Kay: The Art of Love

Al and Roey Stickles dancing at the trailer park: Sarasota, Florida 1946. Photo courtesy of State Library and Archives of Florida - https://www.flickr.com/photos/floridamemory/7157828142/

Al and Roey Stickles dancing at the trailer park: Sarasota, Florida 1946. Photo courtesy of State Library and Archives of Florida.  www.flickr.com/photos/floridamemory/7157828142/

I’ve started writing a scene that I think will be pivotal in my book. It’s a scene in which my hero and heroine have sex, but the sex will propel them into a new stage of their relationship. My critique partners have emphasized that it’s important that I show why my heroine has been unwilling to move forward quickly with the romance—she won’t move in with the hero—even though she must make a decision soon about whether to return to her old job across the country. If she goes, the relationship dies.

So to write this sex scene with as much sensitivity and weight as it needs, I wrote a scene that sets it up—my heroine tells the hero about her mother, and in so doing, reveals her feelings about family, home, and security. I wrote this scene from the hero’s POV, because I wanted readers to see his reactions to her story, and I wanted him to ask the questions I thought readers would be likely to ask if they’d been in the room with her. I spent some serious time on the scene, and it’s not bad. I’d give it maybe a B-.

Continue reading

Kay: Writing Sex Scenes

Cupid and Psyche (1817), by Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825)

Cupid and Psyche (1817), by Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825)

I’ve been chugging along on my WIP for a very long time. For a while, Life intervened. But even after I got Life wrassled to the ground and stomped on, that WIP just didn’t cooperate. No matter how I tried to gas it up and drive it someplace, it went nowhere. And as I don’t have to tell most of you, nothing is more depressing than writing 500 new words and deleting 600 old ones every day. A person starts to wonder if she’ll end up with an empty tank and no place to go.

But over the last few months, things have turned around. The book’s going okay. It isn’t there yet, but these days I’m writing 500 words and deleting 50. That’s what I call progress.

Until yesterday. Yesterday I looked at my blank page with fear and loathing. I’ve come to that spot in the book where my characters need to have sex.

I hate writing sex scenes. I know they’re supposed to be like any other scene, where things happen and characters grow or change, or the plot moves (or maybe that’s the earth) and so on. Continue reading

Kay: Happy Birthday, Edgar Allan Poe!

edgar-allan-poe-200Today is the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe, a writer, editor, and literary critic best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre. Part of the American Romantic Movement, he was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre. He also contributed to the emerging genre of science fiction and was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 19, 1809, Continue reading

Kay: Art in Turbulent Times


Guernica by Pablo Picasso, 1937

Do turbulent times create an environment that produces great art?

“Art has always [forced people to confront a dark reality], and it is a really powerful space for expressing anger,” said Genevieve Gaignard, a photographer and installation artist, in an interview for the Huffington Post. “If you’re not the type to protest on the streets or don’t have the words to express your outrage, your voice can still be heard through your art.”


Liberty Leading the People by Eugene Delacroix, 1830

Plenty of examples back her up. Picasso painted Guernica, probably the most famous anti-war painting ever, only two months after the bombing of that Spanish town during the Spanish Civil War. Eugene Delacroix painted Liberty Leading the People to commemorate the July Revolution of 1830, which toppled King Charles X of France—a painting the French government thought was too inflammatory in its glorification of liberty, so they bought it and removed it from public view. It was roughly in that same period that Victor Hugo wrote the novels Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.

And of course, the theory is that the artist has to starve in a garret while writing or painting the masterpiece, because genius flowers only when it’s drunk, high, unhappy, destitute, or emotionally scarred.

But many artists would prefer not to suffer. In an interview in The Atlantic, the Danish writer Dorthe Nors, author of Karate Chop and other novels, said such ideas are self-destructive, and glamorizing suffering is dangerous. “We can separate artistic pain, the experience of feeling deeply, from leading a painful life,” she said. It’s because art is painful that she strives to keep an even keel, because the work itself is hard enough.

Are we entering turbulent times—times when the political climate could lead to a diminished quality of life for people, including artists, who might be marginalized? Some artists think so. They’re worried about it—and they’re wondering what they can do to stay on an even keel and produce their work.

John Scalzi is a novelist (winner of the Hugo award) and “critic at large” for the Los Angeles Times who feels “knocked for a loop” by the election. He wrote a 10-point plan for how to create art in turbulent times. Actually, it’s good advice even for peaceful times. It starts with “Acknowledge it’s bad, and other facts of life” and ends with “Remember: Your work matters.” For the full article, go here.

Are the times turbulent for you? And are you finding the time and bandwidth to create anyway?

Kay: Resetting Creativity


Illustration for “The Green Forest Fairy Book” by Loretta Ellen Brady, illustrated by Alice B. Preston, 1920

If I haven’t said it thirty thousand times already in this space, let me say it now: I hate the cold. (I also hate the heat. I’m an equal-opportunity hater of extreme weather.) However, for some inexplicable reason, this season, as chilly as it’s been in northern California (and it has been chilly!), I’ve been happily productive on my languishing WIP. It’s like the cold cleared out my brain or reset my creative thermostat, or something. I sit down every day and do something good on that manuscript. It really is a holiday miracle.

Consequently, I used today’s solid productivity gains as a warm-up for tomorrow’s Writing Sprint challenge that Elizabeth always posts on Fridays. She gave the Ladies the words in advance this year in case we wanted to get a head start on our holiday entries, and—although I’m jumping the gun by a day—if I don’t post this story today, I won’t be able to post it for another two weeks, by which time we’ll be into the new year and it will be too late.

That just seems wrong. So here’s my holiday story. Think of it as a sneak peak, and see if you can guess which words Elizabeth will post tomorrow for her writing sprint.  Continue reading

Kay: Joss Whedon on Getting It Done

Don't let your manuscript expire in the cold of winter over this holiday season

Don’t let your manuscript expire in the cold of winter over this holiday season

Now that we’re well into December, I’ve been squaring away travel plans and thinking about Jilly’s post on not letting your WIP go stone cold dead over the holidays. I’m planning to take my laptop with me, but it’ll just be dead weight in my suitcase if I don’t open it up and turn it on. Will I have time to write between the demands of old friends and a three-year-old? Jilly said that even five minutes is enough to jot down a note or a thought that you could expand later. That’s probably true for a lot of people. It takes me a lot more than five minutes to get my brain into the book. It takes almost five minutes just to boot up my laptop.

I’ve tried various techniques in the past to boost my productivity. I envy the writers who write one, two, or even ten thousand words a day. Is a five-minute sprint worth the effort, or should I just invest in a pack of Post-Its? How can I cram some decent writing time into my holiday vacation time?

While pondering this question, I sought enlightenment from the masters and found an interview with Joss Whedon, he of Buffy, Firefly, and Avengers fame.

Continue reading

Kay: A Story for Thanksgiving

We have so much to be thankful for that one day a year hardly seems adequate. Among other things, I’m thankful for my friends and colleagues here at Eight Ladies, the writers and readers who share this space. In that spirit, today I’m posting a short Thanksgiving story. Just so you know what to expect, it’s by O. Henry. In the edition I found, O. Henry had written an introduction ostensibly for children; I have omitted that.

Photo by Noel Feans (2011)

Photo by Noel Feans (2011)

Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen

By O. Henry

Stuffy Pete sat down on a seat in the New York City park named Union Square. It was the third seat to the right as you enter Union Square from the east.

Every Thanksgiving for nine years he had sat down there at one in the afternoon. Every time, things had happened to him. They were wonderful things. They made his heart feel full of joy—and they filled another part of him, too. They filled the part below his heart.

On those other Thanksgiving Days he had been hungry. (It is a strange thing. There are rich people who wish to help the poor. But many of them seem to think that the poor are hungry only on Thanksgiving Day.) Continue reading