My Life

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 

 

Fiction Writing

Karelia Stetz-Waters – Guest Post

Karelia is one of my favorite people. She is a brilliant writer, yes – but she also has that incredible ability to teach people how to be brilliant writers. (Or at least, better writers than they were before she taught them.)

I’ve learned a lot every time I have taken a workshop by Karelia and I’m excited that she agreed to guest blog on my page this month. Please take a look at her blog and check out her books. You will not be disappointed. You can find her website here. 

 

A long journey is a million baby steps.

Four Ways to a Good Character

By Karelia Stetz-Waters

My creative writing students were working on character development. They called out ideas. I wrote on the board as fast as I could. Then we stopped and looked at our work.

“These are all traits we don’t like,” one student said.

“It’s harder to write good people, isn’t it?” I said. “Think about someone good. Describe them.”

I immediately thought of Beth Burnett. If you don’t know her, hold out your virtual hand and shake hers because you won’t meet a kinder, cooler member of our community.

And that’s why I’m so honored to write a guest post for her blog.

I write romance novels. Romance novels are all about good people. Write a thriller—I’ve written a few—and you can load up on serial killers like chicken wings at the KFC buffet. And that’s fun, but good people are better. We have to love our protagonists. Then, in my opinion, every protagonist must have at least one good friend. Then you need a place that’s almost a character itself. Someplace beautiful. Someplace your readers want to go. (I nailed it with my Out in Portland series. Apparently Portland is the seventh most moved-to city in American!)

“So how do we write a good character?” another student asked.

I love teaching creative writing because the students ask the questions I want to answer.

I have four traits, that make a character good.

Good characters care. They care about something bigger than themselves. They care about justice or animals or hungry children or the mill workers who got laid off. In my upcoming romance, a closeted TV star worries about coming out, not because she cares about losing her job, but because she’s worried about all the people who have taken comfort in her show. She doesn’t want them to think that all those years were a lie.

Good characters honor their debts. I mean debts with a capital D, debts like the debts in the Lord’s Prayer. It’s not enough just to care. Good characters act with compassion.

Good characters strive. It’s our responsibility to try to reach our full potential. Now some characters’ full potential is like my full potential for going to the gym—I bought a membership in January, and I still haven’t gone, but tomorrow…. As challenging as things are, good characters do everything they can do in this moment. After all, a long journey is a million baby steps.

Good characters see the world in a new way. A likable character shows us the beautiful world in a way we haven’t seen before.

And here’s the thesis, class. The most important character is you.

I hope I’m good. I know I care about you, whoever you are, reading this in your living-room or on your phone on the subway. I’m thinking about where you’re going and what you’ll face today. I’m thinking about how many good people there are in the world and how I’d like to gather you all up in my arms.

Leave a comment and tell us what makes you uniquely good.

 

***

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Karelia’s next novel, Worth the Wait, comes out June 19th.

For fifteen years, Avery Crown tried to forget her best friend Merritt Lessing. The late nights studying, the whispered confidences, and the little touches that never turned into something more. Unfortunately, her efforts have not been as successful as her TV career as the queen of home renovation. So when she runs into Merritt at their high school reunion, Avery asks for one night with the woman she’s always wanted…

Merritt spent high school pining after Avery, but never made a move—their friendship meant too much. The one time it seemed things might change, Avery chose her budding career. So Merritt did the same, throwing herself into her remodeling business. Now Avery’s back, and while Merritt still hasn’t forgiven her for walking away the first time, they can’t keep their hands off each other. But when their professional paths cross, and it seems like Avery is choosing her career once again, Merritt will have to decide if she’s willing to let go of the past and give herself a second chance with her first love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Life

Scholarship opportunity for young women writers of color

I am the Director of Education for the esteemed non-profit organization The Golden Crown Literary Society. I love being part of this group because GCLS has been instrumental in supporting so many writers and readers of lesbian fiction. (They were there for me when I published my first book, welcoming me with open arms.)

The GCLS Writing Academy is entering its fifth year and we are so pleased to be able to offer a new scholarship. The Bridge Builder Scholarship is open to young women writers of color who are interested in writing within the woman-loving-woman genre.

 

This is an amazing learning opportunity for an emerging, woman-of-color writer!

The Bridge-Builder Scholarship

This scholarship is offered to a young (18-30) woman writer of color who shows talent and drive in creating lesbian literature. The writer should be interested in working on a full-length novel or a collection of short stories.*

The chosen recipient will receive:

1) one, full tuition to the class of 2019 GCLS writing academy; and

2) individual one-on-one mentoring with a well-established writer in the genre of lesbian fiction.

In return, the candidate will:

Create a brief (one page) monthly report on that month’s lessons, their own work in progress, or GCLS promotions within their community.

Attend online classes and participate in the assignments to the best of their ability. (Not having access to a computer should not prevent the student from applying. We may be able to work around it.)

The candidate must be willing to show how they can help promote and support lesbian literature in general, and the writing academy specifically within their own communities.

Application deadline:

The candidate will submit a ten-page sample of their best work, along with an application by June 1, 2018. Candidates will be chosen by June 30th, 2018. Classes start in September of 2018, however, there will be a summer reading list assignment.

The link to the detailed Bridge Builder description is: Here

Please consider checking out the Writing Academy and share this to anyone you think might be interested.

Thanks, in advance, for helping us get the word out about this important scholarship.

My Life

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

My Life

Self-Love is the Root of All Happiness.

I am one of the world’s biggest proponents of self-love. No, not masturbation… Though, I am a proponent of that, too. I’m talking about pure, unconditional, oh-my-goddess-I-am-a-miracle-of-creation self love. The kind of love that allows you to wake up smiling every day because you are so happy to be alive with yourself. The kind of love that gives you a full body shield against people who are mean to you. The kind of love that bolsters you so completely that you are your own best friend.

I’ve spent a lot of years working on my own self-love, with an incredible leap forward in the past two. I have done tons of research on the subject. I’ve read books and scoured the internet and talked to shamans and meditation coaches and an acupuncturist and even my old MD. I’ve even taught workshops and online classes on self-love. I’m (joyfully) serious about this subject.

Some of the time, I didn’t even realize I was working on self-love. I have done a lot of working at being less judgmental of myself and others. I have worked very hard to rid myself of jealousy, which is a toxic feeling. I have gone through an incredible journey from regular panic attacks and sometimes crippling anxiety to being a (mostly) in control power woman in charge of her own life from top to bottom. That is to say, I make my own decisions and I own them, right or wrong.

Thinking about it recently made me realize that every single one of the qualities that makes my life joyful and blessed comes from self-love. Being able to absorb the sometimes harsh realities of life is easier because I love myself so much. When a woman told me recently, scathingly, that she wouldn’t date me because she could tell by looking at me that I was unhealthy and had self-esteem issues, I was able to completely brush it off because while I may not be as healthy as I want yet, I am pretty damn healthy. And I have GREAT self-esteem.

So all of the things that lead to joy come from self-love.

I had a date recently that turned out to be pretty spectacular. There was no thought to whether or not I was “in her league” as I might have once thought, years ago. Simply, we’re both single and I find her attractive. I think I got that date with an amazing, gorgeous, and hysterically funny woman because it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t. That’s self-love. It isn’t just that I know that I am a person of value, that she would really enjoy being around, but that I also recognize that if she didn’t want to go out with me, it would NOT CHANGE MY VALUE. Not at all! That ease and relaxation makes flirting so much easier. I can express interest in a woman and if she responds, it is lovely. And if she doesn’t, it’s perfectly okay. It just means that right now, we don’t want the same things. Self-love makes dating low-pressure because I enjoy my own company so much, I don’t need someone to swoop in and make my life a better place. It’s already a fine place as it is.

It makes for a very relaxed life. I’ve revamped my entire outlook on life. Loving myself doesn’t mean thinking I’m perfect. But it does mean reevaluating what I have long thought of as flaws because of societal convention or other people’s opinions. It doesn’t mean completely ignoring ethical and moral values… it simply means digging deep into my heart to figure out what mine are and trying the best I can to live under that standard. I’m not perfect. I’m still working on myself. Sometimes I get judgy. Sometimes I get hyper angry and swear. I have moments of self-doubt. (Is this story really good enough to send to someone?) I’m just continually working to become exactly who *I* want myself to be.

I’ve been able to cultivate radical honesty into all of my relationships. That comes from valuing myself enough to have trust that if I speak my truth, the people I’ve drawn into my life will respond with love and compassion. And if someone decides they want to be out of my life because I’ve been open and honest with them, isn’t that better than having someone in my life under a false pretense?

Loving myself so deeply allows me to attract other loving people into my life. Living an authentic life means I only draw in those people who love the true, deep down Beth. The ones who really see me and get me and love me all the way down. Loving myself means I can offer them that same kind of love in return.

Loving myself means being less reactive. It means offering my loved ones a safe space where they can tell me anything and know within their hearts that whatever they told me will not lose them my love. It doesn’t mean I never feel hurt or disappointed or slighted… it simply means I am always trying to remind myself that I am very blessed to have these people in my life and I am not surrounded with the kind of people who would hurt me on purpose. Because of that, there is a great deal of communication. None of this, “Hey, Beth, what’s wrong?” and me replying, “Oh nothing.”

Self-love means exposing myself (Stop it!). If someone wants to get to know me, they’ll find out that here, at this point in my journey, I am a funny, passionate, creative, often impatient, non-monogamous, fiercely loyal bad banjo player who cries at pictures of abused animals, finds the idea of being trapped in one place to be suffocating, and who still takes her clothes to Mama to have a button sewn on.  Also, I sometimes listen to the Bee Gees. I’m good and bad and I’m a work in progress and I own that. It’s allowing yourself to be vulnerable. It’s saying, out loud, hey, this is me, and I might not feel one hundred percent comfortable sharing this, but if one other person sees who I am and decides to use it to bolster her own self-love and value, it’s worth it.

Self-love means getting to know yourself pretty deeply. And I’m still learning. I change. I once believed there was one soul mate for me out there. Now I know that I have several soul mates. I once believed that being in a toxic relationship was better than being alone. Now I believe that being single is actually a blessing. I used to be so sure of all of my rigid rules and opinions. Now I can sit down with one of my friends and say, “I have this theory about life” and we can talk it out for hours and I am open to changing my mind after we discuss and dissect it.

In essence, in my opinion, self-love leads to deep and abiding relationships with people who are also loving and accepting of themselves. It’s a self feeding cycle and it feels fantastic. Loving my soul friends with acceptance and compassion allows them even greater acceptance and love of themselves…. and vice versa.

So, if self-love is such an amazing cure-all, why don’t we all practice it on a daily basis? I think, we are not really encouraged to be vocally and ridiculously self-promoting. I’ve been accused of being conceited or arrogant for being so outspoken. Even someone who is really blown away by self-confidence recently told me that something I said sounded really arrogant. I was trying to explain that in my opinion, an arrogant person, a conceited person, thinks they are so great, they are above everyone else. I don’t think I’m above anyone… not at all. I think we all walk our own paths and we make our way through the world the best we can and sometimes, we can get really lucky to get a wake up call that allows us to start digging deep into ourselves and becoming the best selves we can be. I don’t think that’s arrogance. I think that’s just love.

If self-love is so important, how do you get it? First, I highly recommend making a list of 50 things you love about yourself. If you can’t come up with fifty, write as many as you can and refer to it often. Ask your friends for help if you need to do so… tell them it is an assignment. You might be amazed at what they come up with. As you start to absorb those compliments, you’ll discover more awesome things about you. When you have fifty, work on adding more.

Every morning, when you open your eyes, say, “I’m awesome!” (Or amazing. Wonderful. Beautiful. Miraculous. Whatever works for you.) Say it out loud, though. It has two benefits. One, you hear it and believe it. Two, it’s kind of hilarious to wake up and say something like that out loud, so you start laughing. At least I do… every morning. The added bonus for me is that when I start laughing, Brutus gets excited and runs over to try to lick my face, which makes me laugh even more. This will work even if you have a partner/spouse/someone else sleeping in your bed. Just get them to do it, too.

Practice self-care in whatever form that takes for you. My hardest form of self-care is regular exercise. A friend told me to “make it fun.” So, every afternoon, I tag a few of my friends, make a video playlist, and have a dance party. We all post to each other at the end talking about our dances. We all give suggestions on what songs to play tomorrow. We move, we breathe, we have fun. It’s self-care. It’s finding joy in moving my body. Listen to music. Sing. Laugh. Eat as well as you can, but enjoy a nice treat every once in a while. Relish whatever you eat. Sit down and enjoy the sensation of eating. Buy exotic, juicy fruits if you can. Meditate. (I sound like a broken record with that one… it’s important!) Just practice self-care however that looks to you. I know I tout this all of the time, but self-care leads to self-love.

Remind yourself of your value. Remind yourself that you are an amazing person. If you don’t get that job interview or that date, it isn’t because you aren’t valuable. It’s simply because it wasn’t the right fit. And if someone is mean to you, it is all on them, not you. That woman who was scathing to me? That had nothing to do with my character, because I wouldn’t do something like that, even if I wasn’t interested.

And lastly, try to be naked as often as you can. Come to terms with your body if that is something that is difficult for you. Get naked. Or at least, go braless. Run around in a tank top and panties. Be barefoot. Enjoy the feeling of your own skin. Sleep naked. Dance in your underwear. Shake that booty. Touch yourself. (No, again, we’re not going there.) I mean, massage your own feet. Rub your shoulders. Touch your arms or your belly. Scratch your head. It feels good. Grin while you’re doing it and it feels even better. Cherish how it feels to be sweet to yourself. Become comfortable with the way your body looks and moves and feels.

Self-love, self-confidence, being comfortable with you… it’s a process and it can be an on-going process. Sometimes it’s hard. When it isn’t working, fake it. Smile, act with confidence, get yourself out there. Be fabulous. Love who you are, because who you are is pretty damn amazing.

 

My Life

Excerpt from The Love Sucks Club

 

A car pulls up next to me and I look in the window. Esmé. Nodding to her, I keep walking. She pulls abreast of me again and sticks her head out the window.

“Where are you going?”

“Not far enough to need a ride.”

“Come on.” She laughs. “Don’t be scared. I don’t bite.”

“I’m not scared,” I mutter. Coming around to the passenger side, I let myself in and slide down in the seat. It’s a decent enough car, but small. What is it with these women driving these tiny cars? “You’re going to have to be careful on these roads,” I say. “The potholes have been known to swallow buffalo whole.”

“I didn’t realize there were buffalo on the island,” she grins.

“There aren’t. They were eaten by the potholes.”

I direct her to The Sands and fall silent, staring out the window. I can feel her glancing at me from time to time, but I pretend not to notice. Finally, she breaks the silence.

“So, do you want to talk about your dreams?”

“Nope.”

“About Fran?”

“Not a chance.”

“The price of tea in China?”

“I know nothing of economics.”

“What made you become a novelist?”

“I sat down and wrote.”

“Wow, you would make a fascinating subject for a talk show.”

“I’m a fascinating woman,” I say, dryly.

She chuckles a bit and stares out the windshield for a couple of minutes. “You know, I loved Fran, too.”

“I don’t know you.” This woman is presuming a lot. “I don’t know anything about you. How do I know you even know Fran?”

“I know she used to laugh in her sleep. I know she had a tattoo of a butterfly on her left breast. I know that she thought orange cats were the best animal in the world.”

“You could have gotten that from my book,” I grumble.

“I know she used to stare at the stars and talk about whether or not her family was ever going to come back for her.”

Pausing, I stare out the window. That part wasn’t in the book, and as far as I know, no one except me knew that Fran thought she was from another planet. I can feel my ears start to buzz and I’m sure an attack is imminent. Blinking hard, I try to talk myself out of it.

“So, Esmé,” I say loudly to combat the buzz. “What made you move to the Caribbean from Chicago?”

“There wasn’t anything left for me there. My lover left me for another woman. We’d been together for seven years. I think she was my rebound from Fran.”

“How long were you and Fran together?” I ask, though I’m not sure I want the answer.

“Ten years.”

I look at her, not sure I can believe that she’s old enough to have had at least seventeen years worth of relationships. “How old are you?”

“Thirty-eight.”

“So you and Fran were pretty young.”

“We were pretty young.”

She pulls up in front of The Sands and stops the car. “Are you going in for lunch?”

“No, I’m just going to get a ride home from Sam.”

“I can take you home.”

“Not in this car, you can’t.”

Standing outside of the front door of the hotel, I watch her drive away. She glances back once and I slowly raise my hand. My ears are still buzzing, so I sit down in the lobby and ask the front desk clerk to page Sam. The tunnel comes down over my sight and I can see Esmé and Fran, young and troubled, clinging to each other, both of them with tears in their eyes. I don’t know whether it’s a vision or my imagination, but I’m drawn to Fran’s young face, her light brown eyes and her pale skin. The shock of red hair, curly and full, was just as beautiful in this vision as it was years later when she came into my life. The vision darkens and for a second, all I can see is Esmé. I’m standing on the edge of a cliff, looking back at her. Her face is deathly white and there is a trickle of blood coming out of her mouth. As I slowly become aware that Sam is holding my shoulders and shaking me gently, the tunnel lifts from my sight. Sam’s face, full of love and concern is inches from mine.

 

 

 

My Life

I did this video reading….

I did a video of one of my favorite scenes from my first novel. Davey and her mother, Leah are having a rather public exchange about Leah’s sex life.

 

It was fun to record, though not as fun as reading to a crowd where I can see facial expressions and get feedback. Still, I like the video a lot. This is not pornographic… it’s funny. But some of the subject matter may be a twee unsafe for work listening.

 

Check it out.