Cooperation, Unexpected Turn-ons, and One Night Stand.

 

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I’ve recently been thinking a lot about cooperation and connection. I’ve long been a proponent of cooperation in the lesfic community. I often share book links and blogs for other lesbian writers. I believe that the only way we can thrive as a community is for us all to help each other, rather than taking a me and mine attitude. I support women and I try to surround myself with women who support me.

With that in mind, it’s been fun lately to spread that spirit of connection and cooperation beyond the lesfic community. When my friend Elizabeth Anderson insisted I go to the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, I was blessed to meet some incredible male authors. I have a reading event with one of them next weekend.

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And today, I’m featuring the blog of the bitingly brilliant, sarcastically witty, charmingly sexy Lewis DeSimone. His book, Channeling Morgan, can be found here.  (My wife sat on the couch and chortled while reading this book.)

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the musings of Lewis DeSimone:

 

A Nightstand I Never Expected to Be On

By Lewis DeSimone

 

Novelists are like parents: once you send your baby out into the world, you never know where it’s going to end up.

A lesbian couple I knew kept a copy of my first novel, Chemistry, in their guest room, with a bookmark stuck in the middle of the hottest sex scene. They claimed that their guests—mostly other lesbians—loved it. I’ve heard that straight women are often into gay romance, and even gay porn—as a means, I suppose, of enjoying male sexuality without the danger and complications that often come with straight men.

But lesbians? I wondered. Why would they want to read about sex between men? One of my first lesbian friends told me that lesbians have hot sex for one night and herbal tea for nine years. With numbers like that, why on earth would they want to waste an ounce of sexual energy on men?

Before the knives come out, this is all tongue in cheek (so to speak). I long ago learned that lesbian bed death is a myth. A couple of episodes of The L Word were enough to shatter that stereotype.

On the other hand, I won’t deny that Chemistry plays right into stereotypes of my own community. To put it bluntly, my first novel is riddled with sex. But that’s kind of the point. It’s the story of a sexual awakening, focused on a character who heals a broken heart by opening himself up sexually. Sex is one of the ways he discovers who he is, so I wasn’t about to be coy with it and end scenes with a description of waves crashing to shore. Instead, I freely showed bodies crashing into each other.

My subsequent work isn’t all that sexy. I like to joke that my latest novel, Channeling Morgan, is the only one in which nobody dies. But it’s also the only one in which there’s no cameo appearance by a penis.

You could say I’ve matured. Or that my testosterone level—even in fiction—isn’t quite what it used to be.

But maybe it’s just that some books need sex and others don’t.

Sex is messy and confusing and, above all, unpredictable. I googled this question, don’t you worry. But, like a lot sex, none of the hypotheses I found was fully satisfying. There is no unifying theory of everything when it comes to sexuality. Maybe, when it comes right down to it, sex is sex. And, just as you can’t really predict who you’re going to be attracted to, you can’t always be sure which depictions of sex will turn you on, either. That’s why there are so many subgenres of porn: one gay site I know of has dozens of categories, from “Amateurs” to “Voyeur.”

So who knows why a lesbian would get turned on my book? Who knows why I got turned on by seeing Blue Is the Warmest Color? Who knows why I love asparagus but hate artichokes? (I mean that literally, by the way. It wasn’t until I’d already typed out the sentence that I realized the sexual imagery. See what I mean? Sex is everywhere and nowhere at once.)

And that woman with the herbal tea? I met her at an AIDS service organization in Boston in the late 1980s. When I was just coming out, into a community with two kinds of people: the dying and the terrified. And lesbians, with only minimal threat from the epidemic, were at the forefront in fighting it.

In the end, it’s love that turns you on.

 

 

Lewis’ website

(Just in case you want to buy the sex-filled book.) Chemistry 

 

At Long Last

My life seems to be steam-rolling into a long-awaited success these days. Did you ever feel that you just worked your ass off on something for years and years and sometimes, it seemed as if nothing was happening and just when you started to think you were on the wrong path, one little thing falls into place and then, so does everything else?

I’ve been pounding away at school and writing for years, almost a decade now for writing, and seven years for school. Being an adult learner has its challenges and I won’t try to pretend it was easy. I can’t count how many times I had to drag my computer and books along to a writer’s conference because assignments don’t wait for real life stuff.

After I got my first master’s, I assumed I would have a teaching job within a couple of months. I was so wrong about that. I was conferred on November 1, 2016. It is now August of 2018 and I am just starting to teach my first classes. And it never rains but it pours. I was hired last spring to start teaching for the MFA program for Southern New Hampshire University starting in October of 2018. In the meantime, Johnston Community College, under the direction of the brilliant Doctor Tammy Bird, hired me to teach a couple of comp classes online.

My sixth book came out on August 1. On August 6th, I was notified that a short piece of mine was accepted into a mainstream literary journal. Today, August 10th, as I sit here laboring over learning how to use the back end of the online teaching platform, I received notification that the first fifteen minutes of the audio version of Coyote Ate the Stars was finished.

I know it seems as if I’m bragging, but the knot of anxiety that has lived with me off and on for years finally has a little bit of ease. Struggling to pay the bills, not sure whether I will be able to keep the electric on, being sure that nothing I wrote was worth anything, wondering whether I would ever get a job in my field – all of this was such a weight and now, despite feeling desperately busy, I feel so light. Like, my goals and dreams are finally coming to fruition.

I think the moral of the story is that if you know you want it, keep reaching for it, even when it seems as if it’s never going to come. Over the years, my dreams evolved, my career plans changed a bit. I used to want to be a full-time professor, but now, teaching online is really working for me. I still have time for my writing, I don’t have to put on pants when I don’t feel like it, and my wife and I might really be able to fulfill another dream of one day chucking all (most) of our possessions and living/travelling in a motor home.

I’m just saying, if you want it, work for it. As long as you’re doing one thing every day to work toward your dream, whatever it is, you can never give up. One thing. Ten minutes of writing. One resume to a dream job. One guitar lesson. One more first date – whatever your dream is, figure out your steps and just start working them.

And if you get discouraged, message me. I’ll either cry with you or cheer you on. ❤

 

 

 

******* Next week, I’m taking a break from blogging and inviting Lewis DeSimone, a hilariously witty writer, to take over my blog for me. Stay tuned!

 

GCLS Conference

joy and beth at con 2018My partner and I got married two days before conference, so the whole thing was kind of like a working honeymoon. Despite that, the Golden Crown Literary Society this year felt like a homecoming. Perhaps that sounds odd, with over 100 new people this year, but it felt intimate, loving, and welcoming.

We had a diverse crowd, different ages, different races. It was wonderful to see so many young people. The board is getting old (I mean that lovingly – I’m part of the board) and we need young, fresh minds to shake things up for us and keep us relevant.

beth readingI read from my soon to be released novel, Coming Around Again. Incidentally, my publisher had copies of the book at the conference as an early bonus and it sold out. I’m sure it had nothing to do with me promising to write naughty things in the books that people bought.

The writing academy was a shining star this year. The whole 2018 graduating class was there and they were amazing. Such a great group of talented and smart women. I was proud of them in every way. The WA also donated a free year’s tuition to the GCLS raffle and it was won by a woman who had been in the writing academy presentation, excitedly asking lots of questions. I have a feeling she is going to do great things.

The GCLS board works tirelessly to put on this event. (Okay, not tirelessly – we are all exhausted.) This is a labor of love as the board is all-volunteer. We all put so much time and effort into bringing the best conference experience to every participant. And our reward, other than the happy faces and awesome hugs, is coming back and doing it all again for next year.

I hope to see a huge crowd in Pittsburgh next year. We just keep getting better every year and I can’t wait to see how incredible the next one will be.

 

 

Short Story – As Sad as Rhonda

Malik watched the woman today, as he watched her almost every day.

She moved about the diner, coffee pot in hand, stopping to laugh with just about everyone in the place. Not him, but everyone else. He supposed he was still a newcomer. She swept away from what Malik assumed were a group of farmers and headed toward him with the pot. Five months of breakfast here five times a week, and she knew he would drink at least four cups of coffee before he headed out on the interminable job search.

“Hi, kid,” she said, pouring his coffee and dropping another handful of creamers on his table. She pursed her lips and threw a few extra napkins down as well.

Malik looked down. He had spilled egg yolk on his white shirt. “Guess I’m not job-hunting until I change.”

“You’re having a hard time finding a job,” she said. “There’ll be work once school lets out, but you got time before that happens.”

Malik shrugged. “It’s not urgent. It’s just that I hate looking for work. I feel like I’m going on endless first dates and I’m always coming up short.”

She smiled for the first time. It changed her face. Malik noticed the fine lines around her eyes. He couldn’t guess her age.

“If I had my way, you could have this job.” She walked away to serve another customer.

Malik finished his coffee and left his money on the table.

He went home, stripped off his clothes, and turned on the computer. He’d put in a few more online applications and start fresh tomorrow. He was sick of going door to door.

Later, when dinner was simmering on the stove, Malik was on hangouts, chatting with Johnna and Anthony. He leaned into the screen, wanting to jump through and touch their faces. “I miss you so much,” Johnna said. “It isn’t the same without you.”

Edward came through the front door and put his hands on Malik’s shoulders. He leaned toward the screen. “We’ll try to come for a visit when classes let out this summer.”

They disconnected, and Malik stood, turning to hold Edward. Edward’s hair brushed Malik’s nose for a moment, but he didn’t turn his face to kiss Malik’s mouth.

“How was the job hunt?”

“We’re not going for a visit when classes let out,” Malik said. “Not when you’re teaching summer classes.”

Edward was carefully taking off his suit jacket, and hanging it up on the garment rack in the corner. Malik watched him hang up his button-front shirt, his tie. He carefully aligned the seams of his pants, brushing out the wrinkles before draping it over the hanger. Edward thought he had to look pristine when he taught. Malik had tried to tell him the students would relate to him if he acted a little more natural. He hated that Edward looked so dapper. He wanted him to try to be more rugged, to fit in. He knew it was hard to be a first-year professor, fresh out of grad school. And Malik didn’t want Edward to stand out in this farming community.

He couldn’t fault his husband, though. Edward had tried so hard to get a job at a school in California, leaning on Malik’s salary at the insurance company as the months passed with no calls.

Now Malik was the one without a job. He got up to take dinner off the stove. He had promised to follow Edward anywhere.

In the morning, Malik watched Edward getting dressed. It was the same process as the night before, in reverse. It was Tuesday. Edward would be wearing his gray slacks and the light blue sweater vest. Malik saw the way the other professors dressed on campus, especially now, when it was cold and wet, and everyone was prepping for a long, ugly winter. Malik stared out the window at the gray sky. “I can’t remember what the California sky looks like,” he said.

 

(To be continued on Patreon)

The members of my Patreon club get access to short stories no one else sees, cover reveals, character bios, bits and pieces from works in progress, and so much more.

Come join us for a good time!

https://www.patreon.com/bethburnett

A New Way to Commune with Readers

Beth Patreon Flier

My patreon platform is going well for the first week or so. I have four patrons so far and I have posted quite a bit of content that others won’t get to see – short stories that will only be posted on Patron, rough drafts with editing notes, cover reveals that others don’t get to see yet – even blurbs from current WIPs.  The engagement so far is fun…. the readers seem to enjoy the content and they like having a say in what I post.

This upcoming week, the patrons are getting a video-reading from my upcoming novel, Coming Around Again, release date fall of 2018.

There’s even a rumor I may post some of my poetry, heretofore only seen by myself and my cat.

And no one has to wear pants.

 

 

Patreon

I’ve recently started using the crowd-powered content site Patreon. It’s a great way to offer content to readers and fans who want things that no one else will ever get!

Patreon offers a reward system. Sign up to pay a monthly fee and you get content from me that no one else gets to see – EVER.

Why would you do something like this?

  1. That content. Super awesome content. The best content of all-time. I mean, maybe.
  2. You’ll be a patron to an artist. (Writer.) Just like some old king.
  3. If I get enough patrons, I’ll just write and create content all the time and you’ll get even more awesome stuff.
  4. Not having to wear pants. (Okay, this one is really only for my benefit, but I know you want me to be happy and I’m happiest when I’m not wearing pants.) **For my UK friends, pants here = trousers. Don’t want to make this post PG13.

You can find my patreon page here 

 

And you can watch my welcome video right here. (Cheesy jokes come standard. Togas not included.)

 

2018 New Year’s Resolutions

Every year, I try to post my New Year’s resolutions – to commit to writing the things I hope to accomplish in the coming year. Last year, I think I came close to accomplishing most of what I set out to do.

This year, I resolve to be happy with my body just the way it is. I resolve to avoid dieting, to refuse to press myself into a patriarchal construct of accepted female appearance. This year, I’d like to continue to lovingly nourish my body with mostly plant-based foods, delicious teas, and perhaps a bit too much coffee. I resolve to continue to try new vegan recipes and to continue to delight in my own growth as a cook who can create delightful meals without stress.

This year I want to move my body more, stretch more, spend more time standing up from my desk. I want to dance without worrying what people are thinking about me. I want to touch my toes and stand on one foot and do a few minutes of yoga every day so my back doesn’t hurt after a long day of working.

I want to take Brutus out for more walks so, when the time comes that walks are no longer possible for him, we’ll know we made the most of the time he could enjoy the outdoors on his own four feet.

This year, I want to cherish my partner – I want to make sure she knows that I don’t take for granted how she loves and adores and desires me exactly the way I am. I want to make sure that she feels as special as she makes me feel. This year, I want to remember how hard it has been to spend so much time apart as we deal with immigration, and I want to appreciate how deeply we value the time together.  I resolve to appreciate the natural intimacy between us, and to continue to cultivate it as the years go by.

This year, I want to publish two of the three novels I wrote in 2017. I want to write one or two more. I want to win at least one short story contest. I’d like to submit to five anthologies in 2018.

I resolve to worry less about money while still working on upping my income. I’d like to get a job teaching creative writing. I want to sell more books. I resolve to not let the acquisition of things every become my focus, regardless of changes in income. This year, I promise to continue to give when I can, even when my finances are uncertain.

This year, I want to remember that it’s okay to feel lonely sometimes and that the best way to make friends is to reach out to friends. I want to encourage connections with old friends, and spend time with new. I want to send more paper letters, give away more books, spend more time video chatting with people I love, give hugs more freely.

This year, I resolve to turn over the pages of my calendar at the beginning of the month, rather than looking up at it in December and realizing it is still on May.

Finally, no matter what else happens, I resolve to remember that I deserve this.

Happy New Year, friends.

 

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?

 

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.

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