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The Alternate Universe of Tight Deadlines

the screamIt’s hard to think in the midst of writing for a tight deadline. Some days it’s even hard to breathe. Having my head down means I often forget which day it is and what time it is. These days my mind works way faster than my body does, and I run out of stamina and need to sleep long before I run out of words to write or ideas for more words to write.

Tight deadlines have a way of stripping me bare and, believe me, I don’t mean in a sexy way, urgh! What I mean is that my world gets stripped down to write … eat and sleep when I must, force myself into a couple of workouts – as much as anything because that keeps my brain sharp. Then I do it all over again. My head’s always buzzing from lack of sleep, and each day the deadline closes in, I become less and less social, more and more reclusive and less and less aware of everything else around me. Every time I’m faced with a tight deadline I swear I won’t do it again. Every time I wonder how the hell I’m going to get through it this time, and every time I promise myself I’ll go easier on me next time. But I never do.

In some ways it’s like being in an alternate universe in which everything revolves around writing and story … er … wait a minute. I always live in that universe. In some ways it’s like living in an alternate alternate universe – one that fits a little tighter, with edges that are a little rougher and a whole lot more intense.

Tight deadline as the year closes in around me seem to be a place in which I find myself every year. I suppose it’s the shape of my life, the unconscious ebb and flow of who I am as a person and the desperate race to crowd just one more thing in before the year runs out and becomes history, one more thing that will broaden the definition of me just a little bit more.

The thing that truly drives me crazy about tight deadlines at the end of the year is that there’s so much more I wanted to get done before the year runs out on me. I know all writers suffer from having way more ideas that they ever have time to write, but the suffering seems worse as the year draws to a close.

Nothing feels quite right, the world around me is completely out of focus, and I only feel truly myself when I’m working on the story. I do whatever else I have to do in a fog of self-doubt, while thoughts linger on the WIP and what I wish I still had time to write.

I’m excited that it’s Wade’s story that will close out 2014. And as is always the case, the unfolding of the story is an adventure and an experience
that leaves me wanting to see what happens next. I don’t think any character has surprised me quite as much as Wade has, and as I press on to finish before the end of the year, I find myself once again tunnel-visioned and oblivious to almost everything else around me.

Writing imageI apologise for the abundance of posts from the archives at the moment, though I’ve done my best to pick out some of the best. I apologise for being somewhere else, even when I’m here. I’m happily writing away in Wade’s Dungeon, and if you were there with me, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else either. I promise to invite you all in early next year, and you can hang out there as long as you want. But for now, it’s just me and Wade and Carla ordering pizza and drinking way more coffee than we probably should.

 

Tunnel-Visioned in Storyland

It’s that time again … Deadlines are tight, and I’m deep into Storyland. It comes as no surprise really, droppedImageand my husband is well used to it by now.

‘Did you feed the birds?’ my husband asks.

‘They’re in the refrigerator,’ I reply.

‘Are you hungry?’ he says.

‘I mailed them yesterday.’ I mumble.

I pour plain hot water from the mocha maker into my cup because I forgot to put in the coffee. Never
mind. I slap a teabag in the hot water and go back to the computer.

Spiders have taken residence in a number of nooks and crannies. Some of the webs, I’m sure could now be considered ancestral mansions. My arachnid friends know the odds that dusting will happen in the near future are slim, and the safety of their homes is pretty much guaranteed. I think they’ve gone to watching telly when I’m not looking, and they’ve misplaced the remote. At least they keep the sound down so I can work.

The laundry hasn’t been sorted. The flowerbeds haven’t been weeded, and I don’t know what’s at the bottom of the papers avalanching off the end of my worktable. So what’s the problem?

Tunnel Vision. Yep, it’s that time again. Everyone who knows me knows it happens periodically, and every writer can completely empathise. It’s a disease from which we all suffer. When it happens, I go underground. It’s like I’ve temporarily left the planet, and for all practical purposes, I have. When I’ve got tunnel vision, I’m sucked mercilessly into another dimension, the dimension of the story. The thing about the dimension of the story is that it’s a whole lot easier for me to go there than it is for me to come back. Short stories involve fairly brief stints in the land of Tunnel Vision. Five thousand words and I’m back home in time for a reality check. And the spiders tremble.

But these days I spend most of my time in the world of the novel, and whenever I go there, it’s hard to say when I’ll get back home again. Add to that the fact that the novel is full of love, sex, intrigue, populated with people I’d like to be living in places I want to go, and I’m very likely to linger as long as possible. In fact, I bet if you could go someplace similar right now, you would, wouldn’t you?

Come on, be honest! Everyone who’s ever read a good book gets the chance to follow the writer into that great world of Tunnel Vision. We all go there willingly and happily while the eight-leggers take up residence and the carpet crunches from lack of Hoovering. We’re disappointed when it’s not quite the world we’d hoped for. We’re equally disappointed when it’s more than we could have imagined. When that happens, we don’t want to leave. We want to stay with those characters we’ve grown so fond of and settle right in to that place which now feels like home. We’ve grown used to the excitement, the adventure, the sex, the love, the intrigue, and we’ve especially grown used to the opportunity to, for a little while, be someone else.

The land of Tunnel Vision is also the land of multiple personalities. In my novel, I get to be ALL of the To Rome with Lustcharacters. They all whisper in my ear and tell me their sordid secrets and their darkest fantasies. Then I, like an evil gossip columnist, splash their inner workings all over the written page for the world to see. Bwa ha ha ha ha! I get to do that because I’m the most powerful person in their world. In fact, in their world, I’m god. K D giveth and K D taketh away!

So, I’ve come back from the world of Tunnel Vision just long enough to grab a coffee, write a blog post and ignore the spiders. Consider this a postcard from The Mount in Rome, where the whole Mount Series started, and where Liza Calendar’s very sensitive nose is making Paulo Delacour very hot. It’s my way of saying ‘having a great time, wish you were here.’ I promise a detailed account this fall in the form of the latest book in the Mount Series, To Rome with Lust. But in the meantime, I’m out of here – back to Rome, back to Paulo and Liza, back to Martelli Fragrance’s secret formula for the best perfume ever! See you!

 

Niagara Falls and Writing on Non-Demand by Emerald

It’s absolutely my pleasure to welcome one of my favourite sparkling jewels, Emerald, back to A Hopeful Romantic. Emerald and I met at the Erotic Authors Association Conference in Las Vegas two years ago and, for me, it was love, respect and admire at first sight. Welcome back, Emerald!

Deadlines guide me. They structure me, help me, seem sometimes like they are the very foundation of any productivity from me. I appreciate them greatly, and I don’t feel it’s an exaggeration to say that they are the reason I’ve written a number of the stories I have.

In order to have a deadline, however, I have to have someone demanding it (self-imposed deadlines have not seemed to hold the same sway for me, sadly). That means that if ever I want to write something just because I want to write it, rather than for a specific submission call, deadlines become suddenly absent.

Emerald_NiagaraFallsThere are a lot of historical patterns in my psyche that make productivity without a perceived external obligation challenging for me, but the point, when it comes to writing, is that sometimes writing that doesn’t have this external demand doesn’t get done. Writing that is “only for me,” as it may seem, is something a part of me has been known to say is a waste of time, an indulgence, not something I should be allowing myself to do (even though philosophically, I truly find that nonsense).

For some time, I had been noting this internal phenomenon as I recognized that there were specific stories I wanted to write that weren’t for an editor or a publication or a deadline. The very strict patterning in my psyche seemed determined to bombard me with messages that there was invariably something else on which I should be working (these “something elses” need not necessarily be fiction or even related to writing at all) whenever I contemplated working on them. Thus, the long and short of it was–they weren’t getting written.

At the same time, Niagara Falls had been calling to me for a few years, ever since I read a particular novel that was set there. I had been there once, many years ago, and didn’t really remember it very well. It had become unquestionable that I wanted to go back.

So I researched, and budgeted, and yearned, and stalled, and got distracted, and researched more, and yearned more, and wrote other stories, and did other things.

And eventually, I put the two together.

I planned my trip for February. The off-season definitely has advantages, the first being price. The room where I stayed was $435 a night in July and August. (I probably won’t be planning a trip to Niagara Falls in the summer any time soon.) While I was there, it was considerably less than half that. My criteria were that I wanted a room that viewed both the American and the Canadian Falls, and I preferred that it have a refrigerator so I could more easily keep food in my room and not have to leave every time I got hungry. Literally the only plans I had besides eating and sleeping were to be in my room virtually the entire time–three days and three nights–and write. (I will admit I took small trips down to the pool to sit in the hot tub periodically when I wanted a break.)

Emerald_NFroomMy room was breathtaking—even without the even more breathtaking view out the wall-sized window. I got upgraded to a whirlpool room when I arrived, and I was put on the 34th floor. It was everything I had wanted and more.

Still, even I was surprised by how well this plan worked. It still surprises me now as I recall it. The effectiveness of removing obligations and external demands and, perhaps more importantly, giving myself internal permission to work on nothing but the specific fiction I was there to write was staggering.

There was a story for which I had had the idea for about a year and a half or maybe two years. Despite that, I had not gotten around to beginning it. In Niagara Falls, I wrote a draft of that story, start to finish, in four hours on my second morning there. It is that time comparison that most starkly outlines both my procrastination tendencies and the effectiveness of giving myself permission: Something I had had on the back burner of my consciousness for a year and a half emerged from it in four hours when I allowed myself to truly focus on it.

When I look at it this way, I wonder how I have ever managed to get anything written! But one more thing this trip was for, and which I would do well to recall, was to remind myself of what I could do. To remind myself that what I love to do is write, and when I clear the rest of the shit that fires off “shoulds” and “don’ts” and “buts” with dubious frequency from my consciousness, writing is what has been known to emerge.

One of the stories I worked on there, a version of which was written years ago and which has been given an update to incorporate an erotic focus (I first wrote it before I wrote erotica), takes place partially in Niagara Falls. In addition to the aforementioned reasons I wanted to be there, having the opportunity to see what my characters saw firsthand as I was writing the story was an inspirational bonus. This story, “Shattered Angels,” has not been published, but here is an excerpt of it that takes place before the characters have embarked on their impending anniversary trip to Niagara Falls. Our heroine, Shelley, has both joyful and challenging associations with the Falls, and she is struggling with this as their departure time draws nearer.

Excerpt from “Shattered Angels”:

Kenny held her gaze a beat longer than usual, and she knew he sensed her discomfort.

“You still want to go, right?” His voice was non-confrontational, and she understood why he asked. She nodded as she draped her coat over a kitchen chair.

“Of course.”

Her eyes were downcast as Kenny approached and gently slipped his arms around her. His fingers skimmed over her back, and she leaned into him with a sigh as his hands moved up to her neck, massaging lightly. She was surprised to find that his gentleness, into which she usually melted, seemed to increase her edginess. Her husband’s fingers progressed to her scalp, drifting slowly through her hair.

Shelley caught her breath as she realized she wanted him to pull. Desperately.

She didn’t realize she’d murmured the sentiment out loud until he paused and said, “What?” While hair-pulling wasn’t something they’d never incorporated into their sex life, Shelley could understand his surprise that she wanted it at that moment.

She did, though. More than almost anything she could think of.

Squeezing her eyes shut, Shelley started to twist away, not knowing how to explain herself. But Kenny held on. She struggled for another second before dropping her head against his shoulder, suddenly at risk of falling if her husband hadn’t held her up. His breath was in her ear, and Shelley couldn’t keep from squirming a little. She didn’t have the energy to try to articulate what she wanted, though, and soon she stood still, waiting for him to let her go.

Instead Kenny stilled, and she sensed the moment when he understood. All the breath left her body as she felt surprised and not surprised at the same time–of course Kenny knew. He almost always knew.

Silently he slid one hand back up to her hair. Gathering a mass in is fist, he gave the slightest pull. Shelley’s breath scurried out of reach, staying suspended until he re-grasped a fistful and pulled for real–a sharp, quick tug accompanied by a short exhale into her ear. Shelley’s breath shot out as her attention was pulled to her body.

And it was such a relief. Shelley clutched at her husband, pushing herself against him as tears rose in her throat. He lowered her to the floor, and she felt as though she were sinking into the carpet as he covered her body with his. Kenny tangled a hand in her hair and pulled again as he kissed her relentlessly, reaching to undo his pants with the other hand. She felt his erection against her thigh as he pulled her skirt up and wrested her panties off.

Despite the firmness of his actions, which Shelley knew he knew she needed right now, she could feel the tenderness in every move he made. She pressed her eyes shut against the tears that pushed out of them, gratitude that her husband knew what to do almost overwhelming her.

“Kenny pushed into her, his fingers wrapped in her hair as he kissed her neck, her cheek, her mouth. Her body tingled, coming out of lockdown as tension woke up and dissipated throughout her. The relief brought a sob to the surface, and she wrapped her arms around Kenny’s back, squeezing him with arms and legs and cunt as though she could compress the tension out of herself like juice from an orange. Kenny pushed into her harder, his body solid against hers as she willed him to thrust deeper, deeper, to where he could shove all the fear and dread and grief right out of her.

Instead he did what he’d always done–met her where she was, without flinching, and helped her be there too. Shelley held onto him tighter still, burying her face in his neck as she let herself be swept by the sensation in her body.”

***

Niagara Falls still calls to me. I find myself wanting to go back at least every other week or so, and now that it is the off-season again, that may happen in the near future. Or maybe not. But what seems to me one of the most valuable offerings I could embrace from that magical trip is the essential reminder that this is what I do. And I can do it whether a pristine view of world-class magnificence is right out my window or I am sitting in my chair in my office. Whatever is outside me, the inside is the same.

Thanks so much to KD for inviting me here today, and to you, lovely reader, for reading of my adventures in sitting in beautiful hotel rooms! Speaking of extraordinary places that I adore, before I go, I’d like to mention that on Friday night of this week, I will be in Las Vegas for the first ever Hot Mojave Knights romance reader event! If you’re in the area (or feel like booking an impromptu flight to Sin City!), it’s not too late to join us—you can register here, and you can also find a couple of my posts detailing my participation here and here. Naturally, we would love to see you there!

EmeraldAbout Emerald:

Emerald is an erotic fiction author and general advocate for human sexuality as informed by her deep appreciation of the beauty, value, and intrinsic nature of sexuality and its holistic relation to life. Her work has been featured in anthologies published by Cleis Press, Mischief, and Logical-Lust, and she serves as an assistant newsletter editor for Marketing for Romance Writers (MFRW). The latest release containing her work is The Big Book of Orgasms; find an excerpt of “Payback,” her story within it, as well as buy links for the anthology here.

Website: http://www.thegreenlightdistrict.org
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Emerald_theGLD
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EmeraldAuthor

 
© 2018 K D Grace
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