Monday, October 28, 2013

Ultrasounds and Orgasms - An Erotica Writer on the Loose

“Jonah’s cool hand rests on the small of Vanessa’s naked back. His fingers trace the long lines of her spine, languorously, gently, making her gasp, making her own fingers curl in anticipation…”

I stop typing. I lift my hands from my laptop keyboard, squinting, re-reading the lines I’ve just written. I am in a coffee shop in the lobby of a large hospital, doing what I love best while I wait for a friend’s appointment to be over. I shift in my seat, tearing myself from my story – my erotic, soon to be very explicit story.

A child has caught my attention. She’s two, perhaps three years old. She’s got a hundred tiny braids all over her head. She’s wearing a yellow dress and orange tights with fat pumpkins on them, and pink rubber boots. She’s currently dashing in wild circles around a chair she’s dragged between tables. She’s adorable.

“TaVette!” hollers a gray-haired woman. Her grandmother, I assume. “You’re bothering the lady! Stop it!”

“No, no,” I protest, waving my hands and smiling, “she’s fine. Let her be.”

I take up my stub of a pencil and write in my notebook: TaVette? Tahvet? Tavitt? Eyeing the still-spinning child, I force myself back to my story, thinking: she’s not paying a whit of attention to what you’re doing. Don’t be silly! Stop thinking everyone is watching you! Make those characters DO THE WHOOPIE!

I take a sip of my Starbuck’s Mocha. This particular coffee shop, where a never-ending human drama passes by the too-small tables, can be rather challenging. I’m used to it. I kind of like it, even. Writing in this location is a nice change of routine. But sometimes – like right now – it’s hard to write erotica. Damn hard.

I put my hands back to the keyboard. I pull myself back to my characters, who are about to get some. It takes several deep breaths, but I’m soon back in a world where the getting some is beautiful, breathtaking, perfect. Better than real life. That’s what I do. I’m an erotica writer. I intend to deliver. Oh, yes. I know exactly what’s coming next. All I have to do is write it.

“Turn over, Vanessa,” Jonah says, his voice so thick, so quiet she barely hears it. Vanessa turns over, then gazes up at him. Funny how the mattress seems to have expanded. She swears it’s doubled in size, while the rest of the world has shrunk in on her and her new love, on the passion brewing between them. A tremble passes through her as he puts his mouth to her breast –”

I’m abruptly torn from my love scene.

“Mama!” shrieks the little girl. “Mama!” Streaking by my wobbly little table, TaVette throws her arms around the legs of a heavily pregnant woman. “Let me see! Let me see! I want to see the baby picture!”

My concentration broken – and dang it, it’s at the very moment Vanessa’s love scene is heating up nicely – I watch TaVette’s mother pull a fuzzy ultrasound picture from a mustard-yellow envelope. She shows it to the child, and then the grandmother. I hear their laughter, their joyous voices.

How nice for them, I think, what a sweet moment. Maybe I can use it in a story sometime. Now – back to work. Do it!

I take a deep breath. Put my fingers to the keyboard. Picture Vanessa and Jonah in their bed. Imagine what they’re doing to each other. I begin to type again.

“…his hand slides up her thigh. It lingers. His lips, his tongue, the bristles of his beard, what they do to her! How they make her back arch! How they make her skin sing! His fingers begin a slow walk over her trembling skin. His weight presses the length of her body. She can’t help but gasp as he –”

“What are you doing, Lady?”

It’s the little girl.

Horrified, I slam the cover of my laptop closed. “Um, I’m writing.”

“TaVette! Always poking your nose where it doesn’t belong!” The mother ushers the child away by a thin shoulder. “Sorry!” she calls over her shoulder. Child, mother, grandmother and ultrasound disappear through the lobby’s glass doors.

I let out a long sigh.

They’re gone now, but I can’t write any more. The spell is broken. Vanessa and Jonah will have to wait until my next writing session to consummate their love, poor things. This time, it was a hyper-active little girl that did them in. Last time, it was a young Asian man, his handsome face wracked with despair, an obvious new quadriplegic. The time before, it was a chatty group of physicians sitting one table over, discussing their chief of staff. Who will it be next time?

I slurp the dregs from my mocha, thinking. Writing in such a place must affect my writing. It has to, doesn’t it? I pack my laptop, turn off the mouse, wipe the table, throw away my cup and napkin, still contemplating the little scene I’d just been part of. These hospital lobby dramas are life. The good parts of life, the bad parts – all of it. The scary, the horrific, the wonderful. People loving one another. People helping one another through difficult times. People celebrating a new pregnancy. These things affect me, surely they must affect my writing.

So I’ll be back. For I – the erotica writer – am part of the hospital lobby too.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Delicious Recipe and a Finished Purse

I have two things for you today.

First, a lip-smacking recipe: Dutch Babies! In my family, we've made these delectable pancakes for special occasions for as long as I can remember, birthdays and holidays and sometimes just to brighten a person's day. Dutch Babies never fail to impress with their unique fluffy texture and their extravagant, over-the-top looks. But never fear! Although these Dutch Babies look like they'd keep you from eating for a week or two, they're surprisingly light - I always fill the oven and make one per person. There's never any left over.

 Dutch Babies, hot from the oven. Serve with lemons, butter, and powdered sugar.

Dutch Babies
(One recipe per person, one recipe per pan)

2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
3 Eggs
½ Cup flour
½ Cup milk
¼ Teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the butter in a ten-inch pie pan, then place the pan in heated oven for five minutes, until butter melts.

Place two or three pie pans in the oven on the middle shelf, or how many fit at a time.

Meanwhile, for the batter, in a medium bowl (one bowl per recipe) use a wire whisk to beat the eggs until combined.  Add flour, milk, and salt; beat until mixture is smooth.  Immediately pour batter into the hot skillet.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until puffed and well browned.

Slide whole Dutch Babies onto plates. Serve with lemon wedges, butter, and powdered sugar.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Second, I've completed the crocheted-and-leather purse. Two months and thousands of stitches later, not to mention several missteps and an infusion of free leather (none of which went into this particular purse) ... it's hereby done!

Side One

Side Two

Writing and more ...

In other news, I have come up with an idea for my next novel. After brainstorming (with daughter Sarah's amazingly spot-on input) I've decided upon a plot framework for - gasp! - A THREE-BOOK SERIES! Taking a clue from the marvelous J.K. Rowlings, I sat down and plotted each book (for me) in painstaking detail, covering character traits and plot arcs and subplots and world-building. Whew. A lot of work goes into this stuff!

I then wrote up said plots in proposal form for my editor at Ellora's Cave. Now, a day later, I'm sitting on my thumbs, waiting for her go-ahead which may not come for a couple of weeks. It remains to be seen if the go-ahead I'm hoping for is more like a go-back-to-the-drawing-table...

Hey - I almost forgot - the first pass of edits for Inn on the Edge are on their way from my editor! I should be seeing them early next week. The book is one step closer to publication, and I am thrilled. It's my favorite novel so far, although, like a parent, I'm probably not supposed to say such a thing.

But it's true!

One more thing. On Wednesday, my classical guitar duo partner and I will (hopefully) record the last piece destined to go onto our first CD. I say "hopefully" because sometimes it takes a few weeks to get a good recording. Vivaldi can be a devil to play! You can bet I'll blog about it and post links if we're successful.

That's all for now, I promise! As always, thanks for reading my blog. I love you guys.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Conference Made in Heaven

The Emerald City Writer's Conference is over now. It's a bittersweet feeling - I loved every minute of it, but by Sunday afternoon I was exhausted and ready to be done with crowds and excitement for this year. Here are the highlights:

Hanging out with my buddy from last year, Anna Kearie

Winning not one- but TWO - raffle prizes at lunch on Saturday! The board is for a beautiful, artist-designed book cover for a future book. I may self-publish my memoir at some point, so I was thrilled to win this one!

Hanging out with the Firemen. These hunky guys generously hosted a coffee-and donut breakfast on Saturday and happily posed for pictures with conference attendees.

My display for the Book Fair was exactly perfect. I was delighted with the swag choices I made. I gave away about 2/3 of the pens, and about 3/4 of the Rack Cards. Sitting at a table behind posters of my books, talking about them to strangers and to friends, was a fabulous experience. It didn't take long for me to come up with a couple of catch-phrases: "America's Darlings is about - wait for it - SEX in the Olympics! How FUN and ridiculous is that?" And this one: "They have coaches, and they have to practice just like any other athlete ... and they get POINTS TAKEN OFF for mistakes during performances!" (Wink, wink,wink!) And another: "And, oh, yeah - there's a love story, too."

Participating in the Book Fair for the first time

Getting to know my fellow Ellora's Cave authors

One of my favorite parts of this conference is the wide variety of great workshops and classes they offer. I took as many as I could, with enticing titles such as: Taming Twitter, The Busy Author's Guide to Social Media, and Reviews and Publicity - Where are the Readers? As you can see, I was giving myself a crash course in social media and in marketing. It turns out that even though I have a long way to go, I'm on the right path and I'm already doing a lot of things I should be doing to market my books. So - yeah me!

I have come away with a year's worth of inspiration. Spending time with other writers is crucial to my development as an author, and I am so grateful that this wonderful conference is right at my back door. I can't wait until next year.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Romance Writer's Conference, Here I Come

Only two more days!

Before I know it, I'll be heading over to Bellevue Washington for the Emerald City Writer's Conference. In my last post, I spoke of putting together promotional materials to give away at the Book Fair and at other times. I designed and ordered posters, business cards, rack cards, and pens. At the time, only the posters had arrived. Now I have everything - and I'm very pleased!

The Posters

The Rack Cards (both sides) and the Business Cards

The Pens - all 250 of them

I've already started giving away pens and the cards. Last night, for instance, I was at a board meeting of the Seattle Classical Guitar Society, where I'm the secretary. I brought a handful of pens and Rack Cards. I set them out before the meeting at everyone's seat. The Treasurer came in a few minutes late and missed my (rather excited) explanation.

She sat down at the table. She gave a long look at my "Inn on the Edge" Rack Card. Looking baffled, she shuffled through her treasurer's papers, fished something out of her purse, exchanged pleasantries with the President of the Board. She picked up the pen and read the inscription. Then she read most if not all of the book blurb on the Rack Card, trying to appear to be paying attention to the meeting.

"What is all this?" she whispered in my direction.

"It's me! I'm Gail Bridges! I have a pen name. I wrote these books..."

"Oh!" Her eyes grew large. I noticed for the first time how very gray they were.

"I write erotica," I said under my breath, "so they may not be to your taste - but I thought I'd share these things with all of you because I'm so dang excited! I have a new book coming out!"

"Cool." She tucked the pen into her purse. "Thanks."

So there you have it: I'm doing my part. Even if most people won't be interested in my work, I'm committed to networking, to promoting, to marketing my books. At least a little. They say word-of-mouth is best, right? And, who knows? If I continue to share my excitement with friends and acquaintances, to give out cards and pens and cards, I may find a reader sometime, somewhere. Giving out my swag last night may not have resulted in a sale, but it was fun. It's good practice to talk about my work, to answer questions, and to find ways around the - gasp! - erotica thing.

Come Visit me! I'd love to see you.

I hope to take notes and impressions of the upcoming conference. Maybe even a photo or two. I'd like to share my experiences in a future blog post. Until then, adios amigos!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Romance Conference Time!

...And now, for a change of pace - no leather at all, not even the tiniest scrap!

I'm gearing up for the Emerald City Writer's Conference (ECWC), which is put on by the Seattle chapter of the Romance Writers of America. It's just two and a half weeks away! On October 17, I'll put away my leather punch and abandon my various art projects. I'll don my writing cap. I'll sharpen up my adverbs and brush off my prepositions. I'll set off across the floating bridge and head for Bellevue Washington to attend the biggest, most wonderful Conference around.

I attended the ECWC last year, dipping my toes into the waters of the world of Romance books and Romance authors and Romance publishers - but, truth be told, I didn't have a clue what I was doing at this particular Conference. Although I was beside myself with excitement, I didn't yet feel like a bona-fide author, especially a Romance author. I had a shiny new contract for my first erotica book, Paint Job, with Ellora's Cave, but publication was still three very long months away. My second book, America's Darlings, was in its infant stage, written but not yet revised or polished. And my third, Inn on the Edge wasn't anywhere on the horizon yet. 

I sound like I'm talking about my children, don't I? 

The Conference was an eye-opener. I loved it. For one thing, it had a much friendlier feel than the other Conference I'd attended earlier in the summer, the enormous all-genre Pacific Northwest Writers Association. Why was the Romance Conference better? It took me completely by surprise. Are Romance writers nicer people? Was it because the attendees were 90% women? Or what? I still haven't figured it out, but the Romance event was just plain FUN.  Games. Raffles. Welcomes for new attendees. Sign-ups for special dinners out. Theme parties. Gift baskets. Prizes. Did I mention that everyone was friendly?

I remember going up a long, long elevator to the third floor to where the Conference was based. At the top, in front of me, was a table bursting with goodies: pens, and hot-from-the-press books, little wrapped candies, lip balm and tiny vanity mirrors, and more, so much more. I stared at the table in wonder, thinking, Who are all these things for? Certainly not for me?

"Go ahead," said a lady with a wide red smile who walked right up to me, "take some! These are people's promotional items for their books. See?" She picked up a purple pen. "This one is nice, isn't it? It has the author's name and website on it." She held it out to me. "Here, put it into your bag! Take more!" She rifled through the piles of give-aways. "Hey. This is a sweet pad of Post-it notes! You need Post-it notes, don't you? Of course you do."

I did. Very much so. More than any other moment of my life.

"Go on," she said again, tossing one into her own shoulder bag as she walked away, "take one of everything!"

Reading the lettering on each item, noting the clever titles, looking at pictures on the more elaborate items, I imagined the day I would have such things of my own to promote my own future books. Feeling like the world might actually welcome a new author like myself, I carefully collected one of each item. And I learned a new word: swag. This stuff is called swag by insiders. Cool.

A few of the promotional pens from last year. The one on the left has a USB!

Just a sampling of the many non-pen items I collected.
The "Jane Porter" oval thing is a nail file!

Last year, of course, I went to the Conference with nothing but an open mind. This year, I intend to be prepared. I want to add my own contributions to the piles of swag.

A few weeks ago, I set to work designing and ordering my promotional materials. I had no idea there were so many online-businesses specializing in conference swag! Choosing what to get and where to get it took as long as the designing. I finally settled on what I hoped would cover all my Conference needs: Posters for the Book Fair. Rack cards with images of my book covers and blurbs. Business cards. And, of course, pens. Yesterday, the first item showed up on my front porch - the posters. I was thrilled. 

I'll adhere these posters to stiff backings and set them on stands for the Book Fair. 
I love them!

I'll continue posting about my swag items as they appear. And I'll be sure to take notes and pictures at the Conference itself, and write about how this year differs from last year. Because it will. After all, I'm now a bona-fide author.