NaNoWriMo2015, back at it plus Unedited from Day 18

I wrote a little over 2200 words last night, catching up and going slightly over the 18 day mark for NaNoWriMo2015.  Taking a break was a very good idea, allowing me to consider where my characters were, where I need to go with them and how to work in elements of the overarching themes I’m working on.

I’ve noticed that I have a lot more patience this time around in terms of letting this be a draft.  For a finished work, I’ll want more detail, more richness, probably better and more interesting word choices.  For now, though, I’m happy to keep the story moving and linking up with the necessary plot points.  I think that’s progress.

Progress toward what? Toward my transition from being exclusively a short story writer to being a novelist. I’ve been struggling with the challenge of planning and sustaining a story arc over novel-length word totals, being so comfortable with the short story range.

I’ve also started with a much more planned out story arch this time and I think that’s helping a lot. That and a realistic goal for the month:  not a complete novel with all the bells and whistles and fleshed-out details, but a solid draft that connects the plot points, builds the structure of the story arch and gets me from the start to the end.  I don’t get too hung up on the contradictions and conflicts I’m introducing along the way because I can catch them later.

In practical terms, that means sometimes I’m just throwing words down that I know I’ll change later.  If my character is moving from point T to point U during a particular piece of writing, I can sketch that out in bare terms and fill in the details that come to me in that moment.  I’m not stressed about producing finished product every night. I am confident I can work toward a finished product during my next rounds of writing and editing.

Another lesson learned is that taking breaks is a good thing.  It doesn’t mean I’m failing.  It means I am recharging.  And so much of the work of a writer is in our heads, sometimes we need to let the material build up and sort itself out before we sit down to write it.  Plus, there are support activities like research, planning, reading/experiencing (intake) and daydreaming, and they take time and are valuable and necessary.  I think an optimal writing schedule for me would be 3 days on and 1 day for other activities.  I’m going to see if I can make that work for me after NaNoWriMo.


Because some of you like to see what I’m writing, here’s a little of the unedited output from last night:

As the 21st century rolled forward, humans on a whole became increasingly isolated, and at the same time, connected, through technology.  They could simultaneously hold contradictory realities in their minds:  The people around them were strangers – the person who delivered packages to their doors, the people standing in line with them to get coffee, the next door neighbor lady who tended her flower garden in defiance of the drought.  People they met online were real: the customer service rep who helped them shop for birthday gifts, the friends and lovers they’d met online and who were the recipients of said birthday gifts.  Even web celebrities were more real than the people living in houses nearby. The online people shared their most intimate thoughts, they could sit and watch videos of each other.  You could have sexual relationships online.

With that in mind, is it easier to understand that there were people who stridently and in violent terms defended online friends who were being forcibly relocated  but couldn’t be bothered to attend a rally across town for people being moved from their own county?  Is it easier to see how the government, at the bidding of their corporate investors, could so easily pick apart communities until the remaining residents were rounded up into preserves without a fight?

Not that there wasn’t any fight anywhere, it’s just that the majority followed government directives without much question, especially if they were convinced they were actually getting a pretty good deal based on the alternatives.  The corporate investors were happy, their stockholders were happy, the politicians who could still live in comfort were happy.

The only people who weren’t happy were those who had been made to move to inhospitable places as a result of the sheer dumb luck of living in the wrong place at the wrong time and very often, with the wrong skin color.


The old man guarding the store spit on the dirty pavement between them.

“This is still America, you assholes!  This is my store and these are my goods and you can trade for them or I’m gonna start putting you down.” he snarled.  “What do I have to lose?”

“You gonna shoot us?  Just like that, because we’re hungry?”  The first guy asked, with a mocking tone.

The sound of breaking glass caused everyone to look around and in that instant, the man in the blue bandana move forward quickly, pushing the older man against the front wall of the store.  The old man was thin, but not frail and managed to twist away.  Fred watched from behind the cover of a stand of bushes that had once been a neatly trimmed hedge.

The man from the store lifted his shotgun and aimed it at the bigger man.  He said something and the other man made a move for the doorway, which was open and unguarded now.  The white haired man followed him with the barrel of the rifle and may have been intent on shooting.  Fred would never know – no one would – because he suddenly fall down as the sound of a gun firing echoed through the hollow surrounded the store.  The people in the crowd looked around, surprised, unsure who had fired the shot.  The big man stood in the doorway, looking at the old man, pool of blood forming around his head.  He looked out on the crowd.

“What the fuck?  There was no need to kill him!” he shouted.

“Fuck you, Eric, he was going to shoot you, he was ready to shoot any of us.” A woman who had been standing to the far side of the crowd from Fred stepped toward the store front. “And it wouldn’t have mattered if he shot to kill or just wound, out here it’s all the same. So you’re welcome, asshole.”

She tucked a handgun into the waistband of her pants. “Alright people, let’s resupply and get the hell out of here.  She brushed past Eric, and on into the store.  The others followed, and Eric moved aside as they did.  He stood looking at the old man and then walked over to where he lay on the ground.  He crossed himself and took off his bandana and shook it out.  Kneeling next to the body, he placed the bandana over the man’s face and crossed himself again.

He joined the others in the store.  Fred listened to them, exclaiming and shouting, laughing and whooping.  His stomach growled, reminding him that his backpack was empty.  He waited until they’d gone, passing his hiding place as he held his breath and prayed to a god he didn’t believe in.


Eating felt good, he smiled as he walked back out and then his face fell his stomach lurched.  Of course, the old man was still lying there, still dead.  He guessed that there was no one else around, no one from the area had come to investigate the gunshot.  Fred thoughtfully chewed on his apple and then took the backpack off his shoulders.  He placed it to one side and then went back into the store.  There was a small hardware section in the back.  He emerged with a shovel and looked around. The store was surrounded by pavement.  He walked to the backside, and up to where the beauty bark of the landscape gave way to sparse grass and some trees.

Quite a while later, Fred set aside the shovel and stood quietly over the grave.  He’d never buried someone, not directly.  This was nothing like the funerals he’d gone to before.  Those had been sanitized experiences, carefully managed rituals meant to guide the living around death.  Fred had dragged the man around the store and up the landscaped berm to the hole he’d dug. The body was much heavier than he’d imagined and he’d had to stop more than once.  It felt disrespectful to just pull him across the dirty ground like that, and his pants had come half off so Fred had stopped once to hike them up.  At one point, a boot had come off and he struggled to put it back on before continuing.  Without thinking, he’d glanced up and saw the trail of blood and gore he was leaving.  The man’s eyes were open and he’d looked into them out of reflex.  That had made His stomach had heaved and once he’d recovered, with a shaking hand, he’d pulled the eyelids over them.

Before pushing the body into the ground, he’d stopped to catch his breath and say a few words.

“I’ve never done this myself, sir, so I hope you’ll forgive me.  I don’t know your name, I guess I could look for it in  your store but I hope you’ll understand if I don’t.  I watched you die and didn’t do anything to stop it, probably couldn’t have, but I feel sorry about that anyway.

You did what you believed was right, and I admire you for that.  It shouldn’t have cost you your life, but that seems to be the way of things these days.  People die more often and more easily now.  I wish I could pass word to your people.  I guess if I ever meet someone from here, I can let them know.”

Fred pushed the body in as gently as he could and winced at the way it thudded at the bottom.  He held his breath until there was about a foot of soil over the man and then filled the grave as quickly as he could.




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NaNoWriMo2015 – Taking a Break

As you might have guessed, writing 50,000 words in 30 days is challenging on more than one level.  There’s finding the time to write – hopefully uninterrupted time – and there’s also the matter of finding 50,000 words to write.

This is my fourth time doing NaNoWriMo and I’ve learned something important every time.  Today’s lesson is:  I sometimes run out of words.  Well, clearly not, since I’m writing some here.  I am temporarily out of words for my novel.  I’m a little burnt out, a little weary.  The last few days, finding words has felt like digging in the garden for those last few potatoes:  they are increasingly tiny and you have to spend more time finding them.

I expressed my exhaustion and frustration to my sweetheart this morning and she offered a bit of advice from Miss Moira – a sadistic and exacting top who shares space in her skin:

“Take a day off.”

And so I am.  I’m taking a day off to do other things, to work and daydream and give my characters and story some space.  They were definitely feeling crowded and put upon yesterday.  It’s alright to take a day off, even during NaNoWriMo.  I’ll be less than a thousand words behind since I’ve been running a little over quota the past 16 days.

Additionally, I am doing something else creative today:  participating in the inaugural StoryOly event, which involves getting up on stage and telling a story in 8 minutes or less on a pre-determined topic.  I should say I’m hoping to participate, since it will be based on my name being drawn from a hat with a bunch of other names in it. The theme, fittingly, is ‘First Times’ and I will come prepared with a story about my first kiss.

In the bigger picture, this is a good lesson learned.  One of my goals for this years writing marathon has been to determine a writing schedule that is sustainable and productive. Based on where I am now, I think that means taking every 3rd or 4th day off of mandatory writing and doing something that is restful and provides creative intake.  Reading, watching a movie, daydreaming out a window, getting together with friends are all good options I think.  I also need planning time, research time, and sitting and thinking time.

So that’s what today is… a day off from NaNoWriMo2015.  I’m going to memorize my story (oh yeah, can’t use notes AND it’s a competition with judges) and deal with work and start out the window at the leaves and the rain and the clouds behind the naked trees.

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NaNoWriMo2015, Unedited, Day 13 – Villains are Fun to Write

“People are really easy to manipulate when you give it some thought.  You just need to appeal to their fears and their desires. Create something for them to fear and let them believe they can avoid that fear and attain something they desire if they follow the rules.”

The speaker’s silver hair shone like a helmet in the early morning sun.  She had always been an early riser, preferring to start her day before the rest of the world had hit the snooze button.

“Playing to fear is so easy, so easy it’s literally child’s play. Children learn how to torment each other so early, playing the the simple fears of boogie men and the loss of parental love.  Adults aren’t so different.  They also fear monsters and losing love.  Their monsters are somewhat more complex which is what makes things more interesting.”

She took a sip of her coffee, and looked at the person interviewing her as though she were examining a specimen of no special interest.

“You for example.  You are eager to please, you believe that your zeal and dedication will bring you your heart’s desires.  You fear being irrelevant and inconsequential.”

Her smile reminded one of a reptile a cold baring of the teeth. The interviewer, a young androgynous person, squirmed under her scrutiny, and did not deny the assertion.

“You see, I’ve been doing this for a long time.  It’s a skill I had as a child and I didn’t lose it progressing to adulthood.  I also did not feel shame for knowing how to manipulate people.  Why should I?” She gazed around the room they were sitting in, the smooth lines and cool aesthetic were very pleasing to her.  It was one of her favorite rooms on the planet.

“People have always been celebrated for their skills and accomplishments – athletes, inventors, entertainers and healers.  Business people to some extent, back in the days of industrial expansion.  Those days you could be ruthless and accumulate massive wealth and you were a leader of society.  Not in the early part of the 21st Century and beyond, though.  No, no, if you had wealth, you were a monster. You were the boogie man, the cause of all suffering.” Her voice cut through the room like a whip crack. “I was born with the same talents those giants of industry had and I was vilified when I sought to use them.”

“I created an empire with my talents, with my knowledge and my willingness to use both for my own gain.  Was I celebrated with parades and endorsements and fame on the web?  No, no, of course not, because no one knew who I was. No one could know who I and my partners were and we made sure no one could link any one of us to the cunning plan we laid.”

She made a wry face at her audience, “I am one of the most powerful people in the world and right now, very few know who I am.  When you post your story, that will all change. I’m an old woman now, I will live out the rest of my life in luxury and comfort. And the world will know my name.  Finally.”

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NaNoWriMo2015, Unedited Day 6, excerpt two

Vehicles stood abandoned, along the roadway Fred was following. Some were off the road, others seemed to have been driven until they could drive no more, and then had disgorged their contents where they stood.  Fred had thought he would just walk until he reached Camp 5B, his desperation for Sarah and the kids was a force he couldn’t resist.

Finally, after falling down multiple times because he could no longer see where he was going, he crawled into the backseat of an abandoned car and passed out.  He tossed and turned fitfully, dreaming. He dreamt that he’d gotten to Camp 5B and it was undamaged.  He crested a hill and there it was, stretched out below him in a valley that was once a vineyard. The grapes were gone but the rows remained and a city of tents was arranged in a grid pattern across them.  He could smell campfires and the dry scent of arid land.  As he began to walk down toward the camp, he could hear the low murmur of voices, laughter and children playing, the occasional dog barking.

Then from his left, another sound.

A low hum at first, the noise got louder and resolved into multiple buzzing sounds, coming from the east.  A flight of drones was sweeping down the valley toward the tent city.  Fred’s dream eyes had binocular vision and he could see that the drones were bristling with guns and heavy with bombs.  There was a small voice in his head that told him that armament was too heavy for craft that size but it was shouted over by the much louder voice of terror and adrenaline.  He tried to run down the slope toward the tents, tried to yell but could only squeak out a warning.

He couldn’t move, couldn’t warn them.  He watched in mute horror as the drones fanned out and strafed the camp.  There was some resistance; someone with a shotgun took out one and a few others tried before being taken down by the drone fire.  The drones flew in a pattern, driving people toward the center and back, toward the hills.  That’s when the missiles fired off and the camp erupted in flames.  Fred could feel the heat, smell his own nostril hair burning. Finally he could move but only slowly, as if walking through molasses.  His dream enhanced vision finally saw what he’d been desperately searching for: Sarah and the kids.  He tried again to yell but could only manage a dry croak.  Sarah was pulling them by the hand, trying to run away from the drones, toward the hills.  They ran out of sight behind a large tent just before a missile blew up the tent, leaving a crater and a wall of smoke.  He couldn’t see Sarah and the kids.  They had to be farther back, toward the hills and away from camp.  He could see others too, melting into the woods while the drones hunted down and killed everyone else.

Finally silence.  The drones had sped back down the valley.  He could hear survivors moaning and crying out.  His feet were glued to the ground.  He kept looking for his family but they were nowhere to be found.  Fred dropped to his knees, face in hands, sobbing.  He’d come so far, and now they were out of reach again.

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NaNoWriMo2015, Unedited, Day 6, first excerpt


You get up early, before dawn, because you have to walk from the area you live to the place you work.  You have a bike but don’t use it because you’re renting it to a guy who does delivery services.  You walk through the quiet streets – quiet because people are mostly still asleep and because no cars are running.  You might, if you’re an optimist and a romantic, enjoy the sunrise as you stroll along and you might smile at the bird songs. You may find yourself whistling a song that you used to hear on the web.  If you are lucky and the wind is kind, you might find yourself taking deep lungfuls of air.  Often you’ll wear a paper mask, probably grey at that point, to protect yourself from the smoke of garbage fires.  The city doesn’t pay it’s garbage collectors to come to your neighborhood any more, not since some enterprising folks hijacked a few garbage trucks and attempted to breach the fortifications around city hall.

Optimist or pessimist, you would eventually arrive at the guarded perimeter of an area protected by the government from people like you.  The only reason you can get through that perimeter is your credentials which mark you as an essential worker (because we all know the bourgeoisie can’t get by without their espresso coffee drinks).  Walking through through the gate or barricade, the difference will be immediately apparent.  Inside the sidewalks are kept clear, the air is fresher – unless it’s one of those days when the wind’s unkind – and evidence of comfort are plentiful.

You arrive at your job and during the occasional lulls in business, you use the wifi at work and check the news.  The network bans most of the news sources you want to see, so you’re stuck catching up with the latest propaganda from approved sources.

You could have skipped it because all you need to do is listen to the sheeple coming into the coffee shop to know what the government is telling them to believe.

Clientele comes in relentlessly coiffed and polished, like spoiled pets.  And you stifle a laugh at that thought because that’s really what they are – the precious pets of the corporatocracy. You do your best to hide your grimace behind a smile as two women start to talk about current events.  You know that even if you take them to where current events are actually happening, these horses won’t drink.


One: Did you hear about the uprising in Chicago?

The Other: Oh my god, that was awful.  I can’t imagine why the people in those neighborhoods put up with it.  If that happened here, I’d step right up and turn them in.

One: I know, it’s unbelievable.  I don’t see why they can’t cooperate with the government. Is it so hard to follow the rules?

The Other:  Well, you know, I don’t think those people have much respect for this country.

One: It’s such a shame, they don’t have to live like that, it’s as if they can’t help themselves.

Don’t grind your teeth, you can’t afford the dental bills.  If you could get to see a dentist.  There aren’t many people doing medicine anymore, of any kind, they can’t afford it.

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NaNoWriMo2015 Unedited, Day 3: Setting the Stage

setting the scene

Abandonment has a particular way of adorning public places and infrastructure.  It had only been a few months since some of the neighborhoods had been evacuated, and the power and water shut off.  In that short time, lawns had gone from green and tidy, to brown and shaggy.  Ornamental vines, once limited to specific spaces now aggressively rambled up walls, trees and traffic signs.  Depending on the region English ivy, bindweed, kudzu and blackberry brambles began colonizing the open spaces left by humans.

Over time, if humans did not return and bring back their habits of control, plant detritus would fill the streets and pile up against the houses.  Within this flotsam, life from various phyla of the animal kingdom as well as others would make homes and meals.  Rotting into mush, becoming soil, becoming the birthplace of more plants and creatures and so on until the hard, geometric edges of human occupation were softened, blurred, erased.

setting the global scene

After years of ignoring the science of global warming for politics and capitalism, the United States finally got hit with a disastrous drought situation from California and into Oregon, as well as across the midwest.  A centenarian or two might draw on their history lessons to make comparisons to the dust bowl days of the 1930s, but that was far too long ago for most people to care about. Besides, it wasn’t just the drought that drove people away from their homes, it was the riots.

Civil unrest, the news posts called it, as if there were anything civil about the social ulcerations that occurred.  In the United States, years of increasing unrest among people of color as well as white citizens fermented into a volatile concoction stirred up by the continual election of conservative candidates who served their corporate masters in more and more blatant ways.

Law enforcement continued to be the tool of the 1%, those with the resources to outlast the chain of recessions that led to a global depression.  They also had the money to buy the politicians from all parties, who spewed a continuous flood of nonsensical, science-denying, contradictory garbage that was lapped up by less and less of the citizenry.

Protests that started peacefully were resisted by police officers in battle gear.  It became almost commonplace in some large metropolitan areas to see regular patrols by the National Guard and even the occasional tank lurking down a side street.  Police forces grew weary of the criticisms and garbage hurled at them literally and reacted in more and more violent ways.  Peaceful resistance turned into armed resistance and protests turned into battles.  Large swaths of urban areas across the country turned into battlefields with declarations of emergency used to suspend civil rights and impose curfews and sanctions.  Power was cut, emergency services limited, deliveries to stores ceased.  People got sick and injured and hungry and turned on each other.  Once the infighting started, it was much easier for the army to move in and take control.

Some people were kept in their increasingly unlivable neighborhoods and burroughs.  Some were ‘resettled’ elsewhere. Corporate interests became more blatant in their control of the government.  Suburbs and towns were shut down and people moved out to increase the available water and power to privileged areas.  Petroleum fuel products had become too expensive – continuous wars in other parts of the world and corporate interests saw to that.  People forced out of their neighborhoods mostly left on foot, towing wagons or pushing shopping carts.  Comparisons to the great depression and the migration from the midwest to the coast during the dustbowl era would not be out of place.  If anyone thought to make the comparison.

To accomplish this huge task of human displacement, resettlement camps were set up and a system of waystations created to direct the flow of human traffic.  Why would people get up and leave their homes and lives, taking what few possessions they could move and go to a tent camp, sometimes hundreds of miles from home?  Didn’t anyone think this whole thing was a bit hinky?

Some did and they ended up forming bands of people living outside the system. But the vast majority did not.  Their compliance had been cultivated over the years by a political system populated with cogs that had grown so accustomed to lying to the public on behalf of mega-rich corporations that they weren’t even aware of the lies anymore.  Most would have passed a lie detector test, in fact.

Really, this is a story about boiling frogs to death in the juices of their own apathy.

More specifically, it’s the story of two of those frogs, who have taken human form in this life and who by fate’s role of a hundred sided dice landed them in the same place at the same time.  Eventually.

Fred Burbank was by all accounts doing the right thing.  That had been his modis operendi since childhood and, having served him so well into adulthood, had led him without question into his middle age.  “Doing the right thing” was what he did day in and day out and there was every chance it would have ended up on his headstone.  If he’d gotten one.  He was a rule-follower and he steadfastly believed that if he followed the rules, he and his family would prosper.

As the song lyrics went, he “knew all the right people, took all the right pills”.  His family was comfortable, his job was comfortable.  They had a nice house in a nice subdivision just the right distance from a nice mid-sized city in an area once known for the innovation of its engineers.  That area had long lost its cachet for innovation, succumbing as so many success stories did, to the weight of holding up its own success.  Flashes in the pan are rarely repeated and when people become so accustomed to brilliance that they yawn in its face and send it packing for the next shiny thing, Brilliance will eventually get the hint and move on.

You could safely say that Brilliance and Fred had never been close.  He’d once been in the company of Brilliance, during a demo for venture capitalists.  He was there for no reason other than he’d drawn the short straw.  No one sent a middle manager to a demo they expect to invest in.  Fred’s hazy memory of that afternoon, if he recalled it at all, was of a tall wiry man accompanied by a generously curved woman in glasses.  He was discerning enough to know that the woman was the brains behind the start-up and the man was the eye candy. Their idea about a distributed,decentralized intelligent cybernet utilizing mobile computing devices was way over his head though.  He’d spent most of the night hunched over the toilet in his expensive hotel room in downtown San Francisco, having had far too many of the shrimp whip appetizers and more alcohol than he’d normally consume in a month.

Fred’s idea of a good day was one where he got to work a little early, got through a day of paper pushing without an interaction from upper management and got home in time for a brief rest in his recliner before dinner.  His children were well-behaved for the most part and when they weren’t, his wife Sarah took the lead.  He taught his kids the mantra of doing the right thing’ from an early age.  They was very little disruption in their lives.  To Fred, that was a sign that he was doing the right thing.

The unrest that finally pulled the country apart developed by degrees.  And really, the lead up to declaring states of emergency in a patchwork across the continent didn’t look all that different from the occasional flare ups of the past several decades.  Progressive social activists made advances here and there, followed by huge push back from conservatives.  The religious right grew in power and elected more and more candidates.  As those candidates became politicians and became investible, the corporatocracy did just that. They lured them in with promises of campaign contributions and support for their sectarian causes and pulled the reins in tight when needed.

The fringes screamed foul but the center was placated by the continuation of their comfort.  it didn’t take much really.  Make sure the groceries are stocked with their favorite processed foods, keep delivering entertainment through their various devices and they’ll look the other way when some malcontents get tear gassed and thrown in jail.  Make sure their precious offspring can play sportsball, and make sure they can watch The Game wherever they are and give them churches to visit weekly and they’ll have their religious requirements met.

The frogs didn’t know that the water was already boiling because they didn’t want to know.  Knowing that would interfere with their after dinner cocktails or their weekend golf game.  Understanding that the government was squeezing the marginal for all they could give just made them believe it was deserved.  They didn’t see the inevitable result of that process — that eventually the marginalized would have no more to give and the government would have to find some one new to squeeze.  Old Man Niemoller had it right, but since no one learned real history any more not many of the people who could have benefited from his message knew anything about it.

Eventually, the government and its corporate puppeteers ran out of queers and gender freaks and brown people to squeeze and that meant people like Fred Burbank and his neighbors were next.


Somewhere between the fringes and the Fred Burbanks were frogs who could tell the water was getting hotter, who were not blind to the injustices perpetrated by corporate government but were insulated from the direct effects, at least for a while.  One such frog, having no loyalty to the place she happened to be, was fairly certain everything was going to go to hell before she reached adulthood.  This frog, who had the perverse habit of reading about history, saw it coming.  If not the whole thing, enough to know that preparedness was warranted.  She put political history away and picked up survival manuals, learned how to start a fire without a lighter, how to start a car without a key, how to move through crowds without stirring up much notice.

Not being a very large individual, this frog knew that craftiness and stealth would be her greatest tools in the dark days to come.  She studied and practiced and waited for the sign that it was time to go.

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Getting Ready for ‘WriMo

There are 3 days left in October, counting today.  That means November is coming up quick and with it, NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.

I am participating again this year, for the fourth time.  (May the Fourth be with me) I have an idea, some characters and a rough outline. This is not a continuation of my previous novel-in-progress, Guys Like Us.  It’s also not an erotic or especially queer novel.  It’s more in the SciFi/near future genre.

In the past, I’ve posted excerpts from my NaNoWriMo works in progress here.  This year, I’m not sure I will.  What do you think?  Want to read what I’m writing even if it’s not erotic?

This leads me to a larger question of what I want to use this blog for going forward.  I do still write erotica, however, I’m also leaning into other kinds of fiction and also essay writing.  I have been pondering the idea of other platforms, or maybe I just need to do a makeover here.  

Thoughts? Encouragement? Ideas?

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Blog Tour for Show Yourself to Me

If you’d like to read what others have written about Xan West’s fantastic collection of queer kinky erotica, here is the entire blog tour itinerary:

The stops on the blog tour:

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Interview with Xan West, author of Show Yourself To Me

Xan West is one of my favorite authors, a master at writing savory, sexy queer erotica that pulls the reader in until you forget you’re not part of the scene.  It’s exciting to see the buzz rising for Xan’s anthology, Show Yourself To Me.  I have no doubt it will be one of the most talked about erotica collections for quite a while. If I were to hang out with Xan sometime over coffee or an adult beverage, there are a lot of questions I’d ask about kink and storytelling.  Luckily, we have the internet for virtual interviews:

1. You introduce gender diversity into your work in very natural ways.  I know that has been conscious based on what I’ve read from you before.  Can you say a little about that?  Has it been a challenge, was it easy?  Is it working for you? Most of my work centers trans or genderqueer characters, and you are absolutely right, that is a conscious choice. I wrote trans and genderqueer characters from the start (in my very first story, in fact!), but I have gotten better at it, as I’ve gotten better at writing in general. I fell into some traps, at first, and earlier published versions of some of the stories in Show Yourself To Me were not as adept at describing trans and genderqueer characters. I got to fix some of that when putting this manuscript together, and I’m really glad for that. I mostly have written characters with genders I’ve been, done gender play as, or ached to be. That’s what I’ve spent the last fifteen years writing, and this book spans those years. In essence, I’ve been writing myself into a genre that mostly erases me, and sometimes pities me or fetishizes me. I want to do more and better in my next book, because gender diversity is a lot wider than my own experience, and because I’m concerned that this book may contribute to the pattern of erasure of trans women in queer communities. A few years ago, I started consciously working on marking my characters much more clearly, making sure to be explicit about gender, race, disability, and size, in particular. I realized that my more subtle choices around marking characters were not actually helpful, because readers often glossed over them and read their own defaults onto them. So I began to work on my skill in this area, in marking these things throughout the story, drawing attention to the ways these identities shape experiences of kink.

2. How much of you is there in these characters and experiences? Well, I just admitted that I write genders I’ve been and yearned to be, so I’d say in that regard, quite a bit. There are pieces of me in each story: my desire, my knowledge, my politics, things I’ve done and fantasized about. That said, none of these stories is non-fiction, though they have been shaped by my experience and perspective. What they are is very personal, in their themes and conflicts and desires. They are also acts of deep imagination. For example, “The Tender Sweet Young Thing” was sparked by a real conversation that I had at a gathering I go to. I wrote the story imagining, what if there were a tender sweet young thing there that was interested in doing a gender play scene based on that childhood story? So, it was rooted in both life, and my imagination, my what if thinking. I will admit that if you read the whole collection you will see certain themes and kinks popping up again and again. Those definitely reveal things about my own desires and core kinks.

3. Why write about kinky sex and BDSM? I started writing erotica as a way to explore BDSM, it was one of the pathways I used to explore my kinky desires. Writing is an amazing arena for self-exploration, and I definitely use writing to learn about myself and tap into what I want, need, and yearn for in my life. Also, desire, sex, and relationships are such amazingly juicy and complex things to write about. So once I started writing in this genre, I got incredibly excited about what I could do with this kind of fiction, where I could take it. I’m not vanilla at all; the last time I tried vanilla sex was about ten years ago. I used to joke around with a partner of mine at the time, and we tried a few times to do vanilla sex, but it wouldn’t stick. Somehow we’d slide into pain play or D/s or something else kinky, because that’s just how we were both wired. It was at that point I decided to stop trying to do anything vanilla. In all honesty, I don’t get vanilla sex enough to write it well.

4. What’s your favorite thing about being a writer? I can tell you some of what I love about writing. I love the ride of deep intense focus that comes when a story is flowing. I also love the ways a story can ride along throughout the day with me as I’m doing other things. Those moments on the bus or in bed when I can close my eyes and zone out, thinking through plot or characterization or a place where I’m stuck. Or those moments at work or while I’m in the store when a part of my brain is noodling with the story. I love that I can carry the story with me as I go. I also love hearing about or seeing reactions to my work, especially strong responses to it, knowing that it makes people feel.

5. What’s your least favorite thing about being a writer? Mostly I don’t think about it in pros and cons, or favorite/least favorite parts, because it’s what I do, who I am, not something that’s going to change or that I’m going to stop doing. I guess for me there are parts that are hard, though, so I can speak to that. Sometimes it’s hard work, that can’t be postponed, and I wish I could have a break from it and let myself rest, or I just don’t feel up to bringing the sexytimes stuff right then. Sometimes a story demands to be written and I know I don’t have the emotional capacity to deal with the aftermath of having written that specific story. Sometimes I have had folks in my life who don’t get what my writing means to me, how important it is, how much of a priority, who don’t know how to be appropriate about my writing. Sometimes I write something and it teaches me something about myself that I’m not quite ready to accept.

6. What’s something I forgot to ask but should have?  A recent post on your blog that resonated for me was “I belong to You.” There were a couple intertwined elements of the play you describe that appear many times in Show Yourself To Me: possessive dominance and a submissive taking sensation for the dominant. These are two elements of my own play that make it exquisitely hot and intense, and that is definitely a big part of why I write them into my erotica so often, especially when they intertwine together. I’ve spent much of my erotica writing life trying to capture that what that sort of possession and surrender and service feel like, from the top and the bottom. This collection showcases my best efforts in this area, and I hope it delivers!


My answer to that hope is HELL YEAH IT DOES.  It delivers deep and hard and without mercy, just the way I like it. Show Yourself To Me by Xan West is available from Go Deeper Press as well as major online retailers.

Xan West is the nom de plume of Corey Alexander, a recent transplant to Oakland from Brooklyn, who has been doing community kink education for over ten years. Xan has been published in over 35 erotica anthologies, including the Best S/M Erotica seriesthe Best Gay Erotica series, and the Best Lesbian Erotica series. Xan’s story “First Time Since,” won honorable mention for the 2008 National Leather Association John Preston Short Fiction Award. Xan’s work has been described by reviewers as “offering the erotica equivalent of happy ever after” and as “some of the best transgressive erotic fiction to come along in recent years.” Xan refuses pronouns, twists barbed wire together with yearning, and tilts pain in many directions to catch the light. Xan adores vulnerable tops; strong, supportive bottoms; red meat; long winding conversations about power, privilege, and community; showtunes; and cool, dark, quiet rooms with comfortable beds. Find Xan’s thoughts about the praxis of sex, kink, queerness, power, and writing at

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Book Review: Show Yourself To Me by Xan West

I’m not even going to pretend to be unbiased — I love Xan West‘s writing.  I have been a fan since discovering Xan’s work ages ago.  My fandom is mainly based on Xan’s ability to write hot, nuanced sex scenes involving characters with complex gender and sexual identities.  After getting partway in, I already knew that this collection was going to be one of my favorites.  My standard bearer for how to do kinky erotica right has been Macho Sluts by Patrick Califia.  Show Yourself To Me gets to sit right next that classic on my ‘must haves’ list.

West has written some of my favorite BDSM scenes and has a special knack for Daddy/boy scenes. Diversity isn’t thrown in as an afterthought or as something to gawk at.  The characters in these stories represent a broad spectrum of the real people involved in kink and BDSM — this isn’t an amplifier for mainstream media representations of what is attractive, this is a mirror on reality with a healthy serving of non-cisgender characters of color, size and varying abilities, all rendered lovingly and fully by this writer. These are hot stories involving consent and respect for real, complex identities.  Queer erotica indeed.

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I am reviewing this collection of 24 stories, Show Yourself to Me: Queer Kink Erotica, as a part of a blog tour that started on October 1st and winds up at the end of this month.  The truth is, I’d have bought it and reviewed it anyway even if Xan hadn’t sent me a review copy.  Xan’s stories are tender and hard, unrelenting and sweet, honest and genuine and revealing.  I especially appreciate the natural and authentic way gender is treated and how the characters are revealed physically.  No neon signs pointing to the trans character or over-emphasizing the physical bits being sexed up.  The author treats sex, variations of gender, body parts, abilities and desires respectfully and matter-of-factly – which is still rare enough in erotica that it’s a refreshing surprise.

The stories in this collection share a variety of perspectives – Daddies and boys, bottoms and tops, Femmes and butches and queers of all kinds.  We get insights into the vulnerability of Daddies and tops, as well as the strength and resolve of boys and bottoms, all of which adds up to a rich stew of sexiness that invites queers of all kinds to grab a bowl and enjoy.

Some highlights:

Starting off with a bang, the first story is Missing Daddy, a lovely and hot reminiscence by a Daddy remembering being a boy.

I hated canes. They were evil invasive sting, and that kind of sensation just felt wrong. My body rejected it. Canes were an ordeal path to surrender filled with constant doubt. When I made it through to the end, I always felt powerful in some way and deeply proud. But the road there was horrid, and it just felt awful. Canes had nothing to do with my pleasure. They were about accepting Daddy’s will and feeding his sadism.

The Tender Sweet Young Thing is a hot, kinky gang bang by a collection of queers representing different sizes, shades and abilities.  West weaves mundane human moments with vivid visuals to tell the tale:  “Rebecca had laced a white boa around the handlebars of her scooter and slid her midsized curves into the tightest shortest thing in her closet, omplete with fishnets, dramatic purple eyes that matched her glasses, and flats because her fibro had been flaring all week and heels were not fucking possible.”

First Time Since is bittersweet as we follow a Daddy getting back into the scene after the heartbreak of losing his boy.  The story is as emotionally filling as it is sexually satisfying.

It was at this conference that I felt myself start coming back to life. I ached with new sensations, electric shocks of warmth moving through me. I felt my stride deepen in those boots, the sensation winding up my legs to my cock. I was conscious of it swelling as I moved through crowds, claiming space with the strength of my walk.

We dance on a razor-sharp blade. That’s how humiliation play works.” — so begins My Precious Whore.  ”There’s something so perverse about using misogyny as a sex toy—the same misogyny that nearly destroyed me as a girl.

The following passage from this story hit me square in the chest, because it speaks to a moment I know so well — the moment just before I begin to verbally assault my own precious slut:

The first time the weapons are about to leave my lips, I tremble with it, feel slightly nauseous from the fear and adrenaline. I need her to hold me up, to get me through the push to go there. Every time I approach this edge, I need her close, need her body, her warmth. Need to feel her cheek against mine. Need to know we are in this together.

I can relate to so much of what Xan writes, to the emotions, the contradicting desires, the heat generated by just the right combination of circumstances.  And Alleys.. damn, this one gets to me,

It’s like you know the same stories. You’re standing there against the wall, strategically placed to watch for danger. You’re a cocksucker’s dream, every inch the leather Daddy of my fantasies. At first you pretend you don’t even see me, as my eyes devour you in your leathers, big butch bear, built just how I like my Daddies to be. – Alley Obsession

It’s like we are tapping into the same deep lake of dark desire, though from different shores, plenty of the same current runs past our vantage points. Queer bodies turn me on, queer kinky sexy juicy painful amazing sex turns me on.

What about you?  If the idea of risky public sex, of being used by more than one person, of belonging to someone, of pain as a gateway to self-discovery and deeper pleasure, of queer bodies and queer desires that refuse to be neatly and easily categorized by mainstream ideas — if that’s the kind of thing that gets you off, you’ll enjoy this book.  If smart writing and interesting characters and depth are what you fancy, you’ll love it.

Yes, this is erotica and it’s kink and it’s also really good fiction writing. The emotional truth of these stories stands out — these stories are good reading even without helping us toward a ‘happy ending’.  But yeah, they’ll do that too.  I recommend you get a copy, get some private time and dive in.

I’ll leave you with one more quote, from the last story in this amazing collection:

For both of us, gender is complex identity and elaborate sex toy. But not just that. It is not easy to grow up breaking the gender rules, to live lives visibly nonconforming. Gender is a dangerous and delicious edge in which we play, knowing that we may inadvertently step on the minefields of our gendered histories and present struggles. Part of the thrill is that danger. We push gender to its own edges, play its sharpness against our throats, fear in our mouths, ache in our guts, building armor against becoming what we fear. — Strong

Show Yourself To Me by Xan West is available from Go Deeper Press as well as major online retailers.  And check out Xan’s blog, King Praxis.

This hot collection gets six boots for “BUY THIS TODAY!”


This content is published under the Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported license.

Posted in butch/femme, butch/trans/genderqueer, exploring gender, gender, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, reviews, turn ons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment