Friday, May 29, 2015

Creative Outlet

My first dress.
Currently for sale, btw. :)
I just finished my third Irish dance solo dress. The first two were for my oldest daughter and were true labors of love. The third was made for a good friend who was in need and I rose to the occasion. Of these experiences, the third was by far the most stressful. Why? I was making it to someone else's specification. Whether or not they liked it mattered. The quality of my product would be judged by someone other than myself. AND I was on a very ambitious deadline (one week).

Overflowing with insecurity, I did the final fitting and tried to read every micro-expression, gauge every raised brow, every assessing glance. Did they like it? I couldn't tell -- they said they did, but there was that momentary look of confusion when they looked at it, the hint of disappointment. It crushed me.

My second dress on left.
The dress on right is a school dress.
They asked me to make the dress because of a desperate need, and, because I recognized the need I agreed. The moment money changed hands, I went from a friend doing a favor to an employee providing a service.

In the end, the young dancer had a very elegant dress. When she was on stage she beamed and held herself proudly. When she danced I knew she loved the dress.

Let me be clear that I am not complaining about the experience; I'm detailing the stresses involved as they relate to my growth as a Irish solo dress designer/seamstress. The biggest life lesson here was how difficult it was to make sure we all had the same expectations. Despite sketches, swatches, and explanations, I wasn't able to explain my vision to my clients OR (worse) understand their vision/expectation. We thought we were all on the same page, but I could tell by the look on their faces that the dress wasn't what they imagined it would be. Did I deliver a good dress? Yes. Was it what they wanted? Ehrrrmmmm... not sure. Probably not.

My third dress (and first commission project)
I have my own perspective on solo dresses. First, I don't want them to look just like everyone else's dress. What's the point of it being a solo dress if it's a carbon copy of this year's trends? So far every dress I've made has been quality, elegant, and met all the performance costume guidelines (the one linked is only one set. There are small differences between different regions). Solo dresses are supposed to get the judge's attention, but I'd rather have that be because it looks beautiful on the dancer rather than because the dress punches you in the eyeball. I want my dresses to move well, fit well, and suit the dancer. Of course I don't want it out of place in the line of dancers, but I don't want it to blend in either. That said, not everyone will like my designs.

This ties in perfectly with my experience in writing. It must be a common thread in all the creative production professions. Making what you believe in compared to making what you think will sell. Communicating your vision and inspiring others to feel as strongly about it as you do... it's all the same beast. Of late I've felt more satisfaction in designing/creating dresses than I have in writing -- perhaps because with the dresses I can see them out there, dancing. My books sit idle, waiting.


My dresses are entry level solo dresses so far, not elaborate enough for Worlds (above). 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Death by a Thousand Cuts

This is Sam Elliot. It was actually the 'mustache rides" t-shirt that made this win over all the other images that came up under my "crazy mustache biker dude" search.

This is what I must have looked like today at Princess Nails when I had my brow waxed and my insanely huge mustache threaded. I'd noticed a few hairs that were darker than blonde and though I should take care of it before I go downhill fast. I can't just wax my lip thanks to the cold sores I get whenever that space is abused. Hence, threading. Holy Mary, Mother of God. I left with tears streaming down my face, trying to smile as I paid for this torture.

Why subject myself to this? Well, I'm going to a writing conference.

What does my mustache have to do with writing? This is the big question. The real answer? Nothing. However, in an effort to look like a well-groomed, confident, competent, not-crazy person, I put a lot of time into getting into my writerly character. This involves shaving my legs regularly, not just the day I need it, so that my skin looks healthy, nourished, and isn't covered in red bumps. It also involves reacquainting myself with my flat-iron and make-up bag. It means a more regular skin regime, not just using a daily moisturizer with spf30. Why? Because most people put more effort into their appearance than I do on a daily basis and, during a conference, I have to fake it in such a way that it seems natural. It's akin to Renee Zellweger putting on weight and taking on a job at a British publishing company to prepare for Bridget Jones's Diary (only much less cool.) I pretend to be socially acceptable and hope it sticks for the duration of the conference.

The amount of which I simply do not care about how I look would astound most people. This is offset by occasional bouts of caring, but not enough to actually do anything on a regular basis. At conferences I plan to promote myself like a high priced whore (without the sex). It's what I always do. Usually I'm sort of hyped about the process, ready to conquer the world, and the Stanislavskian character development/method acting begins a good month in advance.

Not so this time. I leave tomorrow for Los Angeles and I just gave in to the self-inflicted pressure and took one small step towards my packaging (losing the mustache I didn't even know I had). I made the monetary investment and allowances for time away from my family a while ago, but I haven't committed to my pre-conference prep. Why? I don't seem to care. Yeah-- I know, it's dumb. I mean, I care like crazy about getting published but, lately, when I think about pitching, I just get tired. I don't know if can be that go-getter who is serious about her career (I am very serious, btw), smiling at strangers and trying to network. I think the problem is that there is only so much abuse a person's ego can take. How many times do I get told the industry doesn't want my manuscripts before I start to believe it? I might be there already. I'm pitching my finished work this time, but I've stopped seeing them as viable and count only on my works in progress when I think about the possibility of that first deal. I've lost steam.

This could be a good thing. I mean the high-on-life social butterfly I force myself to be at these things hasn't worked. It's possible I come off as on crack (not the first time I've heard that) and am off-putting. Maybe, the new, relaxed conference version of me will be more appealing. Heck, maybe I should just go for hard-to-get and make myself a challenge. If you can spark MY interest, you might get to represent my three historical romance novels, two supernatural romantic suspense novels, and possibly my contemporary romances (if you're lucky). I'll be aloof and mysterious. Come and get me.

Yeah, I don't have high hopes for that either.  So, as it stands, I will probably doll up (professional with personal touches that speak to artistry) and pretend to be gregarious then sleep hard for a week. We shall see.

If you see me at the California Dreamin' Conference, please say hello. I'm friendly even if I'm not naturally outgoing. Or, maybe I will be on crack and say hello to you first. Who know's? It's a mystery.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Not the Usual Entrance

I'm blogging when I should be sleeping off the anesthesia. Good idea? Probably not. But I'm moved to blog and therefore I should.


I had (TMI warning) a colonoscopy today. It was Karma's way of teaching me a lesson. You see my mother gets a colonoscopy about once a month and when she's not being probed, she's thinking about it, scheduling it, prepping for it, or talking about it. As a result I took to writing it down for her randomly on her home calendar and white board whenever I visit. So, here I am at thirty-nine having a colonoscopy while fate points a finger and says, "Ha. Ha."

What does this have to do with writing? Romance?

Well... romance.

The backdoor is slowly becoming a plausible source for penetration in mainstream romance. Not my cup-o-tea, personally. Seriously, never going to happen. Never going to write about it happening between a man and a woman as if it's something sexy. Maybe I'm not open minded enough or whatever, doesn't matter. Exit only. Thank you. My opinion.

The first book I read that included anal sex caught me by surprise. First I thought he was just being messy with the oils, then overly cautious when he donned two condoms. But when the hero entered the heroine from "not the usual place" I had to reread a couple times to make sure I understood. I can't remember the title or author and my Google searches gave me nothing. The story involved a woman pretending to be a gypsy psychic while she scammed the haut ton in order to get vengeance against the family that wronged her. The leading man forcefully seduces her (not rapey enough for me to shut the book then and there -- no means no) and then BAM, in the butt. I'll be she was surprised. I certainly was.

Since then, with the rise of romantica as a sub-genre, I've read it multiple times. Usually the author handles it well and since I'm invested in the story of the characters, the fact that I find the act off-putting is irrelevant to the overall story. Lady Chatterly's Lover, one of my favorite books, includes it (I was just too unwordly to understand what "the Italian way" meant when I first read it), but the story is about so much more than sex that even now that I know it doesn't detract. The entire story is about finding that "connexion," and though the sexual content is prominent it's really just part of that process. I think all successful romances use sex as a way to further the character's emotional growth and, in that, can go to all sorts of lengths as long as it's consistent with the characters. This is why, to me, Sylvia Day's Crossfire series doesn't come across as abusive while Fifty Shades does.


What do you think about the broadening scope of sexuality within the romance genre?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Super Sexiness

I include explicit scenes in my romance. Even so, they're pretty vanilla. I would rate my work as R for adult situations, but would I go so far as X? Well, there's full frontal, so maybe. I am not erotic enough to be romantica and I don't think I could be because I'm repressed.

Fifty Shades of Grey opened the door for erotic literature to be mainstream. Oh, it existed long, long before, but would never be on the shelves at Target (where I just saw Anne Rice's The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty on a shelf above the young reader novelized version of Frozen). Now people are more open minded to what they consider literature versus pornography. Somewhere in the middles lies romantica, erotic romance. Yes, there is a lot of sex BUT there is also a compelling story and an emotionally satisfying happily ever after. I recently read Captivated by You by Sylvia Day. This is book four about Eva and Gideon and the series will conclude when it concludes. I will continue to read their stories because I am intrigued by them, not just their sex lives (seriously, they should both have calluses on their genitals by now and/or need medical attention). I also read Out of Bounds by Dawn Ryder -- super sexually charged but, again, a good story that had me invested in the main characters. Romantica, not just about the sex (but, yes, a lot about the sex).

Given the surge of interest in romantica and the open acceptance of the book buying public, part of me wants to try my hand at it. The other part is crying softly in a dark corner. I don't think I have it in me. Really, the sex scenes are hard for me to write. I want to make it fabulous, of course, but I also need to make it reasonable and realistic. A follows B follows C because if C happened before A it would just be gross. I would include so many showers and oral hygiene that it would come across as a hygiene fetish niche piece instead of romantica. Plus, if I'm getting tired writing it, I can't imagine what my hero/heroine are experiencing in their marathon session. If it's hard for me a to read a scene without feeling sore in empathy with the characters, how can I write it?

I can't. It's not in me. I can never jump on the super sexy train and I have to be okay with it.

What do you have trouble writing?

(I actually wrote this post after looking at my viewing numbers on previous posts. Posts with sexual content were the winners, so I went there. Notice, I did not censor the woman's nipples in the image above. That's right, I went there. Taking super sexy risks ftw!)

PS. Never do an image search for 'bandaged penis.' Just don't. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Soft Horror

I accidentally discovered a new niche for my writing. I thought I was writing paranormal romance, but that brings vampires and werewolves to mind. As I analyzed the components of Possessing Karma, I found paranormal and suspense/thriller attributes overshadowed the romance. Yes, there is still an emotionally satisfying happily ever after, but the mystery and threat implicit in the ghost story is dominant. A judge in an unpublished author contest classified it as soft horror and things clicked.

My husband teases me that I write romance at all. No, not because he undervalues the genre, but because I am not romantic. I don't believe in soul mates. I do believe that you choose your love and then love your choice. I have a very pragmatic approach to relationships and, unfortunately, that has shown in my work. He says that readers want magical love, of people being sure of their feelings, etc... and I don't write that. Love overcomes because my main characters choose to work for it. I try to avoid reader-eye-rolling moments, but in doing so I might be removing some of the fantasy that appeals to readers of the genre. That's not to say I don't tell good stories, but maybe I'm not writing romance.

That said, I just wrote a chainsaw accident scene into my work in progress, Touching the Past. If it's horror I'm going for, the danger has to be more prominent instead of simply implied. Yes, my main characters will still find love with each other if they can learn to let go of the past and trust, but the paranormal elements (psychic trees) is no longer benign. The external stakes are more dominant than the internal stakes.

My contemporary work is straight up romance. Now that I've identified my problem I'm not worried about being able to make the emotional/internal components be worth everything. But as for my paranormal, soft horror it is. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Time

We are steadily chugging through January and it will be February before we know it. After February, it will be Hallowe'en again (the months in between don't count because they go by too quickly to notice) and then the next time you blink will be in 2016. It's incredible how fast time flies when there are deadlines. Even my kids are starting to notice that time has picked up its pace.

As a kid an hour seemed to take forrrrrrevvvvvveerrrrrrr. For my daughters, before they got the concept of the passage of time in terms of hours and minutes, I would label how long things took in terms of Dora the Explorer episodes.

"Mommy, when will the cake be ready to ice?"

"In half a Dora." It helped, during those times, if they were actually watching Dora. Swiper, no swiping. Good times.

Now we joke about it. The trip we took to Phoenix recently was supposed to take eight Doras but ended up taking almost fourteen. They watched Charlie's Angels (the first movie), Annie, and Tinkerbell's pirate movie (which is my least favorite), while my husband and I listened to audio books and learned more about each other (David Sedaris made me laugh and made my husband want to cut himself.)  Even though the drive took forever, we were back home and back at work before we knew it. Now the week is almost over. Sure, it's Wednesday, but it may as well be Friday. Or next Monday. It will be before I know it and there will be tons of things that didn't get done.

Given the crazy current of life, taking time to write (or do something you really love vs. something that just needs doing) is important. It forces me to sit, focus on one thing, and actually accomplish something. I did not write much in the period between August and December (school craziness), but took control of my personal time/space continuum and wrote over the winter break. I am continuing to wedge in time to write and that helps qualify the time spent as worthwhile instead of a blur of activity, laundry that's not folded, and a dance class that we're late to.

I just took half a Dora over my lunch break to write this blog post and there's no reason I couldn't have been doing that regularly over the past months.  It feels good and I'm glad to be back online. Now I'm going to take another half a Dora and read some other blogger's posts.

How do you keep time from sweeping you away?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Diversification Confusion

There a recent RWR article about the value of diversification in writing. There were a lot of good points made, that the market need is always changing and a steady brand might limit a good writer from bringing in a broader readership.

The problem I have run into with diversification is that my own writing identity is unclear. Voice is, I think, one of the most important aspects of a successful writer. Readers respond to good stories, yes, but they make a connection to the unique voice of the author.

When I was writing Tudor historical romances I knew my voice. There was a consistency from book to book that would help my readership great each book with a sense of familiarity. Yes, each book offered a unique story, but the readers knew what they were going to get.

When I branched into paranormal stories in contemporary settings I redefined my voice. Contemporary meant less formal speech patterns. It allowed the characters to be less confined by social mores. My voice changed and I liked it. Alongside all of that was the fascination with the mystical, with the supernatural -- this influenced my voice too. With this, my identity as a writer shifted.

Then I switched into contemporary. The internal stakes became primary (which is surprisingly difficult for me--I really want to throw in an external problem) and the ancillary characters play a bigger role toward building the small town setting (which is like a character in itself.) Again, shift of voice.

The problem I am left with is: WHO AM I (the answer is not Jean Val-Jean)?

Many writers, to solve the problem with name branding, write under many pseudonyms. I have always been willing to do this, but thought my agent/editor/professional something-or-other would make that decision. I realize now that I should have made that choice when I started to split into multiple writer personalities. I think it would help me compartmentalize my various voices. When people ask what I write, I come across as having no focus and this is not an accurate assessment. When writing these different areas I have focus, I just have a hard time explaining the nuances of each genre.

So, here's my solution:
Historical =  something classic and more formal than my actual name, but with a surname in the first quarter of the alphabet (for shelving purposes). Suggestions are welcome. :)
Paranormal: Elaina Fay (for my 2 daughter's middle names, Elaine and Fay. Yes, I took a page from Stephanie Laurens). And...
Contemporary: Erin Kane Spock, my actual name.

Thoughts?

At least this will help me designate an identity to my diversified voices.

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