Thank you

Everyone can rant about something, right? How about instead we take a minute to be thankful? That’s what I’d like to do today, anyway. I’ve done this before with huge success. By success, I mean the people I thanked (Pet, Husband, and Eye) were touched and honored by my thanks, and it meant a lot to them.

I’ve mentioned recently that I’ve been working with a group of authors on a small publishing projected called Heatstroke Press. You can find us here on Facebook. The authors (Sydney-Mae Baker, Belinda Burke, Raven Dark, Destiny Dawn, Ryan Kells, Brianna Lawrence, Jamie Steele, and myself) came together from a small private Facebook group called NaNoRotica, an erotic writer’s collective. I’m grateful for the Heatstroke project, and I’m grateful for all of the authors in the group.

Heatstroke is our small publishing group that is meant to help authors cross-publicize and build a readership. We believe that erotica writers can make a living writing, and endeavor to help our writers do just that–bring in a significant income through their writing. These writers are putting out some of the hottest erotica I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something. I believe they deserve to be read. Most of us are publishing short stories, because we are able to offer them at a lower price point and a higher heat level than a full length novel, which can be hard to infuse with sexiness at every turn, and which necessarily will be priced higher.

Without the Heatstroke Press authors, I would have stayed in my writing rut, which is to say, I wasn’t writing anything. Since we’ve started the project, I’ve written one 25 page short story (coming out on 9/15!) that’s super hot (more on this tomorrow) and I’m halfway through the sequel, which is also turning out to be super hot.

I’m grateful for you guys, too. My readers. Without you guys, I wouldn’t have anything. My royalty check says that someone out there is reading me, and for that, I couldn’t be more grateful. Writing is a labor of love, even writing erotica. I’m putting a piece of myself on display, leaving it out there and offering it up for other people to consume. It’s sometimes scary, sometimes embarrassing, and always nerve-wracking. I’m even grateful for the people who read my stuff and don’t love it. Those folks leave great feedback–that a story’s ending wasn’t conclusive enough, or that they wanted more heat, or whatever. I only grow from reviews, even if they sting a little.

So special thanks to everyone who’s lifted me up lately. You guys. Heatstroke authors. Pet and Husband as always.

I love you all.

Challenge #6 – Feelings

(Source: http://allthesupernaturalgifs.tumblr.com/page/2)

Today’s challenge is to write about my feelings for someone. I’m not good at feelings. Most people who know me can attest to that. I’m rather like Crowley. Since I can’t possibly scare up 500 words talking about my feelings for one person, I’ll be breaking it down into the three people to whom Nurse’s Orders is dedicated. Consider this an expansion of that dedication.

Husband: This one is likely relatively obvious. He’s my rock. He’s my savior. I frequently say that I would be, at best, a functional alcoholic without him around. Truth be told, I’m a hot mess, and he keeps the mess somewhat contained. But beyond the typical mess-maintenance, Husband is a huge supporter and cheerleader of mine. I’m lucky to have a partner who not only approves of my writing habit (as though I’d need approval) but encourages it heartily. The best part is, while he’s never read anything I’ve written (m/m isn’t his thing, but I did promise him that I’ll write some f/f and blog it soon), he is my sounding board. It’s not strange for me to come to him and say, “Is it unrealistic if X happens?” or “What’s another word for Y?” He’s my thesaurus, my plot-hole fixer, my name generator. I’d say I can’t do this without him, but really, I can’t survive without him, and everything else is just the bonus reel.

Pet: Pet, for those of you who haven’t caught on, is my not-girlfriend-because-I-have-commitment-issues. We’ve been dating for over a year now, and really, we have a pretty fabulous time just being together. She’s incredible. At least 50% of the time we’re together, I’m wondering what the hell is wrong with me and why I haven’t married this girl yet. (Aside from the fact that we’re both married already.) She loves me, truly, in ways that I don’t deserve. I’m so lucky to have her in my life. To sweeten the deal, she frequently beta reads for me. It’s incredibly helpful, and in fact she was the only one to see the final drafts of Nurse’s Orders before it was submitted for consideration. I trust her judgement, and I trust that she’ll be honest with me. It’s a valuable thing to have, and she deserves better than me.

Eye: Eye is one of my best friends. We’ve only been friends a couple of years, but we got close quickly and haven’t looked back since. She’s another writer, and we push each other to create and improve. I’m so grateful that she’s in my life. Falling Apart would never have become a thing if she hadn’t been there for me, pushing me to “just send the damn thing in already” and coaching me through all of my hand-wringing over whether it was good enough to even bother. When I wrote the very first draft of Nurse’s Orders, back when it was very different, just a baby seed, she read what now stands as a portion of chapter one and handed it back to me with one comment: “Where’s the rest?” (Incidentally, I felt like it was too long and only deserved about 1,000 words, less than half of what the first draft managed to be.)

All of these people have been a gift to my life. I wouldn’t be the writer I am or the person I am without them. I want to thank them all for their roles in nurturing me.

And that concludes this episode on feelings.

Challenge #5 – A letter

Today’s challenge is to write a letter to anybody. I could take the easy way out and write a letter to someone in my life, something I could make quippy and lighthearted and easygoing, but instead, I’m going to write a letter to a musician who has really changed my life for the better.

Dear Tyler,

I want to thank you. We’ve met on a few occasions, which I’m sure were at best a blur of faces, photos, and autographs for you, and not particularly memorable. That’s why I want to take the time to thank you in writing. I wanted to tell you my story, so that you know that you’re making a difference, not just writing pop music.

Two years ago, I saw you perform live for the first time. I had never heard of your band before I bought my ticket to the show – you were the opening act – but I listened to everything I could get my hands on to prepare myself for the concert. I fell in love with your music. It felt right, deep down in my soul, down to my bones, like what I’d been looking for all my life, if I’d known that something was missing. Your performance was fantastic. Your band is so strong at a live show, and I’m so glad I got to experience it that night.

The following summer, things started to change for me. I listened to your music near exclusively, and I found that every song spoke to me in some way. I started to feel like there were parts of me that I needed to change, to be true to myself. And then, I fell in love. It was a revelation. It, too, felt right, deep down to my core. There had always been this part of me that I’d hidden from (so many parts of me that I’d hidden, really), and when I fell in love, this part of myself refused to hide any longer. The hang up was that I was married – and I had fallen in love with a woman. I got lucky. My husband slowly accepted that I wanted to be with this woman, and her husband did the same. They allowed us to explore our feelings for each other in a safe space, and it was beautiful. During this time, I listened to several of your songs on repeat, and they helped calm my mind and my soul. They helped me sort through what I was experiencing. I started quoting the songs prolifically. I came out as polyamorous and bisexual to my family and friends. I felt alive.

Then things fell apart. The relationship ended, and I was heartbroken. Again, your music was there for me. Songs that helped me move past the breakup, feel my heartache in a way I needed to, and walk forward.

Over the next few months, your songs continued to be the background music in my busy life. I met another woman, and we began dating. Life was good. Then, you released another album. You came out as gay. (I was so happy for you.) I managed to get last minute tickets to see you perform in a far-away city, and I drove many hours  on short notice to see your 45 minute set. It was one of the transformative moments in my life. I felt free, I felt strong, I felt as though I could do anything. I stayed after your set ended, and I met you. God bless you, you gave me a hug, even though you were exhausted and trying desperately to leave the venue.

Your tour to celebrate the new album took me to many new cities to watch you perform, and I met and spoke with you many times after, always carefully choosing my words. The nerves never went away. Your new album was the soundtrack of my independence, my adulthood, my coming-of-age.

You’ve changed everything, and I’ll never forget that. You helped me accept who I am and come out to myself, my family, and my friends. I thank you for all you’ve done, and what I’ve become.

Sincerely,

Riley Long