Sunday, August 24, 2014

Write what we want to read, or what we want to write?

The past week, I read Garth Nix's Old Kingdom trilogy: Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen. I absolutely loved them--they're the sort of books that utterly draw you into another world and leave you, afterward, feeling as if you've just woken up from a lovely, lingering dream.

Some years ago I made a list of a bunch of my favorite books for my best friend to read. She pointed out to me that almost all of them featured a girl or young woman who was ostracized as she grew up, then she develops powers and ends up saving the world, usually with the help of at least one talking animal. And then I looked at the stories I was writing then and all of them, indeed, were about an ostracized young woman who develops powers and saves the world with the help of talking animals.

So I think this is one of the reasons why I loved the Old Kingdom trilogy so much. Still, I've been thinking--in the last few years, nothing I've written has adhered to that formula--with the exception of the novel I'm completing now, which I began in my early 20s, and thus was created when I was obsessed with that formula. I've had enormous amounts of trouble finishing this novel and I think it's because reading that story of that girl and her talking animals is one of the loveliest escapist heavens I can imagine, but it doesn't lend me any insight about real life, which is what prods me to write these days--to express my awareness in linear format in order to understand my processing of the world better.

I won't understand myself any better writing about characters who are archetypes, less real and dimensioned than people truly are, and who live in a world of starkly polarized good and evil. But...I really enjoy reading it when others do so.

How can we walk that line between writing what we want to read, and writing in order to understand ourselves better? I suppose finding where the two unite is something that comes with practice. As it is, my protagonist's character feels as slippery as an eel right now as she fights to divest herself of many layers of unconscious programming about who she should be.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fifty Shades of Green anthology on Kindle

Here's the cover of Greenwoman Publishing's Fifty Shades of Green, which is now available on Kindle. My story is called "Sunlight and Water," and is one of two stories involving a visit to a witch by someone in search of a love potion.

Here's a sample story called Phallus Impudicus from the anthology. I just read it. It's completely awesome! I know I'm tooting my own horn, but I have rarely read such good erotica as the stories in this collection, and I've read a lot of erotica. :) I'm proud to be in the company of these writers.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Insecure randomness

This is my monthly post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. So, the writing is going okay lately. I'm managing to chip away at the to-do list even though I'm not doing so as quickly as I would like. Still, I got my first set of revisions done for my editor at Montag Press, and I've been steadily getting more comfortable writing the freelance fetish erotica I've been doing. I know I should stop doing it because spending so much time for so little money is spreading my ability to function very thin, but it's hard to. Because I like deadlines, because it's fun, because every 20K words or so that I produce I can tell that my writing has visibly improved in some aspect or another, and because I feel intensely validated when I finish something, and it's much easier to finish someone else's project than my own.

My insecurities lately have more about the rest of my life, the parts that are compromised because I haven't yet managed to find a balance between home and career.

I had one week of freedom from my kids the entire summer. I sent them to day camp last week and had 8:30am to 3:45pm free from Monday to Friday. But those hours weren't nearly enough for all the things I needed and wanted to do alone. And even though I only have four weeks left to go before my kids start school--and for the first time will both be in full time!!--I fear that it'll be a long while before I'm caught up enough that I'm not running madly about like a headless chicken during my free hours, trying to peck at my to-do list but not realizing that I don't actually have a beak...

Two nights ago I picked up Jeanne, a 16-year-old French student for whom my kids and I are a host family through Compass USA. She's really great, and my kids adore her. The part I absolutely hate the most about it, though, is I'm very uneasy about what to cook for her, and I'm constantly feeling like a terrible cook, whereas when it's just my kids and me I've figured out that fine balance between what they like to eat and what I want them to eat. Last night I took us around to a couple neighborhood potlucks, even ones that we weren't supposed to be going to (the ones not on our block) and felt so relieved about one meal taken care of. Tonight I'm agonizing already about the meal that I'm planning to cook. I'm too embarrassed to even blog about what I'm planning, because it's so simple you'll probably be thinking, "She's worried about cooking that?" 

This morning I had a long dream that was rife with insecurity and uncomfortable emotion:
First scene: I was going to have sex with a friend who was duct-taping and rubber-banding a homemade condom on. It was so baggy and huge that I wondered how either of us was going to feel anything at all. The sense of tenuous connection we had and were about to have only emphasized more starkly how disconnected we were, how separate and alone.
Second scene: I was in a room full of insects and I saw a large, tarantula-sized blue spider that looked like this:
I started pounding it with a shoe. I missed a bunch of times but finally managed to shave off a part of its body. It kept moving, so I pounded some more until it was cut up into tiny bits. Then I was in a room full of people, aware of a picnic table that was divided so women sat on one side and men another. My female friend on the left side was sad because she was splitting up with her husband. On the other side, her husband was relieved and happy, but he felt guilty. Then another friend was putting some rice on the blue spider bits and was going to give it to someone to eat as a joke.
Third scene: a woman I know was getting married. The wedding would be officiated by an old ex-bf of hers who was an extreme womanizer. The best man wore sparkly ruffled bloomers and made sure a bit of his butt crack would show as he walked down the aisle, and I was startled at how enormous the outfit made his butt look. I felt this extreme sense of loneliness as I watched these happy couples in the room, and I flashed back to my wedding day during which I cried beforehand and moped afterward. I felt as if I'd wasted my chance for finding love. Then I flashed back to the weeks after the birth of my first son, when I was ecstatically happy, and I recalled that there is nothing that beats being loved and trusted by a baby.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When the rice starts to burn

Six more weeks until I'm done with the 2nd-most stressful summer of my life.

The most stressful summer was the one in which I studied for the California bar. There's nothing that can compare to the misery I experienced doing my two months of mostly sleeping through Bar-bri lectures and coming home to endlessly shove useless bits of information into my short-term memory. My roommates somehow got a hold of a Kirlian photography camera (an aura camera); normally my aura showed up as anything from orange or yellow to blue or white, but all that summer it was a sickly shit-brown.

Now, although I'm not at all unhappy, this is my first summer as a single mother (last summer I had already left Brazil, but we stayed with my parents) and I'm frazzled as heck. I'm unwilling to give up any of my writing goals and so I've been staying up until 2 or 3am and then my kids start bothering me at about 7 every day. My younger son has picked up this phrase from my older one and so he's been running around crying, "I don't know what I can do! I don't know what I can do!" which aggravates me on so many levels because I know what I can do, I haven't got a fraction of the hours that I need to do it though! What wouldn't I give to have back just a few of the hours of childhood boredom...the summers I wasted lying in bed reading piles of trashy romances...

I can always tell when I'm overwhelmed because I put rice on and forget about it and have to pay dearly with hours of burned-rice smell permeating my hair and clothes and every room in the house. Fortunately, I can open the windows really sucked when I did it in the wintertime.

Anyway, I burned the rice yesterday. I've been yelling at my kids. I've been drinking coffee and eating sugar. In one and a half weeks I have a 16-year-old French student coming to stay with me for three weeks and I have this growing panic about what I'm going to feed her. My kids are easy because they don't like variety. But what do I cook for a French girl!? I can't really just cook more of what I eat myself--many of my meals consist of a raw egg or two mixed with water and coconut oil.

I should probably ease up on the writing goals, but honestly, it's the only thing that makes me feel good about myself on a daily basis. A couple people have asked me recently if I make a living off of writing. No fucking way--not even close--and I feel a surge of a multi-layered self-judgment--because I've given myself the luxury of spending all my spare time satisfying this burning need to express, which is perhaps an act of utter self-indulgence, especially since I do it at the cost of my own health and of energy and attention I should be spending on my children. And I can't justify it as being worth my time since I don't make a living off of it.

So, when the rice starts to burn, what to give up? Or should I keep clinging to trying to have everything, but knowing things will fall by the wayside?

Addition: I was just out walking my dog and I remembered my dream:
My childhood friend Gloria accompanied me as my guide into her high school--which was my high school's "rival" high school. Her school was academically far superior. Anyway, she took me to a classroom where I had to take a math test for something. The room was extremely air conditioned, uncomfortably cold--I estimated about five degrees colder than my school. I passed, but I was horrified at my score, which was something like 205 out of 220 or 230--I'd been half expecting to get every question correct.
The message I get from this is that the perfectionism is the biggest problem. Because I don't actually have any problems. I passed, didn't I?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summer goals

The summer is halfway over! I've started allowing myself to fantasize about September 4, when both my kids will start school full-time and I'll have the most time alone I've had in nearly eight years. I can't express how excited I am about this!!!!! I'm also hoping that this constant fog that dominates my brain while my kids are around will dissipate then and I'll become a blazing torpedo of efficient creativity.

In the meantime, here are my writing goals for the rest of the summer:
  • Finish draft of novel-in-progress. It's been stuck at the same point for a very long time. To get unstuck from current place, the plan is to map out the characters involved in the stuck scene and to think of real life people that each of these characters resembles. Then imagine how all of those people would interact in this scene. Brainstorm longhand until I build up enough enthusiasm that the scene writes itself, or at least, isn't so painful it keeps making me procrastinate.
  • Write some scenes of writing partner Karen's novella on which we are collaborating. 
  • Finish draft of novella with working title "Flatpeople."
  • Pending critique, submit story entitled "Cock Pic." 
  • Plan skeleton of Regency novella for collaboration with Karen.
  • Reviews/critiques: complete review of Weaver, beta read of critique partner's hard SF novel
  • Think about writing an erotic story that takes place in a cafe
  • Write 15k words per week for remainder of summer
  • Read Michel Faber's Under the Skin, which a friend gave to me because he said my novel reminds him of it, and Gilbert Childs' Steiner Education in Theory and Practice

Monday, July 7, 2014

Orphan novel has been adopted!

So my novel, formerly known as A Tale of a Schizophrenic Kingdom, with a new name as yet to be determined, has gone through a rather long journey since its conception in early 2012. I was just talking with another writer friend tonight and it seems that two years is pretty standard, two years burgeoning with rejection and cold shoulders and feeling like my novel might possibly be shit despite a stubborn whiny part of me insisting that it's not...but anyway. The journey felt longer after the novel's first publisher-to-be went defunct and the list of possible other good homes for it was getting really short. I was glumly contemplating the work I'd have to put in to self-publishing. 

I am overjoyed to share that my novel has found a new home with the Montag Press Collective! The motto of this press is "Books worth burning," and from the suggestions I've received even at this early stage for changes that need to be made in the story, the collective (I keep thinking The Borg) is indeed a progressive, open-minded (okay, not like The Borg) group of people with an understanding of character psychology that kind of blows my mind.

Astonishingly enough (considering that I haven't had anything accepted in over a year until this week), I also learned a few days ago that my short story, "Sunlight and Water," is going to be published in Greenwoman Publishing's first anthology, Fifty Shades of Green--a collection of "sexy gardening-themed stories."

So now part of me is totally excited to delve back in to writing and finish some stuff. But most of the rest of me is fairly dysfunctional because I'm just too happy to work!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

An e-mail exchange

Me: Hey Nick--what was that thing you told me about being on a ship in China and something with the shit in the latrines? Can you refresh my memory?
Nick: That’s an interesting thing to “plop” into your head. If you get famous on this story, I want credit.

It’s not that exciting: I was on a boat going down the Yangtze, looking at the scenery that was going to be flooded by the Three Gorges Dam in a few years’ time, when the urge to go came over me. I braved a trip to the toilet, where, to my horror, there was  a line of “stalls” with a trench in the floor about 8 inches deep and wide. The stalls had no doors, and the side walls were about 2 feet tall. So: you hunker down to do your thing, and if you look to the side, you see your neighbor doing the same thing, and if he looks, well, that’s an awkward moment in my book. An additional bonus was that the trench went the length of the room (you squatted on two little “bridges” in your stall), with everything from you and your neighbors sloshing back and forth with the ship if it didn’t manage to go down the hole at one of the ends.

Me: That story makes me laugh so hard. I'm glad you "reflushed" my memory! I was actually just doing a chat yesterday and I was thinking about the associations I have with travel to different countries. It went like this:
all African countries: flesh-eating disease
Mexico: beheadings
Sweden: depressed men with enormous testicles (not from first-hand knowledge)
India: diarrhea
And then I got to China and my association with it was shit rolling around on a ship, which is the most vivid memory of anything you've told me about your experience there, but I knew there was more to the story than that.