Category Archives: Laila Blake

Release Day for After Life Lessons

It’s finally here, everyone! The day of all days, the day that has been over a year in coming, the day that I thought sounded so far away when we set it in January, I was just sure I’d never be able to wait that long.

Today, we release After Life Lessons out into the wild.

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The decision to publish under our micro-imprint was not easily made. We did shop the book, and had some interested agents, but the consensus came to: what’s the market? Given that we’re fickle readers, and this is something we’d like to read (and we had plenty of beta readers who jumped on it like, well, zombies on slow runners), we couldn’t imagine there weren’t other people who thought “hey, I like a little apocalypse, but how about we mostly talk about feelings?”

I may be awful at selling myself.

Today, After Life Lessons, so gloriously described by Laila as “Walking Dead meets Downton Abbey” is for sale. Here’s the backcover blurb to whet your appetite:

Hulking shadows emerge out of the chaotic flurries of the blizzard. Something is dying, and so they come, like vultures.

After months of struggling south to escape the zombie-infested remains of New York, a snowstorm traps 23-year old artist, Emily, and her son in an abandoned gas station. Starving and desperate, they encounter Aaron, an Army medic on a mission of his own, who offers them a ride to ease the journey.

The road is a long and dangerous place to travel, and every day brings a new threat. But fear and adrenaline also drive the two closer together; they find laughter and a budding attraction that starts to thaw at their numb and deadened feelings. And that’s when the pain really starts to hit, when places long thought lost prickle back to life. Eventually, they will have to fight not just for survival, but for a future together, or their broken world will swallow them whole.

This novel contains language some might find offensive, some gore and situations of a sexual nature. Reader’s discretion is advised.

I’m exhausted, and I’m terrified, and I’m thrilled to be putting After Life Lessons out for the world to read. And read I hope you will! You can add the book to your Goodreads list, or purchase it by clicking on one of the links below.

Thank you so much for your support of indie writers. You all rock.

Add After Life Lessons to your

Goodreads List

Purchase After Life Lessons at

Amazon | Kobo | Smashwords | Barnes and Noble


Episode 22: Fanfiction and Inspiration vs. Plagiarism

lilt22

in which Laila and Lorrie discuss the morality of writing fanfiction, the joys of fandom and whether or not publishing stories that originated there is plagiarism.

(If the application doesn’t work for you, please click here for the audio-file!)

What about you?
Have you written fan fiction? Do you think authors have a right to forbid it?
And how do you feel about former fanfiction now sold as original work?
Credits:
Our intro music was taken from the Free Music Archive:
GeeNerve - Pink Fish Signs (Take Two).

Filed under: Episodes

Strong Female Leads don’t Cry… or something.

Writing for women is tricky. I don’t want to take away from writing for men or writing for all genders, but in the perfidiousness of patriarchy, we  women seem locked eternally in the act of policing each other and that does add an extra component.

We do this constantly, almost without realizing it. We police ourselves – our bodies, our eating habits, our emotional expression, our sexual experience; and then we do it to the women around us. We write blogs that call for J.K. Rowling to stop writing, stop clogging up the market — while we leave the men and their bulky bibliographies alone. We say this one is too fat, and that one looks too anorexic; this one seeks too much attention and that one just shuts herself in – how can she ever hope to find a man?; this one is a prude and that one’s a slut. Of course all it means, is that the woman polices herself differently than we police ourselves, she has sex differently, cares for her body differently, engages with men or other women differently than we would (or can) – than we have internalized as the right way to behave. And we forget how many strings bind us, how deeply we have permitted ourselves to be locked in the simple struggle of being ourselves.

IMG_6989smallI don’t think men do that. Not like this, not many of them, anyway. Lily Myers in her poem “Shrinking Woman” said something that stuck with me. To her brother, she says “We come from difference, Jonas, you learned to grow out, and I learned to grow in.” We filter, we listen, we modify ourselves and analyze because we were taught to do so from birth. Even my mother – a liberal, a hippie, a stout feminist who struggled all her life because she raised us as a single parent – admitted to me once, after I pressed that she treated us differently. That while she made my brother coffee when he was sleepy, and cut him up vegetables so he’d have something healthy with his pizza, while she left him alone to study (because it’s more important and he was busy), I was expected to eschew pizza altogether (and received sighs and looks when I didn’t), to cook healthy, to be part of the household, to do the dishes and mind her feelings. All of those are good things – but there was no proportion: my brother got so little of these admonitions and I got all the rest. And I don’t blame my mother for this. She only learned from my grandmother, who still does the same to every woman around her. I listen to her talk, and every single one has something wrong with her – from her sister, to my mother, to me, to her neighbor – of my brother she only speaks kindly, tolerantly. And how could she not? My brother is wonderful, he’s the best man I know (and he took all these pictures of me) — but she doesn’t know him at all.

Every single friend of mine has a mother who policed her food, her weight, her sexual identity, the volume of her voice – or any of a million things that we now police in ourselves, the women around us, probably our daughters one day and definitely, definitely the fictional women we read about. And here we are at the reason why writing for women is tricky.

Fictional women have to be just flawed enough not to strike us as too unrealistic, as so much better than us that it becomes uncomfortable – but they also can’t be too flawed or our teachings kick in. She has to be “strong” but not arrogant; she has to be able to accommodate our own ego without leaving us behind.

In what I’ve read and what seems to be well received – this leaves us with two basic archetypes. One is the “least offensive woman possible”. She’s the girl with very little character of her own and  who every reader can project herself into – the Bella Swans, basically. As far as I can tell – and have seen expressed in this way a lot – she is just necessary to play out the fantasy of the perfect guy, but she should be almost negligible in her effect. It’s all about him, the less the reader has to think about her, be confronted with her the better. She can be seen, but not heard, basically.

IMG_7112smallThe other archetype is the “strong female lead”, the fighter chick, the one who won’t cry a tear over some idiot, who knows how to play with her sexuality to get what she wants or eschews it altogether. These girls are tough, confident, sometimes even brash and they yeah, they kick ass.

I like a girl who can kick ass!

But we also ended up, yet again, in a strange position where we constantly pit these two against each other, and that ended us up at a very strange idea of what strength looks like in women, and reversely what weakness is.

In an author group I attend, someone recently proudly reported that she realized how much her character cried in the novel and promptly fixed it all as to not make her look so weak. Another large sheet comparing all the recent YA heroines with each other, marked almost all of them as having “poor self-esteem”.  Talking about feelings, having feelings and expressing those is becoming whiny and annoying and that makes me uncomfortable.

We live in a world in which guys are under this strain all their lives. To show emotion, they learn this from their fathers (and if they have better fathers than that, they learn it hard at school), is to be a girl, a sissy, a momma’s boy. And so they shut it down. We are faced with a generation of men who have no idea what they are feeling, because they were bullied into shutting it down. Men who can rape unconscious girls not because they are cruel, but because they have been taught that compassion and pity and kindness and sweetness is an unacceptable trait in their social circle.

And I don’t want that for women, and I certainly don’t want it for female leads.

That’s not what strength is.

 

I think I’m a pretty strong woman. I have ambitions and I work for them. I stared at a razor IMG_7125smallblade and stepped off the ledge and got help instead because of the people I love. I do things that scare me every day, I am loyal to my friends. I have convictions and I stand up for them.

But I also cry all the time – from a public service announcement about equality, to a movie, to just because I got a bad review or because I’m scared of the future. I have panic attacks and anxiety; I overanalyze everything I do and everything anyone says to me. I secretly think I am terribly ugly and nobody could ever love me.

And I am still not weak. I can be strong and cry. I can be strong and be afraid. I can be strong and quaver at the thought of my crush seeing me naked for the first time. Strength is not the denial of negative, hurtful or worrying emotions. Strength is to go on in spite of them, accepting them and limiting their power.

Strength is to stick up for friends even if that scares you, even if you could never do that for yourself. Strength is to have convictions and to stick to them — but strength is also to alter them when you grow older and learn new things. Strength is to say you were wrong and that you’re sorry, more sorry than you could ever say. And strength is to love and to trust and to be alive and open and vulnerable every day. Strength is to let people in and to show yourself to them, for who you really are.

That’s the kind of characters I want to read about.  Strong women who cry.

Episode 21: Looking back on a Year of Writing

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in which Laila and Lorrie discuss their year of writing seriously, for publication and more than they could ever have imagined.

(If the application doesn’t work for you, please click here for the audio-file!)

What about you? What have you learned last year?

Credits:
Our intro music was taken from the Free Music Archive:
GeeNerve - Pink Fish Signs (Take Two).

Filed under: Episodes

Ms. Writinglove or: How I learned to stop procrastinating and just write dammit

I write this with a sore wrist and a body rather severely lacking sleep. I am not sure where the former came from, but the latter seems to be my condition the older I get. It’s genetic, to a degree, but also the inability of my brain to just shut the F up and let me sleep already.

Being as it is the end of the year, sore wrist and sleepiness aside, I thought it appropriate to do a bit of a recap of the last year – or, at the very least, a bit of waxing on months past. I have a rather poor memory, so I may rely heavily on poetic license. I promise I’ll try to avoid claiming a close friendship with Beyonce.

I wrote a lot this year. Given the current status of my publication career (read: very small), I know it is difficult for people to see, let alone understand, the sheer amount of writing I’ve done this year. It’s a little frustrating to know the number (that’s right, I went and totaled it*) and have people still need to ask “Where have you been published?”

The truth is: this is my reality. I’m not going to claim that it hasn’t been a hard slog this year. I did not have the kind of success I would have liked (and maybe, in my wilder “interviewing myself while showering” fantasies) once I really buckled down and made an effort in my writing career. Submitting my work had mixed results, most negative. I have, for the first time in my life, earned some version of an income from my writing, as small as it is. I have seen my work in print, and had readers give me good reviews.

Still, it’s hard. This year alone, I’ve gotten around 50 rejections, most of them form, and completely unhelpful. The few times I (and often in conjunction with Laila) received a rejection that strayed even slightly from form, it was rarely anything concretely constructive – for the same manuscript, different reasons for rejection were given, and none of them were something necessarily fixable, like style, like setting. There is a sort of burning that comes with multiple rejections. You start to chafe a bit.

Still, I wrote. I had a spate, here and there, where I would double down, hide out, and refuse to write, like a child who thinks refusing to do homework will punish her teacher. I contemplated giving up, finding a career that involved leaving the house – or just moving to the mountains and becoming a goat herd. I pouted, I tantrumed, I berated myself.

I went back to writing. I say that it’s the only thing I’m good at, but it’s also the only thing I like doing. Writing is a joy, and writing is my job. It’s difficult to escape either, or give them up easily.

This year, I wrote collaboratively with Laila and, together, we wrote one novella, and three full-length manuscripts, including one that we are furiously editing as we speak, in order to release through independent press means next year. On my own, I wrote two full-length adult fiction novels, one young adult magical realism story, and nearly two dozen short stories, both mainstream and erotic: one, “Steps,” appeared in Anything She Wants; “Invincible” was included in The Dying Goose Fall edition. In the next year, I will be appearing in (among others not currently listed): Best Bondage Erotica 2014, Book Lovers: Sexy Stories from Under the Covers, and A Princess Bound: Naughty Fairy Tales for Women.

I suppose the biggest, most important lesson 2013 taught me was the thing I’ve been saying all along: write. You have to write. There is a success in writing despite all odds, and there is a success in believing in what you are doing, despite any concrete, sharable outcome.

And, really, when you do finally have that outcome, it is all the sweeter.

2014 is already setting up to present new challenges and opportunities alike. I’m excited, even as my more negative side already wants to hide under the desk. I’m setting myself some new goals, and looking forward to the many plans I’ve made.

I hope your last year was as bizarrely enriching as mine was. Or, at least, that you got to drink a lot during it. Peace out. I’ll see you next year.

*In totaling my word count for the year, I only included finished pieces. This excluded a half-finished novella, the start of two different sequels, an abandoned novel, and at least 6 unfinished short stories. Taking that hit into account, my finished work, this year, totaled 465,455 words. BOOYAH.


Explanations

We’re so sorry we’ve not posted a new podcast in nearly a month! With the holidays upon us, our fair Laila landed in the hospital and only now just got out! Pour one for her missing gallbladder, or toast her recovery by buying your very own copy of her new novella, Driftwood Deeds! We’ll be back as soon as we’re able with more chats, rants, and all around interesting (we hope) fun. Stay tuned!


Filed under: Uncategorized

Episode 20: The Show vs. Tell Paradigm

Lilt20

in which Laila and Lorrie discuss the writing maxim of Show Don’t Tell and where we agree with it and where we feel it’s a little too generalizing.

(If the application doesn’t work for you, please click here for the audio-file!)

What about you? What do you feel about Show Don’t Tell?

Credits:
Our intro music was taken from the Free Music Archive:
GeeNerve - Pink Fish Signs (Take Two).

Filed under: Episodes

Episode 19: Nanowrimo 2013 – Getting Unstuck

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in which Laila and Lorrie discuss Nanowrimo again and talk about ways to help yourself when writing gets hard and you can’t see the way forward.

(If the application doesn’t work for you, please click here for the audio-file!)

What about you?
How do you get unstuck?
Credits:
Our intro music was taken from the Free Music Archive:
GeeNerve - Pink Fish Signs (Take Two).
The resources we mention in this podcast are:
Lilt on Writer's Block


Filed under: Episodes

Episode 18: Nanowrimo – the good and the bad

lilt18

in which Laila and Lorrie discuss Nanowrimo, both taking part in it and the broader implications on taking part as an author. How can you make the most of nano without falling prey to some of it’s less positive aspects?

(If the application doesn’t work for you, please click here for the audio-file!)

What about you?
Are you taking part in Nanowrimo? How is your experience with it?
Credits:
Our intro music was taken from the Free Music Archive:
GeeNerve - Pink Fish Signs (Take Two).
The resources we mention in this podcast are:
Lilt on Writer's Block
Row80 (A Round of Words in 80 Days)
List of Timed Challenges
MiniWriMo

Filed under: Episodes

Episode 17: October Reading Wrap-Up

lilt17

in which Laila and Lorrie wrap up their reading month October and chat the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth.
(If the application doesn’t work for you, please click here for the audio-file!)

What about you? What do you think about Divergent?
And what did you read last month?

Credits:

Divergent hc c(2)
The books mentioned and discussed in this episode were 
Divergent - Veronica Roth
Insurgent - Veronica Roth
Allegiant - Veronica Roth
Free Four - Veronica Roth

The Harry Potter Series - J.K. Rowling
The Hunger Games Trilogy - Suzanne Collins
Our intro music was taken from the Free Music Archive:
GeeNerve - Pink Fish Signs (Take Two).

Filed under: Episodes