I Do This Every Year

Why do I do this every year? I know it’s coming. I anticipate it. I dread it. And yet, I still do it.

I’m referring to my complete disregard for my lack of writing productivity from mid-June to mid-September. I’m not a summer person in the slightest. The noise, the traffic, the heat — all those hallmarks of summer are brain-killers for me. I should know by now not to mess with this, to just sit back and chill out, but I’ve only ever half-learned my lesson. When I was writing for a publisher who gave me deadlines that crossed into summer, I’d bust my ass to get them out of the way by mid-June. “Fantastic! You’re so prompt!” the editor would say, and I’d keep it to myself that I had barely slept in an effort to make my deadline.

I’m not under contract for anything right now. My book is in a potential publisher’s TBR pile, and even if she came back tomorrow to tell me she was publishing my book and I needed to start working on it right away it wouldn’t be so bad, because editing isn’t writing. Editing requires me to be critical instead of creative.

I had hoped this year would be different. I have a nifty new writing space begging to be used. I made a to-do list of manageable bites. “Bring it on!” I said to myself, and then proceeded to hurl myself into that dark pit of failure. I crawl out, I play some video games, and then I go for another leap.

This is different from my failed attempt at writing a historical novel in 30 days. At least I wrote something that week. This is just a soul-sucker.

There are countless articles, books, and admonishing tweets about needing to make the time to write, how you can do it on top of a flaming pile of garbage if you were really serious. I’ll give an inch, a lot of writer’s block is just procrastination, but at the same time I challenge those people to listen to my DIY-loving neighbour drive his riding lawnmower up and down his lengthy driveway for three and a half hours while his four-year old screams in the background.

July 20th and I’m throwing in the towel. I’m going to read books and play video games for the next six weeks. I’ll end up doing it anyway, but at least this way I won’t have the crushing defeat of summer on my shoulders.

On Fire – Available Now

I honestly can’t remember the last Cleis anthology I was a part of. I think it may have been Love, Lust and Zombies, edited by Mitzi Szereto (my story in this is easily my favourite, by the way, so check it out.)

Today marks the release of the latest, this time from the desk of Rachel Kramer Bussel. On Fire features my story A Place As Beautiful As This as well as a roster that includes some of my favourite authors — Giselle Renarde, Tamsin Flowers, Jade A. Waters and Victoria Blisse to name a few. If you’re a fan of erotic romance, add this to your TBR.

Rachel has all the links posted at the book’s Tumblr. If you’re on Netgalley, you can request it there in exchange for an impartial review.

You can also check out my other stories by heading over to I Write Smutty Things, where you can find links to free reads at Tablo and also to my Amazon page. I’ve been in a lot of great anthologies put together by some fabulous editors, and many of those stories are now up at Tablo to read for free.

Tourist

Just coming off vacation, and if you’re not following me on Twitter or Instagram, here’s a little bit of what I got to see when I was off. I didn’t go far (I never do when on vacation) but I managed to knock a few Must See and Must Do things off my list.

First up was my annual June cottage stay on Prince Edward Island. I booked right in Cavendish this time and I only moved my car once the entire time I was there. If I wanted to buy something, I walked (it helped that I was a 2 minute walk to stores.) If I wanted to see something, I walked. Green Gables was a bit of a distance in the hot sun, and I have the burn to prove it, but I made it there after they’d closed up and all was quiet so I could take a bit of a walk on the grounds.

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It was a nice little getaway, and I broke my no-writing-on-vacation rule to get over a hump on one thing and also start something new.

Back in Nova Scotia, I had a couple of things I needed to see before the end of the week or else I’d never get off my ass and do it. First was the Collision in the Narrows exhibit at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. I’m not one for crowds at all, but I wanted to get a look at the 100th anniversary memorial quilt.  Totally worth the aggravation. Absolutely amazing job.

 

Another thing on the list — a WWI trench, which was set up inside a fortress. Talk about claustrophobic. Trying to squish by the other tourists, I couldn’t even imagine people living in there while on the front lines, or sleeping on hard chicken wire in a building that might collapse on your head? Eep.

 

I kept on breaking my no-writing rule and have a little something done. Well, a lot something, if you count what I did to my writing space. This room was initially supposed to be a laundry room, but after I changed my mind on the location I decided to make it into a computer room, and the computer room needed a fresh coat of paint.

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The old colour was the same shade as a grey sky. This new colour is … well, just look at it. I had a minor panic when the hardware store guy popped the top and showed me the colour, but once I got it on the walls I was madly in love. It looks amazing. Having previously written wherever I could get peace and quiet, this is an excellent spot. I’ve got some wallpaper on the way for a wall that’s just not salvageable, a poster, and some neat little bookends. Definitely looking forward to the finished product.

 

Old is new … ish

I have a bad habit. It used to be a great habit, but these days it’s as useful as smoking or a second cup of coffee or five-hours playing computer games.

That bad habit is writing.

Quite some time ago, I came to the realization that I was no longer enjoying the whole writing thing. No coincidence, it came as I was on the elevator at my old apartment with my first royalty statement from HarperCollins in hand. I wasn’t so much demoralized as I was pissed at myself for not seeing this coming, and I promptly locked myself in my apartment and sat down to write something new.

After ten years of writing erotica, a short story a week and promptly dropped into the inboxes of my favourite editors, it’s now like getting blood from a stone. I still successfully dabble in smut under another name, albeit in a different sub-genre, but the whole contemporary boy-meets-girl thing eludes me now. I know this, yet I still give it a go. All I really need to do is pick up my phone and check out what Alison Tyler has published on Patreon and I’m sucked in, determined to finish this story or that story, finally sink my teeth into something wicked, but it never works out. I’ve deleted more than I’ve written when those moods strike me.

One of these days I’m going to learn to just go do something else and stop torturing myself.

But I still hope that one day I can actually get some of those stories finished. Mind over matter, ass in the chair and all that. In the meantime, I have a trove of stuff from the past decade that I can put out there to be read. I’ve been loading this stuff on on Tablo, and I’m rediscovering stories I had completely forgotten I’d written. Nothing Important Happened Today, for example. I’d completely forgotten that story and I’d forgotten how much I loved writing that story. Then there’s Six Sides of Steel, which was the most surprising thing I’d written to date, and I still have a friend who asks if I’m ever going to turn that into a novella.

For now, you can find my A.M. Hartnett stuff on Tablo. Maybe one day there’ll be something new.

Week … nevermind

Well, that was a bit of a bust, at least in the strictest sense. I did not finish Pretty Boy in 30 days. I got the introduction locked down and mapped out the first six chapters, but once I started to move forward I quickly realized that speed-writing was not going to work for Pretty Boy unless I made an absolute mess of it.

Now, that’s apparently the point of Nanowrimo: just write and clean up later. What that plan fails to recognize is that if you can’t move forward because you don’t know if your main character has an indoor toilet or an outhouse, there’s simply no moving forward.

This method worked fantastically for other genres I play in that don’t require one to spend 30 minutes staring at the cursor while wondering if the main character needs to go outdoors to use the toilet. I blazed through multiple novellas and short stories. But when I tried to apply the same method to Pretty Boy, I ultimately got frustrated and wandered off to play video games.

Lesson learned, which was a part of this experiment to begin with. Some books just can’t be written in 30 days and that’s OK. Every book is different, and if I can write one in a week while it takes me three months to get to chapter five in another, that’s just how it goes. Rather than worry about it and beat myself up, I’m just rolling with it.

Week One

I’m almost at the end of the first week of this whole book-writing thing, and it has not gone according to plan.

First, I am working on a book. It’s just not the book I planned to write. For some reason, things fell flat on The Thorn Garden immediately. The book is still waiting to be written, but now isn’t the time to write it, since I found myself pulling my hair out trying to locate the two books I actually need to proceed.

So, I’m working on the follow up to Shadows May Fall. Progress has been slow, filled with mini “Ah-ha!” moments. An intro I didn’t know was needed until I was utterly stumped come Chapter Two. A sub-plot that gets darker every time I revisit it. Having to break the no-research rule to stop and look something up several times because I can’t proceed without some minor detail. It takes place in a fictional town, which one would think would be easier to manage since I can just make things up, but ultimately turned into a project that involved stitching several real-life towns together, none of which have half the historical sources as Halifax did for Shadows May Fall. Then there’s the main character, whose arrogance I have to constantly keep in check.

It’s moving, and for the first time in about a year, but it’s not moving at the breakneck speed required for this challenge. I’d say the ETA looks closer to 60 days than 30. While I’d love to have the high of having finished a book in 30 days and being done with it, I’d rather have one that is readable, and the 50K/30 days method isn’t exactly the right method for getting me a readable book.

Bring on week two!

The Really Stupid Idea

So, I need to write a book.

Now that I’ve gotten a temporary reprieve from the all-consuming novel and have had some time to frig around on Playstation (Day 90 and I haven’t gotten Wilson killed in Don’t Starve!) it’s time to write a book.

I’ve been toying around with writing tools and exercises in the last few months. I did some short prompts and turned another prompt into a short story. I organized my files on my laptop. I bought a desk chair so I no longer have to sit in an accent chair that sits about 2 inches lower than it should be.

Getting into a groove, on the other hand, has proven more difficult. I can bang out shorter pieces if I block off some time. I no longer have the rage of living in an apartment I hate with neighbours who won’t turn their music down/shouting at one another to fuel the sort of manic writing sprints I had in the past and resulted in 10 books in a 4 year period (not all of them great books, mind you.) I also don’t have deadlines, so there’s that.

For my next trick, it has to be at least 50K words. After two years with Shadows May Fall at the forefront, I’m not yet ready to tackle it’s continuation just yet. That can wait, along with mini-stories, because I’m sick to death of those people at the moment.

So, 50K — sounds familiar? The end goal is what Nanowrimo is about. I’ve never taken part in this in November, but I’m getting ready to do just that in April. I read Chris Baty’s No Plot? No Problem! on the weekend — a lot of it resonated with how I had written in the past, particularly during the hectic period when I was writing three books at once. I decided to give the 50K in 30 days thing a whirl, and when I told someone else and they asked if they could join in, I was screwed.

Now I have to do this. Because I told someone. Damn it.

I have an empty Rubbermaid bin ready to be filled with snacks. I have playlists saved for when the headphones come on. I have a list of meals to make and freeze so I don’t have to live on Swanson dinners for 30 days.  I have a general plot. I’d already written the intro (aka the easy part) months ago, so it’s just about getting things past that point. And I have a writing buddy who will swear at me if I don’t make my word count.

I even have a title, The Thorn Garden, displayed in the sidebar along with an intimidating word meter.

March is research month. It’s another historical so it does need some foundation before I start, but Baty’s method only allows you one month to prepare. It’s also wrapping-up-loose-ends month, in which I have one more mini project I’ve been picking at that I want to get wrapped up. Then, it’s go time.

Christ, help me.