Pride-Limbo-Land

 

28cm_chalkboard_so_proud

So, if you’ve been reading for a while, you know I’ve been on this crazy ass journey of intense self-discovery. (Intense is too mild, perhaps. Biggest- underground- scary rollercoaster- through- dark places and light places- and limbo places- while -deciding -what- I -want -to- be- when- I- grow- up- and how- important- certain- things are -and arent- and who- i am- as- a -general- being- on -a -planet- full- of- other- beings, is more like it).

And as it’s “Pride Month” in many places in the world, I’ve been thinking about pride as a general thing.

It’s waffley, that pride thing. Intangible, vague, slippery and sudsy.

What does it actually mean?

To be ‘prideful’ is considered a bad thing, right? Pride comes before a fall and all that stuff. Calling someone ‘proud’ can be insulting. Or a compliment.

It’s okay to be proud of an accomplishment, but not too proud.

Don’t want to eat gravel.

I’m not generally a proud person. My self esteem (which I’m working on) is generally low enough I have trouble admitting to being proud of good work, let alone of myself.  So in an effort to combat this sticky mire of consistent self-loathing:

Let’s talk about what we’re proud of. (maybe if I use the Royal We I can get some of this out.)

Things to be proud of:

not giving up. not giving in. standing up. laying down. getting help. letting go. learning that ego is best left behind. sometimes. the lgbtq memoir. getting up every day. being kind. being compassionate. being loving. loving. loving. loving. being brave. sometimes. making someone laugh. giving a hug when it wasn’t asked for, but knowing it was needed. of being femme. of losing weight, though not by intent. of admitting i am not an island. of accepting i am an island. sometimes. of having difficult conversations. of communicating when i don’t want to. of not communicating before i am ready.

It’s a start, right? It’s amazing how hard it is to say good things about ourselves, but how easy to say negative things.

I’m not attending any Pride events this year. Not for any particular reason except that I’m busy, and the one local event is while I’m away. I don’t know if I’d say I’m ‘proud’ to be a lesbian. I just…am, these days. I wonder if that’s an age thing. As I get older, my focus is on things other than my sexuality, and the friendships I have are based less on similar experiences with regard to orientation than they are on similar likes and dislikes with regard to life overall. Maybe that self-acceptance is something to be proud of. I’m not sure. That’s a ponder moment, I think…

Today’s Question:

What are you proud of? *caveat: you can’t be proud of others accomplishments. It needs to be about you. That’s what makes it important-hard.* Carry on.  Are you doing the Pride thing this year?

Queer June

Life is good.

I made the decision I needed to make and I’m at peace with it.

Teaching in Spain was amazing, as I mentioned. And I get to do it again in October (still places available!)

When I got back from Spain, I put together my first ever book as a press, and I have to say, I’m really proud of it.

My first ever publication was Late Outbursts: LGBTQ Memoirs.

So not only my first, but a queer community project as well. That fills me with all kinds of happy.

We launched it at Waterstones (our version in the UK of Barnes and Noble/Borders). Peter Tatchell, human rights activist, was our guest speaker, and we had a fantastic turnout. I was so frigging proud to be a part of it. There they were, eight people who had no real interest in writing in general, reading their work out of a published book at a major book store.

Frigging awesome.

So, that was last weekend. This weekend is the 5th Annual Bold Strokes Book Festival.

Five years I’ve been doing this.

Wow.

This year we’ve got twelve people on the panels, and next year we’re going to have even more. Two from the States, one from Belgium, and a mass from the UK. Even a newbie or two.

Here’s what I’m thinking this morning: I’m so damn lucky to be doing what I love. I’m an editor for lesbian fiction. I work with community groups. I put on and join LGBTQ events. I didn’t set out to work in the community, but that’s where I’ve ended up, and I really, really love it. I’ve been asked to do another memoir workshop by the Council for the next age group below the over fifties, and I’m wickedly excited about that.

This weekend, I get to spend my time with twelve authors and editors I admire greatly, who inspire me to be better and to work harder. I get to meet the readers who come along to the event and have a laugh and a chat. Is it crazy-insane-exhausting hard work? Well, yeah, it is.

But every second is worth it.

If you’re in England, or a country nearby, it would be awesome if you could come along to the event this weekend. If you’re not, I hope you’re doing something that makes you really, super-duper happy.

Myself and Peter Tatchell

Myself and Peter Tatchell

Tag: My Writing Process

allyoucaneat-600x914I was tagged by R.G. Emanuelle, author and editor of a slew of novels, including Twice Bitten and several anthologies I’ve been fortunate enough to be included in. The most recent is All You Can Eat: A Buffet of Lesbian Erotica and Romance, which includes my story, Dessert Platter. This game of tag is to get authors to blog about their writing process and then tag someone else to do the same. We all answer the same four questions. Here are mine:

#1 What am I working on?

At the moment, I’m in the middle of an anthology launch as well as getting ready for the Bold Strokes Book Festival here in England, so my writing is on the back burner at the moment. But I’ve got several short stories I’m working on for various anthology calls–mostly erotica.

My primary novel project right now is a retelling of the Medea myth–a young woman helps a ‘hero’ get what he needs and she has to flee from her father’s wrath. She kills several people to do it, and much later, when the ‘hero’ sets her aside for a younger wife, she kills a bunch of other folks, including her own children. It’s an incredibly dark novel, and I have to take breaks from it occasionally.

When I take a break, it’s to work on a lesbian erotic novel I’m more than half way through.

#2 How does my work differ from others in the same genre?

That can be a hard question to answer. My erotica nearly always features butch-femme pairings, as that’s what I find most erotic. I like a good dose of sarcasm too. I find a sharp wit and smart mouth super sexy.

My Medea novel is using a female perspective to tell a story which has often been told by men, with the intention of getting inside the mind of someone who is, essentially, a serial killer. Can you make a serial killer empathetic, especially one who kills her own children? I think it’s possible, but we’ll see if I can pull it off. The erotic novel is not only butch-femme (lesbian, no straight folks), but bdsm as well, and you don’t see a whole lot of that out there right now. I’m having lots of fun writing it, even if it never goes anywhere.

#3 Why do I write what I do?

I write erotica because I enjoy reading it, pure and simple. But I also like the challenge of writing a short story–every single word has to count in a short erotica piece, because it has to be hot from pretty much the first line to the last. You can’t have a lull in short stories, so the writing has to be tight. And it has to be more than porn; there needs to be a strong enough story line to carry the reader all the way through.

I’ve loved mythology since I was a little girl, so doing a novel with a mythological theme was always going to happen. I love the sense of mystery and magic, the flow and mutation of gender and the way behaviour was so often defined by societal structures as well as by the belief in the pantheon. More than anything, I love writing strong, intense, intelligent female characters, and myth allows me to play with that to various extremes. When it comes to bdsm erotica, it’s the taboo that gets to me. The out of bounds and the gritty intensity of it, as well as the psychological elements of power exchange, all fascinate me.

#4 How does my writing process work?

Unlike many of the authors I work with, whom I know begin a story with character (as R.G. said she does), I tend to start with a story. One story I’m working on right now was brought about by the topic ‘butch’, but when considering that, I thought of a haunting photograph I saw recently of an abandoned house: a noose of wire hung in the doorway. I needed to tell a story about that, and when I tied in the ‘butch’ theme, it came together on its own. That’s how it happens with most anthology work I do. I see the theme, and come up with a story, and then I populate it with the kind of characters who would take that particular journey.

I work best at night, when I’m too tired to think. Being an editor means I tend to analyze each and every word, and that can stunt my own writing. So I have to get into a head space that allows me to escape my editorial self, and that usually comes along after nine at night. I rarely write a short story in sections. I tend to sit down and get it all written at once, and then I go back and fix it. When it comes to my novel writing, I have only a loose idea of what is going to happen–I know how it starts, I know the crisis moment, and I know how it will end. But how my characters get there is often up to them. In the case of the Medea novel, I have to move from murder to murder, so I have to make certain I’m building in enough pressure points to make that happen logically. That means making notes and constantly developing motives, which may change as I write, which means making new notes.

That’s it from me! I’m tagging:

Andrea Bramhall, author of Nightingale, Clean Slate, Swordfish and Ladyfish.

Amy Dunne, author of Secret Lies and the forthcoming Season’s Meetings.

 

Retreat

My last blog (some time ago now) was about the point at which I find myself with regard to my life. I had to make a particularly difficult decision, one which would have a ripple effect on my future in several ways.

Given this chaos, both internal and external, I haven’t been blogging, nor have I been responding to comments as I used to. My apologies. I simply have to portion every second of my time, and that doesn’t seem to include writing that doesn’t have a deadline or monetary aspect.

That said,

last week was the writing retreat in Spain.

It was seven days, with the first and last being arrival/departure days. So the five days in between were reserved for writing.

Each morning, we did an hour and a half to two hours of workshop and craft instruction. Each afternoon we did an hour or more of sharing and constructive feedback. At one point we met with people one on one to discuss their work individually and answer craft questions.

it was an intense, busy week. Each morning I got up early to work on my balcony, sometimes before the sun was up. I watched sunrise after sunrise over the Spanish hills, and daily my burden grew lighter.

Although I worked my ass off all week, many things became clearer, and I made the decision I needed to make.

And I did this while working with aspiring writers on a daily basis so they could move forward with the projects they were working on, something I genuinely love doing. And I got to do it poolside, under the sun. We took trips to Malaga and Lake Vinuela, we shared food, and we laughed a lot. And people left feeling like they were ready to tackle the next stage of their projects.

It was a superb week, and I can’t wait to do it again in October. There are still places available if you’re interested in coming along to work on your craft, to learn, to relax in the sun and dedicate an entire week to writing and a to join a little community of women writers.

So. Apologies for disappearing and whatnot. I hope you’re all fantastically well, writing away, and happy as happy can be. I’ll still be popping in here periodically, but the beauty of life is that I’m out living it. Hooray!

Here is some pictorial evidence to whet your appetite.

 

Crossroads

I am at a major crossroads in my life. I have to make a decision that will create more decisions, all of which will impact the rest of my life.

No pressure, then.

I’m having nightmares, waking with my eyes swollen from crying in my sleep. I’m exhausted, confused and, yes, kind of scared. I had my life all planned out, I knew where I was headed and why. And now every aspect of that is in question, in flux.

This is the dream I had last night:

i was in a castle type place, and  was up in this tower. but i could see into the courtyard below me, where lots of people were gathered, waiting for something terrible out side the walls to go away. but i knew they had to get out, they needed to leave the castle, because it was actually safer outside. but i was the only one who knew that. but i was locked away from them, they couldn’t hear me. 
two people were injured and were being taken care of by the people.
and i knew the only way to get the people to leave was to let the lion loose. if i released him from his cage, the people would run away, and they would see that life was okay outside the walls. i had to hope the lion just ran away, and didn’t hurt anyone. but it was worth the risk to save many. 
so although i couldn’t get out, i let the lion free. but then i hit my head and knocked myself out. when i woke, i was alone in the castle, the only person there. still locked away.
i worked at the lock to my room until my hands were bloody but managed to get out.
when i left the castle, families were sitting in the sun having picnics, children were playing. no one had known i was in the tower, no one noticed me now as i made my way out. life had calmed down and gone on without me, and i didn’t matter in the least. i went to the mayor, who told me that once the lion had gotten out, it had mauled the two men who were already injured, and one had died. the other would heal, but slowly. it had hurt one small child, who was okay, and then run off into the forest.
the people were happy, even though the threat of the lion’s return was a shadow on the edges of their world.
the mayor left, and i was alone among the people. i had no home, no family, nowhere to go. so i decided to go after the lion. 
no one noticed when i walked away into the forest.
Today’s question:
Your interpretations? Any dreams you want to share?

A Pen and A Pool

I’m sure you’ll be surprised to know I’ve been so busy I haven’t even considered having 20130722-215727.jpgtime to blog.

Or not.

Most days I work from around eight in the morning to eleven or twelve at night. This weekend, thanks to it being Easter and spending time with the family, I’ve actually taken some time off.

But I wanted to share something I did recently.

I went on a Writer’s Retreat.

I’ve been on a week long writing session before. But this was different. First of all, it was urban, located in Lincoln city center, a beautiful city with an amazing cathedral and castle. The point of the retreat was to take a quick few days to focus on writing. We had a few workshops over the two days, but the free time was spent doing our own writing. Granted, some of that free time I used to wander the beautiful Steep Hill of Lincoln, but it was still useful.

Why?

Because I have so little time to do my own writing. I’m so busy editing everyone else’s work, or doing my dissertation research/writing, that I rarely just write from the heart any more. The few short stories I’ve submitted are likely the only ones I will write this year (I say that, and it’s only April).

Can you imagine being somewhere you have nothing to worry about other than whether or not you have enough pens? (Or power, if that’s the case.) A place where all you do for the whole day is write, talk about writing, think about writing, and learn from others about writing? No kids, no pets, no laundry, no cooking. Just camaraderie and the magic of playing with words. It’s the fellowship of the pen, the journey through the woods of self-doubt to the mountain of MoreWord. It’s the freedom to write rubbish, to share rubbish, and to learn, learn learn.

But it’s mostly about finding, and indulging, your passion for writing.

That’s why I went. And that’s why I’m leading two writing retreats in Spain this year. The first one, with author Radclyffe teaching at my side, is only a few weeks away (sold out, sorry). Not only do we get all of the above benefits, but we’ll also be in Spain. In the sun, poolside, looking out over the valley toward Malaga and the Med.

I’m looking forward to it not just because I love doing writing workshops, and helping people develop their craft, but because I love seeing the way writers come together and let their imaginations fly.

There are still some spaces for the one in October, if you want to experience this concept for yourself. A week. In the sun. Poolside. Writing.

What’s not to love?

(If you’re interested, you can find one of my free-writing pieces, which came from a short workshop, here. There’s nothing spectacular about it, but it certainly took me to a place I hadn’t anticipated.)

Today’s Question:

Have you done any writing retreats or get-aways? How did you find them?

The Bloodletting Process

Have you been through the editing process?copyedits-by-Danica-Page
Have you opened a manuscript and wondered how the editor managed to kill an entire family of puppies on your work electronically?
Have you gone through the edits and thought, “What the hell was wrong with that sentence? It makes perfect sense!” and then struggled with whether or not to argue the point, or to hold out for the bigger stuff you want to argue about?
I’m the person you get to argue with.
I’m the one that goes through with the electronic red pen and carves up your beautiful word pizza with a hatchet.
But, I’m also a writer. I’m doing a doctorate in creative writing, in fact. So I’ve been through the editing process. I understand that sinking feeling in your stomach when you see the crushed tomatoes and wonder what the hell ever made you think you could write in the first place. That working at McDonald’s would be more rewarding and far less painful for your ego.
There’s a definite tension between editing and writing. It’s something I struggle with in my dissertation work. My natural tendency, after nearly a decade as an editor, is to edit as I go. This disrupts the flow. It cages the creativity and makes the story flat, the characters dismal, the plot muddy.
Writing means flowing. It means letting go and allowing yourself to write really terrible stuff until you find the diamond waiting in the middle of the mire. It means getting the story out, from beginning to end. Then, once you’re there, you can go back and start working through the story, finding gaps, fleshing, cutting, moving, etc.
Being an editor means I am always ultra-aware of nuance, of structure and character. I see the story in my head. I close my eyes and picture the manuscript and consider where restructuring might take place, where things need to be fleshed out or cut. I consider whether that moment that happens on page 72 needs to happen on page 3, or page 80. Clearly, this doesn’t help when I’m in the process of writing my own novel. Letting go, getting messy, allowing the words to fall where they may, is part of getting the novel written. The nitty-gritty stuff should come after the fun-creative stuff. But I just can’t seem to let go. I’m working on it. I had no idea I was such a word-control freak.
Being a writer means I’m aware of what it is to be edited. That it can be painful, and soul crushing. So when I edit I try to take that into account and explain as best I can why things have been changed, or why they need to change, or be cut, or fleshed out, or moved. I’ve always said that when an author finishes a novel, it’s like giving birth. And I’m the midwife. When you’ve pushed out that big lump of beautiful mess, I take it from you. I clean it, smack its ass, make it scream, and give it back to you. It’s still your baby, just clean and screaming.
It’s worth it. The tension between editing and writing, the feeling of having your stomach scooped out with a sharp spoon when you get your edits, the ecstasy of seeing your cover and the sublime feeling of holding your book in your hand. It’s all worth the birthing ritual and bloodletting.
Really.