Thursday, June 30, 2016

Guest Post: First Time Editor

I invited Delilah Night to post here about her upcoming anthology, Coming Together: Under the Mistletoe, which just opened for submissions, and will benefit Project Linus. I love Coming Together projects in general, I'm excited about Delilah's book in particular, and I'm also excited to see a writer taking on the editing mantle for the first time. I asked Delilah to write about what drew her to edit an anthology, and she's responded with a moving personal story, as well as some great insights into both the writing and editing processes.

Without further ado, here she is:

by Delilah Night

Hi Annabeth, thank you for hosting me!

I am editing my first anthology, Coming Together: Under the Mistletoe, this year with a projected publication date of December 1. It’s scary to make the leap from contributor to editor, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while.

Alison Tyler organized Summer Loving, with proceeds going to fellow author Sommer Marsden’s family as they dealt with a medical crisis in 2014. It was the first time I’d heard of a charity erotica anthology. A few months later, I saw my first Coming Together call—Coming Together is a charity press, and each anthology benefits a charity picked by the editor. I am proud to have contributed to four of the Coming Together anthologies—For the Holidays, Among the Stars, Strange Shifters, and Keeping Warm.

I grew up quite poor. We needed welfare to help keep food in our home, and to help clothe me. There were times when teachers paid for me to go on field trips so that I wouldn’t miss out. I sacrificed a lot to go to college and grad school to get a master’s degree in teaching. I thought I had my career planned out when I had my daughter, Turtle (obviously not her real name).

To make a very long story short, Turtle nearly died from a bacterial infection at a week old. Then she had a stroke. It remains the worst thing that has ever happened to me/our family. In the middle of that darkness, our nurse gave us a hand-made hat and blanket from Project Linus. Receiving that gift from a stranger was like a ray of light in the darkest point in our lives.

We are a success story. Thanks to an amazing team of doctors, nurses, early intervention staff, physical therapists, occupational therapists and other specialists, plus a heaping dose of luck, Turtle is now a healthy, happy seven year old.

I want to give back, and I’ve decided that Coming Together is one of the ways to do so. As an erotica author, it is a unique opportunity to give back by writing (and editing).

As a novice editor, my biggest fears are that I will let everyone down—my contributors, Coming Together, and Project Linus. However, I’m lucky to have several close friends who have edited anthologies for various presses to serve as mentors and advisors.

Going into the anthology, my plan is to put together an anthology of the best stories and poetry that come my way. One of my favorite anthologies is Rose Caraway’s The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica. The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica skips from genre to genre with the grand unifying theme of being the best examples of erotica that Rose could put together. I want Under the Mistletoe to emulate that example.

I hope to put together an anthology with the unifying theme of winter. Not every story should be about Christmas—there’s Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve, and random days in December as well. I don’t want every couple to be heterosexual. I don’t want every pairing to be two people. I don’t want every couple to be white. Variety—and above all, quality— is what will grab my attention.

On an organizational level, I’ve set out my calendar of when the deadline is, when replies will happen, and so forth. Ensuring that I stick to that calendar will require discipline. As an author, I’ve worked with great editors and bad editors, and one of the biggest differences is that the best editors are hyper organized and I want to live up to that standard.

But, just as you can’t actually anticipate what having a child is like until you have one, I expect that there will be a number of bumps along the road. My goal is to handle them professionally such that my contributors are never inconvenienced.

I expect that my second anthology will be better than my first and that my fifth will be better than my second, and so forth. But just as I remain proud of my first story, I hope that I will always be proud of this anthology.

That said, any advice you can provide is welcome, Annabeth.

Coming Together: Under the Mistletoe
Submission Call

Deadline is September 1, 2016

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow because we’ll be heating up this sexy December anthology.

I am looking for your best winter stories. Are your characters cuddled up inside while a blizzard rages, or are they snowbirds spending Christmas Day on the beach in the tropics? Who belongs on Santa’s Naughty List? Is your billionaire a Scrooge? Is this the year they come out to their family? Do they have a special someone to kiss when the ball drops?

While the theme is winter, you may also add in your favorite December holiday, but this is not mandatory. I’m looking for compelling stories with compelling characters and a rich plot as well as beautiful poetry.


* Your story should be set between December 1 and December 31 whether explicitly or implicitly.

* All orientations, ethnicities, pairings, and interpretations of “winter” are encouraged.

* All sub-genres and time periods welcome (contemporary, historical, paranormal, sci-fi, steampunk, you name it).

* All heat levels from sweet and romantic to down and dirty—as long as it is plot driven.

* HEA/HFN preferred, but not required.

* Stories up to 7,500 words

* Poetry is welcomed and encouraged

* No underage, no scat, no non-consent, no incest

Coming Together is a charity organization. You retain all rights to your stories, and previously published stories and poetry are welcomed (as long as you hold the rights).

Please use Times New Roman font, size 12, and double spaced with one inch margins. No extra lines between paragraphs. Set indentations to .5 – do not use tabs or spaces to indent. Use .docx, .doc .rtf formats only.

Only submit your final, best version of the story to with the subject line “Under the Mistletoe insert your title insert your name”

Do not send multiple versions of the same story. Up to two stories/three poems will be considered from each author. Include your legal name (and pseudonym if applicable and be clear which one is which), mailing address, and up to 250 word bio. Do not paste your story into the body of your message.

You will be notified as to the status of your story by no later than October 1, 2016.

Coming Together is a non-profit organization, and all Coming Together authors and editors have generously donated their talents to various causes. Compensation for inclusion in this work is a PDF contributor copy of the finished product and your name on Santa’s Nice List (or Naughty, if that’s your preference). You retain all rights to your story. All proceeds go to Project Linus, which provides home-made blankets and hats to children in crisis.

Questions? Email me at

(My thanks again to Delilah for sharing this with us here. I'm not sure I'm at the stage of editing experience where I have a lot of advice to give. What does stand out to me is that I was surprised at how it felt to select stories. I loved them as a fan. I've had editors say things like that to me when they selected my work, but I didn't realize how it really feels to get to put together a book full of stories you truly believe in and love to read. I hope you enjoy that!

Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that I'm also currently taking submissions for a Coming Together book. The details are here, and I've written a guest post for Delilah's blog. Watch for it!)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

On Asking for What You Want When You Don’t Know What That Is

This week, I signed a contract for Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, volume two, which is a huge honor. My story is called “On Some Maps, But Not on Others,” and it’s full of a bunch of stuff I find hot and interesting and difficult.

More than anything else, it’s an attempt to articulate what it feels like to be inarticulate about something to do with sex and gender, to want things you can’t put words to, to want things when you don’t understand why you want them, to play a game of hot and cold with yourself, trying to figure out who you even are.

I’m going to show you what I mean with a couple of tiny excerpts:

"Let's keep this nice and hard for me," my girlfriend whispered. She pulled out a thinner rope this time, but if anything this one looked crueler than the first. Working deftly, she wound it around the base of Alex's cock, the flesh reddening as she did. By the time she finished, the head of his cock was purple. Alex's eyes were closed, and his lips moved as if he was praying.

Something pulsed inside me, somewhere very deep. I wasn't sure what the feeling was, but I knew I was dripping wet. I tried asking myself what I wanted or what I wished I could do. Did I want to hurt like that? Did I want to do the hurting? Did I want exactly what I had—to be able to watch? I was somewhere in this scene, but I couldn't figure out exactly how.
And here:

Gender still scares me, but now I think about it all the time. I don't know what to call myself, don't know what I am. The boundaries of my body shift and change. My cock is an island charted by sailors before Google Earth came along, appearing on some maps but not on others. My cunt is sometimes a depth, but sometimes a height. My breasts rise and fall. They curve into hills, then flatten into plains. I don't understand what gender has to do with any of this anatomy. Sometimes my cunt feels tough and masculine, ready to take any sort of abuse. Sometimes I put on my softpack and watch it tremble, so delicate in shape and color, and it feels like nothing could be girlier. Other times it seems self-evident that if I put on my cock I am playing at being a boy. Mostly, it all feels queer, in a way I'd never have had the guts to explore when I was younger.

This narrator isn’t me, and the story isn’t autobiography. I go through stuff like both of the scenes above, though, and a part of me is still surprised I was brave enough about them to enter that territory in this story. I remember a time when I learned to gather my courage to ask for what I knew I wanted sexually, and I am still proud of learning to speak for myself that way. But I’ve been in a different place the last couple years, and it feels more uncomfortable to me. Lately, I’ve been an undiscovered country even to myself. I don’t understand how I work anymore. I don’t understand the things I want. A lot of the things I think about confuse me more the more I think about them.

What this story reminds me of, though, is that this is valuable, interesting territory. It’s dangerous, but it’s “live.” It’s hot. It’s full of revelations. Sex and gender aren’t at all what I used to think they were, but that’s as exciting as it is scary.

So I’m really happy that I’ll get a chance to share this story with you. I am here for all the readers and writers who want to live at the edge of the horizon. I am so here for all of us.

It’s early yet—I don’t think this book will be out for a while—but it’s not too early to preorder. You can do that here.

(The image above belongs to Normn B. Leventhal, and is used under a Creative Commons license.)

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Privacy of Fantasy

My story, “Jane’s Fantasy, Your Fantasy,” will be out in a few weeks in Rachel Kramer Bussel’s Begging for It: Erotic Fantasies for Women.

I find the title a little ironic, because my intention with the story was for the protagonist’s gender to be open. I very consciously and carefully constructed the story in such a way that it would not have to conflict with any reader’s gender identity, though it will probably fit best with someone who feels a bit fluid or identifies as genderqueer.

Here's a short sample:

You feel intermingled with Jane, knowing that this could easily have been her standing where you are now, a curl of anxiety in the pit of her stomach, a chill from the air settling into her skin. Since the three of you got together, you have been entranced by the fluidity of the boundaries between you. Sometimes in bed it's as if Jane's cunt is your own, but the same goes for Rob's cock. Often you close your eyes and allow yourself to float between the two, as if your body is an ocean wrapping around their two definite and opposite forms.

I wrote it in second person, an unusual choice for me, because I wanted to use certain effects of that point of view.

First, second person allowed me to avoid gender when referring to the protagonist. I didn’t have to jar anyone with pronouns I didn’t want to use.

But why not use first person?

There’s a pitfall to second person where it can feel as if the author is accusing the reader of things (i.e. author writes: “You’ve never liked cookies,” and reader thinks, “What the fuck are you talking about? I love cookies.”) The flipside of that, though, is that, for me, second person can read as a variation on first person, and a more private one at that.

If I’m talking to someone else about myself, I’ll say I, as in, “I went to the store yesterday,” or, “I think that’s nonsense.”

If I’m talking to myself about myself, though, I’ll say you, as in, “What did you say you wanted to get from this room?” or, “All right, you can do this.”

Since I address myself as you, the second person can read as that very intimate voice of the self reflecting on the self. It has a half-whispered quality to me, a sense of privacy that goes beyond that of a diary entry.

That’s the feeling I wanted for this story.

“Jane’s Fantasy, Your Fantasy” is about an erotic healing experience, a ritual almost magical in nature. It’s about regaining control of the body, and that’s related to why I wanted the story to feel it could match any body, any gender identity, and why I wanted the narration to feel so intensely private.

I’m excited to share it with readers, and to read for myself the rest of what’s in the book.

Here’s the official blurb for the collection:

What would you give — or give up — to fulfill your most cherished sex fantasy? In this Cleis Press collection, erotica editor Rachel Kramer Bussel brings us femme fatales and shy women, women on a mission and women opening up to new worlds of discovery: women who know what they want and are not afraid to beg for it! Let yourself go with these 21 tantalizing tales of tortuous longing and release.

You can preorder it now, and it’s currently scheduled for release on July 12th.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Learn My Secrets

I'm at the Grip today, blogging about how I figure out what to write next on a sentence by sentence level.

I've explained five tricks I use, all of which could be done as writing exercises, or simply used to continue whatever story one is working on right now.

I called them the Sensual Solution, the Time Travel Solution, the Contemplative Solution, the Slow Solution, and the Superlative Solution.

Check them out!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Me and My Boi: Not Just Hair

I wrote “Not Just Hair” about two and a half years ago, and now that it’s finally coming out, in Sacchi Green’s Me and My Boi: Queer Erotic Stories, I get to read it afresh with the clear vision of hindsight.

I was going through some stuff when I wrote this story. I came out as bisexual when I was a teenager, but over the course of my life I’d wound up semi-closeted again. Though I told people I was queer if the subject came up, most people saw me as straight. After years of being told bisexuality was just a phase, I’d even started to believe it. When I thought about it, I sometimes wondered if saying I was bi was a way of trying to claim a place in a queer community I didn’t really belong to, of trying to portray myself as special when I was actually just run of the mill. Alert readers will probably recognize the internalized biphobia in those wonderings.

Then a series of things went down at the beginning of my thirties that forced me to start taking my queer orientation seriously again.

For one thing, I fell madly in love with my best friend, in that deep, undeniable way that wreaks havoc through a whole swath of relationships. Nothing looked the same in my life after that happened, even when I was still trying to claim things like I loved her but I didn’t love her that way.

A publisher asked me to submit a proposal for a possible novel, something I really wanted to write deep down. I came up with a story I cared about it and sent it in—then heard back that the publisher was worried that the book would be “too queer” for the intended heterosexual audience. That was news to me. After being told so often that bisexuality was a phase and I must actually be straight, I’d eventually started to assume that I must… actually be straight. My thoughts and feelings about women must be normal and common, things any straight person would think. This was the beginning of a wakeup call that, no, straight women don’t seem to think the way I do.

Another publisher had a call for butch/femme novellas. At the time, I wrote stuff for as many calls as I could. I just wanted to write fast and well and make a living at this career. I didn’t think I had any particular interest in butch/femme novellas (I had never thought of myself as butch, and none of my girlfriends had presented in a particularly masculine way), but I decided to give it a shot… Only to find myself melting my own panties off as I typed. There was an undeniable fire for me in the butch/femme dynamic, something I didn’t normally feel when I wrote erotica. The editor who accepted my book wrote to me about how authentic it felt, how my butch character came out so masculine and so thoroughly a woman at the same time, and how different and refreshing that was compared to a common “pretend a male character is female” theme she’d seen in submissions. While praise is always nice, I was bemused by this. I hadn’t experienced any difficulty in writing a butch character.

By now, this was adding up to a serious crisis of identity. I had forgotten how to take my own sexual orientation seriously. My life had built up around me in a way that made that hard to do, but now things were boiling out of me that I couldn’t hold back anymore.

I remember the weekend I wrote “Not Just Hair.” My male partner was away. I thought I would bang out the story in a couple of hours and spend the rest of the time relaxing. Instead, I found myself writing and crying and putting together the pieces I wrote about here and then some.

A while ago on Twitter, I talked about how I’ve realized that anger fuels much of my writing. Reading “Not Just Hair” now, I think it’s a really hot story. At the same time, I see the core of anger inside it, the desperate feeling you get to escape the roles that start to trap you, the need to reinvent yourself, the fucking unbelievable exhilaration and freedom you get when you take the steps you need to take. The story was out ahead of me, as my writing usually is, but I did follow it.

At the time, I was feeling my own queerness bubbling up, forcing its way into an active role in my life. But when I read “Not Just Hair” now, I see more than that. I see questions about gender presentation and masculinity and femininity that are still active sources of confusion for me. I see a desire to break out of kink roles and try new ones.

Here’s what I wrote in the story:

Years ago, Darla had naively believed that coming out as a lesbian would put an end to agonizing conversations about her sexual identity, but in fact those moments had marked a beginning. Ever since, it seemed she'd been struggling to figure out and articulate more about what she wanted to do and how she wanted to do it, and to negotiate with partners about whether what she wanted was okay.

I haven’t gone into what’s behind the title of the story yet, but that’s important, too. I’ve been talking about big stuff, things that go to the core of a person’s identity. In the throes of that sort of change, it can feel overwhelming and impossible. But it’s amazing how something that might seem small and trivial can take you a very long way. Something like a haircut.

I didn’t get the courage to take a razor to my head until last fall, but it’s amazing what changed when I got the undercut I’d been dreaming of. I feel more confident, more able to talk about my various identities, less apologetic to everyone. So as deep as the questions can get, sometimes a haircut can be the tipping point. Because it’s not just hair.

You can order the book here or at your favorite local bookstore.

I wrote this as part of the blog tour for Me and My Boi. You should check out the rest of the posts at the links below, and comment for a chance to win.

June 12—Sacchi Green—

June 13—Annabeth Leong--

June 14—Anna Watson—

June 15—Sinclair Sexsmith--

June 16—Jove Belle--

June 17—Tamsin Flowers--

June 18—Victoria Villasenor—

June 19—J, Caladine—

June 20—Victoria Janssen--

June 21—Dena Hankins--

June 22—D. Orchid—

June 23—Pavini Moray--

June 24—Melissa Mayhew—

June 25—Jen Cross—

June 26—Kyle Jones--

June 27—Gigi

June 28—Aimee Hermann—

June 29—Sommer Marsden—

June 30—Axa Lee—

July 1— Kathleen Bradean—


Anyone who comments on any of the posts will be entered in a drawing for one free copy of the anthology. You can comment on more than one post and be entered more than once. The winner will be announced and notified by July 5th, if not sooner.

(EDITED 7:30 pm 6/13 to update blog tour links)