The Winter Blahs

It always hits around mid-January, doesn’t it? The holidays are over, you’ve shoveled way more than you want to, you’ve debated moving somewhere warmer for the fifteenth time, and there’s nothing left to do but sit inside in seven layers and wait for spring.

I like to write during this time. I’m not going to be leaving the house much anyway, so I might as well make some productive use of my captivity. I wrote three books in 2017, and a great deal of that work happened in January and February. (And again late in the year in November.) In the spring, I like to be outside, and in the summer, there are conferences and road trips and camping. Winter is a good time to write.

Except  – it’s January 14th and I’ve only put about five thousand words down on paper. But I’m not beating myself up. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to not be hard on myself. I’m going to follow the same advice I give my students. Sit down and write for at least fifteen minutes a day. No matter what else happens, you can make time for fifteen minutes. You’ll be amazed at what you can do in fifteen minutes a day.

It’s my commitment to myself and my readers. Fifteen minutes a day. I may not write three books this year, but I will definitely write at least one.

 

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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?

 

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.

Conference Call

The incredible Bella Books and GCLS anthology Conference Call is a delightful collection of short stories by some of the best writers in lesbian fiction. The proceeds go to the Golden Crown Literary Society, an organization designed to promote, education, and recognize lesbian literature.

 

https://www.bellabooks.com/9781594935749-prod.html

 

I contributed an intense story about an affair – written in first person collective which puts the reader in the audience with the rest of the conference goers. And that is just one among many. It is worth a read.

 

 

We can’t work it out – Relationships end and that’s okay.

Capture

 

So many blogs and articles exist telling people how to make relationships last forever. And that’s a good thing. Kind of. We’re taught from a young age that a relationship ending is a failure and keeping a marriage together for a lifetime is a success. Never mind that grandma wasn’t allowed to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor because grandpa didn’t want a working wife or that your best friend lies lonely in his marriage bed every night because his wife won’t touch him or that your mother consistently turned a blind eye to your father’s affairs because the marriage was more important.

It’s time to recognize the truth that some relationships are meant to last a lifetime and some relationships are not. By teaching people that relationships are work, we’re telling them that they need to find a way to keep the relationship together even when it isn’t serving them anymore. I know someone who was in a marriage for over twenty years, despite being controlled, ignored, and abused because she was taught that marriage is forever and if it isn’t, it’s because you’re doing something wrong.

I have spent way too long in nearly all of my relationships, trying to work things out when I didn’t feel cherished or desired or adored. And though I think all relationships have some value in that they help us grow into who we are (or teach us what we definitely don’t want) I think some of my time could have been better spent if I had left when the relationship wasn’t contributing to my well-being instead of spending fruitless time trying to work things out.

Instead of putting out yet another how to work it out article, I’m going to talk about when to cut and run. Remember, you can’t open your life to happiness if you’re spending all of your time trying to mash an unhappy relationship into something that it will never be.

 

When to leave:

 

  1. When you have doubts. Lots of them. I used to argue with myself constantly about whether or not the relationship I was in was right for me. If you are having to cajole yourself into staying in a relationship, it’s time to leave.
  2. You have to process the relationship with your friends. If you are having to talk to your friends regularly to help understand why your relationship is causing you so much grief, it might be time to leave. A good relationship will still have things to work out, but they can be worked out between the partners.
  3.  You don’t feel respected. This is a given. If your partner doesn’t respect your time, boundaries, needs, it is time to go.
  4. You aren’t attracted to your partner or they aren’t attracted to you. Sex is important in a love relationship and if you aren’t attracted to your partner, you are doing them a disservice by not setting them free to find someone who is. (Side note: It’s important to understand that some people are okay with not having a physical relationship and some people stay in long term intimate relationships while having sexual relationships with others and a billion other different aspects of human sexuality but in this particular instance, I am talking about a monogamous relationship in which one partner wants to be sexual and the other doesn’t find them attractive.) That was a mouthful, but it is important to note. It is hard to stay confident and body positive in a love relationship with someone who does not find your body appealing. Conversely, being with someone who craves and desires you is one of the most sexually liberating feelings in the world.
  5.  You don’t feel supported, nurtured, and cherished.
  6.  You don’t feel like supporting, nurturing, and cherishing your partner.
  7.  You lie to your partner. If you find yourself hiding aspects of yourself because your partner will react badly, or because you don’t trust them to love you as you are, it is either time to lay everything on the table, or move on.
  8.  You’re being abused. Don’t settle for abuse. Not once. If someone hits you, kicks you, pinches you in a way that hurts, it is time to leave.
  9. Your partner is mean in fights. All couples have disagreements. But if your partner calls you names when they are angry at you, it’s time to move on.
  10.  You fall in love with someone else. It’s heartbreaking, but sometimes, when you’re in the wrong relationship, you meet the right one. The moment you realize this has happened, unless you are in an open relationship and intend to stay that way, it is time to break up with the other.

Whatever you do, the most important thing to remember is that a break-up doesn’t mean you have failed. We try different things at different times in our lives. We aren’t expected to stay with the same career our entire lives, so why should we be expected to stay with the same relationship. Sometimes it works for us, and sometimes it doesn’t. If you are unhappy in your relationship and you and your partner aren’t both actively working together to change that, maybe it’s time to move on and free up the space for better things to enter your life.

 

Eating Life excerpt

Eating Life CoverLater, as they were lying in bed eating yogurt and granola, Anna asked Brilliant why she always laughed when she reached for the dildo.

“I never told you that story?”

“Come on,” Anna said. “I want to hear it.”

Brilliant opened her mouth and Anna obliged by spooning some yogurt in. Clearing her throat, Brilliant straightened up a bit, stretching one long leg over Anna’s thigh. “Columbus Gay Pride, 1996. I was there with a hot butch mechanic.”

“I forgot you date butches, too,” Anna said, smiling. “Is that weird?”

“I like women, Anna. Butch or femme or, like me, something in between.”

“I don’t have a problem with that. It’s just strange to picture you with anyone that isn’t me,” Anna replied.

“Yeah, imagine how I feel,” Brilliant said.

“We made a pact that we wouldn’t talk about Megan,” Anna said, shifting slightly away from Brilliant.

“I’m sorry. I keep breaking the rules. First I fall in love with you. Then I start a dialogue about your partner. Next thing you know, I’ll be asking you to leave her.”

“That can’t happen,” Anna said. “And I don’t want to have a dialogue about it.”

“Everyone leaves me, Anna. Everyone. My parents, my grandparents, my brother. Why don’t you just promise to stay with me?”

Anna glared. “Why don’t you start dating women who are unattached?”

Brilliant sighed. “I don’t know. Maybe I would rather date someone I know is going to disappoint me than put my trust in someone and be let down again.”

“Are we going to process your bad relationship choices all day?” Anna asked.

“We’re lesbians, Anna.” Brilliant grinned. “We process everything.”

Anna leaned over and tweaked one of Brilliant’s nipples. “Process this,” she said.

“Ahem. Continuing my story,” Brilliant said, pulling Anna snugly against her. “Gay Pride. Some dude in a leather thong was walking around selling raffle tickets.”

“Okay.” Anna giggled. She dipped her finger into the yogurt and smeared a bit on Brilliant’s nipple. Leaning down to lick it off, she motioned for the rest of the story.

“Of course I bought a few. They were only a dollar. I had no idea what they were for, but I couldn’t resist a man in a leather thong selling raffle tickets for a dollar apiece. It was so stereotypical gay pride.”

“I can see that,” Anna said, releasing the nipple. “So, what happened?”

What happened? Pre-order Eating Life on Amazon or ask for it at your favorite local bookstore and find out