Reading? READING? Going through about a hundred lesbian erotica anthology submissions has a dulling effect on one’s interest in reading. Or, for that matter, on one’s interest in sex. Having to write almost that many rejection letters dulls my enthusiasm even more. I’ll get over it. At least I always have. And as always I’ve found enough gems that would be worth reading even apart from the sex. Now I just have to choose which ones will fit together in the 60,000 words that are all my publisher allows these days.
So what else am I reading? Well, when someone who has written short stories for me several times asks me for a blurb for their upcoming novel, I at least consider doing so, especially when they’ve participated in readings when I schedule them in New York. So I’m a bit more than hallway through an advance review PDF of a novel set in Boston in apparently Victorian times. It involves two women (who of course are becoming reluctantly attracted to each other) whose late scientist husbands had been working on some very dicey project together, a project that one of the women has been trying to complete and give her own twist. The other (so far) has no idea what it is, but desperately needs the money she’s been offered if only she can supply some missing link (or document) that will let some other dicey group complete the project for their own ends.
This may sounds garbled, but that’s my fault, not the author’s. Mad scientists aren’t exactly my thing, although having them be strong, brainy lesbian women is a step in the right direction. But I think I’ve figured out the mysterious direction involved in the story, and if I’m right the scientific woman is going to have to make some major choices down the line with regards to remaining a woman and a lesbian. I’m enjoying the book so far, although the short-story-editor on my shoulder keeps poking me and saying, “This part is too long! Less is more! Cut, cut, cut!” This is no real complaint about the book; that editor-on-my shoulder does this all the time, even—or especially—when reading things I’ve written myself. I often wish I could go back and tighten up passages in stories of mine that have already been published.
No, I’m not sharing the title or naming the author of this book, because I’m not yet ready to have a firm opinion. I catch myself finding that another book I’m supposed to be reading interests me more, so much so that I keep wanting to get back to it, which interferes with my judgment of the former book.
The second book, oddly enough, is my superhero novel that really is in the last editing phase before being presented to the publisher. All along I’ve been feeling like Sisyphus pushing that rock uphill, trying to write a novel when I’m really a short story writer, with an editor lashing at me with a red pen and alternating “Cut this, too much yammering!” with “This part should be longer! Elaborate on this!” I felt that it was all too long, and all too short, and too contrived (I’ve never been a superhero fan,) too far from the pulpy style the editor sometimes promoted, and at least equally far from what I’d consider polished writing. All of this is probably true, and the editor has probably been right most of the time. Anyway, whether it ever finds a readership, I find that I’m having a lot of fun reading it myself after having some time away from it.
Speaking of time, I’m supposed to turn in my final (for now) manuscript in one week, and I’m still supposed to add a goodly chunk to the very end (“Elaborate! Elaborate!”) so I’d better get working on that, and on the book I’m supposed to write a blurb for. And make up my mind about which stories to definitely use in my next anthology, Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year Volume 3 (which should be BLE 2019 to match the original series name, but what do I know.)
Not that it’s likely to matter, since no matter how fine the stories I’ve chosen in recent years have been, readership has been declining, and reader reviews have been almost non-existent. (Publishers’ Weekly and Library Journal reviews have been stellar, but those don’t seem to matter.) It’s a mystery why the anthology I published in 2016 as the BLE 20th Anniversary Edition is still selling moderately well, but the one in 2017, edited by my friend DL King (Volume 1,) is not, and neither is my 2018 Volume 2. I hope I won’t be the editor to finally kill the series, the one to turn out the lights, but for now I’ll get back to work and do what I can.
But which to read first? Maybe I’ll roll some dice.