Shelley Aikens:  Hot, Steamy Erotica
 
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Finally finished revisions for the children's novel, or at least I've revised as much as I can for now. I can't believe what a struggle revision can be, or how long it can take, particularly at this point, when I'm working on my own and just trying to get a solid grasp of the story before sharing it with anyone else. It's a difficult time, because the story is still so fresh that I'm not yet ruthless enough to chop entire scenes or rework the whole middle third of the novel (which is something I have a sinking feeling I'll need to do, so I'm letting it sit for a few weeks before tackling it again). Hopefully I will be struck with vicious brilliance between now and Revision#3, and I won't even have to do a Revision#4... Well, that is of course until a publisher gets hold of it and then there are a million more revisions you never would have thought of on your own... *sigh*  

So of course the antidote to Revision Blues is to start writing again! 10,000 words into my Cornwall erotica now, which is just a bit slow getting off the ground--or getting down to the ground, if you know what I mean... I guess it's not that surprising, considering I just spent a few months buried in the world of children's books, but I (and my characters) are really ready for a bit of smut! Overdue for Smut... okay, maybe not as catchy as Overdue for Pleasure...  But anyway, to stop my characters' bickering/flirting for a while, I've trapped them in a priest's confessional... Now let's see what kind of mischief they get up to! 

I do have to say that I love this part of the writing process--it's just so much fun! Everything is possible, and nothing seems complicated, and I usually have such a crush on my guy character, kind of like when you first meet someone and they're still really perfect in your eyes... But to make matters worse this time, I've based him on a  "real" guy (well, "real" in a gorgeous TV handyman kind of way) that I sort of have a crush on in real life, but maybe more on that another time... :) 

 
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Okay, maybe I'm getting a bit overly ambitious, but my new challenge is to write 700 words a day on the days when I'm not working at the day job, and 500 words a day the rest of the time. One week into the new routine, and I'm shocked to say that it seems to be working! As long as Munchkin takes his nap in the afternoon, it's not too painful. Usually I can get all 700 words done while he's napping, but if not, I only have a couple of hundred left to do at the end of the day. So far so good! 

The book I've been working on this month is actually a children's book (written under a different name, of course), so it's a bit easier to pick up and put down in the middle of a scene. Not sure what will happen when I'm in the middle of a sizzling sex scene and I've reached my word count goals or Munchkin wakes up... But I guess I'll find out in about 10000 words or so (a couple of weeks at the new pace!), when I finish this draft and dip back into the little Cornwall cottage, where my characters have been waiting (im)patiently for me to come back and turn up the heat...

 
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I've finally hit on a writing routine that works for me. it's not super productive, but every day I write at least 500 words a day and mark down my final word count on a little calendar. Anything less than 500 words and I put a bit circle around it. So far, I've only had to do that once in over a month of writing, so it seems like the routine is working. Writing it down somehow keeps me motivated, makes me feel like I'm accountable to someone to get my work done.

Even now that I'm back at work, I'm finding it surprisingly easy to fit in those 500 words, even though sometimes I end up doing them in the wee hours of the morning after everyone has gone to bed. Hmm, no guarantee that what I'm writing in those bleary-eyed hours is any good, but lousy writing is better than no writing, in my opinion.

It sounds like a painstakingly slow pace, but after 100 days of writing, I will end up with a 50,000 word book. That's potentially three books a year, including 3 weeks per book for editing. Not bad! Now if only I can figure out how to write something that's perfect after the first draft, then I won't have to do any editing at all... Yeah right! 

 
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I can't believe the date of my last entry on this blog! Has it really been that long? No, I haven't been in a 2-year coma, and no I haven't quit writing to become a nun or anything like that. But actually it's kind of close... I've spent the last year and a half in the writing-coma that is new parenthood! Yes, I've been busy creating, but not writing--I've actually made a real human being with my latest creative efforts! I have to say that so far, he's my masterpiece. If I could turn him into a book, he'd be a bestseller for sure. :) 

But for anyone who's tried it, writing erotica while caring for a newborn on relatively little sleep while longing for a shower and wearing spitup-stained yoga pants for the tenth day in a row doesn't really work all that well... Or at least it doesn't work for me, though I'd love to hear from anybody who has been able to make it work! Writing while pregnant would have been great (nobody ever told me about the effects of pregnancy hormones on the sex drive--wowza!), but I was inevitably too exhausted at the end of each long work day to do anything more ambitious than just collapse into bed. But now that I'm moving out of the blissful fog of new motherhood, I'm finding myself craving writing time again, sneaking away to dash off a little fantasy scene or two while the baby's sleeping. 

Eventually, I was able to find enough time and focus to rewrite my second novel, which I'm shopping around right now. It's super hot but at the same time a bit of a genre-bender, with a hint of magic woven through in an otherwise realistic plot. Magical erotic chick lit, is about the best way to describe it... You could never class it as a paranormal, but there are definitely a few elements in it that make you have to stretch a bit to suspend disbelief. Just a few, though--think "Bewitched" with an erotic twist!  

And so now, here I am working on my third novel. So excited about this one! It's another librarian on an erotic adventure, this time taking a house swap to Cornwall, where the locals are just as gorgeous as the scenery... Well, at least that's what I think it will turn out to be--you never know what will happen to a story after you start writing it.  Stay tuned and I'll let you know how it goes...

 
Nothing like completely dropping off the face of the virtual world to make a girl feel guilty!  So my two-month stint of full time work has dragged out into 5 months, and only now is it finally drawing to a close (I think). I'm excited to be able to get back to my long days of writing--sitting in the sunshine in the backyard with my laptop, my cats trying to knock it off so they can sit on my lap instead...  I've been able to get little snatches of writing done here and there, but nothing like what I thought I would do :(  I now have a whole new respect for those writers who work at full time day jobs, only to pump out great books in the wee hours of the morning or late at night. 

Okay, so I might be fibbing a bit when I say I'm getting right back to my writing--actually, I'll be going on a bit of a detour first when I head out on a 3-week vacation, driving down the west coast from Vancouver to California. I've driven the coast before, and was amazed at how beautiful it is.  (If you get a chance, you should try it--as long as you don't tend to get carsick, as the twisty coast road in California will do you in). Whenever I go on a trip, I get excited about all the great story ideas I might have, but I'm not so sure about camper van road trips.  Not much sex appeal in the idea of trekking to the communal toilets, eating hot dogs around the fire pit, or wearing your flipflops into the shower in the morning. 

But Europe, on the other hand, now that's a sexy trip!  (provided you're not backpacking--see above re. communal toilets, flipflops in the shower, but also include the fact that you're sleeping in a room full of snoring strangers.)  I recently went to Italy and the Southwest coast of England, and I definitely got lots of great story ideas there! I've never been to Italy before, and I can't say I was particularly excited to go there.  My Italian is super-basic (limited to what I learned on the plane on the way there), and Italian guys don't really float my boat.  Or so I thought before I actually saw a few Italian men in person.  Yummy!  Well, I might have to correct myself and say Italian boys, as the loveliest specimens were usually between 20 and 25, sadly a bit too young for me. But not too young for my fantasies! 

I've lately had a bit of a thing for Bollywood guys (google Akshay Kumar or Hrithik Roshan if you have any doubt), but I have to say that some of the Italian guys I saw are giving them a run for their money.  The hotel desk clerk looked so much like my favourite Akshay Kumar that I just about fainted on the spot!
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And then the coastal setting in Devon & Cornwall--wild and windswept, craggy shoreline, dramatic views--wouldn't it be nice to take one of those gorgeous Italian guys and drop them into a Cornwall setting along with my willing and experimental heroine?  If you're a writer who's feeling blocked, just take a trip to Europe--I'm sure you can write it off on your taxes as research, right???
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*Sigh* It really isn't easy to keep up a writing career when you're working full time. How do other people do it? In the last two months, I might have spent only 20 hours writing. My "firm" goal of writing every day has flown out the window.  Maybe it's because I'm in the revision stage, which is definitely my least favourite part of the writing process.  It's hard not to procrastinate when you have to do something you dislike almost as much as emptying the cat litter box.  

But now I'm starting to miss my writing so much! It's that familiar, restless craving to sit down and pour out another story.  But with most of my time spent at work, as well as the need to get through these blasted revisions first, I'm not sure when I'll be able to start my next story. I need to do something to make my schedule work better with my writing.  I'm not a morning person, so the idea of getting up at 5am to write seems like torture. On the other hand, writing at night doesn't work either, because at the end of the day I'm so tired, I can barely keep my eyes open.  As for right after work, the last thing I want to do after sitting in front of a computer all day is fire up my laptop!  So that leaves--when exactly?

I guess if I had to pick the least of the evils, I would surprisingly pick the 5am wakeup.  I can understand why so many full-time workers/part-time writers choose the wee hours as their writing time. There's nothing to distract me at that time, other than my warm, comfy bed... Even the pets won't wake up that time of day, so I'll be all alone with my story and my sexy characters and who knows what kinds of adventures they get up to? Hmm, maybe not much at 5am, but we'll see. 

So shall I try it? An experiment: I'll get up at 5 am--no wait, let's make that 6am--every day next week and see how I like the early-morning writing routine.  Not this week, though, because I'm off to Vegas for a few days. Hmm, maybe I'll get some inspiration for my next novel while I'm there??? 
 
Just finished the first draft of my second novel. (Finally!!!! I was worried it would go on and on forever!)  So now I'm starting in on the first round of edits.  

It comes at a good time, as I've just accepted a full time gig at the library, rather than the flexible part time that I've been used to, so for the next few months I won't have as much time to devote to my writing :(  

I'm not super-excited about the new work gig, although my bank account will be very pleased!  Just as long as I can somehow keep up some portion of my writing schedule, I won't complain.  I'm trying to make a plan to either write on my lunch hour (if I can find a suitably private space, lol) or late in the evening, so hopefully I'll keep up with all the smutty stories that are in my head fighting to get out...  

Usually my daily writing goal is 2000 words, which sometimes takes me just an hour or two to get down, but more often takes a whole day of sitting in front of the computer forcibly trying to drag my attention away from all the bright & shiny distractions on the Internet... I think I may need to go back to writing longhand to keep myself away from temptation :)  I'm not sure what my daily writing goal will be now that I'm working full time.  Can I reach 1000 words? Or is that just dreaming in colour?  Maybe have 500 words as a minimum, but aim for 1000 if it's going well?  I guess I'll soon see, as I start my new schedule next week.

Actually, I've been trying to follow Stephen King's writing advice from his book On Writing. I love that book--it's so simple and straightforward and  practical while also being quite entertaining and inspiring. His advice is to devote yourself to your writing as though it's any other career, spending a lot of time on professional development (reading) as well as the actual work of writing. 

In fact, he suggests a reading/writing schedule of 4-6 hours a day.  He suggests a daily writing goal of 2000 words (which for him seems to take about 3 hours to finish) and at least a couple of hours a day of reading. I like the simplicity of it, and it really makes sense to me.  Brilliant! Just read & write, read & write, read & write...  Sounds sort of like a perfect life :)

He summarizes it so simply:
  • "If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot." (145)
About reading in particular, he says:
  • "Reading is the creative center of a writer's life" (147)
  • "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write." (147)
  • "Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mind-set if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. (150)
And he doesn't discriminate between so-called "good" writing and "bad" writing. He points out that both extremes have something to teach a writer--something to either emulate or avoid in your own writing. I really love how this gives me permission to sit around reading "junky" novels--it's part of my job as a writer!

Hmm, maybe I'll end up spending my lunch hour reading instead of writing? I am surrounded by all of those lovely books, after all... 

Now back to my revisions!
 
I love love love Christmas! I tuned my radio to the all-Christmas station a month ago, and I've been singing carols to myself ever since. And reading piles of Christmas novels and crafty holiday magazines.  I like Christmas stories almost as much as I enjoy the holiday itself, except that this year I've been a bit disappointed that the ones I'm reading all seem to be so sweet.  Well, okay, the Christmas erotica isn't usually sweet! But lately I've been reading a lot of non-erotic fiction too. :)

So what have I picked up lately? Here are a few of the (unusual for me) titles from the pile of books I've been reading at my library and listening to in audio: 

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What's sweeter than a Cedar Cove Christmas?  Yeah, so, this one really wasn't my kind of book! Very Christmassy, though :)

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Aaaaaand.... I followed that one up with an Amish Christmas! Sounds like it would be even sweeter, right? Not quite--I almost enjoyed this one :)

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Hmm,  a bright red cover, the word "kissing" in the title... Has to be hot, right??? Well, no--it's sort of a cozy British mystery.  Not even all that Christmassy, unfortunately :(  But it was an audiobook, and I enjoyed the narration and the characters, and the overall feel of the book was fun for a few hours before it got a bit zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz for my taste.

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I liked this one! It was sweet and pretty cheesy, but I enjoyed it :) I guess as it gets closer to Christmas my tolerance for sweetness/cheesiness goes up...

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Ah! Now this is a bit more like the kind of book I really like!  Nice hot romance with a hint of cozy Christmas happiness.  Not to mention a gorgeous shirtless man on the cover surrounded by presents!  Now this is more like it!

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So... What's next? Have you seen the Holiday books at Carina Press? They look GREAT! Pretty much every cover I see makes it onto my Christmas wish list :)  But this one looks like it might be sexy & spicy enough to make it to the top of the list!




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Happy Holidays! And happy reading! If you know any great Christmas reads, let me know! 


 
I've been waiting and waiting, and now it's finally happened--Overdue for Pleasure is out in audio! I was dying to hear what the voice in my head would sound like out loud, and I'm happy to say that I love the way it turned out. Even though the narrator's voice isn't quite what I expected, I think she does a great job. 

Audible.com has produced the audio version, and it retails for $7.49.  They have a 5-minute sample on the site, which you can listen to here. This is a scene near the beginning of the novel, and maybe the only 5-minute PG clip they could find in the book :) 

Check it out--you can hear what Mandy sounds like!
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Overdue for Pleasure is about 65,000 words long.  That's a pretty quick read, just a bit longer than your average Harlequin romance.  I like that length, both as a writer and a reader, and so with my current work in progress, I've been aiming for something along those lines.  But now 65,000 words has come and gone, and still there's no end in sight... Not that I'm complaining, because I love my new characters and all of the crazy fantasy scenarios they're getting into, and I'm reluctant to say goodbye to them just yet.  

But it's disconcerting that I suddenly have no idea what's going to happen next--and who knows how much longer I'll have to keep writing before I find out? I have an idea of how the story should end, but when it comes down to it, I find that I actually seem to have very little control over how it turns out.

Although I have to say that I do love that moment--that Eureka! surprise moment when the characters do something so outrageous and unexpected, and the story delights me all over again.  I LOVE it, except when (as is happening right now) their changing their mind takes them away from the fantasy that I've been looking forward to writing for the last few weeks... But they are (hopefully) travelling towards an even hotter scene... I guess I'll just have to wait and see!