laylah: pine needles and a pine cone dusted with snow (all the trees in the green wood)
Evergreen, Dreamspinner Press's 2012 Advent Calendar collection, is now available for preorder! The collection contains 31 short holiday-themed stories, one of which is mine. You can preorder the entire collection at the link for $49.99; if the price is too rich for your blood, or if you'd prefer to sample some a la carte dishes instead of buying the entire buffet, you'll be able to buy individual stories on December 1st. (The "Excerpt" link on that page is actually a list of all the stories, with their summaries, so you can see what sorts of things you'd be in for.)

My contribution, Safe Harbor, is a warm fuzzy blanket in story form: lonely sailor Blake comes in to port on Christmas Eve to an unexpected reunion with the best friend he's loved—and thought he could never have—for years, and it turns out they're both exactly what the other wants for Christmas.

I can't wait to share it with you! Especially now that DST has ended, and the dark sets in early this far north.
laylah: a person wearing high boots and a sleeveless shirt lounging with a book open in hir lap (storyteller)
I'm participating in a charity auction for original short stories to benefit charities doing recovery work for Hurricane Sandy. My auction listing is here; rules for the auctions are here. Please come bid! A good cause and a chance to get original fiction tailored to your specifications -- it's a winning combination!

There are a bunch of other folks participating, too; you can check the auction listing label to see who else is around and what they're offering.

If you got here from the auction page, hi! You can leave comments on this post with any questions you have for me, and I'll get back to you as quickly as possible. You don't need a Dreamwidth account to comment. Thanks for stopping by!
laylah: an illustration from  Through the Looking Glass: a black kitten pawing at a ball of yarn. (Default)
So I found out this morning that Piper Vaughn and MJ O'Shea were hosting an original-fiction auction for Red Cross donations in Sandy's wake (the planning and setup post is here). I've volunteered to join the crew of authors who are participating -- I'm going to be offering 5k+ of either m/m or f/f speculative fiction, tailored to the winner's specifications.

I'll let you know when the auction posts go live!
laylah: a person wearing high boots and a sleeveless shirt lounging with a book open in hir lap (storyteller)
The day after my last post I woke up at 3am with a miserable earache, so I spent Saturday morning in urgent care getting a prescription for antibiotics and cough syrup with codeine. People say that's "the good stuff," but eh. It made me a little dizzy, is all. But I am at least sleeping a little better and no longer having terrifying coughing fits on a regular basis.

I'm now coming right down to the wire on one of the submission calls I wanted to meet this fall, and also coming up on the date when I'm supposed to hear back on a story I have out right now. Here's hoping for good luck on both fronts in the next few days! My plans for the weekend are fairly low-key, so I really just need to get my act together and focus on turning the rest of this outline into prose.

Any minute now.

ETA: I also keep stalling on things like "How hungry would you have to be before you were willing to try dog food?" QUESTIONS MY CHARACTERS WISH I DIDN'T NEED ANSWERS TO.
laylah: an illustration from  Through the Looking Glass: a black kitten pawing at a ball of yarn. (Default)
The most frustrating thing about being sick -- I wanted to say "the worst thing," but no, there are plenty of worse things -- the most frustrating thing is the way it just shuts down my ability to brain. I picked up another cold on the plane on the way home from VA. Between that and traveling, I think I've written about 1.5k in the last week. FAR from ideal.

Still, I think actually I might have been doing some helpful research (I'm going to tell myself that, anyway). The book I finished reading yesterday, K.J. Parker's The Company, did a really good job of modeling how to write "dreary routine punctuated by minor disasters," which is after all what a lot of surviving-harsh-environment narratives are about. Maybe I can apply that to making some good progress this weekend.
laylah: an illustration from  Through the Looking Glass: a black kitten pawing at a ball of yarn. (Default)
Heading back east this weekend for the memorial service for my grandfather. (Condolences not really necessary; we were never close, as his relationship with my mother was difficult at best. But he was still her dad, and I want to be there for her.)

Loaded up my kindle and charged all the electronics last night (top of the reading heap: Santuario by G.B. Gordon, which I was looking forward to enough to preorder). I'm hoping I can make some good progress on both reading and writing fronts during the flights, which are ~5 hours in each direction. That should be enough off-the-internet-now-focus time to get some things done, I hope.

This morning: pack bags, snuggle the cats a little extra, have coffee and breakfast, clean cat box, depart on a bus-train-plane-rental car adventure that will, late this evening, land me at [personal profile] ilyat's house. It's my first time flying since the introduction of the backscatter/patdown circus, and I'm not looking forward to that at all. Blech. Still, at the end there will be good company and quite possibly homemade tacos. That's a reward worth adventuring for, isn't it?
laylah: a person wearing high boots and a sleeveless shirt lounging with a book open in hir lap (storyteller)
My big productive activity this past weekend was more in the way of editing existing words than creating new ones. I did a lot of revision to the apocafic in progress, streamlining my existing draft so it would be easier to move forward, and I also did the revisions for my Dreamspinner short story. Several of the line edits in my DSP story were suggestions to reduce the number of semicolons and em dashes scattered throughout.

I have to confess I adore them both. I love huge, frothy confections of sentences, piled high with phrases and clauses held precipitously in balance with one another via the careful application of punctuation. I adore the 19th-century tendency toward sentences with not merely structure but architecture. I fell head-first in rapture with the Khaavren Romances subset of Brust's Dragaera universe, which are full of those glorious-excess sentences; they read like the literary equivalent of a dessert including fluffy pastry, whipped mascarpone, toasted hazelnuts, and buttery caramel sauce: one may speak in praise of their elegance, but not their simplicity.

...Not all stories need sentences like that, though. In fact quite a lot of them don't. I struggle with that fact often, and while I've tamed down my penchant for em dashes since my school days—my graduate advisor managed to talk me down from once or twice a paragraph to maybe once or twice a page—I can never give up my love for them entirely. Sadly, my current projects require me to soldier on, passing up the temptation for elaborate antique constructions in favor of prose that belongs twenty minutes or two centuries in the future. When I'm done with this batch of stories, though, perhaps I should give some steampunk adventuring a try.

Those gentlemen, I'm sure, will wield their semicolons with aplomb.
laylah: an illustration from  Through the Looking Glass: a black kitten pawing at a ball of yarn. (Default)
Tuesday is leafblower day at work. The guys show up every Tuesday morning from about March through the end of October and skulk around the building next door, firing noisy blasts of air through the stands of bamboo and under the landscaping shrubs. In my office we have to close the windows or it's so loud one can't hear oneself think.

There is a little irrational part of me that always pines after the apocalypse when the leafblowers are running. Surely there will be no more blaring engine noise then. ...Shortly thereafter, the rational part of me speaks up to point out there also won't be any internet, or plumbing, or medicine.

Clearly it isn't worth it. But sometimes I crave the silence of the machines all the same.
laylah: a person wearing high boots and a sleeveless shirt lounging with a book open in hir lap (storyteller)
Being a catalog of incomplete files on my computer which might in fact deserve better than to languish in such state indefinitely;
or, The Ineveitable To-Do List.

6,500 words of a probable 8,000ish. The only one whose working file name is also the story name! Creepy transhuman contract slavery. All this needs is to have its major sex scene finished, really; I will definitely be finishing it up and subbing it this year.

2,800 words of...maybe 15k? That sounds like a good number to aim for. "The Windfall's Maiden Voyage," the one I keep referring to in conversation as "the space lesbians." Also includes smuggling, star travel, and ideally some laser guns before it's over. The world needs more lesbians with laser guns.

33,500 words of, oh, let's call it maybe 80k. An actual fantasy novel, which may or may not have some romance in it but is mostly a supernatural disaster survival narrative. I really like where this started, but need a lot of work to figure out how Our Heroes get out of their current predicaments and rescue each other from Certain Doom. (The romance is mostly stymied by the would-be-pairing both constantly making "grrr grr duty grr!" noises instead of stopping to make out.)

space monkeys.doc
24,000 words of oh god help. In the same universe as the space lesbians, above (they're supporting characters in this), only with a bigger cast and a lot more agendas at odds with each other. Also less space travel and more being-marooned-somewhere.

8,500 words that would need to be at least 25,000 to meet the call I started it for; I go back and forth between "I should scrap this entirely" and "but I want to keep working on it!" An apocalypse-survival story about a bunch of queer college kids, because goddamn am I sick of that genre assuming that decorated war veteran Butch Hetman is the only hope for civilization. I have so many feelings about this story! If only one of those feelings was confidence.

honorable mention for two things that are currently mostly sketchy notes:
ssfuckyeah.doc, the steampunk story with the libertine submarine captain
startafire.doc, a thing I just rediscovered in a subfolder today that wants to be dieselpunk prison-escape romance.

And I could keep going, too, if I were willing to list things that have sat untouched for longer. But there has to be a statute of limitations here somewhere. Now stop haring off after new ideas, self, and put some work into developing the ones you have!
laylah: a person wearing high boots and a sleeveless shirt lounging with a book open in hir lap (storyteller)
Which I have seen going around both my DW circle and my plurk list:

It's international book week. The rules: Grab the closest book to you, turn to page 52, post the 5th sentence. Don't mention the title. Copy the rules as part of your post.

"The training of unhallowed thousands of years must lie behind that march of earth's inmost monstrosities . . . padding, clicking, walking, stalking, rumbling, lumbering, crawling . . . and all to the abhorrent discords of those mocking instruments."

...I am pretty sure that sentence identifies its author quite clearly with no further attribution.
laylah: a person wearing high boots and a sleeveless shirt lounging with a book open in hir lap (storyteller)
Signed a contract with Dreamspinner last night to appear in their Advent Calendar collection this year! My short story Safe Harbor will be available with them in December; it's the m/m romance equivalent of a fuzzy blanket and a cup of hot cocoa, and I hope you will enjoy it. (Trying to write cuddly Christmas Eve fic in August, when we were having our one bout of actual summer here in Seattle, was a bit of a challenge.) More details to follow when we're closer to release!

For now, back to the word mines with me. I want to get a longer piece or two out the door by the end of the year (a few of Riptide's current open calls really speak to me)—short stories are well and good, but generally you need something with more meat to it to really make readers happy.
laylah: a person wearing high boots and a sleeveless shirt lounging with a book open in hir lap (storyteller)
This week I'm struggling to keep reading Karin Lowachee's Warchild, which is wrenching, excellently-written, serious sci fi about a boy orphaned in wartime and trained as a soldier. It's powerful. It's smart. It's unflinching.

And the problem is that I'm flinching. I can see it winding up for more crises, more emotional hurt and confusion, for its main character, a writer I can respect the craft with which it's done, but as a reader I don't want to go along.

It turns out this is why I am so drawn to the romance versions of my favorite genres: it isn't the sex (though that can be a bonus), it's the emotional promise. The crucial difference for reader-me between, say, military sci fi and military sci fi romance is the reassurance the latter gives me: the connection between these characters will be strong enough to survive. The connection between characters is the central thing I read for—which may also explain my failure to be interested in a lot of modern literary fiction; stories about detachment and lack of affect leave me cold. I don't believe there's some kind of powerful commentary or deep truth inherent in the literary thesis, "people fail to understand each other"; that's pessimism, not a law of the universe.

(By counterexample, in Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane's The Druid Stone, which is urban fantasy/romance, the scene that undid me and made me fall for the book was Sean coming along to Cormac's family's Beltane party. The warm, welcome chaos of that scene made me feel like my heart would be safe with this story—it clearly valued kinship and camaraderie as highly as I did.)

I don't know. I'm going to keep trying with Warchild, but maybe slowly. And probably with doses of something more comforting in between, because I care so much about Jos's relationship with his mentor and I fear it's going to be a casualty of war. Damnit.


Sep. 10th, 2012 07:13 am
laylah: an illustration from  Through the Looking Glass: a black kitten pawing at a ball of yarn. (Default)
Also yesterday my snake bit me. I am really hoping today will be the start of a shift in my general luck.

(I'm fine, and it was my fault; I reached into his tank at feeding time because I was worried about some shed skin caught at the corner of his mouth. He has a brain the size of a pea and tracks food largely by sensing temperature, so a moving warm thing is obviously for biting. I, on the other hand, have a brain that weighs more than he does and can process consequences. I should have known better.)

The weather has suddenly decided we're changing seasons, so perhaps it will be a good change in my personal universe.
laylah: distant city lights at night, with the text "I swear I'd burn the city down to show you the light" (weasel in love)
Less Than Three runs little prompt challenges through their Goodreads group, and y'all know what a sucker I am for both prompts and challenges. The current theme is "just get in the car!" and I figured, hey, why not write a bit of Drake/Gabriel mobster AU?

So that's what this is. :3

Established relationship, m/m makeouts, offscreen organized crime violence.
~650 words.
Somebody needs to be clear-headed enough to drive, and Gabriel’s the best torpedo man in the city, so there was no question of him waiting outside.

Bad-Luck Stars )
laylah: a person wearing high boots and a sleeveless shirt lounging with a book open in hir lap (storyteller)
I often feel like Dream's curse on Ric Madoc is one of the most insightful moments in all of Sandman. For those who aren't fans, Madoc is a writer who has, through unscrupulous means, captured the muse Calliope and is keeping her prisoner because she provides him with ideas. To make him release her, Dream curses him: You want ideas? You want dreams? You want stories? Then ideas you will have. IDEAS IN ABUNDANCE. The flood of ideas that overtakes him reduces Madoc to a desperate wreck, struggling to write everything down, hurting himself in the frantic attempt to turn all of these ideas into words at once.

I'm not in nearly such dire straits as Madoc (but then, I haven't been abusing any Muses, either). Still, I'm suffering from a milder case of the same thing, where no single story is making progress because there are just too damned many of them. I probably need to be banned from looking at any press's open calls for the next few weeks—at least until after the end of the month, when I am staring at three separate deadlines right now.

The problem seems to be that I have decided that I need to Get My Name Out There by submitting to as many places as possible. I've been enjoying working with FFP and I feel like in many ways they're a great fit for my most erotica-focused work—the lack of limits on who can participate and what kinds of themes are acceptable are really nice, given the directions my interest goes—but I also want to reach the audience already following some of the more established presses, and I want to find homes for the stuff that has less on-page sizzle. I need to keep reminding myself that I don't need to (indeed, I can't) do everything at once. That, in fact, I'll be happier with both my time spent and the results thereof if I slow down, take things one at a time, and try to submit to my favorite calls rather than every single one that looks plausible.

Moderation, self. We'll get the hang of it one day.
laylah: a person wearing high boots and a sleeveless shirt lounging with a book open in hir lap (storyteller)
So there's a story I've been poking at over the last few weeks, trying to coax it into shape for a deadline at the end of the month, and I think it's time to admit that it's defeated me. I'm trying to negotiate Here Be Dragons territory, and it's just too tricky for me to manage on a deadline.

The as-yet-nameless protagonist (first person lets one get away with that for a while) is of uncertain gender, you see. I know how the character presents, and what anatomy the character has, but not how that translates to identity. And depending on how I went with it, that could wind up being extremely problematic—because the character is also not entirely human.

If I decide I'm writing a butch lesbian, then the problem is somewhat ameliorated: she's a strange magical thing, but she's not the only lesbian in the story. The other woman is fully human and not a magical creature at all. She doesn't take on the complete-otherness stigma of having her sexuality represented by magical monstrosity.

If, on the other hand, I decide I'm writing a trans man, then I'm in trouble. He'd be the only trans character in the story, which means there are drastically unpleasant implications to having him be so inhuman that his true face scares the piss out of someone. It becomes way, way too easy to equate his monster nature with his gender, and holy mother of whores do I not want to go that direction.

Laid out like that it sounds like my choice is easy: like my protagonist should be a lesbian, end of discussion. Except that doesn't feel right. Pinning this character down to a female identity leaves me feeling unsettled and unhappy. Am I writing too close to my self, here, trying to write a character who's somewhere in that no-man's-and-no-woman's-either-land, maybe shifting, maybe just straddling a line? Would I be better off trying to just discipline myself and write it as straight-up (ha) lesbian fic? Is it worth trying to wrestle this gator to the ground and find a way to write it as trans fic without making it gross?

I don't think I have any chance of getting answers to this one quickly. Probably I'm going to have to shelve this draft and let it stew—and write something else for that deadline.
laylah: a person's torso; the person wears black and has hands hooked in belt loops. the belt buckle is a silver cross. (every man a liar)
Today is release day for Devil's Bargain, Devil's Kiss! (Link takes you to the publisher's site: you can buy directly from them, or from the third-party sites linked there—the links to each site will go live as the story gets added there.)

The best thing about working on this story, hands down, was getting to write Doctor Nicholas Black. I have a perennial weakness for the charming villain, the fellow who tips his hat and smiles politely while he ruins everything. The fellow who's friendly and well-spoken and only a touch sly, only a touch pointed...until you try to cross him, and it turns out there's an iron fist in that velvet glove. I love that archetype. I love watching them wreak havoc. It's not quite the trickster type—tricksters have more energy, and are more likely to be motivated by curiosity ("What happens to your culture when I pull this sacred cow's tail?")—but it's close. They're cousins, perhaps, the trickster and the gentleman bastard; they'd each tell you the other is the black sheep of the family.

And the good doctor is a chance for me to indulge myself shamelessly in that trope, slathered liberally with old-time Southern politeness (itself often a pretty veneer over the ugly reality of inequality and injustice). Doctor Black's Patented Tonic can fix what ails you, but it's one of those cases where the cure really is worse than the disease. It tastes so sweet, though, and the first dose comes so cheap. Ain't easy to resist a deal like that, not for most folks around here. Never has been for me, anyhow.

You neither, I hope. ♥
laylah: a person's torso; the person wears black and has hands hooked in belt loops. the belt buckle is a silver cross. (every man a liar)
My first solo release! I'm really excited for this one.

Devil's Bargain Devil's Kiss

"Devil's Bargain, Devil's Kiss" is a standalone short story set in the early 20th-century American South: When handsome Doctor Nicholas Black brings his wagon full of patent medicines to Jonah's small town, it seems like the answer to the whole town's prayers. But the good doctor's cures don't come cheap, and for Jonah in particular there might be too high a price to pay. Release slated for August 10!

I'd class it as erotic horror more than straight-up erotica—Southern Gothic in style, not splatterpunky. I had an absolute blast with the voice for this story (you know how much I love doing voices), and I want to thank my editor at FFP, Lon Sarver, for making some great suggestions that I think added a lot of punch to the finished product.

FFP is generally pretty good about labeling content so readers can make informed decisions, but let me highlight one bit of that now: most of the sexual content in this story is coerced. There's no attempt to pass the coercion off as romantic—this is a horror story about the devil holding the high cards—but it is a major theme.

If that's your cup of tea, I hope you'll pick up a copy of the ebook when it goes on sale this Friday! I'm proud of how this story came out and I hope you enjoy it.
laylah: an illustration from  Through the Looking Glass: a black kitten pawing at a ball of yarn. (Default)
Over on my other account I'm signed up for [community profile] inkingitout this year, and one of my goals for myself -- along with my overall word count -- was to come up with 80k words of original fiction by the end of the year. I know, that doesn't sound like much to those of you who are habitual novelists, but given how short my usual form is it sounded like a good number to aim for.

So how am I doing?

Well, the longest piece I've finished this year was "Ground Mission," which clocks in a little over 16k. Then "Devil's Bargain, Devil's Kiss," but I really only feel I can count 2k of those words for this year, since the first draft had been sitting on my hard drive for quite a while before I sent it to FFP. "Falling Into Her Arms" is around 3k. My current must-finish project, The Camellia Missions, is another one where I'm only going to count part of the total; I'm aiming for a final word count around 18k, of which about half was written this year.

So that's about 30k of new original words, plus the scattering of barely-started scenes in files with working titles like "crossroads" and "ss fuck yeah." I'm definitely behind, but it's not insurmountable. Particularly if I stop writing this blog post and start writing fiction, like I meant to be doing this morning.
laylah: an illustration from  Through the Looking Glass: a black kitten pawing at a ball of yarn. (Default)
Well, I mean, I've been on Goodreads as a member for two years. But I am now a Goodreads Author!

Here's my profile -- currently it lists me as a contributor for All Wrapped Up and for Connections; my ForbiddenFiction titles will be added once they're finalized enough to go into Goodreads' database (FFP has been really proactive about getting their stuff on the site).

If you have an account and you're preordering All Wrapped Up, or you bought a copy of Connections when it was available, please consider adding them to your shelves!


laylah: an illustration from  Through the Looking Glass: a black kitten pawing at a ball of yarn. (Default)
Laylah Hunter


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