NaNoWriMo

I guess after all the updating DURING NaNo, I forgot to mention that I did complete it. I ended at just over 51,000 words, and pretty much the completed bare bones rough draft of my YA fantasy novel. It was a lot of fun and I would probably do it again.

Maybe. If nothing else, it taught me that I could/should be writing a lot more than I generally do. Not that I think I should bust out 50,000 words a month every month. But I could at least be doing 25,000 a month without the rest of my life falling apart.

I had a pretty major push on the second to last day, proving yet again that panic and fear are two of my biggest motivators. Or that goal-setting works. 🙂

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What is giving up?

I sold 91 copies of my most recent novel, Eating Life. 91 copies of a book that took two years to write, countless hours of rewriting, several pass-through revisions with an editor, and, figuratively, a lot of blood and sweat. (The tears were sometimes literal.)

91 copies of what I consider my best work yet.

91 copies of the book that made the most rabid fan of my first novel, Man Enough, the person who read my next two books and said, “Excellent, but no Man Enough,” finally, finally say, “And now I have a new favorite Beth Burnett book.” And it got excellent reviews. Read them for yourself here. And if you have read this book and haven’t reviewed it yet, why not?

91 copies. Enough money to pay the electric bill. For one month.

I know I don’t know how to market. I know I don’t do enough for my books to give them an audience. I know I’m not out there pounding the pavement looking for bookstores that will sponsor readings or repeatedly asking my library to carry my books. I don’t like it, it makes me anxious. I know sitting around hoping someone will set up an event for me and tell me to be there is not going to sell books. I get that.

But I have to admit that I really wish there was someone that did that.

The thing is, I fell in love with Eating Life. I fell in love with the characters. I thought one of them, Ben Stagg, was one of the best characters I have ever invented. So much so that he is going to come back in another book. I love him and the rest and I wanted everyone else to love them, too.

91 copies and I’m finally beginning to wonder if maybe this is not supposed to be my career. I know money isn’t the whole point, but it is part of the point. And it’s a special kind of sadness that comes when my alter ego, who writes short and easy little erotica stories on Amazon, makes more money from those little hour-from-start-to-finish stories than I do on the novels I’ve worked so hard on. Long ago, when I was complaining to a friend about my books not selling as well as I wanted, she said, “Write for yourself, not for an audience.”

Well, if that’s the case, why bother publishing? If the goal is to just write what you love and not let it matter whether or not anyone is reading it, why share it at all?

I’m still writing. I finished an excellent YA fantasy during NaNoWriMo. I have a completed lesbian love story that just needs some revision. And I have a women’s fiction book that is, in my opinion, funnier than much of the bestselling women’s fiction I’ve read.

I still love writing. But I don’t have the heart to deal with everything that comes after. I can’t seem to make myself  research publishers and agents or send out query letters. I think I just need to take a break from it all. Not from writing – from writing for reasons other than to just write.

I’d love to know how other writers deal with this. What do you do when you don’t sell? How do you reconcile marketing versus writing versus deciding to just go get a day job? When do you decide to stop seeing writing as your dream and relegate it back to a hobby?

 

NaNoWriMo Midpoint

I am exactly halfway through November and guess what? I just hit 25,000 words on my manuscript. Seriously. I had to push through to get there. So much for my big, sexy lead in the first week of November.

I am nowhere near the outline I started with… in fact, I’ve just introduced characters who apparently have NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the original outline. But I still think I can salvage this.

Except…. now I’m flying blind, my outline is in shambles, and my main character is DEAD. The last part might be a lie.

For the most part, I think I’m holding it all together very well. But I don’t have any clean underwear for work tomorrow.

 

NaNoWriMo

The day before NaNoWriMo and I’m nursing a crap-tastic cold. I figure it’s my body pushing out any possible ickiness before the big month so I’ll be healthy and energetic starting November 1.

I busted out 12,000 words on my last book to finish it before Nano. I finished on Saturday. I’ve cleaned up and submitted the few short stories for contests that were on my to-do list. I sat down on Sunday and wrote a complete beat sheet -based on the awesome book by Blake Snyder “Save the Cat.” (It’s meant for screenwriters, but I find it helps clarify my outlines for novels, too.)

I was ready, I was set…

And now, this morning, I’m obsessed with a character I created ten years ago who has never managed to make it onto paper, and I think my whole plan is in danger of falling through.

Coyote or Anna… Anna or Coyote. I have two outlines open in front of me and I think I’m going to have to play eeny-meeny to figure out which one to write.

Happy almost November, everyone.

 

Top Ten Ways to Have a Happy Life

This popped up in my Facebook memories today. A couple years ago, someone asked me to write my top ten rules for a happy life. It still rings just as true today as it did then.

 

1. Follow your dreams. At least one, at least once, even if it screws up all of the rest of your plans.
2. Love. Love hard. Love even and especially after your heart breaks.
3. Cultivate radical honesty. Some people won’t love the real you, but the ones that do will be the ones you want in your life.
4. Do something really difficult that you thought you couldn’t do. Me: Quit smoking. Got my degree after the age of 40. Walked a slackline. Threw tomahawks. Once you’ve done something you thought you couldn’t do, you have confidence you can do it again and again.
5. Take care of a someone or something that can’t give you the same level of care back. A dog or a child or a cat or a fish.
6. Love your family. Grow your own if you can’t do that with your biological one.
7. Learn to stop talking shit about yourself! And don’t let others do it to you, either.
8. Develop loving friendships with women.
9. Base your happiness on your own life, not on how it compares to others.
10. Recognize your own worth every day in some way. Value you.

Short Story – Anne and Renee

Anne and Renee: The Soulmate Series

 

 

 

Renee slammed the bedroom door and kicked her stilettos toward the closet. She ripped at her black lace garter and stockings, tearing them off in frustration and throwing them into the trash. The little black mini dress got balled up and thrown on the floor. She stomped into the bathroom and started the shower. As steam filled the master bath, she sat down on the toilet seat and let the tears come. The love of her life, her soulmate, and partner simply did not want her, no matter how hard she tried. Stepping in front of the full-length mirror, Renee took off her black push up bra and used it to wipe away the fog that was already clouding her reflection.

Her breasts were still full and firm. Admittedly, they were a little lower than they were the first time Anne had taken her, up against the wall in the bathroom of Catch-22, the previous incarnation of The Kitty Klub. It was ten years ago today, in fact. Halloween. Anne had been pursuing her for weeks, but Renee had held off. She was fresh out of bad relationship, and she was dead set against getting involved in another one. Anne was gorgeous and charming. She was older than Renee by a couple of years, but sometimes she seemed ages wiser. She had a compassionate and kind air about her and a simmering sensuality that seemed to thrum under her skin. Renee guessed that most people didn’t realize the depths of feeling under the quiet exterior. When Renee met Anne, she was alternately intrigued and anxious and she did her best to keep Anne at arm’s length. Renee claimed they were better off as friends, but every time Anne’s hand slid over Renee’s neck as they were hugging hello, the tremors would start in her toes and shudder through her body like lightening.

Finally, Renee agreed to a date. They decided to go as a couple to a mutual friend’s giant Halloween party at the club. Renee wanted them to dress as something sexy, but Anne wanted to be playful and funny. They ended up dressing as ketchup and mustard. Renee wore a red mini dress and red tights, with a big K on the front and Anne wore a bright yellow t-shirt with an M, and jeans. They had pointy hats to match their costumes and they won second place in the contest and everyone laughed and wanted to try on their hats. Anne was charming and funny and Renee found herself laughing more than she could remember laughing in years. When the contest ended, Renee somehow found herself in the club bathroom, backed up against the wall, with her ketchup dress around her waist and Anne’s mouth locked on hers, as Anne reached down and slid her fingers inside of Renee, getting them wet before moving them up to her clit and circling it until Renee came hard, her teeth locked into Anne’s neck to keep from screaming. It was a hell of a first date.

Renee shook herself out of the past. There was no sense dwelling on a part of her life that was obviously over. She let her eyes slide down her naked body. She wasn’t bad looking, even now on the downhill stretch to forty. Her hips were full, she was a little rounded at the belly. But she had looked like this when she and Anne met and Anne had always wanted her then. The mirror was fogging up again, so Renee shook her head and jumped in the shower. She reached down with her fingers as she let the hot water run over her head. If Anne wasn’t going to give her any, at least she could give it to herself. She stroked her clit softly, then harder. It got hard under her fingers and she reached out one hand to brace herself against the wall as she quietly made herself come. She felt released, but sad. Renee had always loved masturbating, but doing so because she couldn’t get Anne to make love with her was a lonely business.

It wasn’t as if their sex life died all at once, either. They made love constantly in the beginning. Anne would sneak up on Renee while she was making dinner and kneel on the ground behind her, running her tongue up the length of Renee’s thighs, searching between her legs. Renee would go weak at the knees and drop, allowing Anne full access. Sometimes Renee would put her head on Anne’s lap in the car, biting and pulling on Anne’s jeans with her teeth, then pressing one hand hard against Anne’s cunt, rubbing it through her jeans, trying to make her come while Anne tried to keep her eyes on the road….

 

Do Anne and Renee get their groove back? Want to read the rest of their story? Check out the erotica series “The Soulmate Series” by Olivia Craft on Amazon.com. Free for Kindle Unlimited Users – only 99 cents for everyone else.

 

 

Jennifer

Many years before The Love Sucks Club was even on my radar, before I had even entertained the idea of writing any novels at all, I wrote a short story called “Dreams.” It started in high school, with a short story about a woman who told her dreams to her partner every morning when she woke up. The main character was Jennifer and my teacher found it fascinating – as did I – it stayed in my head for almost twenty years until I wrote the following story.

A few years after writing this story, a conversation with my best friend Aj led to the idea of The Love Sucks Club and Jennifer popped into my mind again. Something about her appealed to me and though I didn’t see her having her own book, I wasn’t quite ready to put her in the bottom of the dead ideas pile. I pulled it out, polished it off, and opened a novel with it. Jennifer from this story became Esmé in The Love Sucks Club and the narrator became Dana.

I found this story again tonight while going through the old “fragments and short stories never published” folder and decided to bring it out to show how sometimes the writing process really can take over twenty years from start to finish.

 

Dreams

       It all comes down to this. Her body under mine is slim, yet soft. Her wet bikini leaves smears of water on my clothes. I push salty strands of hair out of her face and as I press my mouth against hers, I think, “This is the moment in which my entire life changes forever.”

Jennifer looked a bit like a teenage boy. She was slim and long. Her legs seemed to bend at strange angles when she sat and somehow, she always seemed in danger of knocking something over with her elbows. Jennifer’s deep brown hair, longish over the face, short everywhere else, stuck up in impossible pieces all over her head. Yet, there was something so female about her, something in the curve of her jaw, or the length of her neck, or the perfect shape of her ears.

I saw Jennifer for the first time at a beach bar on Strand St. I was sitting alone with my notebook, nursing a beer. I heard the men in the bar muttering to themselves, but I didn’t pay much attention. On an island as small as this, any new girl is a reason for a press release. I continued to scribble dream worlds in my notebook. I fancy myself a writer, some cross between Robert A. Heinlein without the nipple fixation and Robert B. Parker without the testosterone.

I didn’t look up again until a few droplets of water across my page interrupted my thoughts. I blinked against the glare which was outlining the most striking woman I had ever seen. I don’t think I thought she was beautiful, or even hot, not then, but she left me stunned. Her mouth was full and smiling, and her face completely open. Her eyes, hazel, with flecks of gold were full of amusement and vitality. I just looked at her, my face impassive.

“Hi, I’m Jennifer.”

I nod. Look pointedly down at my notebook and back up at her.

“The guys at the bar told me not to talk to you.”

“They were probably right,” I answered, looking back down at my notes.

“They said you believe that your dreams tell the future.”

I ignored her and  sat, trying to write, trying to think of anything that could take my attention, while she stood there for several moments. I could feel her eyes on the top of my head and I fought against every impulse in my body that was telling me to look up. Finally, I heard her leaving. I waited a few minutes, then got up and left. They know me here, I spend enough time at this table, drinking their booze and eating their overpriced fried food to warrant a tab that I pay on a monthly basis. There are advantages to being the local celebrity.

Three days later, I took my morning coffee onto the deck and Jennifer was sitting on a lounge chair. I glared at her.

“You’re on private property.”

“I asked the bartender where you live. She said I couldn’t miss it. She was right. It’s beautiful up here, do you live alone?”

“I live alone because I prefer to be alone, “ I snapped. “What do you want?”

“I read Annabelle’s Lies,” she said quietly. “I had a dream that we met and fell in love.”

I sat down, and passed a hand over my eyes. Annabelle’s Lies. I didn’t want to be reminded of Annabelle or her lies. I glanced at Jennifer, resisting the urge to straighten the hair that was blowing across her face.

Several hours later, Jennifer was still occupying my space, drinking my booze and rummaging in my refrigerator. She moved constantly, opening and closing books, looking at my artwork, touching the glass frames. Her hands were always in motion, she had a frenetic energy that kept me in a constant state of anticipation. Everything she said, everything she did seemed like a prelude to something else. My head was spinning.

Five days later, she hadn’t left. I took her back to her hotel to get her clothes. I took her to K-mart, the island’s only store to stock up on bathroom supplies and makeup and postcards. She cleaned my kitchen and cooked for me. I didn’t eat fried bar food for five whole days.

During the day, we went to secluded beaches and snorkeled and swam. On shore, she fed me fruit and wine from her picnic basket, while I rubbed her pale skin with suntan lotion. She jet-skied while I watched.  She went diving. She jumped off of a cliff. She learned how to kite surf and parasail and skydive, and I paced obsessively on the shore, sure she was never coming back. At night, I made love to her on the porch, under the stars and let her gently mock my awkward fumbling.

“It’s been three years,” I muttered. “And there was no one before Annabelle.”

“I know,” she whispered back. “I know.”

Every morning, she made me tell her my dreams, sure that there was meaning in every one. She quoted to me from my novel, in which I wrote about my dream of the Old Man and the Sea. I was a young boy, and I sat in a boat, and the old man wanted to tell me something, but I could never understand what it was. After Annabelle died, I finally figured it out, but it was too late. I talked about the old man, but I wouldn’t talk about Annabelle. I wouldn’t talk about those dreams. I talked about all of the others, though. Jennifer loved to hear about my dreams, and I elaborated on them, weaving her into my tales of lucid dreaming, precognition, and fairy tale worlds.

Five days.  This morning, I refused to tell Jennifer about my dream. I didn’t want her to leave the house today, but she insisted we go out and be among people. Jennifer didn’t want me to be a hermit, she didn’t want the others to hate me, to tell the tourists not to talk to me. She wanted to go snorkeling, she wanted to be in the water. Jennifer insisted. It is important to remember that Jennifer insisted.

It all comes down to this. Her body under mine is slim, yet soft. Her wet bikini leaves smears of water on my clothes. I push salty strands of hair out of her face and as I press my mouth against hers, I think, “this is the moment in which my entire life changes forever.” I breathe hard into her mouth, then switch my hands to her sternum. I fall into the rhythm of the CPR. Push, push, push, breathe, repeat. The familiarity weighs on my shoulder. I breathe into her mouth over and over, until the ambulance shows up and the EMTs take over. This is it, this is the pattern of my life.

I don’t think I will dream tonight.

Review of ‘Eating Life by Beth Burnett

Kitty Kat's Book Review Blog

Eating Life

Beth Burnett has written a beautiful story of a group of diverse characters whose connections to each other are vital to their happiness. Megan works in the corporate world but is forever linked to her free spirited best friend Casey. At opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of responsibility they give each other something essential. Anna has huge problems but can’t see a way to solve them herself. Brilliant is an accomplished photographer but true love evades her. Ben had that love but despairs and can’t see any light in his future . How each of them impact the other is at the heart of this emotionally-impactful novel. I loved Casey as she was so open and caring and there for people when they needed her.  One of the other characters I was not so keen on but I can’t imagine anyone would like this particular person.  She was…

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Are you a real writer?

I belong to several online writing groups. Some are geared toward feedback, some are instructional, and some, the bulk of them, are simply places for writers to get together and talk about writing. Online groups are an excellent way to connect with other writers when a live writing group isn’t a possibility.

Lately, I’ve found a disturbing trend happening in my groups – maybe it has always been there, but I’ve seen it a lot recently… People telling other people that they aren’t real writers. I have been seeing it constantly in my groups and it is pissing me off. Some new writer who is just learning to break out of the cage of self-doubt and flex those creative skills is going to read these judgmental posts and slip right back in. These are just a few examples of what I mean:

  • You aren’t a real writer if you don’t write every day.
  • You aren’t a real writer if you don’t feel compelled to write.
  • You aren’t a real writer if you aren’t almost overwhelmed by your ideas.
  • You aren’t a real writer if you haven’t studied the craft of writing.
  • (My personal favorite) Writing is hard. If you tell me you love writing, I’m going to assume you aren’t a real writer.

 

I’m a writer. I don’t write every day. I don’t always feel compelled to write. I am sometimes overwhelmed with ideas and sometimes, I stare at the blank screen for an hour paralyzed with the fear that all of the ideas have dried up forever. I have studied the craft of writing. I continue to study the craft of writing. I can’t imagine I will ever stop studying the craft of writing. There are a lot of ways to do that and they don’t all involve going to college and many of them are free. The fact that I have a degree in Creative Writing doesn’t make me a more genuine writer than anyone else. In fact, I think I’ve learned more about the craft of writing over the past year than I did in my years of school.

I love writing. I also hate it. Sometimes, I’m afraid of it. And sometimes, it even bores me. It’s a job, it’s a life, it’s a passion, it’s an addiction. It’s a dream come true and a way to make a living. It’s creating worlds and it’s forgetting to move the laundry to the dryer because the story is so compelling, it can’t be stopped until the end. Some days, it’s deciding all the heating vents in the house need to be cleaned because that’s easier than writing. Writing is hard and sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes writing is busting out an incredibly brilliant short story in twenty minutes and sometimes it’s laboring over a submission with a deadline for three weeks.

There is one thing that makes someone a real writer. They write. They write when they can, they write when they’re able. They write. End of story. If you want to be a writer, write.

Now, if you want to be a published writer or a freelance writer or a working writer or a novelist or a blogger or —- Well, that’s a different story.

But whatever you do, don’t sit in judgment of someone else’s writing process. A real writer is too busy focusing on their own work to point a finger at everyone else.