalent of sharing the sonogram of the new baby. And yes it’s a girl! And a boy! And a demon and a vampire and … well you get the picture. Enjoy!

 

Blind-Sided Excerpt: Demon Dreams

Susan was running, being chased by Cyrus, his axe raised above his head ready to split her in half. He was gaining on her with every step. “It will do you no good, Scribe. Your angel is dead. Your vampire is dead. Your human is dead and the bitch, Magda Gardener, is captive where she belongs, to service the one she has wronged for all eternity. And you! You will serve him too, but you won’t be required to spread your legs for him like she will.” He roared with laughter, “Or perhaps he will require that of you too. Perhaps he might even give me the honors. But you, little Scribe, you will write the future world order, under his command.”

She stopped dead and closed her eyes. Better the axe than the future he painted, the future she would be forced to write. She waited for the blade to fall.

“There is no axe, my darling. Dreams are often filled with lies and deceit, the things we most fear, perhaps fear even too much to contemplate when we traverse the waking world.”

            She opened her eyes with a start and found herself in the Guardian’s prison, which was much more like a garden 431px-medusa_mascaron_new_york_nythis time. He chuckled softly. “I am, perhaps, influenced in my decorating by quality time spent with Reese Chambers.”

            She smiled in spite of herself. “You could do worse than be influenced by him.”

            “As far as humans go, he is, indeed a jewel, as you say. A pity human life is so very brief. I can scarce imagine how one such as he would evolve given a millennia or two.”

            “Sometimes a deadline is a good thing. Humans tend to do their best work under pressure,”

            “That is true. Time on one’s hands can, indeed, be an unwelcome curse. One does things … things one would not ordinarily do, when one is bored. Things one would regret, if one had an understanding of the transience of the moment.”

            “Ah, I didn’t know you were a philosopher too,” she said, half wondering why she was in pleasant conversation with the bastard, but then it did beat the hell out of being locked in a nightmare with Cyrus and his axe.

The Guardian chuckled. “I shall take that as a compliment, my dear Susan, a thing to be treasured in our … interesting relationship.”

It was only then that she realized where he was. He lay spooned against her back, gently stroking her hair. Her insides tightened in a strange combination of fear and pleasure – fear that the pleasure she felt would lead back to the obsession that had nearly destroyed all their lives.

“That will not, my darling Susan. My desire is but to comfort you and to lend what aid I can to your healing.”

In truth, his touch was making her feel better, but then that could have been just the suggestion of it, just the fact that she was dreaming it so. She lay quietly in his arms savoring his touch, thinking that perhaps she shouldn’t, and yet her doubts were not enough to compel her to action. It was a pressure in her chest, just beneath her sternum that she recognized as his desire to ask something either he feared would make her uncomfortable or he feared her response to. For a moment she wondered how she knew that. She had no memory of them discussing it. “What’s on your mind?” She asked. “You have a question, I can feel it.”

“Why did you not call upon me in the time of your great danger? You left me little choice but to seek out Reese Chambers and to simply battle for our lives. If you would have but called on me, I could have done so much more.”

“I didn’t think about it,” she replied. “I suppose because up until all that has happened with Cyrus, and especially kdgrace-itf-finalbecause I was a bit frightened by what happened at the Dark Side bar three months ago, I didn’t trust you.”

“You may trust me, Susan. You are the possessor of my being, and your body is my home. While it is true that it is also my prison, to be without it would be untenable.”

“Oh don’t you worry, I will most definitely call upon you the next time.” And she was as sure as she was of her own name that there would be a next time. She shuddered and pushed back against the Guardian’s warmth and found him hard. She froze. “Please don’t,” she whispered. “Please don’t ruin it.”

“I am sorry. It was unintentional. I am after all a male.” Before she could respond, he said. “I will leave you.” And she felt the sudden cold of his absence. Shortly after that she woke to find Reese sitting by her bedside holding her hand.

 

 

Wow! You Don’t Look Like an Erotica Writer

A summer post from the archives

I don’t look like someone who writes erotica. I get that all the time, and I have to smile. It’s a bit like being told, ‘funny, Scribe-computer-keyboardMG_07771-225x300you don’t look like you’re not wearing any knickers. You don’t look like you just had extra cream in your coffee. You don’t look like you’ve been reading Cosmo in the ladies room.’

 

Contrary to popular belief, most erotica writers actually do look exactly like eritoca writers. In fact I look exactly like an erotica writer. Problem is most people don’t know what erotica writers look like. And, fair enough, I have to admit we’re a very difficult lot to recognize, so I’m going to give a very short crash course in how to spot an erotica writer. Not that it’ll help much. We’re masters of disguise. But perhaps it will give you some idea of what you’re actually up against so you won’t feel so bad next time you discover that the woman checking you out at the pharmacy, or the bloke tapping away on his laptop at Starbucks, or the chick picking up her kids after school is an erotica writer.

 

First, you need to know what NOT to look for in an erotica writer. Unless said writer is doing a reading at a book store and is trying to look like people expect an erotica writer to look, the person least likely to be an erotica writer is the one dressed in fishnet stockings and nose-bleed stilettos. Likewise don’t expect her to be the one with peek-a-boo cleavage and a leather mini, or the one with ‘please f*ck me now’ make-up.

 

In fact, the most outstanding thing about an erotica writer is that she doesn’t stand out. In fact it behoves her not to stand out. She’ll be the one in the coffee shop in the corner in the back. She’ll be wearing jeans and a jumper because minis and tiny tops are just too damn cold and uncomfortable to sit around and write in, and erotica writers are endlessly practical. She probably won’t be wearing any make-up because the time it takes to put on a face is time that could be spent getting down the fab hot story idea that came to her while she was cleaning her teeth this morning.

 

Yep, chances are very good you won’t notice her at all, but she’ll notice you. She’ll notice everyone and everything around her, and she’ll filter it all through an imagination filled with possibilities, sexy possibilities, stories to be woven, and heat to be generated on the written page. She’ll have her head down, writing like a madwoman. And if she has a quirky little smile half plastered across her face, you’ll know she’s found the hot idea she’s been looking for.

 

Some erotica writers don’t stand out because hey they didn’t even make it to the coffee shop. They’re still curled up at home in their pajamas with a cuppa writing a story sparked off by a dream they had. They may be in their most comfy track suit, hair pulled back in a ponytail, feet snuggled in fuzzy slippers while they tap away on the laptop at the kitchen Writing pen and birds 1_xl_20156020
table. They may be scribbling away in a little purple notebook during their lunch break at the office.

 

It’s hard to say where they’ll turn up, or how they’ll disguise themselves, or what occupation they might take up in their every-day, non-erotica-writing life. But it’s a pretty good bet that when they do decide to reveal themselves, you’ll still be picking your jaw up off the floor saying, ‘Wow, you sure don’t LOOK like someone who writes erotica.’

 
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© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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