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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.

 

Putting the Fun Back in Writing

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-birthday-background-party-streamers-confe-colorful-balloons-design-childrens-design-kids-image35629278If I’ve promised myself anything this year it’s that I’ll write for fun. It all started out that way, back when I was a kid and wrote my first stories. It was always fun – the writing. It was always magical to sneak away into my head and spend time with the people I made up. Things got more complicated when I began to engage with the world of publishing and, by the time I’d published my first novel, I always had an agenda. There was always at least one novel or story or novella that I was contracted to do ahead of the one I was working on at the time, most often, there were several.

Something about having a full dance card always made me feel like I was a proper writer, like I was legitimate. I never said no. Never! I felt like if I ever once turned anyone down, I’d jinx my success and no one would ever ask me to write for them again. Neurotic much???

Along with my ‘writing legitimacy’ PR, marketing and social media suddenly became essentials. I damn sure wasn’t going to let a book of mine languish after I’d gone to all the effort to write it. But how much is enough PR and marketing? How involved do I need to be in social media? Where and who and how often? And then there were readings and conferences and get-togethers with other writers and readers – all things I enjoyed, all things I tried never to miss. It’s exciting to be able to share my work with other people, and I love that part of promoting.

The thing is, at some point along the line the whole experience became wrapped up in my neuroses. It all became a taskthe scream I felt I had to do, what I thought was expected of me. It all became wrapped up my fear of what might happen if I said ‘no’, if I chose to take a break. Somewhere along the line there became more and more rules and less and less room for me to play. I’m not blaming anyone. I think this is a struggle all writers have. But once I finished writing Interviewing Wade, I decided that from now on I’d be writing a whole lot more for fun, that I’d be brave enough to experiment again, to play with words and ideas and stories again and to see where those experiments lead me.

If the writing is no longer fun, then it’s not worth the doing. Writing the story has been the passion of my life for as long as I can remember, and I feel extremely lucky to have had some success. I’ve had so many reasons to celebrate because of this writing journey. But success, any success, is a very dangerous threat to fun. After I’ve popped the Champaign corks, after I’ve celebrated with my friends, after I’ve flashed my latest baby all over Facebook and Twitter, when I’m lying in bed in the dark, that’s when I begin to doubt myself, doubt my success, doubt that I’m capable of the next step required to move forward. That’s a real joy-stealer, and one I battle every day, as I’m sure many writers do.

The joy of writing, for me, is in seeing the story unfold and in knowing that I’m the conduit through which it unfolds. Frankly there are times when it feels a whole lot like magic. The fun is in watching the characters surprise me on the written page, the power – my power – comes from the play of it far more than from the work of it. This is a fact, and one I MUST remember at all cost.

Lisabet Sarai wrote a wonderful article for Erotic Readers and Writers Association a couple of months ago called The First Time. The article is about the power of the first novel, and how many first novels became iconic in the body of an authors’ work. Even though those first novels are not the best writing the author will ever produce, even though on the level of the story and the characters they may not be the best, somehow they speak to the readers on a visceral level in ways that later, better crafted novels by that same author just can’t seem to manage. I thought about that for a long time and, as I work to restore the joy and the play in writing, I’ve come up with a possible theory as to why so many of those first novels are so powerful. I think it just might be because those first novels are often writers playing, experimenting, discovering their powers and just trying to see what they’re capable of and what fun they can have with that creative energy. One of my very favourite authors of all time, a goddess in the craft, Diana Gabaldon, says she wrote her stunning first novel, Outlander, for practice never imagining that it would be published!

Holly Final Cover ImageWhen I wrote The Initiation of Ms Holly, I wrote it totally as a romp, as a wild raucous joy ride that I absolutely played with and had fun with. At that point I had no intention of writing another erotic romance; I was experimenting. I was having fun. That was nine novels – under two pseudonyms — multiple novellas and a gazillion short stories ago. Though it’s been a fabulous ride, I’ve had to constantly remind myself that I’m a storyteller first and foremost, and I do it for the joy of it. I do it because in my heart, I know I’m not fit to do anything else.

It’s not that I no longer have fun with what I write. There are times when the pure joy of creating a world and characters and throwing them all together to see what will happen is just about as near an ecstatic experience as it’s possible to get on a keyboard. But if there is some truth in the fact that first novels are often so good because their authors are still playing with words, still revelling in the joy of the creative process, then it seems to me that as writers, anything we can do to get ourselves back to that first novel playtime sense of creativity, we most certainly need to do.

What does that mean? What does that even look like? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that it’ll involve taking some risks, letting go of the white knuckle grip of control I’ve had on my work and my time for the past few years and seeing what happens when I’m willing to just play with it, IF I can still be willing to just play with it.

Some of that play, some of that experimentation will be coming out on my blog in the future. I learned when I wrote the serial Demon Interrupted that there were lots of ways of using my blog that were far more interesting than saying ‘here’s this book. You should read it’ – whether it’s my book or someone else’s

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-abstract-black-white-write-pen-image24884256But if I want to connect with my readers, if they really want to know who I am, then the best thing I can do is share my words, share my creative process, share my stories. Some of you may have already guessed that I’m playing around a bit with the ‘Morphine Dreams’ and the ‘Alonso Darlington’ writings. There’ll be more playing around, and there’ll be more stories, and more experimenting. There’ll still be some ‘read my stuff’ promos and some blitzes and some really fabulous guests. But I’m reserving the right to play – on my blog as well as in the stories I write. Because play is at the centre of my creativity. It’s the place where the next story waits to unfold itself, and without that sense of fun and play what’s the point?

 

Typos, Auto-Correct and Freud: A Blot Post for All My Sweetits

HercAny writer will tell you that word-herding is hard work. Words are unruly things and not always willing to fall in line like we want them to. They’re tricksters just waiting to trip us up when we least expect it. So today I’m blotting about typos and, the bane of everyone’s existence, auto correct. Why? Because I’ve just had a very fun twitter convo with Madeline Moore about my latest blot post that’s up for everyone to read right not! She promised me she would go to my blot and buy my book not. She’s probably reading it not, even as I write.

Writers constantly play with words, and as Madeline and I tweeted back and froth, I got to thinking about how much fin we all have when the wrong word is used — either because of a typo or because of an over-zealous auto-correct. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve NEARLY called someone ‘Sweetit’ on FB or in an email. ‘i’ isn’t even close to ‘t’, so I can only hypothesize that because of what I do for a living, fighting the unconscious urge to write ‘Sweetit’ instead of ‘Sweetie’ is probably a Freudian thing, or maybe just my dirty little mind leaking out on the keyboard. If I call you Sweetit in any of our correspondence, please take it in the spirit in which it is meant and know that it was probably my wicked mind’s way of giving myself the finger … in this case the wrong finger on the wrong key.

The other day I had the misfortune of being the victim of auto-correct when I asked Vida Baily about her ‘WIPE’ instead of her ‘WIP.’ The silly convo that followed was caught for posterior on Facebook because for some reason, the ‘edit’ function wouldn’t work. This morning, as I was looking down through my blog content folder for an older post I wanted to refer to, I saw in the documents that I recently participated in the ‘Snob by the Sea’ blog hop, which will come as a real surprise to Victoria and Kev Blisse, who organized the ‘Snog by the Sea’ blog hop to promote Smut by the Sea. Honestly, there was not a jot of snobbery in that fabulous blot hog, just a lot of hot snogging!

I can’t count the number of times my characters have ‘shit the door behind them’, which is far more painful than shutting it … one would assume. And my poor Lakeland witches were nearly caught at the top of Honister Pass in a snot storm. I once read a story in which the hero’s face was pinched by an uncomfortable erection … After I fell off my chair laughing with relief that it hadn’t been fatal, I was reminded how easily I can make a sentence go on and on until it’s hard to tell what part of a character’s anatomy is being pinched by what … or whom … Sentence argument is very important!

The thing is, as writers we think a lot faster than we can get those thoughts down on paper. When those thoughts come out of the imagination, and when our characters and plot take control and drag us down the rabbit hole, sometimes it feels like we’re actually just secretaries struggling to take down their words and actions as fast as we can before faces get pinched by erections and whole villages are buried under snot storms.

Language and word play say a lot about a person. They say a lot about a writer, about a story-teller. Writers choose to dance dangerously with words, so it comes as no surprise when we occasionally trip over our own semi-colons. It doesn’t help that I’m the world’s worst speller Then there’s the constant Writing imagebattle of homophones. I’ve had the odd pale face end up pail … and while faces may be good for showing emotion, they’re not very practical for carrying water. Seriously though, it gets really tense sometimes when every word counts, when I want to make sure that my readers catch every nuance, every scent, every taste, every feel of flesh on flesh. That being the case, sometimes a writer just needs to play with the words and let them have their head. That means occasionally shitting the door on the more serious word-smithery and leaving the plot and the characters to stew in their own juices just for a little while, just long enough for a silly little blot post to all of you Sweetits out there before I get back to more serious word-herding.

 

The Domestic Goddess Gene & the Lack Thereof

IMG00659-20140420-1020I’m just home from my annual visit with my sister in the States. My luggage arrived home a day and a half later than I did, but no cause to panic. All the clothes were clean, pressed and neatly folded. No laundry for me to do! My sister’s a laundry fanatic. She doesn’t believe in returning home from a trip with dirty clothes, so the night before a flight, I’m handed an over-sized bathrobe. I strip down and my sister washes and dries EVERYTHING! And if it needs ironing, she does that too. I LOVE my sister! My sister most definitely qualifies as a Domestic Goddess. In fact, all of the women in my family qualify as Domestic Goddesses … except for me …

I look fairly well-adjusted to most people, and I can pull off the normal act pretty well after years of practice, but the sad truth of the matter is, I live in the heavy shadow of a long line of domestic goddesses. It’s a burden I bear as best I can, and the women in my family have bucked up well in spite of the family secret. Bless them, they love me anyway., but there’s no denying it. I just didn’t get it … the domestic gene. It’s not my fault. You get what you get, don’t you? And I just didn’t get any of that nesty, homey, Suzie Homemaker stuff in my genetic soup bowl.

My mother could have moved into a cow shed and within a few hours, a few days at the most, made Martha Stewart herself proud. Me, I’m more the type to move into a nice flat and adapt to whatever the previous resident’s version of interior design was. Does repainting everything to my own taste ever enter my mind? Nope! Does buying new curtains and placing pictures tastefully on the wall ever enter my mind? Only if there is a spot that needs to be covered. It’s not that I’m a pig or anything. I’m not even a slob. (okay, maybe I’m a little bit of a slob) I’m just oblivious.

I know there are women who actually enjoy housework. But I’ve never been able to see what’s to enjoy? And what’s the point? Don’t give me all that satisfaction of a job well-done rubbish. Even if I wanted to do it well, I couldn’t. It’s not genetically possible. My efforts, no matter how earnest, are always mediocre at best. My mother and sister, even my sister in-law, and my neices Writing imagecould cook a three course meal for a family of twelve in a kitchen smaller than a shower stall and dirty only one pot doing it. My kitchen is considerably bigger than a shower stall, and there are barely enough dishes in my house to make pasta and a salad for my husband and me. No, it’s not a shortage of cookware; it’s a shortage of domestic savvy.

Oh, I took home economic classes like all girls my age were forced to when we were in school, and I even passed the courses, but I think it was because the teacher took pity on me, or maybe she took pity on herself because she didn’t want me back in her class again. Don’t get me wrong, I can cook a decent meal. I can run a vacuum through the centre of the living room to get the crunchy bits all off the carpet. I can iron the biggest wrinkles out of a shirt without ironing back in too many more new ones in the process. I can sew on a button and even get the blood stains out of the shirt afterward from the needle wounds in my finger. But I lack finesse, I lack enthusiasm, I lack that certain domestic spark that the other women in my family just naturally have.

My sister would say my gifts lie in other areas. And she would say that while whipping up a batch of cookies between ironing creases in her tea towels. I love to go to her house. It always feels like someone just freshly unwrapped the package. And the cool thing about my sister’s house is that she manages to make it look clean, smell like freshly baked cookies and feel comfy and welcoming all at the same time. If I ever manage to get my house clean enough to meet the standard and make it smell like freshly baked cookies, the resentful scowl with which I would welcome guests and the deep beetling of my brow from all the effort that doesn’t come naturally would go a long way toward cancelling out the comfy and welcoming feel I was aiming for.

062It’s a good thing I can write, because I can’t sew, crochet, make tasty canapés or do any of that homey artsy stuff. Fortunately the women in my family have never held my genetic short-comings against me. They love me anyway. I’m glad, because they do that even better than they do domestic stuff, so I came out okay in the end. And really, I think it’s an excellent trade-off, the domestic gene for the writing gene. I’m not too warped from my dearth of domesticity, and the writing gene has made me almost completely self-entertaining and a very cheap date. Plus I can do a fair job of entertaining others as well. It may just be that in the end, my mother got a real bargain with me after all.

 

Writing Compost

composter dalek 2-1234In spite of having to do the backstroke to get through the rain-saturated streets of our neighbourhood and, in spite of the sponge of clay that is our back garden, the season is fast approaching when I’ll be thinking seed trays and compost and getting my hands dirty. I might have mentioned once or twice that I’m an avid veg gardener. I might have even mentioned the sexy stories I’ve written which take place in veg gardens. The truth is that gardening is one of the topics I’m almost as enthusiastic about as I am writing.  That’s not terribly surprising since the two are so philosophically compatible.

My husband and I inherited our first composter from the people who owned our house before us. We were suspicious of it at first and more than a little intimidated by it, and with good reason. It looked like a Rubbermaid Dalek casting a long menacing shadow across our back lawn. (Germinate! Germinate!) We’d heard that if we put egg shells and fruit and veg peels, cardboard and tea and coffee grounds in the top that in a few months, we could open the little door at the bottom and the myriad resident worms and micro beasts would have magically transformed all that garbage into rich luscious soil. Then all we’d have to do was shovel that organic loveliness out into our garden.

At first we had our doubts. Then one day we took the plunge, slid open the door and there it was, all dark and rich and soft and warm, and smelling vaguely of citrus. We filled a couple of planters. We were planning to put in geraniums, but never got around to it. Several weeks later I noticed there were tomato plants coming up in the compost we had excavated. My mother used to call plants that came up where they weren’t planted volunteer and, sure enough, we had eight volunteer tomato plants, the result of seed not broken down in our strange compost-making dalek.

Forgetting all about the planned geraniums, we nurtured our eight seedlings along and, at the end of the summer, they yielded up their yummy fruit. The next year we actually dug a bed and planted corn and beans and squash.  After that there was no looking back. Our one lone composter has long since been joined by two others, and twice a year we open the doors at the bottom and marvel at what an army of invertebrates can make from our kitchen waste.

Harvest 25 AugIMG00569-20130825-1722Each time we shovel bucket after bucketful of rich, loamy soil from our composters and spread it in anticipation of the veg we’ll be planting in May, I think about how much writing is like composting. There are times when my efforts truly seem inspired. Those are the fabulously heady times all writers live for and hope for; when every word shines the moment we write it down.

I would love it if everything I wrote would come forth fully formed and beautiful like Venus on the Half Shell, but more often than not my words are more like used teabags on an egg shell. More often than not, what I write is kitchen rubbish, the remnants of experiences already spent, the detritus of half-formed ideas and fantasies that aren’t quite what I planned when they appeared so perfectly shaped in my imagination. Somehow they’ve turned to apple cores and coffee grounds by the time I manage to get them into words.

My husband takes his lunch to the office, and he brings home his fruit peels and apple cores because he knows what they’ll become. He even convinced the lady who works at the office canteen to save the coffee grounds for him because he knows what the worms will magic them into in a few months’ time. It’s true, what we dig out of our composters is just soil. Oh, but it’s so rich, so fertile, so completely loaded with potential. We can almost taste the wonderfully succulent corn and tomatoes and runner beans we’ll grow in that rich compost in a few months’ time

Writing is no different. On the written page, the coffee grounds and apple cores of my everyday existence, the remnants of half formed thoughts, the grandiose ideas that didn’t quite have the magic on paper that they did in my minds’ eye will become compost, no matter how much they may seem like rubbish. I know nothing can happen until I write those words down, no fermentation, no agitation, no digestion, no chemistry.

But once the ideas are words on the written page, the real process begins. I turn them and twist them and break them down and reform them until they become the rich luscious medium of story, until they are just the right consistency to grow organically what my imagination couldn’t quite birth into the world in one shining Eureka moment. It takes longer than Venus on the Half Writing imageShell, and it involves some hard work and some getting my hands dirty, and a whole lot of patience.  But the end result is succulent and full bodied, organic and living.  And my fingerprints, my dirty mucky fingerprints are all over it. It’s intimately and deeply my own, seeded in the compost of what I put down in a hurry, raised up in the richness of what I then cultivate with sustained, deliberate, sometimes desperate, effort and a little inspiration. The result is achingly slow magic that lives and breathes in ways I could have never conceived in a less messy, less composty sort of way.

 

 

 
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