Erotica author, aka Elspeth Potter, on Writing from the Inside

Monday, October 25, 2010

Reading Vacation!

I am on vacation this week, and so is my blog. (Its first vacation ever!)

I'll resume posting on November 1. If all goes well, at some point during November, the blog will migrate to my website URL as part of the website reorganization. I'll put pointers here for a bit after that happens, so hopefully there won't be too much discombobulation.

I'm not going anywhere in particular for my vacation, but I do plan to read. A lot. Also drink tea and walk around Philadelphia. I might go up to New York City and drink hot beverages there, too. Bliss.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Only a Boche," Robert Service

Only a Boche

We brought him in from between the lines: we'd better have let him lie;
For what's the use of risking one's skin for a tyke that's going to die?
What's the use of tearing him loose under a gruelling fire,
When he's shot in the head, and worse than dead, and all messed up on the wire?

However, I say, we brought him in. Diable! The mud was bad;
The trench was crooked and greasy and high, and oh, what a time we had!
And often we slipped, and often we tripped, but never he made a moan;
And how we were wet with blood and with sweat! but we carried him in like our own.

Now there he lies in the dug-out dim, awaiting the ambulance,
And the doctor shrugs his shoulders at him, and remarks, "He hasn't a chance."
And we squat and smoke at our game of bridge on the glistening, straw-packed floor,
And above our oaths we can hear his breath deep-drawn in a kind of snore.

For the dressing station is long and low, and the candles gutter dim,
And the mean light falls on the cold clay walls and our faces bristly and grim;
And we flap our cards on the lousy straw, and we laugh and jibe as we play,
And you'd never know that the cursed foe was less than a mile away.
As we con our cards in the rancid gloom, oppressed by that snoring breath,
You'd never dream that our broad roof-beam was swept by the broom of death.

Heigh-ho! My turn for the dummy hand; I rise and I stretch a bit;
The fetid air is making me yawn, and my cigarette's unlit,
So I go to the nearest candle flame, and the man we brought is there,
And his face is white in the shabby light, and I stand at his feet and stare.
Stand for a while, and quietly stare: for strange though it seems to be,
The dying Boche on the stretcher there has a queer resemblance to me.

It gives one a kind of a turn, you know, to come on a thing like that.
It's just as if I were lying there, with a turban of blood for a hat,
Lying there in a coat grey-green instead of a coat grey-blue,
With one of my eyes all shot away, and my brain half tumbling through;
Lying there with a chest that heaves like a bellows up and down,
And a cheek as white as snow on a grave, and lips that are coffee brown.

And confound him, too! He wears, like me, on his finger a wedding ring,
And around his neck, as around my own, by a greasy bit of string,
A locket hangs with a woman's face, and I turn it about to see:
Just as I thought... on the other side the faces of children three;
Clustered together cherub-like, three little laughing girls,
With the usual tiny rosebud mouths and the usual silken curls.
"Zut!" I say. "He has beaten me; for me, I have only two,"
And I push the locket beneath his shirt, feeling a little blue.

Oh, it isn't cheerful to see a man, the marvellous work of God,
Crushed in the mutilation mill, crushed to a smeary clod;
Oh, it isn't cheerful to hear him moan; but it isn't that I mind,
It isn't the anguish that goes with him, it's the anguish he leaves behind.
For his going opens a tragic door that gives on a world of pain,
And the death he dies, those who live and love, will die again and again.

So here I am at my cards once more, but it's kind of spoiling my play,
Thinking of those three brats of his so many a mile away.
War is war, and he's only a Boche, and we all of us take our chance;
But all the same I'll be mighty glad when I'm hearing the ambulance.
One foe the less, but all the same I'm heartily glad I'm not
The man who gave him his broken head, the sniper who fired the shot.

No trumps you make it, I think you said? You'll pardon me if I err;
For a moment I thought of other things... Mon Dieu! Quelle vache de guerre!

--Robert Service

Via Tim Kendall at War Poetry.

Friday, October 22, 2010

My New Socks!

A friend knitted me these socks. I am so excited. For many months, it was only one sock (she has two small children, and I was impressed she even finished one of them). Then I mentioned my sock again, and she finished the other one. Aren't they beautiful?

The socks are relevant because I plan to wear them while sitting at home writing. I think they will make me an absolutely brilliant writer.

Also, I have already discovered they are excellent to wear while reading. I never have to think about my toes growing cold while I'm busy turning pages.

In other good news, there's a lovely review of The Duke and The Pirate Queen at Culinary Carnivale this week.

I received my copies of The Duke and The Pirate Queen on Thursday. I will try to take some amusing photographs of them.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Staying on Top of Blog Reading

I could easily spend hours every day reading other people's blog posts. Plus, I'm always finding new blogs, often through interesting links I'm given on Twitter or LiveJournal. After a long weekend, where I may or may not have gone online, it gets worse.

I add links to my blog reader probably a lot more often than is good for me. Luckily, not every blog has a new post every day, or even every week. And I have a few strategies for staying ahead of my blogroll.

1. If a blog loses my interest for several posts in a row, I ruthlessly cut it from my regular list.

2. I try not to read too many blogs on the same topic. This is tricky for some categories, such as book review blogs. But for, say, blogs about World War One, I stick to two or three of my favorites that seem to offer the best content the most often.

3. Of the blogs I follow, I skim before I read. That way, if a blog is reviewing a book for which I want to avoid spoilers, I can skip the post until I've read the book. Or I can skip reviews of books I read but don't care to hear further opinions about. Or I can skip posts about news items that I've been hearing about all day.

Got any good blogs I should follow?

Does anyone follow blogs on their e-reader? How does that work for you?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Talent versus Marketability

All of us are good at something. Sometimes the hard part is recognizing what we’re good at, and not only what we’re good at, but what we’re really good at.

You can be good at a lot of things, but only one or two of those things sing.

For a writer, fiction that sings is the fiction that engages and involves people on a deeper level than most of their everyday reading. Naturally, that varies person to person. But there is still an indefinable something that some writers seem to have and some don’t.

Even if you have that something, it isn’t necessarily present in everything you write. Think of a favorite author who has more than one series, one of which is on your ultimate keeper shelf and another which you traded away on BookMooch. What did the keeper have that the transitory read did not?

The reader who can figure that out can save herself a lot of money and time on books she won’t adore. The writer who can figure that out might be on the path to selling a lot more books.

I think a way to go about finding what sings for you is to think about market categories. This serves two purposes. First, it helps you narrow down story elements and plot structures that particularly work for you. Second, it helps you think about how salable what you’re good at might be. I don’t think there’s any shame in trying to make your work marketable. After all, after you’ve written it, don’t you want a lot of people to read it? Not to mention money (but if writers only wrote for money, there would be a lot fewer of them!).

What reader reaction did you get from your contemporary romance versus your historical suspense novel? Did readers fall in love with your spaceship captain heroine but feel nothing for the vampire? And what did you love most? Did that translate into your writing? What lives in your writing, and what is limp and dead?

I’m going to keep thinking about this. I’d welcome input!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Author Headshots

Behold! I have headshots! Well, really, head-and-torso-shots.

Tell me in comments which one you like best, and why. Thanks!

All photos by Kyle Cassidy.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Author Photo Shoot

Since I'm getting my website redone, I knew I had to have an author photo. I've been resisting this for a really long time, since I have chubby chipmunk cheeks and dimples and would much prefer to be dramatic, angular, and perhaps tubercularly pale in the fashion of a Romantic. Also, I tend to have frozen grins.

However, needs must, and I did know a photographer in Philadelphia where I live. Kyle Cassidy has a wide range of work.

We arranged to do the shoot on Friday night. I wanted an outdoor, urban setting because that's where I live and it would feel weird to do something sylvan. The night part was bonus coolness; we did evening because I had to work during the day, and cloud cover on Friday was such that shooting before dark wouldn't have been any advantage.

Kyle brought his assistant, Addie, who helped with the lighting and also providing me with some entertainment. We started off at a street corner near my apartment. I leaned on a stone staircase rail and tried to look authorly. Kyle told me the best pictures of people were when they weren't aware of being photographed, so I had to try and forget he was rapidly snapping pictures while I stared directly into the lens' red eye. Occasionally he would fire off a "look at me" or a "look into the distance" or "now I'm waiting for that car to go out of shot."

It helped a lot to know and trust the photographer, but I still felt a bit awkward at times. I didn't know what to do with my hands, and I didn't want the cheesy glamour-shot chin on fist even though I sometimes do that naturally. Addie noticed the large ring I was wearing and we tried to get that into a few shots. We tried different facial expressions: "laugh!" "you know a secret!" "Think of hate kittens?"

Kyle showed me several of the shots, but eventually I had seen enough; if I kept looking, I was afraid I would freeze up.

Then we trekked to a nearby alley. I was getting cold by this point so switched from my jacket to my wool coat. Per instructions, I'd brought two jackets and a couple of scarves to vary the look. Also my hat, since I planned to be walking home late in the cold. For the alley shots, I wore my coat and the second scarf. I was able to shove my hands into my coat pockets (mainly because I was cold) but I think that helped me feel more relaxed. You can't see my hands in the photos, but I'm wearing red gloves, nice and warm. I became a bit mesmerized by the camera lens as the camera went click click click.

We probably had enough shots by then, but on our way to our final destination, The Pen and Pencil Club, I spotted a neat bit of ironwork and we paused there for a few more shots. This time I was wearing my hat, which makes me look like a cheery Dutch newsboy, and I didn't mind; clearly, I was getting used to the process. And having seen some of the results, I'm pretty pleased.

If you're wondering where the pictures are, I'll to post some tomorrow, so you can vote for your favorite.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

e.e. cummings, somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look will easily unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

--e.e. cummings

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Edmund Blunden, "Preparations For Victory"

Preparations For Victory

My soul, dread not the pestilence that hags
The valley; flinch not you, my body young.
At these great shouting smokes and snarling jags
Of fiery iron; as yet may not be flung
The dice that claims you. Manly move among
These ruins, and what you must do, do well;
Look, here are gardens, there mossed boughs are hung
With apples who bright cheeks none might excel,
And there's a house as yet unshattered by a shell.

"I'll do my best," the soul makes sad reply,
"And I will mark the yet unmurdered tree,
The tokens of dear homes that court the eye,
And yet I see them not as I would see.
Hovering between, a ghostly enemy.
Sickens the light, and poisoned, withered, wan,
The least defiled turns desperate to me."
The body, poor unpitied Caliban,
Parches and sweats and grunts to win the name of Man.

Days or eternities like swelling waves
Surge on, and still we drudge in this dark maze;
The bombs and coils and cans by strings of slaves
Are borne to serve the coming day of days;
Pale sleep in slimy cellars scarce allays
With its brief blank the burden. Look, we lose;
The sky is gone, the lightless, drenching haze
Of rainstorms chills the bone; earth, air are foes,
The black fiend leaps brick-red as life's last picture goes.

--Edmund Blunden

Friday, October 15, 2010

Picking Goals When the Trees Are Autumnal

The time always comes when I have to make new writing goals, but I never like it. Right now, since I'm not under contract, I am at looser ends than usual.

My "business" goals are pretty well laid out for right now. I'm getting my author photo done, and my website re-design is in progress, and I've already set up a dozen or so guest blogs in conjunction with the release of my next novel, The Duke and the Pirate Queen.

It's the writing goals I'm pondering. What to write next? What do I want to write? What do I feel enthusiastic about writing? What's marketable?

I can't seem to make any decisions. Not firm ones. I wrote a couple of synopses, and they felt flat; the process was like digging through mud with a teaspoon. I suspect I'm a bit burned out, after spending the last four years writing novels while holding down a full-time dayjob.

Along with drafting synopses, I've been reading research materials and looking at unfinished projects. I've been reading, because reading is one of my essential methods for filling up my brain with materials that will eventually compost into fiction. I've been reading a book on woolly mammoths (Mammoths: Giants of the Ice Age) and enjoying it hugely (pun intended).

For the next few weeks, I think my goal is to read more and think about writing less.

Maybe something will shake loose.

Related Posts:
Resting, Or Not-Writing.

Shopping and Recharging.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Website Makeover

My website's makeover is in progress. The hard part, for me, was telling the designer what I want. I'm not that great with visual stuff and when I organize things, they tend to spiral on and on and on rather being laid out in tidy grids. Luckily for me, the designer had a questionnaire for me to fill out.

It's much easier for me to formulate my website ideas around what I like and dislike rather than just imagining what I want it to look like. I now know a lot about what I don't like.

Things I like: organization, organization, and organization. Open space, so it doesn't feel cluttered. Black print on white background.

Things I dislike: blinky lights; animation; splash pages; image maps; blinky animated splash pages that lead to image maps. Sea green backgrounds. Also, I am not fond of taglines for authors, but I understand why some people have them.

What about you? What do you absolutely detest on author websites?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Persuasion 2008 - Short Attention-Span Theater

The 2008 adaptation of Persuasion is good so far as it goes, but it doesn't go very far.

Though the acting is excellent, and the settings very historical and scenic, it felt like the postcard version of the novel. It's only ninety minutes long, which explains a lot. The adaptation focuses on the romance between Anne and Frederick and the rest of the characters fade into shallow background, a point emphasized by the sometimes off-kilter closeups and fast tracking shots that make the world outside of Anne slightly unreal. There are a few necessary scenes of Frederick without her, but only when utterly needed. This adaptation is definitely about Anne's romantic relationship, not a full picture of how Anne was constrained by her particular time and society and family and how she at last found love within those boundaries.

For that reason, the secondary characters mostly seem a bit cartoonish. True, her father in the novel is a bit cartoonish, but not quite this much. I felt a lot of the warmth and reality of Admiral and Mrs. Croft, for example, was lost in this version. The scene of Louisa Musgrove's accident, in this version, made me snort because it seemed so fake and unlikely; the camera quickly went, again, to Anne and Frederick, who were much more real. All the feeling in that scene came from their faces and posture.

The final revelations were portrayed in a way that was distinctly odd. I call it "Jane Austen cardio workout." Anne ends up running all over Bath before finding Frederick, with Mrs. Smith briefly running in and then out again with her revelations about Anne's cousin. I was boggled with this choice and found it amusing rather than tense.

Like the previous movie version (from 1995), this one was determined to have an outdoor kiss between Anne and Frederick. Okay. I can deal with that. It's a movie. Visuals are needed. The final scene in the 2008 version also had Frederick wearing only a shirt and waistcoat. Outside. For a carriage ride in an open carriage. He looked great, but I kept thinking, if they were being really historical, without a coat wouldn't he be practically naked? Was this an homage to the famous "wet shirt" scene from the 1996 Pride and Prejudice?

All that said, I enjoyed the production and thought Sally Hawkins was excellent in the lead role, particularly in a scene in which she is trying to weep silently. Rupert Penry-Jones was also quite good; though he had less to do, he did it very well without overdoing it.

If all you know of Persuasion is this adaptation, do yourself a favor and go a little deeper with the novel or with the 1995 adaptation with Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds, which I still prefer.

Has anyone seen the 1971 mini-series adaptation? What did you think?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Sometimes I read while I'm exercising. Usually, it's an article or newsletter I've printed out, so I can discard the pages into recycling when I'm done. Occasionally, I read a magazine, particularly thin ones like the SFWA Bulletin, because they're easy to fold flat.

I've noticed that the elliptical trainers at my gym have little ledges that look broad enough to support a Kindle or other e-reader. The treadmills probably do as well, though I don't usually use those.

Those of you who have e-readers, do you ever use them while exercising? What model do you have?

Do you make the font larger? How do you protect your reader from sweaty hands? Is it difficult to operate while you're in motion?

Are there any drawbacks I should be aware of?

...nice shorts, Rudolf Valentino.

Also, Erotic Exploits is now available for Kindle. Since I don't yet have a Kindle, if you happen to download the sample, I would be grateful if you could let me know how the formatting looks. UK Edition is here. [Edited to add, the formatting does have an issue. So I need to take it down and fix it.]

Monday, October 11, 2010

Novelists, Inc. Guest Post

I'm a guest poster today at the Novelists, Inc. Blog on "For Love or Money?"

Please drop by and check it out!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wilfrid Wilson Gibson, "Between the Lines"

Between the Lines

When consciousness came back, he found he lay
Between the opposing fires, but could not tell
On which hand were his friends; and either way
For him to turn was chancy--bullet and shell
Whistling and shrieking over him, as the glare
Of searchlights scoured the darkness to blind day.
He scrambled to his hands and knees ascare,
Dragging his wounded foot through puddled clay,
And tumbled in a hole a shell had scooped
At random in a turnip-field between
The unseen trenches where the foes lay cooped
Through that unending battle of unseen,
Dead-locked, league-stretching armies; and quite spent
He rolled upon his back within the pit,
And lay secure, thinking of all it meant--
His lying in that little hole, sore hit,
But living, while across the starry sky
Shrapnel and shell went screeching overhead--
Of all it meant that he, Tom Dodd, should lie
Among the Belgian turnips, while his bed ...
If it were he, indeed, who'd climbed each night,
Fagged with the day's work, up the narrow stair,
And slipt his clothes off in the candle-light,
Too tired to fold them neatly in a chair
The way his mother'd taught him--too dog-tired
After the long day's serving in the shop,
Inquiring what each customer required,
Politely talking weather, fit to drop ...

And now for fourteen days and nights, at least,
He hadn't had his clothes off, and had lain
In muddy trenches, napping like a beast
With one eye open, under sun and rain
And that unceasing hell-fire ...

It was strange
How things turned out--the chances! You'd just got
To take your luck in life, you couldn't change
Your luck.

And so here he was lying shot
Who just six months ago had thought to spend
His days behind a counter. Still, perhaps ...
And now, God only knew how he would end!

He'd like to know how many of the chaps
Had won back to the trench alive, when he
Had fallen wounded and been left for dead,
If any!...

This was different, certainly,
From selling knots of tape and reels of thread
And knots of tape and reels of thread and knots
Of tape and reels of thread and knots of tape,
Day in, day out, and answering "Have you got's"
And "Do you keep's" till there seemed no escape
From everlasting serving in a shop,
Inquiring what each customer required,
Politely talking weather, fit to drop,
With swollen ankles, tired ...

But he was tired
Now. Every bone was aching, and had ached
For fourteen days and nights in that wet trench--
Just duller when he slept than when he waked--
Crouching for shelter from the steady drench
Of shell and shrapnel ...

That old trench, it seemed
Almost like home to him. He'd slept and fed
And sung and smoked in it, while shrapnel screamed
And shells went whining harmless overhead--
Harmless, at least, as far as he ...

But Dick--
Dick hadn't found them harmless yesterday,
At breakfast, when he'd said he couldn't stick
Eating dry bread, and crawled out the back way,
And brought them butter in a lordly dish--
Butter enough for all, and held it high,
Yellow and fresh and clean as you would wish--
When plump upon the plate from out the sky
A shell fell bursting ... Where the butter went,
God only knew!...

And Dick ... He dared not think
Of what had come to Dick ... or what it meant--
The shrieking and the whistling and the stink
He'd lived in fourteen days and nights. 'T was luck
That he still lived ... And queer how little then
He seemed to care that Dick ... perhaps 't was pluck
That hardened him--a man among the men--
Perhaps ... Yet, only think things out a bit,
And he was rabbit-livered, blue with funk!
And he'd liked Dick ... and yet when Dick was hit,
He hadn't turned a hair. The meanest skunk
He should have thought would feel it when his mate
Was blown to smithereens--Dick, proud as punch,
Grinning like sin, and holding up the plate--
But he had gone on munching his dry hunch,
Unwinking, till he swallowed the last crumb.
Perhaps 't was just because he dared not let
His mind run upon Dick, who'd been his chum.
He dared not now, though he could not forget.

Dick took his luck. And, life or death, 't was luck
From first to last; and you'd just got to trust
Your luck and grin. It wasn't so much pluck
As knowing that you'd got to, when needs must,
And better to die grinning ...

Quiet now
Had fallen on the night. On either hand
The guns were quiet. Cool upon his brow
The quiet darkness brooded, as he scanned
The starry sky. He'd never seen before
So many stars. Although, of course, he'd known
That there were stars, somehow before the war
He'd never realised them--so thick-sown,
Millions and millions. Serving in the shop,
Stars didn't count for much; and then at nights
Strolling the pavements, dull and fit to drop,
You didn't see much but the city lights.
He'd never in his life seen so much sky
As he'd seen this last fortnight. It was queer
The things war taught you. He'd a mind to try
To count the stars--they shone so bright and clear.

One, two, three, four ... Ah, God, but he was tired ...
Five, six, seven, eight ...

Yes, it was number eight.
And what was the next thing that she required?
(Too bad of customers to come so late,
At closing time!) Again within the shop
He handled knots of tape and reels of thread,
Politely talking weather, fit to drop ...

When once again the whole sky overhead
Flared blind with searchlights, and the shriek of shell
And scream of shrapnel roused him. Drowsily
He stared about him, wondering. Then he fell
Into deep dreamless slumber.

He could see
Two dark eyes peeping at him, ere he knew
He was awake, and it again was day--
An August morning, burning to clear blue.
The frightened rabbit scuttled ...

Far away,
A sound of firing ... Up there, in the sky
Big dragon-flies hung hovering ... Snowballs burst
About them ... Flies and snowballs. With a cry
He crouched to watch the airmen pass--the first
That he'd seen under fire. Lord, that was pluck--
Shells bursting all about them--and what nerve!
They took their chance, and trusted to their luck.
At such a dizzy height to dip and swerve,
Dodging the shell-fire ...
Hell! but one was hit,
And tumbling like a pigeon, plump ...

Thank Heaven,
It righted, and then turned; and after it
The whole flock followed safe--four, five, six, seven,
Yes, they were all there safe. He hoped they'd win
Back to their lines in safety. They deserved,
Even if they were Germans ... 'T was no sin
To wish them luck. Think how that beggar swerved
Just in the nick of time!

He, too, must try
To win back to the lines, though, likely as not,
He'd take the wrong turn: but he couldn't lie
Forever in that hungry hole and rot,
He'd got to take his luck, to take his chance
Of being sniped by foes or friends. He'd be
With any luck in Germany or France
Or Kingdom-come, next morning ...

The blazing day burnt over him, shot and shell
Whistling and whining ceaselessly. But light
Faded at last, and as the darkness fell
He rose, and crawled away into the night.

--Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Edward Thomas, "Lights Out"

Lights Out

I have come to the borders of sleep,
The unfathomable deep
Forest where all must lose
Their way, however straight,
Or winding, soon or late;
They cannot choose.

Many a road and track
That, since the dawn's first crack,
Up to the forest brink,
Deceived the travellers,
Suddenly now blurs,
And in they sink.

Here love ends,
Despair, ambition ends,
All pleasure and all trouble,
Although most sweet or bitter,
Here ends in sleep that is sweeter
Than tasks most noble.

There is not any book
Or face of dearest look
That I would not turn from now
To go into the unknown
I must enter and leave alone
I know not how.

The tall forest towers;
Its cloudy foliage lowers
Ahead, shelf above shelf;
Its silence I hear and obey
That I may lose my way
And myself.

--Edward Thomas

Friday, October 8, 2010

Janet Mullany - Guest Post

Please welcome my guest, Janet Mullany!



He released her hands and stood. “Consider, Jane. You’ll marry some bore of a country gentleman who’ll kill you in childbed and who won’t want a bookish wife anyway. Perhaps you’ll stay a spinster and lose your bloom and die young of some disease they’ll find an easy cure for in a hundred years or so. Or you’ll see your sister die first.”

“Now you’re cruel.”

“No, it is the truth. But let us paint a happier picture for Miss Jane Austen. You write a few books that entertain your family and you win a little fame, perhaps even some money, while you live. And after, what then? Your books languish forgotten on dusty bookshelves and you are but a name on a binding that disappears with decay and time. You think your books offer you a chance at immortality?”

--Jane and the Damned


Jane and the Damned isn’t a romance so it doesn’t have a traditional happy ending. It’s a historical urban fantasy with romance elements, part alternative historical with a bit of this, that, and the other, and some “spot the Austen novel” moments. But I think a characteristic of the HEA is that hero and heroine exist in a bubble of passion, which is why vampire romances are so hot (and, oh yeah, the physical perfection and great sex and all that stuff)—the eternal is now. Never mind that she’ll be looking at hip replacements while he is still a gorgeous 28-year-old sex god. Or, they’ll both be forever young and gorgeous vampires, the HEA distilled into eternity, the passage of time halted.

It’s a great fantasy.

But Jane Austen as a vampire? Neither of these endings would work and I had to create a scenario where her immortality would come with her books, even if at the age of 21 (the book is set in 1797) she was not at all sure she would ever be published. But I was following a trend, even though I hadn’t read a lot of vampire books, and I certainly hadn’t read any of the vampire classics, but I had watched hours of True Blood on HBO before getting tired of all those ripped perfect bodies and all that blood.

All those ripped perfect bodies and all that blood are what I define as Vampires Type A in popular culture. Vampires Type O are the evil ones. The ones mortals must fight to save the world, yadda yadda. And then there’s all this stuff about garlic and holy water and crosses (anyone remember that Roman Polanski movie with the Jewish vampire?—“Oy, lady, did you ever get the wrong vampire…”), not being able to cross running water, go out in daylight, use public transport (I’m making that up), and so on.

I had to come up with a vampire scenario that fit into my depiction of Georgian England, the age of reason and of both social and industrial revolution; the world that produced Jane Austen. I chose very selectively from vampire lore, although essentially the Damned are Type A—hot, desirable, and very fashionable. They’re the ton. Everyone wants to have sex with them or provide them with a dining experience. (These vampires do not feed—that is so vulgar. They dine.) The Prince of Wales (later the Prince Regent) loves to hang out with them and the newspapers are full of their scandalous behavior.

To tie the vampire elements to what we know of Austen’s life, I used another established literary trope, that Austen became what she was because of some lifechanging event: frequently a passionate love affair, a secret destroyed in the letters her sister Cassandra burned after her death. The family secret as I interpreted it was that Jane Austen was once a vampire and it influenced everything she wrote.

Do you agree with my vampire-HEA assessment? And what do you think of the current Austen-paranormal trend?


Thanks, Janet! It was great to have you visit!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fascinating Faces

I adore looking at old photographs, particularly photographs of people.

I found this one on the web. It's of actress Marjorie Day. There's not a lot of information about her out there that I was able to find on a cursory search. But for my purposes, that doesn't really matter.

I feel like I know her from the photo, in a different way than knowing facts, in a kind of abstract way. It's a casual photograph, not overly posed, or so it seems to me. I feel like I have a glimpse of her personality from it.

I can't stop looking at her expression, at her stance. She's somebody. You can see it. She will probably show up in my fiction one day.

This Bassano photo in the National Portrait Gallery seems like it's of a different person.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My Smashwords Experiment

Recently, I decided to experiment with Smashwords and Kindle publishing. So far, I much prefer the interface and FAQs on Smashwords, though I've been told most people sell more copies through Kindle.

For my experimental book, I compiled all of my lesbian erotica that was also speculative fiction (some science fiction, some fantasy). All of these stories were originally in print.

Here's the result, Erotic Exploits. You can download a free sample that's 25% of the total, which means at least the whole first story.

Table of Contents:

"Free Falling"
"The Princess on the Rock"
"Place, Park, Scene, Dark"
"Mo'o and the Woman" (also available for free online, elsewhere)

If you buy or download, please let me know how the formatting came through on your device.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Mammoth Book of Threesomes and Moresomes

The Mammoth Book of Threesomes and Moresomes, edited by Linda Alvarez, releases today in the U.S.!

(My contributor's copy has a different cover than the one shown on Amazon. Not sure why.)

It includes one of my favorites of my own stories, "The Magnificent Threesome." One day, I want to write more about those characters. There are a few classic Western plot elements I wasn't able to include in the story's six thousand words or so. But only a few. *ahem*

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dealing with Rejection

I am sure there must be at least a few writers who've never been rejected, but I'm equally sure they're the exceptions that prove the rule. It's part of being a writer. If you don't submit your work, it can't be rejected; but if you don't submit your work, it can't be accepted, either. It's important to remember that even when you're feeling especially crushed.

Every submission is a risk, even if it seems that your story is absolutely perfect for the editor you've chosen. Even if that editor likes your story and wants to buy it, they might have to reject you anyway, because they've already spent all their money, or they've already filled the anthology, or someone higher up at the publisher hates your prose style. Even if your story or novel is accepted, all sorts of things out of your control can happen and the story will never see print.

I think the best way to deal with rejection, after the screaming and crying, is to keep those things in mind. And then to go do something else. Preferably send out your submission again; but you're allowed to spend a week watching The Muppet Show in your pajamas, first.

And always keep new projects in the works, ready to get you excited about writing again.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Edward Thomas, "As the Team's Head-Brass"

As the Team's Head-Brass

As the team's head-brass flashed out on the turn
The lovers disappeared into the wood.
I sat among the boughs of the fallen elm
That strewed the angle of the fallow, and
Watched the plough narrowing a yellow square
Of charlock. Every time the horses turned
Instead of treading me down, the ploughman leaned
Upon the handles to say or ask a word,
About the weather, next about the war.
Scraping the share he faced towards the wood,
And screwed along the furrow till the brass flashed
Once more.

The blizzard felled the elm whose crest
I sat in, by a woodpecker's round hole,
The ploughman said. 'When will they take it away?'
'When the war's over.' So the talk began –
One minute and an interval of ten,
A minute more and the same interval.
'Have you been out?' 'No.' 'And don't want to, perhaps?'
'If I could only come back again, I should.
I could spare an arm, I shouldn't want to lose
A leg. If I should lose my head, why, so,
I should want nothing more...Have many gone
From here?' 'Yes.' 'Many lost?' 'Yes, a good few.
Only two teams work on the farm this year.
One of my mates is dead. The second day
In France they killed him. It was back in March,
The very night of the blizzard, too. Now if
He had stayed here we should have moved the tree.'
'And I should not have sat here. Everything
Would have been different. For it would have been
Another world.' 'Ay, and a better, though
If we could see all all might seem good.' Then
The lovers came out of the wood again:
The horses started and for the last time
I watched the clods crumble and topple over
After the ploughshare and the stumbling team.

--Edward Thomas

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Gilbert Frankau, "Eyes in the Air"

Eyes in the Air

Our guns are a league behind us, our target a mile below,
And there's never a cloud to blind us from the haunts of our lurking foe--
Sunk pit whence his shrapnel tore us, support-trench crest concealed,
As clear as the charts before us, his ramparts lie revealed.
His panicked watchers spy us, a droning threat in the void;
Their whistling shells outfly us--puff upon puff, deployed
Across the green beneath us, across the flanking grey,
In fume and fire to sheath us and baulk us of our prey.

Before, beyond, above her,
Their iron web is spun:
Flicked but unsnared we hover,
Edged planes against the sun:
Eyes in the air above his lair,
The hawks that guide the gun!

No word from earth may reach us, save, white against the ground,
The strips outspread to teach us whose ears are deaf to sound:
But down the winds that sear us, athwart our engine's shriek,
We send - and know they hear us, the ranging guns we speak.
Our visored eyeballs show us their answering pennant, broke
Eight thousand feet below us, a whorl of flame-stabbed smoke--
The burst that hangs to guide us, while numbed gloved fingers tap
From wireless key beside us the circles of the map.
Line--target--short or over--
Come, plain as clock hands run,
Words from the birds that hover,
Unblinded, tail to sun;
Words out of air to range them fair,
From hawks that guide the gun!

Your flying shells have failed you, your landward guns are dumb:
Since earth hath naught availed you, these skies be open! Come,
Where, wild to meet and mate you, flame in their beaks for breath,
Black doves! the white hawks wait you on the wind-tossed boughs of death.
These boughs be cold without you, our hearts are hot for this,
Our wings shall beat about you, our scorching breath shall kiss;
Till, fraught with that we gave you, fulfilled of our desire,
You bank--too late to save you from biting beaks of fire--
Turn sideways from your lover,
Shudder and swerve and run,
Tilt; stagger; and plunge over
Ablaze against the sun:
Doves dead in air, who clomb to dare
The hawks that guide the gun!

--Gilbert Frankau

Friday, October 1, 2010

Telepathy and Romance

Telepathy and romance are two great tastes that ought to taste great together. So why is it that, so often, a telepathic heroine or hero--finds true love with the one person whose mind can't be read?

It's part of a romance novel's plot, of course, for a couple to get to know each other better. There need to be obstacles in the way. If one person can read the other's mind, a lot of the tension is gone from the story. If one of the partners is immune to the other's ability, that creates tension and can also serve as a signal to the telepath that here is someone special.

But what if the telepathy did work? Usually, in those cases the plot tension arises from the non-telepathic character having secrets which the telepath might accidentally--or purposely--uncover. The telepath might learn things that complicate the relationship further.

But there's another way to use telepathy in romance, I think, a way that I've seen more often in science fiction or fantasy novels that happen to have a romance. Telepathy can be used as a kind of leveller, a new way of looking at how two people interact. "Normal" humans are isolated from each other in many ways. Their intimacies are negotiated and can never be total as we can't see another person from the inside. What if they weren't isolated from each other? What happens then?

If one or both characters can read the mind of the other, most of the simple romantic conflicts can be eliminated. The writer has to delve deeper for plot conflict, perhaps specifically engaging with gender roles in a relationship, or other power differentials. The writer could explore how their characters would interact on another level entirely.