Saturday, August 31, 2013

...And Smokey Helps Me Sew

It's almost ten O'Clock at night, and I'm off to bed. But before I go, I want to leave you with a cute picture of Smokey, my Cornish Rex cat, sitting on my chest as I work on the back panel of my leather purse. He really doesn't seem to mind my hands moving and the needle going in-and-out.

Smokey and Me

Friday, August 30, 2013

How to Get Ideas For Your Novel

Ideas. They're Out There. Somewhere.

Where do ideas come from? I've been thinking about this - it's time to start writing my next novel, but I haven't had that one special idea jump out at me and beg to be written. It hasn't happened yet, but I know it will. When I'm least expecting it, a scenario will present itself and hang onto me for dear life, demanding to be given life. It's happened every time I'm looking to start a new book. All I - or any author in need of a good idea - has to do is take these simple steps:

1.  Be open to the unexpected.
2.  Be watchful.
3.  Use your imagination.
4.  Recognize a unique thing when you see it.
5.  And snatch it up when it appears.

Sometimes it's Fast

Sometimes an idea will hit strong and swift, like a lightening strike. Last summer, my husband and I watched the summer Olympics and marveled at the athleticism and talent on display. The day after the closing ceremony, I was washing the dinner dishes (I remember it so clearly, we'd had spaghetti and garlic bread) and it hit me:


I knew immediately that I should write a book about it.

My breath caught in my throat because I knew, I just knew, I had something. Suddenly I was flooded with a hundred ideas revolving around this central theme where only a moment ago there had been nothing. What would athletic-style, choreographed sex in the Olympic Games look like? What would it be called? What was its history? How would the athletes feel about their sport? How would they feel about themselves? How would the rest of the world feel about it? Would spectators be horrified or would they be...ahem...into it? After I had the main idea, the story came easily. And that's how America's Darlings was born.

Sex in the Olympics. It'll never happen, not in real life, not in a hundred years, not in two hundred years - so I figured I might as well pull out all the stops and play around with the idea. Develop it as far as I could. I ended up having so much fun with it! How could I not have fun? The more admittedly silly things I thought of (team uniforms that don't actually cover anything), the more I came up with (horribly embarrassing sexual malfunctions, captured on TV for all the world to see), the better the story became.

Best of all, I enjoyed every ridiculous moment of it.

Sometimes it's Like Pulling Teeth

Sometimes, however, an idea has a much slower genesis. My current novel, Inn on the Edge (erotic horror) was like that. I had a germ of an idea: setting a story in a wonderful old lodge on the Washington Coast. I'd stayed in one once, long ago, and fell in love with it. It stuck with me all these years as the ideal atmospheric setting for a novel.

Lake Quinault Lodge

The View from the Lodge

Once I decided to move on this story, it came together piece by piece. I'd populate the Lodge (re-cast as a sinister-seeming Bed-and-Breakfast Inn) with newlywed couples. I wanted my story to be rife with erotic, passionate undercurrents, and who better than four couples gathering together just after their weddings?

Since I intended this novel to be erotic horror, I needed a bad guy to lure my unsuspecting main characters to his Inn and keep them captive. My antagonist slowly took form in my mind: he'd be a new kind of sex demon, scary yet charming, charismatic and likable, yet unable to actually have sex with his captives - quite a problem for a sex demon. My characters would alternately be enamored of him and want to get as far away from him as possible. 

But - who was this demon who would play such a large part in my novel? 

Ideas Can Come From Very Weird Places

My husband, my daughter, and I were eating take-out Thai food, and I was talking about my Demon-in-the-Inn idea. I told them I was having a problem getting a handle on the demon character. "What's his name?" asked Richard. I just stared at him blankly.

"It ought to be something foreign-sounding!" said Sarah.

"Yeah - like this..." said Richard, shoving the Pad Thai container to me.

Sarah shook her head. "Not good enough."

"Okay." He thought for a moment, then grinned. "What was the name of that Ethiopian place we ate lunch at last week? That sounded foreign!"

We looked it up. Adey Abeba.

And that was it. I knew immediately, no looking back. It was the name of the capitol of Ethiopia, and referred to a certain charming yellow flower that grew abundantly there (which play a small part in my novel). 

I changed the spelling: Adi Abiba. He was now Mr. Adi Abiba, proprietor of the unique Inn on the Edge. I could see him clearly, so very clearly! He was tall and imposing and he wore flowing robes. He had an infectious laugh and a gaze that could skewer you. In that moment, he became a fully-formed character.

I'll Take Ideas Wherever I Can Get Them

It was all I needed to get me going. During the next seven months, I wrote and revised Inn on the Edge, loving every moment of it.  The manuscript is currently with my editor at Ellora's Cave, in line for eventual publication. It is now time to start a new novel. Where will ideas for this one come from? What intriguing concept will bang me over the head? Will it be a quick-moving one like America's Darlings, or a slow one like Inn on the Edge? Time will tell!

And you? Where do your ideas come from? Have you ever tracked the growth of an idea? I'd love to hear your stories!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Purse...Second Side, Taking Shape

A Yucky Surprise

I had a purse-related mishap today.  Remember how I so cleverly taped the prepared circles together, in the order that they'd be added to the piece?  Well, that didn't work out so well for me this morning.

I had a nice row of circles all taped and ready to stitch onto the back panel.  I took the first one off the tape, stuck the needle into it to begin stitching...and did a double take. It was ruined! A bunch of the surface was gone.  The tape had pulled the top layer right from the leather, and there was a pale splotch near the middle of the circle. Aggh.  A thin layer of green-tinted leather still clung to the tape, I could see it clearly.  How ugly.  How unexpected.  I had no idea that something as innocuous as tape could damage leather.

The white area isn't camera's the damage.

Okay, not a disaster, but still, it was annoying.  I made a replacement circle out of the same olive-green remnant (much prettier than it sounds), wondering what I'd do about maintaining the order of the circles if I couldn't tape them anymore. Then I felt pretty silly because all I have to do is tape the pieces on their backs instead of on their fronts.  Duh.

The back panel, one-third completed

Just because it's a cool picture...

And this one too

The last week or so, I've been working on this leather-and-crochet project at the same time a big bathroom remodel is underway in our home.  With the construction guys forever coming and going, and the noises, the hammering and sawing and screeching tools, and the decisions to be made (quick! What kind of tile do you want? We need to know - NOW!), and doors to the outside to be shut (the workers seem to be allergic to closing them) there is no way I can do any real work.  Such as writing or practicing my classical guitar.

But hanging out at the kitchen table, stitching little circles together is just about perfect for my frayed attention span and spent nerves.  I can work on this purse and still be at the construction guy's beck and call.  Hmm.  Come to think of it, I'll probably always associate this particular purse with the bathroom remodel.  

Okay, that's enough of an update for now.  It's past midnight, and I need to get some shut-eye before the guys show up at seven thirty tomorrow morning.  Buenas noches!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Five Reasons I Write Erotica

A good friend and I went out for a coffee date last week.  She sat across the table with her iced latte, regarding me as I sipped at my coffee-caramel-cookie-crumble-whipped-cream confection.  Why erotica, she wanted to know? Why not mainstream, YA, science fiction, memoir – most of which I've written.  Why erotica?

Caught by surprise, I mumbled something about how I liked what I was doing with the erotica, and how my future plans include both erotica and mainstream fiction.  But she made me think:  why DO I write erotica?  What makes me think I know enough about sex and orgasms and romantic relationships to write about such things?  After much consideration, I came up with a list I wish I’d been quick enough to give my friend when she’d asked.

1.  I’m good at it.  After a few squeamish moments writing an explicit sex scene during my  first erotic story, Paint Job, I never looked back.  I found I could write it all, the descriptions, who is doing what to whom, who is feeling which exquisite sensation - and I could do it with the perfect amount of steamy detail.  Better yet, my editors at Ellora's Cave thought so too.

2.  It’s fun.  I get right in there with my characters.  When my imagination is flowing just right, I sometimes feel what they feel.  I tap into their sex lives, their love, their passion, their desire.  What’s not to like?  I love it!  It thrills me to give my characters beautiful sexual encounters.

3.  It’s free-ing.  I write things that I may never have a chance to do in real life – ménages, lesbian sex, exhibitionistic sexual performances.  And even things that I hope I never do in real life, such as the erotic encounter with a demon in my newest novel, Inn on the Edge.

4.  It sells.  I had no idea there was such an enormous market for romance, erotic romance, and erotica.  Why is this not common knowledge?

5.  Writing erotica makes me feel alive.  When I write a passionate scene, I feel vibrant.  I feel younger, excited about the world.  And when I’m not actively writing, I've found a welcoming community of erotica and romance writers to learn from and with whom to share my editing, publishing, and marketing journey.

So, those are my reasons.  It will be interesting to see how I feel in a year.  Will I be over this erotica thing?  Will I love it even more?  Will I still want to write erotica, but run out of ways to portray sex?  Time will tell.  For now, it’s enough that I’m having fun with it.

Now it's your turn!

Why are you writing erotica, or romance, or whatever you're writing? Please share your own list in the comments.  

Monday, August 26, 2013

Purse - Completed Front Panel

Step One - Finished!

Last night I finished the front panel.  It looks great, feels good, lays flat (which I never take for granted when doing piece-work with leather) and the little circles look so darn pretty.  I can't wait to see the whole thing.  My daughter, Sarah, commented about how quickly it went together.  I gave her an exasperated look - how can she say that when I've put in hours and hours and hours on this thing...but she's right. Compared to my previous purses and bags, this one is coming together at lightening speed.  I think it must be the crocheting.

The Front Panel

Sewing the Last Circle on the Front Panel

And Now I Begin the Back Panel

I'll admit it.  I get bored doing the same-old thing over again.  I can't resist all those beautiful leather pieces still awaiting a project of their own.  It took me a whopping three seconds to decide that the back panel needs a different color scheme.

I like things that are two-sided.  Having different colors on each side will make the bag more versatile. And more fun, too.  It comes naturally to me.  I design entire lines of jewelry with two sides and people get very excited about it when I sell them at art shows.  "Look!" they say, "I can turn this bracelet over and wear it with my other outfit and no-one will ever know!"

 Leather Pieces for the Back Panel

Circles for the Back Panel

I built this color scheme around the luscious turquoise pieces impressed with designs in chocolate brown.  The other colors fell into place as soon as I chose the turquoise one.  

My First Request

Sarah is crazy about the circle-designed purse and she loved the red-and-black earrings I made for her last week (pictured in a prior post).  Last night, she ran her hands over the completed Front Panel and sighed.  "Mom," she said, "I know you aren't making these to sell...but would you consider making one for my birthday?"

Of course I will!  We'll make it special, just for her, to her own specifications.  I'm sure she'll want it smaller and more purse-like, and she's already said she'd like a flap closure.  I'm also sure that she'll absolutely adore picking out a color scheme of her own the next time she comes over.  I'm looking forward to it too.  Oh, and she told me she's already designing (in her head) a necklace to go with the earrings. 

Well, it's back to work for me.

Thank you for reading this, and please leave a comment if you wish!  I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

America's Darlings Review

A five star review for America's Darlings

I woke up this morning to a very nice surprise! Manic Readers, a well-respected review site, has chosen my erotic novel, America's Darlings, for review on their website. It's a very complimentary review - my first ever, for any book - and I am absolutely thrilled.

The Review:

"Picture an Olympics of the future, where a new sport is being introduced. The sport has evolved from gymnastics, and involves pairs of competitors, male/female, male/male or female/female. The sport is Sexual Gymnastics, and the couples do a provocative dance/gymnastic routine that culminates in actual penetration, and orgasm. The goal is to show the beauty of sex, and a secondary goal is to give the audience a V.O. or Vicarious Orgasm, as they watch the real orgasm on stage.

I thought America’s Darlings was a brilliant idea, and loved the way Bridges has presented it. Although I can’t predict the future, I doubt this would become a sport even then, but the concept is great and well done. I had the good fortune to be a volunteer at a Winter Olympic Games, and loved every minute of it. I think Bridges has captured the feeling of excitement and pride of the athletes quite well here. They don’t just have sex, they are highly trained athletes in their own sport and don’t like to be put down by others who think theirs is not a ‘real’ sport.

I liked Benson and Leah, who experienced all the highs and lows of any athlete at this level, and who worked through their fears and trepidations by utilizing their coaches and mind controls to give the performances of their lives."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


So much leather, so many choices!

Now that I have my sample piece from the other day and I know it will work, I can begin working on my handbag in earnest.  First, I cut out a small mountain of circles, falling in love with each piece in turn.  I have added more pieces, more colors and textures - it seemed like every bit of leather in my stash wanted to be included in my new project.

My favorite piece is dark brown and impressed to look like it is woven. Unfortunately, I used most of it in a prior project, so I was only able to cut out a single whole circle and two halves.  You can see the halves in the upper right quadrant of the image below.

The First Batch of Circles

Too Red?

And then (no surprise!) I went overboard on my additional color selections.  I cut two circles out of a lovely, buttery-soft remnant in a deep red color - but when I put them with the others, they jumped out from the others because they were too bright.  So I did some quick thinking and made something special out of them.  Luckily, my daughter Sarah quite likes large, dangling earrings in bright colors!  I just know she'll love them.

Earrings for Sarah

My favorite Part - Arranging the Elements

I spent three evenings punching holes and crocheting edges around thirty circles - and then I couldn't wait to start putting them together even though I knew I didn't yet have enough for even the front panel of the handbag.  I spread them all out onto the kitchen table and admired how much prettier the decorative edges seemed to make them.  Then I set to work arranging them.

How much time did I spend moving circles here and there?  Way too much!  I wanted to scatter the textures and colors in a pleasing manner, so that no two pieces of the same thing were touching each other, and it took a long time to get it right.  When I was finally satisfied, I taped the rows in place so I would know which particular piece to add as the piece progressed.

The half circles are for making a straight edge along the side of the purse panel, which will later be covered by a strip of leather piping.  I haven't yet decided what color to use for the piping.  Probably black.

Taping the Pieces in Place

Sewing the Pieces Together

I use a sharp-tipped needle and waxed thread for this part, making simple whip stitches to connect the crocheted stitches.  It's not difficult, but takes more concentration than the crocheting had.  I only poked myself twice - and one of those wasn't my fault.  My cat decided he needed to play with the dangling thread and he didn't really care that I was holding a sharp needle.


It's Starting to Look Like Something!

I decided to make this bag a bit slimmer than the last bag.  I'm thinking that it will be a book bag, large enough for a book or two (of course!) or perhaps a pad of paper and pen and a chocolate bar and my car keys.  I'm planning on the front panel being seven circles wide by seven circles high.  The height may change as it progresses.

Once I have the front and back panels made, I'll decide how deep the bag ought to be. Right now, I'm thinking two circles deep...but I'll have to see.  In any event, I have the bottom third of the front panel made, and it looks great.

Part of the Front Panel

A Close-up

Back to Work

I'm very pleased with what I've made so far and I can't seem to keep my hands off it.  I just love how leather feels to my fingers, and I'm delighted how well leather and crocheting work together.

But... it's sobering when I think about how many circles it'll take to complete this project.  All this work, and I'm only a tiny bit into the bag!  I don't really mind - each of my previous handmade leather purses took months to make.  But does it really matter if this bag takes forever?  Unlike my jewelry work, I'm not selling the leather purses, so I'm not counting the hours I'm putting into them. Besides, I'm doing this for the pleasure of it, because I love creating things where nothing existed before, and because I love to use my hands and fingers.

And now, I need to cut some more leather circles...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Good News

It's good news, all right.  Very good news!

I'm so happy I think I'm going to break into song and dance right here in front of the computer.  I just got an email from my editor at Ellora's Cave (my publisher) - and she's accepted my novel!

Inn on the Edge is erotic horror.  It's a big, fat book (over 300 pages long) about a newlywed couple who go to a bed-and-breakfast Inn on the Washington coast ... only to be captured by a sex demon.  The main characters have a lot of fun for several days even as they wonder about the strange old geezer that runs the place.  But then all hell breaks loose, their lives are endangered, and they are forced to plan a daring escape.

I've been working on the story since January.  I spent many a morning at Starbucks writing (and looking over my shoulder to make sure that no-one was peeking at the very explicit sex scenes.) Once in a while I had to stop myself from breaking out into laughter at something funny, or from shivering with anxiety for my characters, because - I admit it - there were times when they felt very real to me.

My book has been accepted by the publisher, but there is still a lot of work to do.  Editing, writing a synopsis and a blurb, getting an ISBN number, getting cover art (always fun).  My guess is that we'll see the book available for sale in... hmm... December, maybe, if I'm lucky?  January?  February?  The waiting is hard, but Ellora's Cave, being an e-publisher for the most part, is much quicker than traditional publishers where an author can wait more than a year to see a book.

A bit of Inn on the Edge trivia:

My daughter Sarah helped to name the demon!  His name is Mr. Adi Abiba.  Any guesses as to what was the inspiration for his name?  I'll post the answer in a few days.

Now, please excuse me while I go celebrate!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

New Handbag - Day One

A New Project:

I just adore beginning a new project!  Everything is wide open with potential, exciting and new.  I carry around an idea for awhile - anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks - and then I can't stand it anymore and I have to start.  Even if I don't quite know what I'm doing, I know I can figure things out as I go.  That's how I've always created artwork, whether it's jewelry or a painting or writing a new novel - I have confidence that I can figure it out as I go.  

The Idea:

I passed by a woman in a parking lot on Thursday (two days ago) and my eye was caught by her unusual shoulder bag.  It was made of fabric circles with a border of black crocheting around them, all sewn together.  That was it - I only saw one glimpse of her lovely purse, and then she was gone.  But it was enough to get the "idea" machinery churning in my head.  It was perhaps even a good thing I saw so little, because with such scant information to go on, I am now free to make the purse my own and not simply a copy of someone else's.  This is what I sketched as soon as I returned home:

The first sketch

The second sketch

Getting More Serious About It:

So now I had an idea.  And a kernel of a plan.  I let the idea stew for a few days, and then I went through my leather pieces and pulled out this piece and that piece and the other piece, and spread them all out on the table.  I have several gorgeous patterned pieces in brown-ish colors that I've been wanting to use, and they kept rising to the surface.  I added some textured black pieces and some lovely brick-red colored pieces also, to add dimension to all that brown.

Eventually, I settled on perhaps fifteen different leather pieces that could potentially be used in this purse.  I may add more colors as the project develops, but here is the basis for the purse (the piece that looks dark blue in the photo is actually black):

The chosen pieces

Getting Started:

The circles ... how big should they be?  It was totally up to me, since I didn't remember how big the circles were on the purse I'd seen - and anyhow, I didn't care because I wanted this to be MY purse design.  I pulled out my circle template and drew several of the biggest circles on brown paper, cut them out, and lined them up in a row.  They looked good.  I liked the size.  They'd work nicely for what I had in mind.  So I went ahead and cut out a couple of trial circles in leather.

Using the template to draw circles on the back side of leather.

Preparing the Circles:

I knew I'd have to punch holes in them to work the crocheting into the leather.  I punched a trial row of holes in the first circle, but the hole size I'd selected was too small to get my crochet hook through. (That's the kind of thing that happens when you work without a pattern; all part of the fun!) I went back and punched them all again, using a hole punch two sizes larger.

I'm very lucky because my mother taught me to crochet when I was young - only about seven years old, if I remember correctly.  We used a giant purple plastic crochet hook and fat pink yarn, and I thought it was great fun to learn this nifty handicraft that not only my mother knew, but also my grandmother and my great-grandmother - I felt so grown up!

Back to the present...I tried two types of thread for the crocheting (using a slender steel crochet hook, not the giant purple one from my childhood...) and settled on the same waxed linen thread I'd used for my prior two purses.

The hole punch, the steel hook, two crochet trials, and the waxed linen thread 

And - We're Off!

I liked what I saw.  The leather circles, the crocheting, the thread, everything worked well together. So I settled in and made more.  It was evening.  I brought my supplies to the family room where my husband was watching TV, sat in my easy chair and kind-of watched a re-run of that delightfully odd detective show "Monk" and worked on my project at the same time - a very pleasant hour.  When I had six circles ready to go, I couldn't wait any longer, I had to stitch them together with my large sewing needle (using the same linen thread).

The first bit of the purse

And there it is!  Now it'll just be more of the same.  I'll continue making these little circles, crocheting their edges, and stitching them together, until I have something that begins to resemble a shoulder bag.  At which point I'll have to start thinking about a lining for the bag and a sturdy handle.

I'll post more as it develops.

I'd love feedback, if you like what you see or if you have questions!

Friday, August 16, 2013


I'm starting a new project today - I'm going to make a leather-and-crocheted bag.

I've been working with leather for the past year or so, making handbags and shoulder bags, and enjoying it very much. It all started when I went to a Free-cycle event in downtown Seattle last September where local designers and interior decorators gathered all their throw-away materials in one place and invited people in to take what they'd like.  Talk about a fantasy land for artistic people!  Fabric samples and wallpaper samples and flooring samples and on and on and on...and LEATHER!

I dug through boxes full of cool stuff and found little squares of beautiful leather samples left over from the furniture-making business (and other business, I assume.)  Each one was more lovely than the last and before I knew it, I had collected quite a nice stack of them.  I decided I'd try to make a book bag with them.  I had no idea the project would take over my life and last for the next five weeks.

My Book Bag

I had so much fun with this project!  It was painstaking work - I had to punch little holes in the leather everywhere I wanted a stitch.  That's hundreds and hundreds of them, so many that my hand began to complain.  I liked the bag and I liked the leather, but I wasn't happy with either the type of thread I used (a thin-but-strong beading thread I had laying around) or with the stitch I used.  Other than that, the bag was (is) great, and I showed it to everyone who I came into contact with.  Besides which...TA DA!!! was utterly and completely free aside from the time I put into it.

Purse Number Two...

And then, I had to make another one.  How could I not?  I'd used up a lot of the colorful free samples, but I still had quite a few black squares left and a bunch of white and off-white ones.  The black ones measured about 4" by 6", and I knew there must be a clever way to use them.  This time, I used waxed linen thread made especially for leather stitchery, and a simple running stitch (in one hole and out the next).

Laptop bag

This bag has sides and a bottom, set in with piping around all the edges.  I had to take off the bottom panel three times before I figured it out, but the piping made the bag's lines more crisp, and made it hold its shape better.  I also decided that pockets were a good thing to have in a bag.  I followed the stitches already in place (so no ugly extra rows of stitches would show up) and put in both a pocket and a key strap.  I also used sticky-sided velcro as a closure.  I learned a lot with this purse!

Purse Number Three...

I figured every guitarist needs a gig bag!  I copied the dimensions of my favorite guitar-paraphernalia bag and made a pattern out of brown shopping-bag paper.  I made it deeper and wider, and the handle longer.  I hand sketched a classical guitar onto another piece of paper, and then chopped it into pieces, like a puzzle.  I love making things hard on myself, it seems!

Guitar Bag, side one

Guitar Bag, side two

If you're thinking that this looks like it was a lot of was!  And I made even more work for myself by making another guitar on the second side.  Probably the most challenging part was to make the guitar shape lie flat.  

Oh, and I broke down and bought a batch of leather scraps off of ebay.  So this bag wasn't free...

Purse Number four...

A handbag.  I don't usually use one, I haven't carried one for more than twenty years, but this design came to me out of the blue and I just had to do it.  Also, I visited a shop in Tacoma that sells small-ish pieces of VERY COOL leather remnants and I bought a stack of them.  I was looking for black pieces in all different textures and patterns, and boy did I like what I found.  This hand bag uses strips of the black pieces.


This purse was another learning experience.  I lined it, for one thing.  I also figured out a nifty braided handle.  I also used two round magnets as a closure system - you can see where I hid the top one, in the circular button-shaped thing on the front.

That's all so far!  I'm starting a new purse today...and I plan on blogging about it as it develops.  Thank you!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

This is the first post of my brand-new blog, Gail's Place.  Welcome to everyone who visits!  In this space, I will share bits and pieces of the things that are important to me:  my writing, my art, and what I'm doing.  Maybe even a glimpse or two of my family.  This is me: