Tag Archives: creative process

deep in the heart of summer

We’re cooking now, boy.  Daily swimming, lying around in the air conditioning reading fat books while waiting for it to get cool enough to move, tomato sandwiches, being night owls because the heat isn’t so bad in the dark.  Eating peaches over the sink.  Cicadas.

In contrast to the pleasures of summer, though, I struggle with stomach-dropping fear about climate change.  You know that feeling?  About which I generally feel quite helpless?  I try to give myself breaks, think about other things.  But all this hot weather (we had the hottest June ever on record and July has been crazy, too, 98 degrees, 98% humidity most days) keeps it in my mind, in the back somewhere, simmering away.  It wrecks my full summery-enjoyment.  Which sucks.

[Whoa, hang on, isn’t this a light, up-beat blog???  Yeah, I thought so, too!]

Here, have a Yotsuba, just about my favorite manga series, ever.  I just read this one to the kids, who are not too old to enjoy, thank goodness.  LAUGH OUT LOUD for reelz.  yotsuba 11

Ahhh. Yotsuba calls it Glow Ball warming, which is adorable.

In other news, we’re still running (can you believe it? Nor can I), 2-3 miles, 3x a week.  Sophie and Paul chat as they lope along while I pant and moan behind them, flailing weakly in their direction, “…go on…save yourselves….”  Sometimes Luc comes, too, although he is, shall we say, less committed.  “I want running to be my hobby, not my religion.”  He really said that!  He’s NINE.  Freaking smart-ass, hilarious kid….

Unfortunately, every time we see something cool (a double rainbow! Llamas! A cool black and yellow snake!) I don’t have my camera, while, if I lug it along, it’s guaranteed there will be nada but asphalt and sweat.  So, no photo for you.

Ooo, but this is fun: I start drafting on the new novel in ONE WEEK.  I’m halfway through my scene cards.  We’ll see how well they work this time.  Last book’s scene cards were pretty much a failure.  First feelings can be deceptive.

scene cards for precog book

See how the top 8 are super cramped with itty-bitty writing going up the sides? And how the bottom 8 float in a sea of white space?  Yeah, I’m still working on the bottom 8.  Trying for a shorter book this time, 16 scenes instead of the 30 (I think it was?) in the last one. Two pov characters instead of three.  A more streamlined plot.  We’ll see how that all works out.

Planning is fun!  Planning is when I haven’t fucked anything up yet!

Drafting set to begin August 1.  One more week to finish up the scene planning, where the chant is: protag with a need, in conflict with an antag with a need, in a setting, leading to a unique TURN that upends expectations.  One turn per scene, every scene must have a conflict and an antag, no exceptions, plus note down any funny beats or Points of Interest along the way.  Inciting incident, set-up, three trial-cycles, mid-point, final ramp up after failure of third, big confrontation tying up both inner and outer arcs, conclusion, denouement, yada yada yada.  Gotta love CRAFT.  I mean, I fucking got this, right?

I’m always so full of hubris before the novel breaks me into little pieces.

Happy mid-summer everyone!  (Try not to think about glow ball warming too much…).

euphemisms are cool

Do you ever have one of those days where you just can’t stop thinking about sex?  You assault your spouse or [romantic euphemism here] until they tell you to back away from the box of condoms and just go freaking make dinner already?  You cook sausages and bananas and don’t think it’s weird?  You rub one out and it just doesn’t help?  If anything it makes it worse?  You need to focus, but you keep thinking how much that sounds like “fuck us” and you think, yes, I need to fuck all y’all, get in my pants, and then you realize you’ve missed your exit.  Again.  What the heck.  Is it hormonal?  Stars aligning?   Look, sex-brain, I’ve got, like, things to do.  Leave me alone already.

Of course it’s probably just that I am mere pages from finishing this draft of the current novel.  Yeah, it’s DISTRACTION.  Let’s be honest.

But this novel, it’s like peeing molasses.  I started back in 2013 and I’m just on the second (third?) draft (shoot me now), but hey, I am writing the FINAL CHAPTER, so that’s something.  It freaking is, so shut up. Yes, I know, after this draft, it’s beta readers, then another draft, then my editor, then another draft, then more beta readers, then final tweaks (because hopefully by then I’m getting mostly thumbs up from my betas), and THEN its done.  So yeah, that’s a fuck-load more work, really, isn’t it.  But still, I’m closing in on the second draft and that feels like a completion!  Yeah!  GIMME SOME FUCKING CAKE.  Or a couple dozen orgasms would be good, too….

Listen up, Lassiter!  The goal is to get this book out by the end of the year!  Quit this fooling around and get to work!

Oh yeah, the drill sergeant approach, that will totally work.  Because I nail all my self-imposed deadlines, like the thirty or so that I’ve already blown past on this novel alone.  And now I’m thinking about nailing drill sergeants.

Anyway, I’ve been not so much with the blogging because there is this momentum at the end of a novel that takes me over and I abandon my family, my yoga practice, my sleep, and my BLOG because I just can’t stop sneaking away to try to get a few more words in and I can’t think about anything else.  Except sex.

Which I think is just a smoke screen, don’t you?  This muse chick is just messing with me.  Maybe it’s a metaphor for the creative process heating up or something.  Maybe I need to end the novel with a big orgy scene.  All the great novels end with a big orgy scene, don’t they?

Jesus, what have I been reading.

Am I like this at the end of all my novels?

You know what?  It doesn’t matter.  Back to work.

i will get to The End of this book even if it kills me

I’m writing the last chapter of current work-in-progress (I don’t even have a working title, not a good sign! *panics*).  This is not as good news as it could be because I skipped over the final Big Scene (because I haven’t figured it out yet) and went straight for the denouement and the epilogue, Cheating For The Win!  Let’s hurry to The End because by gawd, it’s ABOUT DAMN TIME. So, yeah, I’ll have to go back to that BIG FREAKING BLANK SPOT but other than that, I’m like this close.

There is just…GAH! there is something in the center of this book  I haven’t figured out yet—and it’s driving me NUTFUCKING CRAZY.  I keep whittling away at it, but something, something right in the center, is eluding capture.  It’s maddening, I tell you.  There is a hole in my book and the story keeps leaking out….

Nevertheless, soon, like, in the next couple of days, I’ll have typed The End, for the Very First Time (on this book) (there are usually a couple of times you type The End), and that will, indeed, be Something, at least.  It will mean I have all the clay on the wheel.  Time to make it into a pot.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all this extra, struggle-filled work meant that this will be an extra-gooder book?  But no: there is no correlation between how hard a novel is to write and how good it finally will be.  All the struggle might mean the damn thing is fundamentally and fatally flawed.

That would suck.

The only thing to do is to keep walking, keep working, one word after another.  BUT (says the inner tyrant voice) I’m nine months and 60,000 words in and I haven’t even typed The End once yet!  What the f is wrong with this book?!!? *pulls hair, gnashes teeth, moans*

However!  I’m not listing to that crazy voice. I’m Staying Positive.  So, my pretties, The End is coming soon, wait for it, wait for it

In the meantime, I look at this photograph when I get stuck (re: all the time) and I find it helps me out.  To me it’s Hazel, looking moody over Takeda’s violin.  I imagine the ghost of her dead mother hovering somewhere over her shoulder….

Hazel and the violin

on sensitive moments

So, I’m writing this novel and it’s been eight months and I have no idea what I’m doing.  It’s just like this sometimes. I go and think I’ve got some skills, I’ve written a bunch of novels already, surely there’s one more in there somewhere, but no.  There’s not.  Or maybe there is but I’m going to have to saw off my own head and dump out the contents on the floor if I want to find it.

It’s just that the story and characters keep running together like melted wax, and I wake up at night from dreams where the characters are all having sex with each other, or are eating strange meals with me, but still, I keep at it. I’m pounding out 1000ish words a day, maybe 800 or 600 NET words, you know, three steps forward two steps back, and yeah the words, they are accruing, but into what?  Compound interest?  Or a giant stinking pile of dirty laundry?

I wish I knew.

Meanwhile this happened:

I’m standing in our bathhouse with my pants around my knees, busily inserting a menstrual cup.  Note: if you are a menstruating woman who doesn’t know about these, you totally should try them out, they are awesome.  /public service announcement.  Anyway, I’m fingers-deep, doing my business, when Sophie throws open the door and catches me at it, because we have no privacy in this yurt of ours, it’s a fact.  I say, “um, you’ve caught me at a kind of sensitive moment.”  “Ah,” she says, and leaves.

Okay! So, finishing up, I head back over to the yurt (it’s two steps under an awning from the bathhouse to the yurt’s door) and throw open the door—only to find Sophie, fingers-deep in the Nutella jar.  “Um,” she says, chocolate smeared all over her mouth, “you’ve caught me at a kind of sensitive moment.”

SPIT TAKE!  These kids, they just grow a sense of humor out of thin air, poof, and thank goodness, because humor, you can’t teach that.   But you really, really need it if you are going to have any hope whatsoever at a decent life.   What would I do without my kids???

But, I keep working on the novel and maybe one day it will turn into something, the way my kids have turned into these super cool people.  That’s probably setting the bar too high.  But still, I get up early and stick my head into my computer and after an hour or two the kids wake up and try to extract me and I want to say, “you’ve caught me at a kind of sensitive moment–” but then I’m laughing too hard.

There are nearly 50,000 words now in this, Draft The Third, of my as of yet untitled ninth (NINTH) novel.  A Japanese violinist, a teen-aged girl mourning her mother, and an ex-drug dealing short-order cook, plus three ghosts, are all tangled up together in a weird game of relationship twister.  Or something.  Sounds like the start to a joke right?  A violinist, a girl, and a cook, all walk into a bar….

My goal is to finish this draft, beginning to end, by April 1.


[uplifting music here.]

books have their own DNA that will not be denied. at least, mine do.

Back in June I wrote  about outlining my work-in-progress and how strange it was that it seemed to have no SF element.  No magic realism, no paranormal, no weird shit in sight.  Was I really writing a straight, no-fantasy, novel? Inconceivable.

Then in November I wrote about how much I was struggling with it. It just wouldn’t write, I kept skipping writing days, what was wrong with me.  I usually zip along, but no. I should have twigged then, but I did not.

In December I finally figured out the SF element.  That is six months after starting, and only NOW has the root of the problem finally been revealed: I am an idiot. This will come as no surprise to many of you.

Basically, I’m writing a ghost story. There are three characters, a foul-mouthed cook, a violinist, and a teenaged girl, and  and they are all haunted.  Only, see, back in June and all through the end of 2013, I didn’t want to write a ghost story. I thought, “Oh, I’m sick of ghost stories, that’s all been done. This isn’t going to be a ghost story.  I’ll write something else.”  And I went on my merry way, trying to write some other book that had no ghostsbut it’s a ghost story. You can’t take the ghosts out of a ghost story!

No wonder the book ran aground.

Just this month, like pulling teeth, I finally allowed the GIANT FREAKING HOLE in my book to be filled with the ghosts that were meant to be there from the beginning, and…suddenly the book is fine. Of course I’m not writing a book with no SF in it.  This is ME we’re talking about. It’s just that I was just systematically not letting THIS book’s SF be in the book. Now that the ghosts are in there, it’s all going as it should, pages appearing, writing is no problem again.  I’m psyched to get to it each day, I feel happy and at peace with the world, all the strange things I get from a good hit of writing (why?  I don’t know).  As I said: I am an idiot.

Six month of resistance!!!!! SIX MONTHS.

What’s worse, this isn’t the first time I have made this mistake.  I did this exact thing once before. I didn’t want to write a vampire book because DUH. Vampires. So I tried to write Conjuring Raine without a vampire. But of course, IT IS A VAMPIRE STORY.  If you’ve read it, can you imagine Conjuring Raine where Joshua is not a vampire?  NO.  (And if you haven’t read it, go read it!  It’s a great book! 🙂 )  I ended up putting the vampire back in when the story ran aground around the 100 page mark and refused to budge. And all was well.  I just had to accept the fact that I was a person who had written a vampire book.  No shame!

Is twice enough to have learned my lesson? If a book wants to be a ghost story, it’s a ghost story! I can’t just decide for it not to be, because I think I don’t want to write a ghost story. This should be obvious!!!!

Also, writing ghost stories is spooky. As in, I’m kind of creeping myself out lately, especially at night. Plus I’m thinking about death all the time. It’s kind of morbid.  And man, the sex in this one.  Plus swearing, lots and lots of swearing—just this one character, but still.  Nevertheless, I’m surrendered at this point.  It is what it wants to be, ghosts, sex, swearing, and all.  And if I try to make it something else, well…maybe I’ve learned my lesson.

daily rituals: the ways artists work by mason currey, review

dailyritualsDaily Rituals is a compendium of brief descriptions taken from interviews, biographers, and the artists themselves, of the nitty gritty of the daily life of an impressive array of creative people.  It’s based on Mason Currey’s blog of the same title, but goes further, and includes more folks.  From Mozart, Flaubert, and de Beauviore, to Matisse, Hemingway, and Freud, people long dead and people still living, painters, composers, and writers of all kinds, all revealed through their oh, so specific routines—routines that help/ed them get through the day, and more importantly, get through their work.

As a writer with a long time interest in creative process (see my author interview series on same), it will come as no surprise that I love this book.  I’ve been listening to the Audible version the last few days and have found it funny but also nourishing and delicious.

Firstly, it’s so wonderful how they are all so different! Early risers, late night owls.  Those who need uppers—lots of coffee in this book!—and those who need downers—lots of liquor, too.  Hedonists, vs those with monk-like lives.  Those surrounded by family and friends, vs. loners.  Work in bed, work in the perfect chair, work in cafes, work in the family room surrounded by chatter, work in isolation in a stone hut in the woods.

Human beings have created things in every conceivable configuration.

Listening to this book soundly dismisses the idea that there is a right way to be an artist.  It also routes the idea that “getting my shit together” is what will help with my writing.  A huge number of these people are neurotic messes, either falling apart, or holding it together through iron precision.  The great masterpieces of the world have not been created because their authors had their shit together!  On the contrary!  Life is a mess, a disaster, and we create along the way as best we can.

This comforts me.

Workaholics and procrastinators, clockwork schedulers and the absence of any structure whatsoever, the rich with servants, the destitute with no resources at all…all interspersed with sometimes bizarre rituals that have been found to support that particular person’s process—Beethoven’s 60 beans of coffee each day come to mind, but there are many, many.  I don’t want to spoil it for you.

How many times, in listening, have thought, “I do that, too!” or, even more frequently, “Maybe I should try that…?”

Small complaint: I wish there were more women.  I’m glad every time a woman is mentioned. I don’t know that this is a failing of Mr. Curry, or, more likely, that the Big Name Creators have been 99% men for the much of human history.  There are more women as the dates become more and more recent, for which I’m glad.  I crave the women’s voices.

Best quote so far: Joyce Carol Oates.  “Getting the first draft finished is like pushing a very dirty peanut across the floor with your nose

I know!!!

The biggest takeaway: there is no right path!  There is no Answer!  There is only doing your work in whatever way you can manage.

Read this book for solace, laughs, insight, and support.  I feel like I’ve just discovered that I’m part of an army of humans who have been struggling with these same questions—how can I work? how can I make it happen in the midst of all the things that block it? (Jobs, family, money concerns, health issues, anxiety, writers block, boredom, depression, business, distraction, ETC, everyone has had their share.)

So many cobbled together solutions have been put into play by so many of the greats.  I love hearing about them all, from the noble to the perverse.

We all do the best we can to muddle through.  Highly recommended.

a bit of self indulgent blah blah on writing a novel that is taking its jolly sweet time coming out

I’m whispering because the kids are still asleep, the low winter sun is sliding in through the yurt dome (finally), and all is quiet.  This is my writing time.  I set the alarm (Sleep Cycle app on my ipod, best alarm clock ever) and when it goes off, I  reach over to my bedside table for my laptop, pull it over onto my chest, and write, right here in the bed.

I’m supposed to be writing right now—on my novel that is, not on my blog—but I’m not.  Don’t tell anybody.

Actually, I just started the second (okay, it’s the third, but who’s counting) draft of the new novel, working title, Cooking for the Dead, a terrible title, I’m awful at titles.  Anyway.  The second draft means I got as far as I could go (almost to the end) on the first, crappy, just-get-it-down draft, before I realized I didn’t know anything and had to go back to the beginning to change everything.  It’s a stupid system.

But the second draft means progress, and progress is good.

Yesterday, I finished the new first chapter (first pov voice, Takeda), and got to feel that glow of accomplishment all day.

Today, I started the new second chapter (second pov voice, Dog) and got stuck.  Of course.


I tried, tried to do this novel in some efficient, organized manner, a la my last book where I learned all kinds of fancy new tricks.  I TRIED to be a plotter, not a pantser, for this new novel.  I really did.  But no.  Spinning this tale has been like trying to spin stubborn, short, fibers that keep breaking and will only come out of the fluff slowly, slowly, slowly.  For example, I only just figured out the fantasy element, that is, the central plot focus!!!—and I’m six months into writing!!!!  How stupid is that??? How can a person write nearly 200 pages of a novel and not even know she doesn’t know the central plot focus?  Okay, I had a clue that I didn’t know…but STILL.

I am an idiot.

They say each novel is different and you only know how to write the novel you’re writing right now.  The next one, you have to start from scratch, figuring the process out all over again.

In my experience, this is true.

So, blah blah, the fluff-strand broke again this morning.  I opened up Scrivener (best writing app in the ‘verse, second app recommendation of the morning!) and realized I have no idea how to write my second pov person, and that I am lost.  Again.  Thus the stalling with this blog post.

I show up, every day, but sometimes I just don’t know how to do anything.  I ask myself, what do I need to know in order to write this chapter?  I know the character, I know what happens, but, but, but….  ????  Maybe I’m just scared.  This book feels so personal.  (I say that about all my books.)

Okay, sometimes it just takes a while for the voice in my head, the one that tells me what to type, to become clear. I need to be patient and keep asking questions.  The answers show up.  They do.

In the meantime, we put up an adorable Christmas tree on Sunday that Paul and Sophie found in the woods, a little frondy cedar.  Today I’m going to make cookies with the kids.  Chocolate chip.  Plus I need to go to the bank,  buy some wrapping paper, and do something about the dishes, lord save me from the dishes.

And all the while I’ll be thinking about Dog, and how to write his chapter.  If it’s like the last six months, I’ll just suddenly know what to do, it will be super obvious, a quiet duh, like the knowledge seeps up out of the ground and suddenly I’m standing in a wet spot.  But it will only be a hint.  Just enough to get me a few more steps along.

It’s maddening!  I have never written a novel hat has required more trust than this one.  I hope it works out all right.  It’s just a little story, no big deal.  So much drama for a little story!

i can do this

I’m finishing up this round of edits on the nightmare book THIS WEEKEND come hell or high water.  And it might be high water because we have had non-stop rain since forever.  All the creeks have escaped their bounds by many feet, with the big creek five feet deep or more of rushing water.  I’ve never seen it so high.

But the point is: this weekend I am getting this novel out to my last round of readers for final tweaking (hopefully, at this late stage, nothing major raises its head) and then it is going to the motherloving copyeditor.

Therefore.  I have had nothing to blog about these last few days.  In addition, said nothing will probably continue until I finish.  Unless you want to hear about how my butt is sore from sitting on the futon with my computer in my lap, or how grumpy my husband is with me for my distraction and general disinterest in real life.  Don’t want to read that blog post?  I don’t blame you.

The end of a novel is a rush.  You climb the mountain, climb climb climb.  It feels like you never get anywhere, climbing itself becomes a way of life, you forget there even was a goal.  Climb climb climb for fucking ever one foot then another blah blah blah—

And then BAM.  You’re at the top!  The holy shit how did this happen Top!

So what do you do?  Welp, you throw down a snowboard and go careening down the other side.  Naked.

I’m in the careening stage.

It’s pretty terrifying, actually.

reading my old stuff is like visiting my younger self, which is to say, too weird

In 2002 I wrote a novel called The Luminous Music of Trees, a YA fantasy in a rural, agricultural, low-tech society, that has this kind of fairies-or-maybe-elves?-type creatures in it—in other words, a book that is totally different from the stuff I write now which tends to be urban, contemporary, and for adults.  But I I still think fondly of Trees, when I think of it at all, and so, while I am waiting for my first readers to get back to me on Lucidity Effect, I decided to reread this old, trunked novel to see if it could, possibly, be upgraded to match current quality standards.

It’s SO WEIRD.  Simultaneously I feel 1) I am reading something someone else wrote, and 2) I am intimately familiar with the rhythm of every sentence, even though I don’t consciously remember any of them.  Seriously, I wrote this thing before I had babies, before I was married, way before the yurt, back when I worked for a living and had leisure time to do such things as graduate school.  In other words, when I was a completely different person.

It shows.  There is an innocence in these pages I haven’t felt in years—and didn’t know that I was feeling at the time.  There are cliches and tropes I didn’t realize I was tapping into.  There are pieces of a worldview I don’t hold anymore.  The characters are more…thin…than what I would write now—based on less experience, I guess.  Will I feel that way in a decade, two decades, looking back on what I write now?


Content aside, even the way I wrote that book is totally different.  Which is to say that I wrote it entirely by the seat of my pants, just opening the file—holy shit it was written before Scrivener!! On Ubuntu!—and tuning it to see what would happen next.  Like watching a favorite show…in my head.  Which makes me realize how little craft I had back then.  I was writing entirely on gut instinct.

Actually, the book is surprisingly coherent for having sprouted free-form out of my head sans even a scrap of planning.  I’m intrigued by the possibility of trying to resurrect it.  I’m considering it.  There are some good scenes in here, and the ending is cool and surprising.

On the other hand, it isn’t something I would be interested in reading now, really.  No offense, book, but you just aren’t my chosen subject matter at the moment.  For example, it’s about teen-agers.  And farmers.  And can a book with no sex scenes really hold my attention? Long enough to rewrite it?  If I don’t feel like reading it, there is no way I’m going to have the drive needed to rewrite it….

It’s a thinker.  We’ll see whether I can finish reading it or not.  I guess if I find I don’t really want to, that will answer that.


In other news, there is a short interview I gave up at fellow writer’s Rick Novy’s blog here.  In it I am so charming I just can’t even stand myself.  Seriously.  You should go check it out.  And take a gander at Rick’s cool steampunk book Fishpunk.  I want that hat!  As long as it doesn’t smell.

And, to finish up, Toby Streams the Universe will be FREE FREE FREE tomorrow and Thursday, so it’s a good time to get a copy.  Go go go!

do i dare to eat a peach?

I am writing sex scenes for the new book.  I’m not a virgin at this (see Conjuring Raine), but this new book is asking for a heck of a lot more full frontal than I have previously gone in for.  I admit, it makes me nervous.  But I figure, if you’re going to do it, you have to go all the way.  I hate goddamn fade-to-blacks, I hate when fascinating fucked up characters have generic (great!) sex because there is no way someone that fucked up would have generic (why always great?) sex.  They would have interesting uniquely fucked up sex, yes?

I don’t mean every sex act between characters has to be described in detail for me, as a reader.  But I don’t like cop outs.

But heavens, it’s one thing to feel this way as a reader and quite another to sit down to write a book that is turning out to be much more about sex than I realized when I started.

I’ve been easing in, dipping my toes in the waters as it were.  I start out writing a pretend scene, place-holder sort of scene, like, “this won’t really be in the book, I’m just figuring out what happens between these two, so I can get the emotional tone right for afterward.”  Yeah, that’s the ticket.  It’s not mine!  Then I keep going back, fleshing it out, deepening it, realizing how it would go wrong, or right, or where they would laugh or get nervous or fall out of the bed and run screaming from the room.  Whatever.  Upshot: my writing hour goes by and I’ve spent the whole time thinking about sex.  It’s kind of weird, then, to go back to Normal Yurt Life.  It’s not unlike having a secret porn hobby.

Maybe it IS having a (not so secret) porn hobby.

But the big question for me is always, how far do I go?  Is the scene hot, do I want it to be, does it reveal the characters in the way I need them to be revealed for the story at this point, should I not have put in that much detail, should I have put in more details?  Do I describe the guys unique equipment, the rolling on of the condom, the sounds, the smells?  Or do I gloss over that level of detail and stick with the character’s inner experiences?  Which serves the story the most?

Oh, and hey, am I revealing too much of myself writing this stuff?  Too much for what, my own comfort I guess?  I’m just making things up, but…will readers think it is me I’m writing about?  But it IS me, in some way, isn’t it?  Am I okay with that?

And mostly: where have I cheated?  Where have I used a short hand to stand in for something  true?

I don’t worry like this with other kinds of scenes.  I want them to be true, of course, but I seem to trust myself more.  I wonder what all the fuss is about.  My semi-Methodist upbringing?  My private, introverted nature?  My fear of looking stupid?  Do I put a warning in the product description when (if?) I publish this?  Mucho graphic, enjoy!

It’s not that I’m ashamed of writing them.  I’m worried I won’t write them well.  I don’t know, maybe I write these scenes and then cut them.

It’s interesting to sit on the membrane between typical life where, for the most part, sex is not spoken about, isn’t happening, you know, sanitized life—vs. the erotica world that plugs that puzzle piece back in…the fact that we’re all thinking about sex and having a sex, being sexual in some way, and its just a part of life, only…hidden.  For example, read Harry Potter and there is no sex.  There is some snogging later in the series, but sex?  Do the character have a personal sexuality as they go through puberty and enter adult-hood?  Pretty much, No.  But we’re talking about teen-agers!  In a boarding school!  You know there’s tons of sex-stuff going on in a boarding school, conversations, hand-jobs in the bathrooms, trying to find a private place to masturbate or make-out, dirty magazines getting passed around, dirty jokes, all of it.  After HP (and hey, I am NOT saying Harry Potter should have sex in it, okay?  I adore Harry Potter exactly the way it is) after HP go read Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, a terrific novel (except for the stupid ending, sorry Lev, I loved 90% of your book, but I really really hated the end) and it’s a boarding school of teen-aged wizards told in a more gritty, realistic style, with the character’s sexuality present in all its sordid glory.   Then when you look back at HP, you are suddenly able to see the glaring absence of the character’s sexuality.  Like they are Barbies and Kens with their privates smoothed over and gone.  It’s suddenly weird that it wasn’t there in the first place!

That sensation of weirdness, of seeing what I didn’t see that I wasn’t seeing before, that’s interesting.  Writing all this sex into my book is like that.  It involves that kind of seeing: noticing and sitting on that filtering system, the what-ever-it-is in my head that does the private-bit-smoothing-over thing for assimilation into Normal (sexless) Society. I’m shocked, frankly, at how much of this I participate in, now that I’m noticing it more.  Maybe it is living in the conservative South, but hushed whispers for anything to do with S-E-X is standard for around here.

Anyway, as a result of my current focus on all things erotic my social filters are getting out of whack.  Word of advice, you probably don’t want to bring up blow jobs on the playground with the other moms.  OR maybe, after you’ve made this faux pas and a goodly portion of the mom’s have scattered, their faces red, the moms left might be some cool potential friends?

As part of my research, I started reading Susie Bright’s How to Write a Dirty Story about the history of erotica, the reading and the writing of it, in America because I love her cuttingly smart take on things.  She has curated a dozen Best Of erotica volumes over the years, as well as written a slew of other books, including a memoir, Big Sex, Little Death, that I really liked.  I’ve also bopped around the internet, reading a few articles on writing sex scenes, looking for what is the state-of-the-art on the subject.  At one point found myself reading two authors, 1) a guy saying be real, write from your own experience, describe the bodies doing what they do and 2) a woman saying it’s fantasy, sweep the reader away with something they’ve never felt before, be specific about the emotions!  I couldn’t help but laugh as the two were giving almost diametrically opposed advice. Moral of that story: figure it our your own self.

I’ve also been looking for great examples, sex scenes that stand out as intense character moments.  Bonus points if they’re hot.  It’s interesting how a skillful writer can do so much with so little, and how more is often boring.  But I can find examples of the opposite, as well.  Tricky.  Must do more research.

Do I dare to go as far as I want?

Anyway, that’s the state of the novel.  More Sex!  So, if you see me on the street looking…flushed, it probably means I was just writing.  Or doing some reading.

I love my job.