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writing life

It’s good to be busy.

I just returned from a retreat and a networking evening.
Both events took place on the Massachusetts coast. I’ve decided that I prefer
retreats to conventions now. Less unpleasant commitment and much cheaper, if
you work the retreats the right way. The retreat in Hampton, New Hampshre two
weekends ago was free because it was for members of Broad Universe. That’s a
networking group for women who write speculative fiction (and other forms of
fiction). I worked on Full Moon Fever,
my bisexual male werewolves erotic romance novella I’m turning into a novel. I
also worked on Neighbors, a lesbian
short story reprint for a new submission call about sexy neighbors. I’m also
going to submit a new story for that one. I learned of the submission call from
the Erotic Readers and Writers Association. I get lots of use from this group.

The interesting thing about Full Moon Fever is that it employs “The Other” (or
“The Double”), which is an archetype of twins who are really mirror
opposites of each other but aren’t related at all. They are two people who look
very much alike but they compliment each other. Two men in Full Moon Fever are
dead ringers for each other, but they are very much different. One man, when asked
if he’d like to get it on with his look-alike, says “I’ve always wanted to
have sex in the third person.” Two women, who are lovers, are also
look-alikes who are very different. One is quiet while the other is chatty. One
is pensive while the other is boisterous. I have a thing about “The
Other”. There is another set of opposites in a WIP family saga thriller
I’m working on.  These two women are
mirror images of each other. One is dark – dark hair, dark eyes – while the
other is light – blond hair, eyes so pale blue the irises disappear into her
whites. She looks blind but she sees all. I want to explore this archetype much
more. It’s a fascinating one. Are they related or not? Why is the blonde so
interested in the brunette? What’s her secret? Those are some questions driving
the book.

The Broad Universe retreat was the first retreat where I
actually did any writing. LOL My first retreat was the Stanley Hotel Writers
Retreat last October in Estes Park, Colorado. This one is for horror writers. My
husband and I had such a good time last year we’re returning this year. The
Stanley Hotel is where Stephen King stayed, and the hotel in its then rundown
condition spooked him so much it inspired him to write The Shining. I didn’t get a stitch of work done. I went to talks,
meals, hangouts, and even had some marijuana cookies and cream cake balls since
pot is legal in Colorado. I learned I can’t write worth spit when I’m stoned.
All I do is stare into space, drool and giggle. Someone recommended I eat half
a cake ball (or a quarter) the next time and see how I feel. It would be
interesting to write when stoned. I write when tipsy which is fun. Maybe my
writing will end up looking like James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. LOL

Here are pictures of North Beach in Hampton, NH which was in
front of the beach house where I did my writing. I walked on the beach each morning. Talk about inspiring!

The networking event is called the Writers Coffee House New England and
this month’s meeting was held an hour away from my home at a bookstore. The
meeting room was packed! I met old friends and made plenty of new ones. This
was a networking meet-and-greet discussion event. Although the majority of
writers wrote horror (including myself and this is New England we’re talking
about – home of the witch trials, Shirley Jackson and H. P. Lovecraft), the
advice applied to any writer. I picked up more tips about how to promote my
upcoming releases. I also learned that if I find a publisher for my family saga
thriller, I should write to the agent at the top of my list and pitch my book
before I sign the contract. Say I need an agent to look over and negotiate the
contract for me. Apparently, it’s easier to find an agent for a book that has
already been accepted. That’s news to me. I need to investigate the best
cozy/mystery/thriller publishers and send the book out, but first I need to
divide it in two. It’s a mega novel and far too large to sell as one book. One
agent who rejected me told me that. He was right. But that’s a fixable problem.
My husband came with me. We ended the evening at dinner at a restaurant with about
15 of the attendees. Then, we headed to a hotel where I had booked a jacuzzi room
for under $100 per night. We spent our time soaking and drinking – he Campari,
me Fra Angelico. Now that’s a weekend get-away!

Next month I attend the When Words Count retreat in the
mountains of Vermont. I won my stay at this one so it costs only for food. I’ve
never been to Vermont. This will be my first time. Maybe I’ll run into Bernie
Sanders. LOL I plan to finish Full Moon
Fever
and hand it in to Xcite Books after Xcite publishes my new erotic
romance novel No Restraint. That one
is a corporate and food porn erotica with elements of billionaire erotica. I
plan to write, takes walks on the mountain trails, and relax with some wine
when I’m not writing. We write all day and eat dinner together and chit chat
about our work at night. I’m going to enjoy this.

Finally, in June, my husband and I are attending No-Con. It
was originally Anthocon, a horror convention, but the organizers aren’t able to
do it this year. Two of them moved on. There were four total. They were
nicknamed The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Sadly, Anthocon is no more. Despite
the lack of convention this year, the regulars wanted to get together anyway,
so No-Con was born. It’s just a gathering where everyone can get together and
hang out. We got a great rate on the hotel, which I have to reserve soon. I get
to see everyone I hung out with last year. No pressure of manning tables,
readings or selling books. Just hang out in the bar, eat, and drink and
schmooze. I can get used to this!

I definitely like these retreats and get-togethers. I want
to make a habit of them. If you can get away to retreats, I highly recommend
them. The networking opportunities are phenomenal and I find them to be less
stressful than conventions. Plus, they’re just fun. Fun is always a good thing.

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica,
erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her
husband, son, and three cats. Visit her
web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.

They are coming out
of the woodwork. Plenty of people, especially women, have had to deal with Internet
crazies. These crazies often show up in your Facebook private messages.
Sometimes they aren’t even your friends. I’ve had a slew of them recently,
mostly men. Claiming to have military service is popular. Just today, I saw
another one who claimed to be military stationed in Iraq. He had only one
friend in common with me and I have no idea who that woman is. There was no
other information about him available on Facebook. He doesn’t update his
timeline with anything about himself. Nope, all these guys do the same thing.
He posted a picture of himself in civies and another picture of himself in his
uniform. That’s it.

Why do so many of
these guys think that making a fake military listing will attract women? I’ve
heard from numerous high-ranking (yeah, like I’m going to believe that) military
personnel, especially doctors, who say they are stationed in the Middle East.
They’re rank, all right. Then there are the non-American men who immediately
ask me if I’m married with children. Unfriend. Block. Or the men who tell me my
profile picture is beautiful and they want to be my friend. When I told one I
was married and not interested in hooking up with anyone, he said he’d love to
pretend I was his sister. Yeah, sure. Unfriend. Block. Or the men who claim to
have incurable illnesses (brain cancer is popular) and want to leave their
money to me if only I leave them my bank information. Unfriend. Block. I toyed
with one of these guys a few years ago only because he wrote in French and I
wanted to brush up on my French. He asked me where I lived, if I was married,
if I had children, and then launched into his sad story of having brain cancer
and he needed me to donate money to him for experimental surgery that just
happened to cost thousands of dollars. I noticed all his friends were female,
mostly romance writers I knew. I warned a few about him, and they unfriended
and blocked him. He did not update his timeline at all. The only updates were
from unsuspecting women thanking him for his friend invite. I imagine he
contacted them with the same tall tales hoping to get some cold hard cash out
of them. I told him I couldn’t give him any money, but I was suffering from an
illness myself – terminal acne – and I desperately needed him to send me money for experimental surgery. I
can’t take credit for that one. I first saw that one on the comic strip Bloom County. Bill the Cat died from
terminal acne. So I stole from the best. He ignored me and kept trying to get
money out of me. He didn’t react to anything I wrote no matter how outrageous
it was. All he wanted was to part me from my money. I finally got bored and I
stopped writing to him. He never wrote back and I see now his account is gone.

Women pull these
stunts, too. I heard from one from Japan whom I friended and I should have known
better. She immediately signed me up for two groups on Facebook with explicit
porn. Unfriend. Block. Or the other woman on Facebook who talked to me for a
few days before sending me a private message to say she was in dire need of
several thousand dollars and could I lend it to her? Nope. Those “I’m
stranded in Europe and I need money” scams from people faking your
friend’s accounts are common. So are money scams on the web. Unfriend. Block.
These Facebook porn groups piss me off. Facebook won’t take them down, but you
post a book cover with so much as a hint of a nipple and not only is your cover
taken down but you’re put in Facebook jail for a week or more.

About ten years ago,
I stumbled upon The Spam Letters, a
website by Jonathan Land, a wiseguy who answered spam he received in the most
outrageous and ridiculous manner. Some of the spammers actually wrote back and
still tried to sell him stuff he didn’t need or tried to part him from his
money. He included lots of his responses to classic Nigerian e-mail scam
letters. He has since taken down all of the several hundred spam letters except
for about two dozen since he has compiled them all in a book, and the book is
available for sale on Amazon. I did manage to find my favorite Spam Letter. He
responded to an unsolicited email trying to sell him erectile dysfunction
herbal supplements. Here’s his hilarious reply.

Boy,
do I have a bone to pick with you.

You
should really pay more attention to who you send your advertising to.

I
am a 17-year-old college student, who, as any average 17-year-old male could
tell you, is sexually excited more often then not. If a butterfly flaps its
wings in China, I guarantee you there isn’t an atomic clock that can accurately
measure the speed with which I will pitch a tent.

I
know you were hoping to get some 45-year-old dentist who has spent the past 20
years of his life with a woman who makes any given NPR personality look like a
sex kitten, and yes, that includes the guys from “Car Talk”.

My
point is this: because of your primitive “marketing strategy, you have
screwed me over BIG TIME!

I’ve been seeing this girl for about three months now, and I’ve finally figured
out the right combination of sensitivity and alcohol to coerce her into
relieving me of that mighty, mighty albatross: virginity. So, we’re back at my
room in the frat house. We start making out a little and I need to go to the
bathroom because I’m wicked blitzed, and I haven’t taken a leak all night. So
she asks, “while you’re gone, do you mind if I download some mood music
off of Napster”? Since I only have Limp Bizkit CDs, I have no
“sensitive, love-making music,” so I say, “Sure, get some
Smashing Pumpkins or shit like that Baby.” Am I good or what?

So
I’m in the bathroom thinking: Okay, if I take her clothes off at the rate of
one article every 10 minutes (an efficient, yet sensitive pace – I’m a math
major), I will be losing my virginity within the hour, but then I realize: Hey,
we’re in Buffalo, NY. In winter. Who knows how many layers of clothing she’s
wearing! I might stay a virgin for two more hours! I can’t take it! (That’s
when I remembered that I had thermal underwear on, and that just ain’t manly by
any yardstick, so I got rid of them.)

I
come out of the bathroom, and she’s just sitting there wit this completely
different expression on her face. She says: “Sweetie, I saw that e-mail
about the natural Viagra stuff that your friend sent you. It’s okay, we don’t
need to rush this.” I was completely torn. I can’t say something like,
“Yo, that ain’t true, I’ll make sweet, sweet love to you senseless right
here, right now, over and over and over” without giving up the sensitive
front. So I say, “Baby, I’m sorry you had to find out about my erectile
dysfunction this way, but I’d like to try this. I’d like to try and make you
happy.” She was on board. Kid Genius had saved the day!

So
we were fooling around for a few hours, and all I’m thinking from the get-go
is: “Okay, why am I not hard yet?” This girl is a cheerleader for
Christ’s sake, and my penis is acting like I’m in bed with Nathan Lane. After a
while she gets real frustrated, calls me a fag, goes home, and the next day
she’s doing one of my fraternity brothers. My one prospect of virginity-loss
has slipped through my hands like a grain of sand in an hourglass, a moment of
time that cannot be regained, just like that grain of sand that will never pass
through the glass chamber in the same way, no matter how many times you flip
the thing over. And believe me. I tried flipping her over, and that didn’t work
either. (I’ve got a minor in philosophy – can you tell??)

Did
you know that some ancient tribes from South America, such as the Yanomamo,
punish murderers not only for the people they’ve killed, but for the deaths of
the potential descendants of those people as well? Well I should fucking sue
you to the tune of all the girls I could have done by now if I lost my
virginity as scheduled. All because of you, I’m still a virgin. Maybe since
last week I could have banged 30 chicks a night, but I’ll never know now. I’m
just sitting around waiting for the mayor of Poonville to award me the medal of
pity and give me the key to the city.

Thanks
loads, dude,

Jon

If you’d like to buy
the book to read more of these delightful letters, just to go Amazon and look
for The Spam Letters in either Print
or Kindle.  What’s really amusing is that Land convinced a
spammer to write his forward. Go check out the book.

Now back to more
Internet crazies. Before I was a fiction writer and sex/relationships writer, I
wrote political and feminist articles for several magazines and web sites. I
was quite well known, and with the fame came the misogynistic baggage all
feminists have to deal with. These were my first Internet crazies. I regularly
heard from men’s rights activists who liked to tell me I was wrong about
everything while calling me a cunt and worse. In case you don’t know what they
are, men’s rights activists are men – mostly middle aged white men but some are
younger and of color – who feel that their sense of entitlement is being
threatened by gains made by women, people of color, and GLBT folk. There are
also women in the men’s rights movement. They are the men’s auxiliary, and they
support the guys in every way, even down to doing their grunt work for them.
These women were most often wives, girlfriends, sisters, and mothers of the men
in the movement, and they had a vested interest in seeing the status quo
maintained. I estimated that women comprised about 40% of the movement. Some of
these guys want to repeal women’s right to vote. They claim the vast majority
of rape allegations are false. These guys will whine to anyone who will listen
to them, and that often consists of an echo chamber of their own kind. Now,
they meet on the Internet. Before the Internet, they met in member’s homes,
church halls, or other public places. They’re very politically active and they
try to roll back gains made by women, people of color, and GLBT folk over the
past 30 odd years. And I heard from plenty of them, the emails ranging from
mild insults to death threats.

Due to the influx of
nutcases harassing me on Facebook over the past week, I’ve decided to host a
radio show on The Women Show about Internet crazies. Do you have your own tales
of strange men harassing you on Facebook? Do you get email from Nigerian
princes who want to send you millions of dollars (people still fall for that
one?)? Do writers friend you only to immediately spam your timeline and private
messages with junk about their books without so much as saying hello? If you’ve
experienced any of this or know someone who has, this is the show for you. Here
are details:

The Women Show –
Internet Crazies

Date: Thursday February
18, 2016  6:30 – 7 PM EST

Host – Elizabeth
Black

Guests – Phoenix
Johnson, Christine Morgan, and Jen Winters.

Keep an eye on my
Facebook page for more details, including a link to the show with more information.

Elizabeth
Black – Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/elizabethablack

Elizabeth Black
writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, horror, and
dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and
her tuxedo cat, Lucky. Lucky needs playmates, so two kittens are in her near future. Visit her
web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.

This picture above is of me, doing the Happy Dance.

After two years of submitting, one of my erotic romance
novels has finally been accepted by an excellent small press. This press has
already published four of my short stories in four anthologies, so we weren’t
strangers to each other. I don’t feel comfortable naming the publisher or the
title of the book yet since the deal isn’t finalized. I need to get my
contract, sign it, and return it. I will say that I’m over the moon about this
acceptance. I sent this book to over 70 agents and all the good erotic romance
publishers. Everyone rejected it. If this particular publisher hadn’t accepted
the book, I was going to shelve it. I had nowhere else to send it, and I loathe
self-publishing. So to say I’m very thrilled is an understatement.

Now for the real work – preparing the book for publication
and preparing myself for publicizing it. I know the title has to change. Any
book with the word “Threesome” in the title will be slapped with the
“Adult” label by Amazon and other distributors and relegated to the
“Erotica” category where it will die a quick and lonely death. If any
of that sort of censorship happens, my book won’t sell because the publishers
would have hidden it from searches. My current and potential readers won’t be
able to find it.  So I need a new title.

I want my cover to be sexy but not tacky. I’m not sure I want
any oiled male torsos on the cover. I like the cover of “Fifty Shades of
Grey”. It’s subtle and hot. I’ll talk to the publisher, but I’ll trust the
pub’s suggestions as to what kind of cover will sell the book.

I’ve already decided who I’d like to write the forward for
my book, but I need to ask her first. I hope she accepts. She’s an excellent,
award-winning erotic fiction writer who’s a great seller. She’d be perfect. I
also have a list of writers I’d like to contact to write blurbs for my book.
I’ll send an ARC of the book if they need it, or I could send a PDF of several
short stories in the likely event they want to read my works first but want
something shorter.

I’ll write a press release to send out to the local
newspapers. I’ve done this before for a charity anthology, so I know how to write
it. Now to get newspapers to write about me and/or the book.

I need to set up a list of reviewers to review the book.
I’ll send it to Night Owl Romance, Manic Readers, Dawn’s Reading Nook, and The
Romance Reviews, to start. I’m not sure where else to send it at this point,
but I do have a list of review sites buried on my computer somewhere. I’m also
going to get the book set up with NetGalley. I’m a member of Broad Universe, a
networking group for women writers. Broad Universe has a very good deal set up
where I can submit my book to NetGalley for a reduced price. I’m definitely
taking advantage of that. I’ll submit the book to Publisher’s Daily anyway. You
never know. I may get a review.

I also need to set up a newsletter. I plan on sending
newsletters out monthly and at times when something unique is going on, like
the release or special sales. I need to create or pay someone to create a
newsletter header. If I can’t do it myself, I’ll ask the woman who made my
excellent covers for my two erotic fairy tales, Trouble In Thigh High Boots (erotic Puss In Boots) and Climbing Her Tower (erotic Rapunzel). I’ve
subscribed to MailChimp awhile ago, but I’m not comfortable using it yet. Then
I need to get subscribers. How do I create a “sign up for my
newsletter” link on my web site and on my Facebook timeline? I need to
figure that out. If there are easier and better newsletter programs out there,
please let me know!

I need to plan live readings. I can go to Broad Universe for
this, since that group does group readings. I need to find the local erotic
fiction audiences and give readings to them. I could go to conventions like I
do every year, but the ones I go to are for science fiction, fantasy, and
horror. Smut wouldn’t fit in, although some local SF/F cons do include erotic
works. I need to find the romance and erotica conventions. Hopefully some of
them will be nearby.

I’d like to pay for some advertising, but I’d like the
advertising to give me results. I don’t want to throw away my money. I may buy
a spot on Night Owl Reviews’ web site and magazine. The Romance Reviews has
reasonable rates for advertising. I’ve had good results there when I advertised
my two erotic fairy tales. Is GoodReads advertising a good idea? What about
Facebook sponsored ads? Any other suggestions for good places for book
advertisements?

I need to set up one or two blog tours. I’ve done these in
the past on my own and while they’re a lot of work, I liked the results. I have
my old list of contacts and I’ll contact those people again for my blog tours.

Any other suggestions of promotions I left out? I don’t want
to miss anything!

I’m very excited about this acceptance. It comes on the
heels of one of my publishers closing its doors. That pub was supposed to
publish my first family saga/thriller novel in 2016, and now I have to start
from scratch again to find it a new home. More agent queries and small press
submissions. Sigh. That closing really discouraged me as have the usual
rejections I’ve received during this period. I haven’t written a novel in over
two years. I’ve had a handful of short stories published in anthologies though,
in both erotic fiction and horror categories. So my work is out there. Just not
my long work. I have several unfinished erotic novels sitting on my computer
that I haven’t felt like touching in all this time. I was very discouraged with
my writing career, so I haven’t had the desire to write much.  Now, my mojo is back. I have a m/m erotic
werewolf novel to finish. That one is loads of fun. A food porn erotic novel
needs me.  That one has a touch of magic
in it. Then there is the m/m erotic romance set in an exotic location. It also
has a touch of food porn. The novel I sold has food porn in it. I like food
porn.  🙂

So my writing career is looking up for 2016. Here’s hoping
the publisher treats the book well (I don’t doubt it will), and my promotions
give me lots of sales. That’s what I want and need – readers to buy and read
the book. I don’t want to lose my mojo. Not now, when everything looks so good.
What a great present for the holiday season. I’m psyched!

Elizabeth Black
writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, horror, and
dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and
two cats. Visit her
web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.

I’m breathing the crisp, thin air of Estes Park, Colorado
right now. I’m attending the Stanley Hotel Writer’s Retreat, my very first
writer’s retreat. This one is for horror, but since it’s my first retreat I
thought I’d report on it. I bought the short story package, and my two stories will be critiqued after the retreat.

The Stanley Hotel is the hotel Stephen King stayed in that
inspired him to write The Shining. He
stayed in room 217, which is supposedly haunted. We’re in room 319, which is
not haunted. I tried to book room 401, which is also haunted, but someone beat
me to it. The Concert Hall and the fourth floor are haunted as well. I went to
the fourth floor and took pictures, but no ghosts. Yet. Here is a shot of the
haunted fourth floor hallway. I fully expected to see two very creepy little
girls hanging out at the end of the hall. Redrum!

We drove from the northeast coast of Massachusetts (any more
east and you’re in the ocean) to Estes Park, Colorado. It took us four days to
get to Denver, where we stayed overnight and took advantage of pot tourism in
the state. We bought edibles since we don’t want to smoke – Cookies and Cream
Cake Bites and sublingual Energizing Tablets, both infused with marijuana. Recreational marijuana is no longer seeds and twigs in a plastic sandwich baggie. I had no idea it was so fancy! The
tablets were okay but those cake bites are amazing. Pure chocolate decadence and a very mellow high. I
discovered something very important – I cannot write when baked. LOL I drool
when baked, and that’s about it. We’re enjoying the mellow in our hotel room
when things are slow, which isn’t often. We also have Jacuzzi jets in the
bathtub, and I’m taking full advantage tonight after all the events for the day
die down.

We saw elk taking their good old time crossing the road on
the way to the hotel. I understand the elk own the roads out here, so who am I
to complain? LOL

The Opening Scaremonies (after all, this is a horror writer’s
retreat) consisted of our Guests Of Honor horror writers and editors you’ve likely
never heard of since you read and write erotic fiction and romance. In case you
have heard of them, they are Trent Zelazny, Jack Ketchum, Josh Malerman, Chris Morey, and
Daniel Knauf. One of next year’s Guests of Honor is Chuck Palahniuk. He wrote Fight Club. If we can swing it, we’re going. Our host is Dark Regions
Press editor RJ Cavender, and he did a bang-up job putting this behemoth
together. This year’s guests gave a very informative talk about the craft of
writing, editing, playwriting, Hollywood, and their works in general. In two
hours I’m going to a talk by a lake about dialogue and scene construction.
It’ll be given by Daniel Knauf. I do excel at writing dialogue, but I’m always
on the lookout to learn something new. UPDATE: I attended the highly informative lecture by Daniel Knauf, who is one of the writers of the hit TV series The Blacklist. I learned why I’ve been having difficulty working on two short horror stories lately. I don’t know my characters. I’ve done historical research, developed the location, and envisioned most of the plot. I’ve neglected my characters. I won’t be able to work on the story until I know them better. Next step – write character profiles for each character.

I highly recommend you attend as many
planned events as possible even if they cut into your writing time. You will
learn a great deal, and you’ll be in a position to mingle with other writers. You
might even meet someone you’ve admired for years. One of the purposes of a
writer’s retreat is to inspire you to write. This one is doing its job. Not only have I made some fine contacts, Jack Ketchum is interested in being my guest on my radio show The Women Show in early 2016. He’s one of the top horror writers out there. The Girl Next Door was sufficiently upsetting. Based on a true crime, too.

I’ve been asked by darker fiction publisher Rampant Loon
Press to write a new short story based on a small Massachusetts island town
I’ve created for one novel and several short stories. Rampant Loon published
one of those stories – The Oily – and
it has accepted a second one – Unrequited.
Both are horror. I’ve decided to go one better. I’m going to write two new stories. One set in a wooded
location in modern times, and another one set in the same location in
approximately 1830, not long after the Salem witch trials. Salem plays an
important part in my story since it’s not very far away from my island.  I’ve already done all my research including
hiking in the five acre area of woods near my home which provided much
inspiration as well as a nasty twist to my right leg that is still healing.
This wooded area is an abandoned colonial settlement, and you can still see the
ruins. My two horror stories will be very desolate and creepy. I even read some
Stephen King for inspiration, speaking of the Stanley Hotel. I’m using my time
here at the retreat to inspire me to finish at least the modern day story. I need to concentrate on character development before I can begin to write the story, though. I learned that today during a lecture outdoors at a restaurant on a lake where we saw a bald eagle flying around. The eagle even dived into the lake to catch a fish. Knauf talked about getting to know your characters very intimately with important things like what are their dreams? What are they afraid of? Once I write down those notes I can begin writing the stories. There’s no deadline so I’m not in a rush.

There’s nothing like writing undisturbed by children, pets, television, Facebook, Twitter, strange foreign men on Facebook asking me if I’m married, email, the phone ringing, people banging at my door, the upstairs
neighbors screeching at each other, and the latest appliance to stop working in
my apartment. I’m free to be creative here, and I write when I want. I’ve also decided, with the help of discussing the matter with one of the guests, that I need to begin my agent search again. My family saga/thriller novel Secrets and Lies won’t be published in 2016 after all since the publisher is going out of business. I was told about a week ago, and I have my rights back. Lucky for me, the book was never published so I don’t have to worry about trying to sell a reprint. It was recommended to me to begin the agent hunt in earnest and don’t aim for the smaller presses since they can be so unreliable.
Aim high. Good advice.

It’s a long way from home, but
the beautiful Stanley Hotel was well worth the drive. The views of the Rockies
are gorgeous. Although I’m a beach girl at heart, I could see living here
because of the views. I’d have to get used to the altitude – just walking up
and down the stairs gets me winded – but otherwise this is a beautiful location
to write. If you have a chance to go to a writer’s retreat, I highly recommend
one.

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica,
erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her
husband, son, and three cats. Visit her web
site
, her Facebook page, and her Amazon
Author Page
.

I’m currently searching for an agent for my erotic romance
novel Alex Craig Has A Threesome, and
I have battled with the dreaded query letter. I thought I had done my research,
but after attending the Boston writer’s conference The Muse And The
Marketplace, I discovered I had not written the damned thing correctly. I had
written my introduction, named the book, gave the blurb, the word count, genre,
and then my publishing history and a little information about my prior movie
and TV work.

Turns out I left out an important item – why I am the best
person to write this book. The Muse taught me the proper way to write a query
letter, and thanks to the conference I did get my first request for a partial.
Sadly, that resulted in another rejection, but at least she requested a
partial.

I’m not giving up.

According to book
developer and principle of The Scribe’s Window Cherise Fisher
, who gave the
talk “The Perfect Pitch” at The Muse And The Marketplace, a pitch is
“the transfer of enthusiasm from one person to the next. It’s like a
virus. You infect with your pitch.” Books are meant to entertain, educate,
and inspire/provoke. A pitch is the foundation for your proposal. It’s your
contact with an agent or editor. It’s also about being as clear and concise as
possible to the person you’re pitching to.

Multi-published, Rita Award winning author Shelley
Adina wrote in her article Writing A
Pitch Perfect Query Letter
that there are four parts to a successful
query letter:

The intro

The story (i.e., the back-cover blurb

Your credentials

Call to action

My mistake was leaving out my backstory – why a have a passion
for this particular story. I left out my call to action. I needed to
personalize my pitch. The perfect book is the book only you can write. This
includes your life experiences and your perspective, Reveal what is behind you
for writing this book. Why are you so driven to do it? What’s the story, and
why is it yours to tell?

This article will discuss those four parts of a successful
query letter so that when you write yours, it will be more likely to attract
the attention of an agent if you are searching for one. Your goal, of course,
is representation. Not everyone is on the look-out for an agent, but this
article about writing queries should be helpful to anyone.

The Intro – This
is where you introduce yourself to the agent and any ties you may have. If
you’ve met the agent at a conference, listened to a lecture, or attended a
workshop, this is the time to mention it. 
Familiarize yourself with the agent. If the agent has a blog, read it.
Read any articles or interviews the agent is involved in. If you’re a fan of
the books and authors the agent represents, tell them.

Make sure you write your query in your natural voice since
you want to be approachable. Adina was right when she said, “Your voice is
your brand, so your business letter should reflect it.”

Also make sure you’ve spelled the agent’s name and the
agency’s name correctly. You don’t want to get off to a bad start with a
misspelling.  Your intro should show
you’ve done your homework, you’re familiar with the agent, and your letter
isn’t boilerplate.

The Story
Condense your novel into a concise and attention-getting paragraph or two. No
more than that. This takes some work. Focus on the characters, what drives
them, any archetypes you’re using, the conflict, and what gets the ball rolling
for the characters in the first place. Do not skimp on your condensed story.
This is the meat of your query letter. Your story has to grab the agent’s
attention immediately. Don’t waste words and use words wisely.

Your Credentials
– This is where you talk about why you are the best person to write your story.
You also list any previously published works or awards you’ve received. If
you’ve written a book that showcases the beauty of New England and the Atlantic
Ocean and you’ve lived on the Massachusetts coast for twenty years, mention
that. Is your heroine an art lover and you majored in Fine Arts? Is your hero a
stage lighting technician and you’ve worked as a union gaffer for several
years? All three of these examples are true for me regarding two of my
unpublished novels, my thriller Secrets
and Lies
(which may have found a publisher) and my erotic romance work in
progress Full Moon Fever.

Now, what if you’re a mom teaching part-time at an
elementary school, but your book is about a sleazy but sexy successful con
artist in love with his mark? Let’s assume you’ve done your homework for this
book and you are a romance fan. Mention that you consume romance novels the way
normal people eat meals, for instance. It’s definitely worth a mention if you’ve
done research on famous con artists and their techniques. Has your manuscript
won any contests? That’s a must-mention. Are you a member of RWA or Broad
Universe? Definitely mention both.

A Call To Action
– Your closing should be inviting and it should offer a call to action. Why do
you think your novel is a good fit for this agent and publisher? What is the
goal of your book? To entertain? To teach? What is the goal of your main
characters? Close your query with ease.

If you want to see examples of successful query letters,
check out Writer’s
Digest’s Successful Queries page
. Not only does the page include scads of
very good queries, there are explanations from agents following each query as
to why it was a good one. I’ve learned a great deal from reading those
examples. Hopefully, this learning experience will someday (maybe soon) result
in representation.

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and three cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.

—–

Several years ago, I
made the huge mistake of applying for a writing job from an online site that
required a few “sample articles” as examples of my work. I was to
post them on the web site’s forum, and get as many views as I could. I wasn’t
about to write anything new, so I posted my old stand-by article about the time
I tested the Altoids
mints blow job
on my husband. That post alone got more views than anything
else that was posted, and lots of people posted. I posted at least one other
previously published article, which also got an amazing number of views – more
than anyone else. I was confident that I had jumped through all the hoops and
was on my way to paid employment.

I didn’t get the
job.

I didn’t realize
until later that the web site was farming for free content. I did all the
legwork proving the time and product as well as promoting my posts, and the site
didn’t have to do a damned thing. I learned my lesson. I have never again sent
sample articles to any writing job application that required them. That said, I
understand reputable companies need to see examples of my writing to determine
if I’m a good fit. I realize that. Instead of creating new content, I send
links to existing articles so the company may see what I have already
published. Sometimes I get a response, but I usually don’t hear back from those
companies. Now, I don’t bother to send anything to companies asking for sample
articles unless I can provide links. Burned once, shame on you. Burned twice,
shame on me.

Why are writers so
often asked to work for free? Or for “exposure”? Promising a vague
form of exposure is another way of getting free content. There are some things
I do as a means of promotion for which I am not paid. Writing on this blog is
one of them. I gain an audience writing here, and it keeps my name out there in
between books. I’ve written stories for charity anthologies because I like
contributing to a good cause. However, I will not simply give someone a free
story or article just because. No more content farming scams. No more free
writing for web sites that make scads of money from advertising and
subscriptions.

Designer Dan
Cassaro
ran into a similar “opportunity” when he was invited by
Showtime – a company clearly needing to rub dimes together to pay for paper
clips – to join a design “contest” he felt was really only a way of
fishing for free content. The contest involved promoting the Floyd
Mayweather-Marcos Maidana boxing match. Those who submitted designs for
Showtime’s use could – to quote the message Cassaro had received from Showtime
– “be eligible for a chance to win a trip to Las Vegas and have your
artwork displayed in the MGM Grand during fight week!” He let Showtime and
everyone else within earshot know exactly what he thought about it, dripping
with sarcasm:

“It is with great sadness that I must
decline your enticing offer to work for you for free. I know that boxing
matches in Las Vegas as extremely low-budget affairs, especially ones with
nobodies like Floyd “Money” Mayweather. I heard he only pulled in 80
Million for this last fight! I also understand that a “mom and pop”
cable channel like Showtime must rely on handouts just to keep the lights on
these days. Thanks a lot, Obama! My only hope is that you can scrape up a few
dollars from this grassroots event at the MGM Grand to put yourself back in the
black. If that happens, you might consider using some of that money to
compensate people to do the thing they are professionally trained to do.”

Why are writers (and
artists in general) so often expected to work for free – or for
“exposure”, as the request is often sugar-coated? Would you expect
your dentist to give you a root canal for free? Do you pay the housecleaner?
The car mechanic? Do your plumber and electrician walk away without monetary
compensation once they do the job you’ve begged them to do because they are
professionals and you are not trained to do the work they do? So why expect a
writer to write for free?

Science fiction
writer Harlan Ellison had plenty to say about those who expect writers to
provide free content. A
DVD company asked him if he’d let them use a very long and very interesting
on-camera interview about the making of “Babylon Five”. He said,
sure, pay me. The woman who called was flabbergasted, as if she expected him to
just fork over his hard work for free – even though she received a
paycheck. Here’s a portion of what he had to say about it.

“Does
your boss get a paycheck? Do you pay the Telecity guy? Do you pay the
cameraman? Do you pay the cutters? Do you pay the Teamsters when they schlep
your stuff on the trucks? Then how—don’t you pay—would you go to a gas station
and ask me to give you free gas? Would you go to the doctor and have him take
out your spleen for nothing? How
dare you call me and want me to work for nothing!”

If you want to read his entire rant – and it’s
worth reading – check out “Harlan
Ellison On Getting Paid” at Print Magazine
. There is also a link at
that page to a video of his rant. It’s from the film “Dreams With Sharp
Teeth”.

Ellison is not alone. This “we won’t pay
you” schtick is something lots of writers and other artists hear. Last
year, hula hoop performer Revolva
was contacted by Harpo, Oprah Winfrey’s company, to perform at Oprah’s “Live
The Life You Want” event
stop in San Jose, California. Revolva was
thrilled –  until she realized Harpo had
no intention of compensating her for hours, effort, or travel. In fact, Harpo
intended to not pay any of the creative workers it contacted, despite the fact
that tickets
to this event cost anywhere from $99 to $999
just to get in the door. The
events producers claimed they didn’t have the budget to pay performers. Yes,
that’s right. A billionaire’s tour didn’t have the budget to pay
performers. If Revolva and the other artists wanted To Live The Life They Want,
they could have it – without being paid for it. She chose to not perform. She,
like Ellison, had plenty to say about being not only asked but expected
to work for free:

“Back
to that spiritual lesson you had in store for me, Oprah. Maybe it’s because my
car broke down, and I’m struggling. Maybe it’s because I’ve been doing this for
12 years, and after all the requests for free or discount work, the one by a
billionaire’s tour was the straw that broke my back. But I thought it through,
and achieving “the life you want” is not always easy. The risks we have to
take, to transform this culture into something more nurturing, involve looking
at the way things are and saying, ‘Hey, wait. That’s not cool!'”

It’s ironic that
this tour of Oprah’s was about realizing your self-worth. Apparently, you’re
worth a great deal – as long as you don’t expect to be compensated in cold hard
cash.

Stories like these
strike a nerve with artists, including writers. They grate my teeth. All of us
get these messages, and they really harsh our cool. It’s almost as if those
doing the asking think artists create the works they create only out of
“love” or an internal drive and have no interest or understanding of
how money works. Granted, some writers do write for the love of it, but not all of them.

As Tom Cruise
said in “Jerry Maguire”, Show
Me The Money!

The corollary to
being expected to work for free is being expected to work for peanuts. We’ve
all seen the calls for submissions on places like Craigslist where a potential
employer requires an assload of work – but will only pay $20.00 for said job. I
just counted three such jobs, including one that called for you to be available on weekends. Nope, nope, nope. The
other way of parting writers from their money are Get Rich Quick schemes – something
like “7 Easy Steps To Getting Paid As A Writer”. Write a book telling
people how to make money writing a book and watch the cash pour in. I’ve seen
these ads on Facebook, and the comments are always some form of “f—
off!”

There is an old
adage in creative work like writing – aim high and work your way down. Aim
first for the pro rates. Aim for the big publishers. Aim for the best agents.
Don’t start at the bottom and work your way up because you don’t think you have
enough experience or talent. Don’t downgrade yourself. Don’t settle and demean
yourself by doing a shitload of work for a paycheck that barely covers a Big
Mac, fries, and a Coke.

The sad thing is there
are plenty of writers and other artists who will eagerly take up these offers.
They tend to be newbies who are so green they don’t know any better. They may
not feel they have a right to ask for money. Or they fall for the
“exposure” line. They see stars when Oprah or Showtime contacts them,
and they happily give over free content only to inevitably get little to
nothing out of it, or at the very least not be compensated in a way that the
very wealthy company can easily afford. As long as these people exist, the free
content farms will continue to thrive. Don’t ask to be paid what you’re worth.
Demand it. You have that right.

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica,
erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her
husband, son, and four cats. Visit her web
site
, her Facebook page, and her Amazon
Author Page
.

—–

I read a Facebook
post recently in which the person talked about Post-Partum Depression that
results when you finish a project such as a story or painting. You’ve given
birth to something you’ve created, and in the aftermath you feel down – PPD. He
wrote that it’s a feeling of emptiness. You don’t know what to do. You don’t
want to watch TV. You don’t want to start something new. All you feel is bored,
restless, and even a little depressed.

Has it ever happened
to you?

I recently went
through a case of PPD when I recently finished writing “Full Moon
Fever”, my (so far) unpublished m/m werewolf erotic romance novel. At
first, I was elated. I always celebrate finishing a project and getting an
acceptance. My husband and I cracked open a bottle of champagne and made
toasts. Granted, I drink champagne all the time, but this called for a new
bottle. Delirious with glee, I spent the rest of the day getting tipsy and
watching bad movies on TV.

About a day later,
the depression hit. It was as if I had come down off a great high. Crashing
describes it quite well. I missed my characters. I longed for the joy of seeing
what kind of mischief they would get into. There were plenty of things for me
to do, including writing a sequel but I felt so spent I couldn’t work on
anything, including my other works in progress.

I had to do something. Anything. This downer had
to go.

After I wallowed in
my misery for a day or two, I made a conscious decision to pull out of it. This
kind of depression isn’t like clinical depression in that I was able to pull myself out of it by
distracting myself. What worked for me may not work for you, but here’s what I
did. First of all, I got away from the computer. For several days, I took a
break from writing. I watched movies and my favorite TV shows. The kitchen got
a workout because I baked. If it’s sickeningly sweet, I’ll bake it. This is the
time I buy new plants for my container garden. If weather permits, I go for
walks on the beach. I finished “Full Moon Fever” in the dead of
winter so beach walks were out but scenic drives weren’t.

For me, the key was
getting out of my head. I needed time to recharge.

Everyone is
different. Responses varied to that Facebook post. Some people didn’t go
through PPD – they celebrated. Others always had new projects in the works so
they were working on something all the time. I’ve done that one myself, but not
always. Some edit or sleep more. Others get out into the fresh air.

Do you suffer from
Post-Partum Literary Depression? What do you do to alleviate it?

By Donna George Storey

I haven’t written a new story in almost six months. Not that I haven’t had a few fallow periods since I first started writing fiction seriously sixteen years ago, but the break in the flow this time around has inspired me to listen to an inner voice that is usually drowned out by the word-rush of my latest story project.

Who am I writing for?

(Yes, I know, it should be “For whom am I writing?” but my inner voice is not particularly interested in proper grammar!)

“For my audience, the bigger the better”—that’s the first simple answer that comes to mind. Or “for myself,” which feels fleetingly self-empowering and bravely feminist, but doesn’t ring totally true. To be honest, although no work I’ve ever done has felt so personally expressive and revealing as fiction writing, from the beginning the driving force has been my desire for validation through publication. While an audience is implied, the images of success that come to mind are acceptance letters, contracts, books or journals to hold in my hands. Oddly no readers are in sight.

I publish, therefore I am a writer. That was my creed. Always an eager student, I immersed myself in how-to-get-published books of all kinds, scribbling notes on how to write a cover letter, how to hook an editor, sure-fire techniques of the selling writer (throw a lovable character into trouble, then deeper trouble to keep the pages turning). I’m not sure if any of this advice actually affected the stories I wrote, but it did reinforce my sense that ultimately I wrote to please an editor and, stretching endlessly beyond her, a faultlessly wise literary establishment.

Over the years, I eventually did get published—with over 160 credits to my name right now. Damn, even my cruelly judgmental inner voice has to admit that’s some form of validation. Yet, what inspired me to write before now seems a barrier. Perhaps it’s because I know too well what publication, after the first rush of pleasure and pride, means. Promoting your work is an endless, soul-draining task. Nor do the writing experts allow for resting on your laurels. Everyone knows a truly successful writer must produce a constant stream of novels to establish her brand and a deep backlist for new fans to explore. At this level, success is, of course, married to profit rather than a mere byline. But in order to make cartloads of cash in the gold rush of self-publishing, you must above all be savvy about what sells.

Trapped as I am in an attitude that has apparently given me what I wanted, when I think about writing another novel, I feel bored rather than inspired. Experience (or rather, feedback from editors over the years) tells me every chapter has to have a sex scene. The story or vocabulary can’t be too complex. My book has to fit into a well-oiled slot in the store (none of this genre-busting nonsense) and it has to be excitingly fresh, yet reassuringly the same as every other best-selling erotic novel out there. This is what “they” want from me. I ignore their desires at my peril.

But at long last, what I’d like to call the “real” writer inside me is saying enough. Enough of reading the market and second-guessing editors and thinking these skills are enough to satisfy my heart, mind and spirit. Write what fascinates you, she tells me. Write sex scenes only where they belong in the story and only at the level of explicitness that feels right, because sometimes suggestion is far sexier than a blow-by-blow. Write only for yourself at least once in your life. At the very least, the experience will teach you lessons you will never learn if you’re always looking to others for your reward.

It all sounds pretty sweet right now.

I can’t guarantee myself I’ll have the courage to do this, but after months of indifference, I’m finally getting excited about writing again.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Donna George Storey is the author
of Amorous Woman (recently released as an ebook) and a new collection of short
stories, Mammoth
Presents the Best of Donna George Storey
. Learn more about her
work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com
or http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of
genres including erotica, erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the
Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four cats.

UPDATE: While this article touches on writers and alcoholism, I don’t discuss it directly. For a more direct discussion about writers, alcoholism, depression, and suicide, please read my article “The Madness Of Art“.

—–

Writers and drink go
together like, well, writers and drink! I have a drinking ritual I follow most
mornings. I start off with a cup of coffee at home. Then, I pour coffee in my
travel mug and head to the beach. I walk for an hour, running plots and other
things through my head, and drink my second cup of coffee. Then I return home
and drink my third cup. After that, I’m all coffeed out.

I save the alcoholic
stuff for the afternoon. Most often I drink champagne, but I won’t turn down
red wine or reisling. I sometimes drink cognac and liqueurs. I developed a
taste for Grand Marnier after reading too many British murder mysteries. My
other favorites are unusual drinks like Benedictine, Strega, Campari, absinthe,
amontillado (hat tip to Poe), Quantro, and Drambuie.

I’ve met a few
writers who didn’t like coffee, which is something you wouldn’t expect because
writers and coffee is a match made in Heaven. I quote two writers who don’t like coffee below. My son is a computer geek and he can’t stand coffee, either.
You’d never expect to meet a computer geek who loathes coffee, but I know one.

Some fictional
characters are well-known for their drinking habits. Jack Torrence liked his
bourbon on the rocks, much to his downfall. Maggie in Tennessee Williams’
“Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” was surrounded by alcoholics. Agatha
Christie’s Hercule Poirot liked his sirop de cassis as well as hot chocolate.
He also liked tisane, an herbal or lime hot tea.

Two of my own
characters have a penchant for drink. Catherine Stone in my Night Owl Top Pick
erotic novel “Don’t Call Me Baby” prefers a TNT (Tanqueray and
tonic). That was a popular drink in the 1980s in America, during which time the
book is set. Jackson Beale in my WIP “Alex Craig Has A Threesome”
prefers expensive liquor, especially Cristal champagne. That man enjoys the
good life.

There’s something
soothing about a hot or alcoholic drink. It helps releases your inhibitions so
that you write more smoothly (in some cases). A drink or two may make you more
sociable – something that doesn’t come easily to many introverted writers. The
ritual behind preparing a pot of coffee, a cup of tea, or a fancy drink can be
satifying in its own way.

Some writers are
famous for their enjoyment of alcohol. William Faulkner noted, “I usually write at night. I always keep my whiskey
within reach.” Carson McCullers preferred hot tea and sherry she
kept in a thermos. At Yaddo, the writers’ colony,
she had her own ritual. She started writing with a beer shortly after breakfast,
then moved on to her hot tea and sherry (her “sonnie boy”), and ended
in the evening with cocktails. F. Scott Fitzgerald preferred gin since
he believed no one could detect it on his breath.

Absinthe is a drink
that has been long favored by writers, including Ernest Hemingway. Absinthe is
nearly a mythical drink. It has its own cachet, but the reputation may be borne
of myth. The chemical that causes the hallucinations you get from drinking too
much absinthe (thujone) exists in very minute amounts in the drink – not enough
to make you hallucinate. Absinthe alone is a very powerful drink. You’d get
drunk and hallucinate by simply drinking the stuff because it’s so strong. The main
reason absinthe was so popular in the 1800s was because the stuff was cheap and
strong. For those unable to afford better, more expensive liquor, absinthe was
the way to go. Plus big drinkers favored it and got drunk not because of the
drink itself but because of the massive amounts of it they drank. Absinthe
drinkers drank a lot of absinthe. Calling it “The Green Fairy” only
gave it a mystical allure that hid its true nature as a fancy version of
rotgut.

I interviewed some
of my author friends to learn what they drank when writing and why they drank
it.

Kathy
Tanith Davenport Lewis – Cider. Because I like it. And I find it easier to
write without second-guessing myself after a drink.

Dana
Fredsti – Wine, both sparkling and still. I try to reward myself with sips of it
as I write as a little relaxes me enough to not beat myself up over what I’m
writing (my inner critique is a mouthy bitch), but too much relaxes me to the
point I don’t write enough. It’s a fine line…

Lisa Lane – I used
to drink often when I wrote (I have a weakness for margaritas, tequila shots,
and chocolate wine–not together, lol). I ended up getting drunk too often, so
I switched strictly to coffee (or, more specifically, mocha). I brew my own
espresso and use Ovaltine in place of cocoa. It’s very yummy.

Adriana Kraft – We
never drink while we’re writing – but champagne to celebrate a release?
Absolutely!

Gemma Parkes – Only
water! I couldn’t drink alcohol because I get drunk too quickly and I don’t
like coffee!

Sharolyn Wells – I
don’t drink alcohol. My father was an abusive alcoholic when he was younger and
I saw the things he did to my mother when he was drunk. I drink either water or
Dr. Pepper. Sometimes milk, depending on what I’m eating at the time. My mother
had a rule–chocolate milk if you’re eating anything non-chocolate; white milk
if you’re eating anything chocolate. I never drink coffee. Never acquired a
taste for it.

Devon Marshall –
Strictly speaking, I’m always drinking something when I write – mostly water
and coffee though! I do drink alcohol sometimes when I write, especially if I
happen to be having a drink on that day, with beer or cider being my poison of
choice. As someone else said above, there are times when alcohol helps relax me
enough that I can write without continually nitpicking at it. Was it Hemingway
who said “Write drunk. Edit sober”? Sounds like something he’d say
anyway!

Vanessa de Sade –
Don’t drink at all, especially not while I write but I do use other stimulants
whilst composing sexy scenes

Phoenix Johnson – Tea
is my trending drink right now because it relaxes and soothes to get the mind
clear of everything but what I need. I accompany it with water or big cup of
juice for endurance and energy once the tea has cleared my mind.

It’s only natural
for writers to drink something while they write, whether or not that drink is
alcoholic. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said: “Here’s to alcohol, the rose colored
glasses of life.” He was right in more ways than he was probably aware.

Here are some quotes
by the famous about alcohol:

“I drink to make
other people more interesting.”

― Ernest Hemingway

“An intelligent man
is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools.”

― Ernest Hemingway

“I have absolutely
no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not
been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and
reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories,
from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending
doom.”

― Edgar Allan Poe

“In wine there is
wisdom, in beer there is Freedom, in water there is bacteria.”

― Benjamin Franklin

“The Hitch-Hiker’s
Guide to the Galaxy also mentions alcohol. It says that the best drink in
existence is the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, the effect of which is like
having your brains smashed out with a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold
brick.”

― Douglas Adams

“Drink because you
are happy, but never because you are miserable.”

― G.K. Chesterton

“I like to have a
martini,

Two at the very
most.

After three I’m
under the table,

after four I’m under
my host.”

― Dorothy Parker

“Death: “THERE
ARE BETTER THINGS IN THE WORLD THAN ALCOHOL, ALBERT.”

Albert: “Oh,
yes, sir. But alcohol sort of compensates for not getting them.”

― Terry Pratchett

Now I’ll go enjoy a
bottle of champagne. Cheers!  🙂

by Donna George Storey

Back in 1983, when I’d just finished writing a novella as part of my creative writing certificate in college, my older sister (who knows everything and more specifically everything I should do to be a true success in life) told me with confidence that what I now needed to make real progress in my writing was a mentor.

My resistance to the idea was practical rather than philosophical. There wasn’t anyone around who seemed at all interested in becoming my mentor. My thesis adviser, Stephen Koch, was a pleasant enough fellow. He’d been assigned six of us creative writing seniors to shepherd through a year of independent literary effort, but he didn’t show any desire to go above and beyond his professional duty, at least as far as I was concerned. I assumed that I wasn’t talented or special enough to merit a mentor. Convinced I had nothing interesting to say, I stopped writing for thirteen years after graduation. When I took it up again, I relied on the help of a writing group of peers to improve my craft (see Garce’s very useful post on peer critiques, which are indeed invaluable to a writer).

Still, I was mildly envious whenever I heard of anyone with the good luck to connect with a mentor. It seemed the easiest way to realize the greatest dream of every aspiring writer—the literary establishment’s crown of “exciting new American voice,” which meant of course that one would be worshipped unconditionally and live happily ever after.

I am envious no longer.

That’s because I just finished reading Mentor: A Memoir by Tom Grimes. In the spring of 1989, thirty-two-year-old Grimes was your typical romantic starving artist, working as a waiter in Key West, when he got a phone call from Frank Conroy, director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Conroy adored the novel excerpt Grimes had sent with his application and said he would do anything to entice him to join the program. Not that Grimes needed enticement. All the other programs he’d applied to, including his local safety school, had rejected him flat.

When he arrived in Iowa, Grimes found that he was already famous as the “guy who was writing the baseball novel.” Conroy had raved about it to anyone who would listen, although it meant most students kept their distance from the rising literary genius. The first day of class, Conroy invited Grimes to his office and offered to introduce him to his agent, New York’s best, Candida Donadio, with the implication that Donadio would snap him up (ah, how often have aspiring writers emailed me asking me to introduce them to my agent—alas, I have none). Grimes asked for a rain check, but he did come to rely on Conroy’s support and favor in class and out, for example, accepting a chance to observe the Mets’ spring training as research for his novel thanks to Conroy’s friendship with the manager. When the long-awaited baseball novel was finished, Donadio passed the project to her assistant, but the novel received bids from every major literary publisher in New York. Grimes’ novel had gone to auction—every writer’s wet dream.

Unfortunately, any published writer of modest experience will recognize the cruel realities that soon brought the dream crashing back to earth. Grimes’ agent pressured him to make a decision on his publishing house in fifteen minutes on a Friday afternoon to be polite to the editors—unfortunately Conroy was not available to give his mentorly advice at the time, which doubtless would have been to resist the agent’s pressure and think things through. Grimes went with the editor who seemed most genuinely enthusiastic about his book, not a bad choice in any case, but a better one still because it was clear that some of the other editors were more excited about Conroy’s sponsorship than the work itself.

Predictably, the enthusiastic editor soon changed houses and the next editor assigned to the book also left during a merger. The orphaned book languished, got tepid reviews and didn’t even rate a paperback edition. The world apparently did not share Conroy’s opinion of Grimes’ talent—or was it just bad luck and bad marketing? Determined to soldier on, Grimes had a standing offer for his next book from one of the other prestigious publishers he’d turned down but the man died before the novel was ready. That book, too, was published with disappointing results. In the meantime, Grimes was hired to direct Texas State University’s creative writing program, again with strong recommendation from Conroy. Despite his initial reluctance to follow his mentor on this path, the program flourished and now hires some of America’s most acclaimed writers like Tim O’Brien (although Grimes still has to shore up O’Brien’s confidence at times by reminding him he wrote one of America’s greatest books, The Things They Carried, which makes me wonder if any writer is truly at peace with his achievement). But in spite of those impressive credentials, Grimes feels like a failure as a writer and is much humbled by his experiences since he arrived full of hope at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Yet the literary establishment is ever full of irony. Denied his dream of a starred Publisher’s Weekly review for his first three novels, Grimes’ memoir about his relationship with Conroy finally earned him that coveted honor.

Although he probbly still isn’t living happily ever after. Just a hunch.

So what does this have to do with erotica writers?

Well, while my illusions about my life as a writer have been eroding for many years now, Mentor reminded me of the dangers of putting ambition and a belief in the importance of external validation before the pleasures and challenges of the writing itself. Apparently I still need to be reminded—not because I believe I will ever become the Chosen One, America’s first woman writer to be lauded as the greatest writer of our time—but because I still nurtured the fantasy that someone else might attain that lofty position with ease and grace due to her transcendent talent and possibly the help of a devoted mentor. Grimes also reminded me that a mentor serves his own needs as much as his protege’s. In spite of the best intentions, a mentor’s attention might well become a burden and a hindrance to the younger writer’s development. Lucky breaks and grand successes always come with a cost.

Besides, for all of us who do not have a mentor, we still have a wonderful option. We can immerse ourselves in the magic of telling a good story and explore all the ways the English language can help us in our cause just by sitting down at our computers and giving our imaginations free rein. With this simple act, we can live a dream no person or random twist of fate can destroy.

Donna George Storey is the author
of Amorous Woman (recently released as an ebook) and a new collection of short
stories, Mammoth
Presents the Best of Donna George Storey
. Learn more about her
work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com
or http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor

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