Jan 172015
 
Share

By Nobilis

This week, I collected the fifth draft of the Monster Whisperer novel into one manuscript and sent it off to an editor at Circlet Press to consider for publication. My feelings are, as I’m sure you can understand, complicated. I’m relieved to be done with this phase of the story, anxious about starting the next, puzzled about what to work on afterward, and eager to get rolling on it. All at the same time, or in any combination. But I’ve been through this enough to know that the relief will fade, the anxiety is temporary, the puzzlement is natural, and the eagerness will, in time, need to be nurtured.

I’m enjoying the relief of being done with this novel. Finishing any novel is not easy, and the fact that this is my third hasn’t really made it any easier. But I can’t afford the urge to sit back and rest. There’s more writing to be done, and I know from experience that if I go even just one day without writing, it can easily stretch into two, or three, or a week, and I don’t want that. So I’ve set a goal for myself—to write at least five hundred words a day, every day, in the year 2015. No excuses, no exceptions.

Monster Whisperer is now at a stage where there is nothing I can do about it. It’s out of my hands. Anxiety won’t do me any good, so it’s really best to let it go. Dwelling on it will only lead me to do stupid things like check in with the editor daily on whether she’s reading it. So I need to let it go. The best way I know how to do that is to let myself feel it, acknowledge it, thank my subconscious for its opinion, then go about my day.

I don’t need to work very hard on the decision of what to work on next. I have a story I really need to finish, a novella for a box-set that I’ve been invited to participate in, but it’s not an immediate one and I can afford to spread my efforts around a little. I can’t afford to do that very much though, especially writing only five hundred words a day, so I need to maintain focus. Distractions need to be kept at a minimum. Monster Whisperer took a year to finish; I’d rather not have the next project take that long.

That eagerness to be writing, that desire to feel the intense satisfaction on finishing a manuscript, will need to be preserved and nurtured. Luckily, that gets easier with each finished story. My confidence improves every time, especially when I get positive feedback from people whose writing I admire. But the time will come, somewhere around the late middle of the next story, when I want to just give up. I know it will happen. So I need to fix this feeling in my mind, remember it, come back to it again and again to maintain my enthusiasm. I need to hold onto it the way some people hold onto grudges.

Essentially, my emotional state is very important to my success as a writer—and therefore I need to be able to manage that state, control it, shape it so that it serves my purposes. That may sound like a strange idea. Much of modern culture portrays people as helpless to control their feelings, even victims of them; or else that our feelings should be respected over other modes of thinking instead of in concert with them. I disagree. Our feelings are ultimately under our control, though sometimes only with great difficulty, and only if we maintain a respectful relationship with them rather than pitting them against our rational thought processes or trying to “fight” them. When understood and managed, these feelings can help us achieve our goals.

***

Stories that don’t stop at the bedroom door—or the castle gate—or the airlock.
http://www.nobiliserotica.com
Podcast: nobilis.libsyn.com
Twitter: @nobilis

Share
Jan 112015
 
Share

By M.Christian (Guest Blogger)

Currently I’m involved in a very special publishing endeavor – sorry for the tease; I’ll come to it shortly – that has gotten me thinking quite a bit about writing, especially about what it could meant to be a successful writer.

An odd word, that: success.  In some cases it can be a very clear-cut.  Getting from point A to point B?  Success is just making the trip.  Balancing your checkbook?  Success is making it all add up (and, one hopes, remaining in the black).  But for writers … well, it can be rather, shall I say, slippery.

For example: finishing a book or a story.  That can be a form of success – though too often it feels like there’s always more that could have been done.  Selling a book or a story?  That can be successful – though many times there’s the nagging doubt that it could have gone for more money, higher status, etc.

Then there’s the big form of that word.  What does it mean to be a successful author?  Excuse me for evoking my inner Cranky Old Pro, but far too many authors seem to think that being a successful author is not just finishing books and stories, selling books or stories, winning awards, making money – but making sure everyone, everywhere, knows about it.

In other words, the world of professional writing – or creating anything, it seems like – has become about who you are and not what you do.

Okay, that’s a broad statement, but bear with me.  This new endeavor – which I still won’t talk too much about … yet – involves a lot of looking backwards.  I’ve never been a fan of nostalgia … my childhood wasn’t exactly a pleasant one … but it has been a real eye-opener when it comes to reevaluating what, for me at least, success actually means.

Let’s talk about science fiction for a moment – but, rest assured, the message is the pretty much the same not only for every genre but every form of artistic creation as well.  Right now being a science fiction writer is a big deal: one story, one sale, one award, and everyone’s awash in self-congratulatory promotion.

Yes, PR is more important than ever, what with the evolution of ebooks and self-publishing and all. Going from (yeah I know I might be exaggerating) 1,000 books published a month to 10,000 books a day means that getting your name out there is crucial … but there’s a big difference between trying not to vanish, trampled under the hordes of other writers, and losing sight of the what being a writer is all about.

Part of this project I alluded to in the first paragraph is stepping into a wayback machine to look at many early SF authors and their works.  Back in the 1940s and 50s, and up to the 60s or so, was when many of the SF legends began their writing lives.  If you haven’t, you should definitely pick up a few old SF digests or pulps or cruise a few select sites and check them out.

Sure, far too often their covers were beyond pulpy (half-naked women, Green Men from Mars, stalwart heroes firing blasters, Green Men from Mars holding half-naked women high in the air while stalwart heroes fired blasters at them, etc.), but look at who was slowly making their way up the mastheads of those tawdry pages: Arthur C. Clarke, Alfred Bester, Philip K. Dick, Edmond Hamilton, Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, and (later) James Tiptree, Jr.
 (AKA Alice Bradley Sheldon), Octavia Butler, and so many others. 

Oh, sure, it’s worth a giggle or two seeing authors that we now consider to be legendary on these covers – but doing so is what changed the way I, personally, consider a measure of success … and, perhaps, will change the way you think about it, too.

Back into the wayback machine: no internet, damned few bookstores that would carry digests or paperbacks (they were mostly sold on newsstands), almost no reviews (except in other SF magazines), and pretty much zero, nada, zilch in the way of respect.

Being a science fiction writer back then was a low-paying, quasi-shameful, writer’s life.  You were lucky to get your name spelled right on the cover, let alone have that cover depict anything to do with the book you wrote.  Adding insult to injury, how much you got for your next book had everything to do with how much your last book sold: if it didn’t … well, then you took what you could get.

But these authors kept on writing.  They didn’t have even the possibility of attracting anything but scorn from big publishing houses, let alone movie deals.  They didn’t have a way of reaching out to fans – or even fellow authors – other than writing actual letters or attending what few early conventions existed back then.

So … no money, no fame, only a small cadre of fans, humiliated and the source of almost constant derision from authors in other genres … sure, we know them now, after 50+ years, but what kept them going then?

They were writers: they loved – beyond all else – to tell stories.  Sure, for many of them churning out stories and books was a way of making at least some money but, let’s be honest, there were better ways of doing that.

This is what I mean by success.  Now we look back at these authors as being successful because their names – even beyond science fiction fandom – are well known and even respected, and even a few of their properties are valued in the millions.  But it wasn’t always that way.

Yes, that was then and this is now, but they got from where they started to where they are now because they lived to write stories … and managed to keep at it long enough for the rest of the world to finally catch up and take interest in those stories.

No, it’s not a guarantee – those same pulp pages are full of authors who didn’t last long enough – but the point is still pretty much valid: these celebrated authors began their writing lives not because of winning awards, raking in the cash, or the adoration of legions of fans, but because they lived to write.

And that is what I’ve come to consider to be a personal definition of success: to live for the writing, to remain passionate and dedicated … while the rest, as they say, is gravy.

***

About M. Christian
Calling M.Christian versatile is a tremendous understatement. Extensively published in science fiction, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and even non-fiction, it is in erotica that M.Christian has become an acknowledged master, with more than 400 stories, 10 novels (including The Very Bloody Marys, Brushes and The Painted Doll). Nearly a dozen collections of his own work (Technorotica, In Control, Lambda nominee Dirty Words, The Bachelor Machine), more than two dozen anthologies (Best S/M Erotica series, My Love for All That is Bizarre: Sherlock Holmes Erotica, The Burning Pen, and with Maxim Jakubowksi The Mammoth Book of Tales from the Road).  His work is regularly selected for Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and others. His extensive knowledge of erotica as writer, editor, anthologist and publisher resulted in the bestselling guide How To Write And Sell Erotica.

In addition, he is a prolific and respected anthologist, having edited twenty five anthologies to date. He is also responsible for several non-fiction books, notably How to Write and Sell Erotica.

M.Christian is also the Associate Publisher for Renaissance eBooks, where he strives to be the publisher he’d want to have as a writer, and to help bring quality books (erotica, noir, science fiction, and more) and authors out into the world.

He can be found in a number of places online, not least of which is mchristian.com.

Share
Dec 182014
 
Share

By Nobilis

A speedbump slows you down for a bit; a setback is a loss of progress. Preparation keeps speedbumps from turning into setbacks.

This morning when I got my stuff together to go to the office, I discovered that my netbook needed an update. This is not uncommon, as the Ubuntu OS it runs, along with the apps I have loaded on it, are updated regularly. The problem arose when the update got stuck partway through and I needed to get on the road to be on time for work.

I did the exact wrong thing and interrupted the update.

Needless to say, the netbook is now not functional. I am composing this blogpost on my tablet, which is a good deal slower than I like but that’s how it goes.

I’m not worried, though. Even if the device is permanently kaput, I know I will not lose ground, because each day’s work was automatically uploaded to Dropbox.

That’s the kind of thing that keeps a speedbump from turning into a setback. Backups are the key—not just to saving my work to a secure location, but also to having backup hardware to work with until I can get my primary device back into service. This preparedness is what gives me the room to be flexible.

The same preparedness is necessary at every stage of the writer’s operation. For example, if Amazon were to suddenly remove all links to erotica titles, so that anyone who wanted to buy it would have to link directly to it,  if search and author pages and all of the other methods readers use to find books no longer worked, what would you be able to do? How much control do you have over that part of your business?

If your favorite publisher, the one you’ve been working with for years and have a strong relationship with, were to suddenly announce they were closing their doors, do you know what would happen to the rights to your books? Do you know where you would take them?

If your blogging platform were yanked out from under you, how quickly could you recover?

Taken all together, these questions can be pretty daunting. I know I am not prepared for all of these contingencies. But writers, erotica writers especially, need to be ready for the ground to shift under their feet. It happens too often to ignore.

***

Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

Website: www.nobiliserotica.com
Podcast: nobilis.libsyn.com
Twitter: @nobilis

Share
Oct 122014
 
Share

by Suz deMello

From my writing treatise, Plotting and Planning, available November 1, 2014:

Scenes are the building blocks of your story, for acts are comprised of scenes. They’re nothing more than events, most often interactions between your characters. Scenes should fulfill at least one or two of the below purposes—best if you can include all four.

•Advance the plot

•Reveal or develop character

•Complicate or resolve conflict

•Express setting, mood, and/or theme

Everything in your manuscript should have a function, even every comma or em-dash.

How does this apply to the writing of erotica?

Too often, sex scenes are shoehorned into a story to increase the word count or the heat level, while those scenes don’t fulfill any other function. To quote from Plotting and Planning again: Everything in a story should contribute to it, from the biggest monster to the tiniest comma.

If a scene doesn’t contribute to the story, it doesn’t belong there. It doesn’t matter how well-written it is. It doesn’t matter how hot it is. It doesn’t matter how much you, the author, may love its beautiful prose or its scorching hot, kinky sex.

There’s a piece of writerly advice out there: Kill your darlings.

No one’s quite sure where this phrase originated, but it’s been repeated often, including by such notable authors as William Faulkner and Stephen King.

But it doesn’t matter who originated the phrase—it’s great advice. We often fall in love with our prose and are loath to cut it, especially when we may have slaved over a particularly well-turned clause or exhaustively researched, say, the eating habits of the lesser lemur of Madagascar.

But fiction is no place to be a smarty-pants. Leave that for term papers, book reports and theses.

In terms of writing sex scenes, what do we leave in and what to we cut?

We leave in those scenes that fulfill at least one of the purposes in the list above. Ideally, a well-written, thoughtfully planned encounter between our protagonists will fulfill more than one purpose.

Here’s a brief example, from a futuristic erotic romance I wrote called Queen’s Quest. The backstory is that the heroine is losing her virginity in a public ceremony that’s traditional on her planet for royals.

Tears in his eyes, my father squeezed my shoulders and murmured brokenly, “My little girl…” I hugged him, my heart full of love and gratitude.

“Blessings on you, my darling dear.” He turned to the front of the terrace and raised my hand, shouting, “Blessings on Princess Audryn!”

The crowd responded, “Blessings! Blessings!” This was the traditional call for a fertile union as well as an acknowledgment of my status as a royal.

My father wiped his damp eyes with a handkerchief and joined my mother on the Golden Throne.

Alone, I walked to the bed. I could feel the cool breeze flutter my chemise, which brushed against my breasts. My nipples firmed.

Frayn waited, already naked, already hard. He stroked his cock, and a cheer rose from the watching men and giggles from the females. He turned his head and winked at the crowd. I laughed.

Now at the bed, I took his hand. We smiled at each other and kissed.

A murmur rose from the crowd, a murmur that rose to moans as I took his face in my hands to kiss him more deeply. He reached for the front of my chemise and ripped it away, tearing it from my body. The crowd roared, as if they knew that real action was close. But Frayn had other ideas.

He eased me back onto the bed so I lay with my hips at its edge. He knelt before me and, reaching up, he parted my legs so my blond muff and pink quim were fully presented to the onlookers. Mutters of admiration filled the air, and to my surprise, I wasn’t frightened, anxious or shy. My pussy seemed to blossom open from the sounds of acceptance I heard from my people.

Lifting myself onto my elbows, I looked over the crowd, fixing my attention on the first row. Most were watching me, but all seemed to have very busy hands. Either they stroked themselves, or more often, caressed a partner. The fancy embroidered codpieces were open and feminine hands grasped a multitude of rods. Some ladies were already on their knees, while other women had exposed their breasts, tempting the males to taste their nipples.

Frayn leaned forward and fastened his mouth to my quim. Lightning shot through me and I wantonly pushed my pelvis forward, seeking completion. Already swollen from the attentions of the guards, my clit twitched between his lips as he sucked and licked. I drew a long, deep breath and allowed the pure joy of this day to flow through my being as Frayn’s talented tongue, the lovely scratch of his beard, took me higher.

He stood, his face shining with my pussy juices, and bent over me. “The important aspect of this ceremony is that the people see me enter you, see me take you thoroughly, again and again, and see the blood of your virginity spilt over my cock. How do you want to do it?”

I blinked, called out of my erotic cloud to do my duty. I managed a grin though I was annoyed. I was already aware of the event’s significance. “We should do it…visibly, I suppose.”

He caressed my pussy and fingered my slit. I took his tool in my hand. His cock had swelled thick and red with desire, and I wanted him inside me. “Lie down,” I said, pulling on him to enforce obedience.

“Yes, your royal highness.”

“Oh, hush up,” I said. “You’re as royal as I am.”

“Not quite.”

“Jealous?” Pushing him down, I straddled him and teased him with my body, bending my knees to dip low, letting my quim caress his cock-head. My breasts brushed his chest.

He gasped, his previous arrogance gone. “Audryn, please. I’m about to burst.”

So what do we learn from this passage? In regard to character, we see that the heroine, Audryn, is a princess beloved by her family and her people. She is fearless, aggressive, passionate and strong, stronger than her lover Frayn, who belittles her intelligence. She’s aware of her position and resents his arrogance, which foreshadows an external conflict.

In regard to the setting, we learn that public sex is not merely accepted but enjoyed. The references to clothing, particularly chemises and codpieces, tell the astute reader that perhaps this futuristic civilization partakes of some aspects of past human history. This allows the reader to visualize the setting and the garb as well as helping the reader to feel grounded in a very different society.

If you like what you read, you can find the book at Ellora’s Cave or Amazon.

I am a romance novelist and believe firmly that erotic scenes should never be gratuitous. If, while writing, an author bears in mind the purposes a scene must fulfill, the sex is never out of place; it is a seamless part of a well-written story.

* * *

About the Author:

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written seventeen romance novels in several subgenres, including erotica, comedy, mystery and suspense, historical, and paranormal, as well as a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms as Totally Bound and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.

Check out Suzie’s site at suzdemello.com, and her blog at TheVelvetLair.com.

Share
Oct 032014
 
Share

by Nobilis

I don’t sprint when I write, not anymore. It used to be that I could get 1,600 words down in an hour if I really put on the power and concentrated on nothing but how many keystrokes I could apply to my story. Nowadays, an hour’s worth of work results in something more like 800 words. It’s not impairment that has caused this slow-down, it’s a recognition of how my creative mind works.

At some point I began to pay attention to how much time and effort I actually spent on a piece of writing—and it became clear that 1,600 words an hour was less effective than it sounded. Did most of those words end up in the final draft? No. I ended up cutting about a third of them, and completely rewriting another third. As it turned out, it was more efficient in the long run for me to slow down a bit and pay more attention to what I was writing. Better for me to write eight hundred words that are already in fairly good shape, and build on those, than to quickly churn out a story I will end up breaking down and rebuilding anyway.

I’m not saying that sprinting isn’t a good practice in general. I’m saying that it doesn’t work well for me. I’ve analyzed my writing process and made the conscious decision to think more carefully about what I’m writing on my first draft. Overall, I’ve tried a number of different ways to get from first draft to final, and found that slowing down works best for me.

There are all kinds of decisions a writer has to make when they set out to write a story. How deep will the outline be? How much planning will go into character and setting? What software will they use? How much time will they spend on it in one sitting? How long can they set it aside? What time of day, and day of the week will be “writing time”? When will beta readers see it?

It’s rare for a new writer to answer these questions with intention and forethought, and yet it’s a crucial first step. No one else can answer them, ultimately; only you can.

And those answers will probably change over time, as you learn more about your writing process. If you’re a new writer, you ought to be trying out many different things. You can’t really call yourself a “discovery writer” if you’ve never tried writing to an outline. You can’t call yourself a “binge writer” if you’ve never tried setting aside an hour a day, every day, for writing.

These experiments can’t be evaluated until they’ve been taken to some kind of conclusion. If you just measure your productivity at the first-draft stage, then sprinting always looks better—but if a sprinted novel takes a major rewrite every time and a more carefully composed manuscript doesn’t, then the gain from sprinting is lost in the editing process. On the other hand, you may find that you wrote your first draft too tightly, didn’t let your ideas flow as freely as they could have, and need to develop much more of the story in the next draft. If that’s the case, maybe a looser, faster style of preliminary writing will prove better for your next book.

Likewise, if a writer completes an outline and feels like the story is told and there’s nothing left to “discover,” (a description of the outlining process I’ve heard from many self-described discovery writers) but has never actually written to the outline, then the writer isn’t giving the technique a fair shot.

The only way for a new writer to determine what techniques work best for them is to try them out, and pay attention to the results, both in terms of quality and efficiency. It’s work, but it’s work that needs to be done sooner or later—preferably sooner, if you want to spend the majority of your writing career working with, rather than against, your own creative process.

***

Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

Website: www.nobiliserotica.com
Podcast: nobilis.libsyn.com
Twitter: @nobilis

Share
Aug 212014
 
Share

By Ardath Mayhar, reprinted from Writing Through a Stone Wall: Hard-Won Wisdom from Thirty Years as a Professional.

In its simplest definition, a plot is the shape taken by your story. It is the sequence of events that presents your characters, reveals their backgrounds, shows their problems, and leads the reader through all the complexities of the story to the solution of those problems.

It can be attacked chronologically, which is the simplest and best plan for a beginner. It can also come in non-sequential segments, welded together over the length of the tale to make a coherent whole, through the skillful use of such devices as the flashback.

If you are a real storyteller, you will usually find that your stories work themselves out in intricate detail, either beforehand as an outline or as you write. So don’t worry too much about plots … a good one is instantly recognizable.

If something that seemed promising turns out to be a dud, don’t sweat it. We all waste some effort, but all that effort amounts to practice that helps us to deal more effectively with our next project.

A plot can be built, just like a child’s house of blocks. You introduce your main character, find his immediate interest/problem/difficulty. In a short story there may be only one, but in a novel you will need several. You may even need several minor characters, each with a problem that affects, in some way, the overall story.

Once you understand the situation with which your protagonist must deal, then you can work out, step by step, exactly the way in which he will tackle it, the obstacles that will get in his way, the other people who interfere, and the final and climactic situation in which he either conquers or accepts his own circumstances.

There is a rather mechanical way in which to add suspense and conflict. Give that character a break and make it seem that he has surmounted his problems … and then pull the rug out from under him. Create a wavelike undulation between triumph and near-tragedy (modulated to suit the sort of tale you are telling).

The sequence of events can develop your character’s strengths and his intelligence. It can try his emotional stability. And the protagonist and his solution can arrive together at the end of the tale.

This is useful for a beginner, but do not feel that you have to stick with this format. Some of the best stories spin themselves out in your mind, forming their own shapes and rhythms.

There are incredible numbers of kinds of stories and as many ways in which they can be told. As Kipling said,

There are nine and sixty ways
of constructing tribal lays,
and every single one of them is right!

Remember that you are the only person who can write your story, and once you develop your ability to professional standards nobody can tell you that this is the wrong way to do it. Make the plot work for you, and make it fit your characters.

The newspaper every morning and the news every night can be full of plot ideas. Nobody need ever go without the raw material for a story, if they keep their eyes and ears open.

On the other hand, a theme is something frequently overlooked by the novice writer. It is integral to a mature work of fiction (or, indeed, nonfiction), as you can prove for yourself by reading some of the themeless works now sprouting on the newsstands.

Most themes can be stated in cliches. Cliches become such because they are so true and so succinct, and the underlying premise that forms the thread upon which your story is strung must partake of some bit of human truth.

Do you recall Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? It has several themes, one of which is “It is never too late to change.” Another is “Money alone cannot make you happy.”

Most stories and almost all books have more than one theme, if you look closely enough. In your own work, you may be able to look back, as you near the end of your labors, and see several interrelated themes wound through your story.

It is a strange thing that seldom if ever do you think out your theme at the beginning of your writing process. It develops, along with the plot and the characters, as you work.

Yet, if you are deeply involved in the story you are telling, and the lives of the people about whom you are writing, you will find that a theme twines itself into it, without your having to think about it consciously.

A story that is all theme would be very dull work. But a story without any at all is taffy candy for the mind.

Keep a watchful eye on your work and analyze it when you are done. Make sure you dig deeply into your subject, so as to tap the thematic stream that runs beneath all good stories. Make your plot complex enough to be interesting, yet not so complex as to become soap opera.

Flashback, mentioned earlier, is a most useful device in creating a nonsequential plot. It is, however, often done very badly, at too great length, or at a point at which it interrupts the flow of the story. A long flashback at the very beginning of a tale, for instance, can make the reader forget just what was happening to the protagonist at the spot at which he went into this revery.

The past must become the protagonist’s temporary present, in order for a flashback to work well. For instance:

Jonathan looked both ways, hesitated, and then set his right foot into the street. He had never quite recovered from that terrible day…

The truck swerved into the wrong lane, heading directly for him, as he tried to spring back to the safety of the curb. Tires squealed on wet pavement, and as he squirmed desperately backward, something immensely heavy and painful crossed over his foot and ankle. The blackness that rolled over him came as a welcome relief…

Jonathan looked down at the warped and twisted leg. He couldn’t go on reliving that instant of his life forever, he knew. With a sigh, he stepped awkwardly into the crosswalk and limped to the other curb.

This is flashback. Brief ones are best, usually, but there are whole stories that are actually very long flashbacks.

Some highly effective work has been written using a sort of mosaic of plot elements, demanding mental alertness on the part of the reader. Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 is a good example of this technique.

This, however, is not something that you learn to do. It must come as an inevitable way in which to approach the story you have to tell.

Any or all of these techniques can work for you. Just have the nerve to play with them, practice with them, and make them a part of your repertoire.

***

Ardath Mayhar (1930-2012) died on February 1. Mayhar began writing science fiction in 1979, although she had been publishing poetry since 1949. During the course of her career, she published more than sixty novels in various genres, often using pseudonyms, including John Killdeer and Frank Cannon (for Westerns).

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, she and her husband, Joe Mayhar, owned The View From Orbit Bookstore in Nacogdoches, Texas; she sold the store after his death. Her novels, many of which mixed science fictional and fantasy elements, included the four-volume Tales of the Triple Moons series, the Kyrannon Shar-Nuhn series, and Battletech: The Sword and the Dagger. Her 1982 novel Golden Dream was based on H. Beam Piper’s “Fuzzy” series. In 2010 she published Slaughterhouse World.

Perhaps even more important than her own poetry and fiction, Mayhar served as a mentor to numerous other science fiction, fantasy, and horror authors. She provided editorial advice, taught workshops, and often worked as a book doctor. She was a fixture at Texas science fiction conventions for more than 30 years, although a decline in health limited her attendance in the last years of her life. A poem published in the anthology Masques earned her the Balrog Award in 1985. In 2008, she was named the SFWA Author Emeritus during the Nebula Award Weekend in Austin, Texas. —SFWA, February 13, 2012

In addition to her contributions to the field of science fiction and fantasy, Mayhar is the author of over sixty books and has won or been nominated for over two dozen awards including Margaret Haley Carpenter Prize, the Omar Award, the Mark Twain Award, the Spur award, and the William Allen White Award, for her historical novels, character studies and poetry. —WriteSex Ed.

 

Share
Jun 052014
 
Share

By Nobilis

There are a lot of things authors have to write that aren’t stories—and because they’re not stories, we often we have a hard time with them. If we are seeking publication with a publishing house, we have to write summaries and query letters. If we’re self-published, or writing for a small publisher without much of a marketing department, we often have to write cover copy ourselves, as well as bios. For some of us, even coming up with a title can be a trial. And, uh…some of us also write blog posts.

This is kind of weird when you come right down to it. I mean, we’re writers, right? Writing ought to be easy across the board, right? But for many of us, it’s not. Writing fiction feels different than writing all these other things. Fiction is fun, fiction allows us to live in that special place inside our heads for a while, the place where miracles are an everyday occurrence. Writing marketing material, however, is firmly grounded in the realities of the commercial world and our attempts to carve ourselves a place in it. We’re not writing from the inside, we’re writing from the outside. We’re focusing first on how the reader—now cast in the role of potential customer—will interpret the words we put down, and how those interpretations are going to affect our careers. There are real consequences.

It’s intimidating.

But keep in mind, we learned to write fiction. We can learn to write this other stuff well, too. With experience comes skill, with skill comes confidence, and with confidence comes accomplishment. We just have to DO it, remembering the three laws of getting sh*t done as writers:

1. Write.

2. Finish what you write.

3. Submit what you finish.

It’s that simple.

What? I haven’t hit my wordcount yet? Okay, alright…

Step one is write. That means put words together. Don’t worry about using the right words, don’t worry about style or spelling or anything else. Just write purposefully in pursuit of your goal. Don’t worry about whether it’s good, just write. This even applies if you’re trying to figure out a title; write one title after another, even the stupid ones, until you’re all titled out.

Step two is finish. That means not only writing through to the end, but also revising, polishing, and editing, almost always with at least three other good pairs of eyes looking at your work. It’s not finished until you’ve polished it—unless you’re Roger Zelazny, and you’re not.

Step three is submit. Chances are, if you’re writing something like this, it’s because you need to, so this step is pretty straightforward.

Okay, how are we looking for wordcount? Good? Alright, then we’re done here. Go write.

—–

Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

Website: www.nobiliserotica.com
Podcast: nobilis.libsyn.com
Twitter: @nobilis

 

Share
May 082014
 
Share

By Elizabeth Coldwell

Whether you realise it or not, it’s all too easy for your writing to fall into a rut.

This might not be so much of a problem if your writing is more of a hobby or a distraction from the Evil Day Job than a career, if you submit to the odd anthology here and there, or if you’re slowly working on that first novel. However, if you’re aiming to make a living from your writing, the pressure to churn out book after book, to build up your backlist and never give readers a moment to wonder when your next novel is coming out, can lead to a certain feeling of déjà vu when you read through your work. Just as importantly, it can also make you forget that, above all, writing is something to be enjoyed. If you’re slogging through the pages, rest assured the readers will be, too.

Even if you don’t notice that you’re in a rut, your editor should. All authors have certain words they tend to overuse, usually without being aware of it, which in the aggregate can dumb down otherwise good work and give it a feeling of tiresome over-familiarity. And I’m not even talking about the dreaded ‘that’ and ‘was’ which so many editors are on a mission to eradicate from manuscripts. Use the same verb three times within a paragraph, or repeatedly refer to your heroine’s ‘wavy, dark hair’ long after this characteristic has been established, and a good editor will flag this up. Some line editors will even highlight these words, making it even more obvious how often they appear—a sure sign you need to start reaching for synonyms.

But even ruthless editing can still leave your readers feeling like you’re rehashing ideas from previous books, whether you’re aware of it or not. So what can you do to freshen up your writing? Here are a few suggestions:

1) Change your writing routine

This might not be possible if you’re one of those people who, due to work or family circumstances, can only allocate a certain part of the day to their craft—but if you’re able to write full time, then do something different for once. Don’t shut yourself away in whichever room you use as your office; get out of the house and write. OK, so the writer with their laptop in the coffee shop has become a cliché, but it can actually do you good to be surrounded by other people as you write. Maybe you’ll see or hear something that inspires a story idea, and it never hurts to be reminded of the many ways people interact in the real world. You might worry that you won’t be as productive as usual, but I can never stress often enough that meeting an arbitrary word count every day doesn’t necessarily make you a good writer.

2) Try another genre

A lot of writers are very reluctant to write in anything other than the genre for which they have become known. They are afraid that by doing so they will somehow alienate their readers, particularly if they write anything other than contemporary romance. Of course, this suggests that perhaps it’s the readers who need to more flexible, rather than the authors, but that’s a whole other topic… However, you don’t need to go so far as to start (or stop, depending on where you’re coming from) writing male/male stories for a change of pace. There are lots of genres you can explore—ménage, Rubenesque, cowboy—that are hugely popular and don’t require you to go too far out of your comfort zone. Or you could try something that will take more research than you’d usually put in, like historical fiction set in an era you’re unfamiliar with. Who knows, you might even learn something…

3) Shake up your cast of characters

If your hero is always the alpha male who has more money than he knows what to do with and women perpetually falling at his feet, try writing about a guy who has to work hard, both for a living and to get the girl of his dreams. (Lord knows it’ll spare us any more dreary Fifty Shades clones…) If you write exclusively from the submissive’s point of view, try putting yourself in the dominant’s shoes (or thigh-high boots) for once. Switching the focus helps keep your writing sharp and forces you to think about a character’s motivation in a different way, which is never a bad thing.

 

Elizabeth Coldwell is Editor-in-chief at Xcite Books, where the titles she has edited include the National Leather Award-winning anthology, Lipstick Lovers. As an author, she has 25 years’ experience in the field of erotica, having been published by Black Lace, Cleis Press, Sizzler Editions, Total-e-bound and Xcite Books among many others. She can be found blogging at The (Really) Naughty Corner – elizabethcoldwell.wordpress.com.

 

 

Share
May 012014
 
Share

By Nobilis

I had a great idea today.

No, not an idea for a story, I get those all the time … this was a great idea for promotion. It was going to leverage several of my strong suits and potentially attract a whole new group of potential readers and listeners. It was—if I do say so myself—a brilliant idea, and it still seems brilliant after mulling it over with a few trusted friends. And it’s not only good, but it would be fun. Lots of fun.

And I just don’t have time for it right now.

I’ve got commitments: writing commitments, podcasting commitments, and of course family and dayjob commitments. I went over my schedule with a fine-toothed comb, I figured out how much time I needed to devote to this project, and… it simply isn’t available. It was going to require at least ten hours to prepare the project and three or four hours to execute each iteration. And right now (and by “right now”, I mean “for the next several weeks at least”), I have too much else to do.

Now, any creative person is going to tell you that you Don’t Find Time, You Make It. You make it by quitting habits (like television, video games or facebook) that aren’t serving your goals, and putting your now-freed time into habits (like writing or other creative pursuits) that are serving them.

Thing is? The operative term is serving your goals. All of them. In the interest of my professional and creative goals, I’ve already squeezed my time sources as far as I’m comfortable. The time I’ve left myself for things like TV and video games serves other equally important goals: I reward myself for accomplishments by taking a ride in the TARDIS or blowing up some mutants; I maintain connections to my friends, giving us a shared context for conversation (some of which inspires story ideas, thus serving creative goals as well). I’m also not going to spend any less time exercising. That would be stupid.

So I don’t have time. Not right now, and not for a few weeks at the very least. Possibly months, depending on how things play out—even though I know this project is going to be awesome and bring all kinds of attention to myself and lots of other authors. And besides … did I mention that it would be fun?

So I have to hold on to it.

It shouldn’t be hard, I’m used to holding on to ideas. I have the idea notebook for story and character ideas that I’ve mentioned in previous posts. So why not another notebook for this kind of idea? I’ve even got a spare one in my office. (I can’t be the only author that collects blank books and notebooks)

And we’ll see. Maybe in the fall, you’ll see a new project from me. Or maybe you won’t; maybe someone else will have a go at it, and I’ll sit back and cheer them on.

After all … it’s only an idea.

—–

Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

Website: www.nobiliserotica.com
Podcast: nobilis.libsyn.com
Twitter: @nobilis

Share
Mar 312014
 
Share

By Nobilis

Every author has strengths and weaknesses. If we’ve been working toward growth, then we know what those strengths and weaknesses are. When we work with editors and good beta readers, over time we’ll start hearing the same problems that need fixing, the same overlooked and under-addressed areas that need strengthening. And if we’re lucky, we’ll also get some positive feedback informing us of what we do well, but that’s rarer. Suffice it to say that if some aspect of your stories rarely receives criticism from your editors and beta readers, then it’s probably a strength. Once you’ve identified your strength and weaknesses, what do you do with that knowledge?

My own weaknesses pop up again and again when I get stories back from first readers. Most of the time I need to add more descriptive details, especially in how things sound or feel. It’s not that I’m not capable of setting a scene more vividly—once it’s pointed out I can easily produce the prose, but I don’t tend to think of it while I’m writing.

Lack of detail wasn’t always my only flaw. I used to overuse some words. “Begin” was a big one for a while, and its sister, “start.” I also overused “just” a great deal. After a particularly intense edit, I found that I was noticing when I was using those words, and I could stop myself right there in the first draft. That made editing later drafts much easier, because I didn’t have to fix that particular problem throughout. Since then, I’ve found I can strike the overuse of those words from my list of weaknesses.

So with what I’m writing now (the next story in the Monster Whisperer series) I’m trying to pay more attention to those descriptive details that I know my beta readers will watching for. I’ll make sure to put them into the first draft, and I’m going to pay a lot more attention to them while I’m doing my first round of edits.

Even when I’m not actively writing, I’ll learn more and faster by studying other authors’ work as well, when those authors know more than I do—or even if they just do things a little differently. I’m certainly going to watch how they use descriptive details in their scenes: what they draw our attention to and why; how the details affect character development and interaction, how they contribute to the eroticism of the story; how they’re described, etc.

Some people might worry that by focusing so much on my weaknesses as a writer, my strengths will be eroded somehow, but that hasn’t been my experience. My strengths come naturally to me, whereas the more practice I get dealing with the otherwise undeveloped aspects of my writing, the more strengths I can add to a list which, if I play my cards right, will keep growing for the rest of my life.

—–

And now for your News from Poughkeepsie:

A man shows up to a blind date to find that the woman across the table from him is a six-foot-tall female bodybuilder. She’s not really his ‘type’ but she’s friendly, intelligent, and charming. She’s not what he’s always told himself was his physical type, but they hit it off, and before too long he finds himself in bed with a very unusual woman.

—–

Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

Website: www.nobiliserotica.com
Podcast: nobilis.libsyn.com
Twitter: @nobilis

Share