Monday, January 30, 2006

A Dirty Little Secret

Hey, the advertisers and magazine editors do it all the time—lure you into reading something with a juicy headline and then let you down when you learn that the “one surefire thing that really turns men on” is truly caring about him or some such commonplace thing.

I do actually feel like I’m revealing something about myself I’m not totally proud of, although if you come to my house and check out a certain bookshelf, you’ll get the message loud and clear. The thing is, well, I have an addiction of sorts. I haven’t bankrupted my family yet in pursuit of my craving—it seems fairly under control most of the time. But just when I think I’m cured, I find myself doing it again, against my better judgment, against the voices that cry—it won’t be different this time, once the thrill is gone, you’ll just be left with a broken dream and an ashy morning-after taste in your mouth!

The addiction of which I speak is—sit down and prepare to be disappointed—a compulsion to read, and all too often buy, books about writing. Why do I find this habit slightly-somewhat-darn right shameful? Well, this might be disordered thinking, too, but part of me feels like a writer should just sit down and write. And read, too, but actual stories, not books on how to write stories, which, no matter how wise, can never really capture the magic quality that makes a decently written story into a masterpiece that is worth reading and remembering. Another part of me feels like a dupe because publishers know wannabe writers are also readers and bookbuyers, and in fact many writers have made more money from their how-to books than their novels or story collections. So, by purchasing the latest tome on how to overcome writers’ block or meditate my way to a saleable book or finish my novel within a certain amount of time, I am really just confirming the market research of the very publishing houses that would throw my efforts in the recycle bin the moment they arrived over the transom. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

Now, I do try to curb this habit by getting my fix from the library or borrowing from friends, but almost half the time I find myself wanting to own the book anyway, so I buy it in the end. I also should add that writing books are not all fluff. Certainly at the beginning it’s good to get a sense of the “insider’s” rules. For example, no matter how clever or deeply-felt your story is, editors won’t get past the first paragraph if you don’t start with a bang, go sparing on the adverbs, and avoid at all costs opening with your protagonists turning off his alarm clock or looking out over a large body of water and thinking something profound. (Like all rules, these can be broken, but you have to have won several major literary prizes first if you hope for publication). And, okay, now I’m rationalizing here, but writing is lonely work, and these folks who write books for writers do often seem like friends who understand the terror of confronting a blank computer screen, the discouragement of getting yet another fortune-cookie-size rejection, especially following nice ink from the same journal last time, and the absurd joy of getting an “encouraging” rejection. (Non-writers always look really confused when I’m thrilled by a rejection—usually kind words from a top-tier journal. The thing is, anything that makes you feel as if you’ve been heard and respected is rare and wonderful in this business).

That being said, I thought I’d use my new Amazon linking skill to mention a few of my very favorite books on writing, which I would recommend to anyone and which I’m proud to own. This is only the tip of the iceberg. I own many others which have provided comfort, inspiration and good advice, but I wouldn’t want to play pusher and get anyone else started on down the dangerous path I have taken.

The first on my list is The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. This book really did change my relationship to my creativity. (I wouldn’t really recommend her follow-up books, although, of course, I own them, too). I read it when I first started writing and it brought home to me what a consuming activity any creative passion is, how it penetrates into every part of life. Or rather, how other parts of my life inform my work. A lot of these noisy editorial voices are pretty mean and discouraging. The inside editors are even crueler than the outside ones, I’d say! But Cameron’s 12-week program helped me identify the source of much of this anxiety, if not exactly conquer it completely. A few things that stand out in my memory are the exercise of identifying voices from the past that are enemies of one’s creative self-worth (any creative writer needs to deal with all of them, nit-picky teachers, parents who worry art isn’t practical, envious writing workshop colleagues, and so on), her suggestion to fill the well with good self-care and artist dates, and her generally wonderful affirmations about the power of creativity, like a river which flows through the universe from which we can drink and be nourished (I’ve messed with her image a little, but I do like this idea of creativity as force greater than one ego). Although I didn’t do any of the collages she suggested, I did do most of the other exercises by myself and with a friend and I think it really helped me at a vulnerable time in my rediscovery of writing.

Another book I’d put at the top of my list is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Lamott’s humor is what makes this a cut above most writing books. Things I still remember are the concept of the shitty first draft (all first drafts are shitty, she assures us, and it sure helps you just sit down and write something), the scene where she’s trying to convey the spiritual elements of a writer’s journey and all her students want is to know how to get an agent (that always makes me smile wryly because parts of me play both roles), and her wrenching experience of writing a novel she thought was good and being told by her agent—see, having an agent doesn’t mean all life’s problems go away—that it was no good and that she had to rewrite it. Ouch. But these things even happen to writers who have “made it.” How nice to know we don’t have to worry about losing our humanity if we manage a bestseller!

The last entry in my top three is a writing book about a different genre, screenplays. I know that screenplay writing is what the coolest and richest writers do. You’ll certainly reach many more people with your work, if you consider what is left of your ideas after the producers, directors, and random studio bigwigs mess with it your work. Maybe I’m just chicken or more likely I don’t know or like movies well enough to even attempt to imagine I could write a screenplay. So, that is not why I got myself a copy of Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee, a well-known and “award-winning” film consultant and teacher of “story structure” in Hollywood. I was prepared not to like him at all, but I was totally inspired by his book. Part of it was the freshness of approach for me. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, but an effective structure is an essential element of all story-telling genres, and it was fascinating to see that and compare screenwriting and short story writing. Plus, McKee’s analysis of Chinatown and other films enriched my understanding of the spectator’s role and my ability to appreciate well-made movies, when they happen to come along, which of course is not too often. Film making is the media that matters in our society, and this book also helped me see its inevitable influence on my own imagination.

I have a few dozen more on the shelf, but this is probably enough for now! It was also interesting to see that all three of these books are still selling quite well on Amazon, though none are particularly new. I guess they have passed the ultimate test in the art world--they've endured. But I also remember that they did something else for me: they all made me feel like sitting down and writing with enthusiasm and hope and a sense of mission, for lack of a better word. No morning after regrets...which is another test altogether.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Floating World 101

Now that I’ve finally figured out how to add links to Amazon (I am, shall we say, technologically challenged), I thought I’d mention a few favorite books about Japanese nightlife and geisha and courtesans, etc. as a background to my story in Best American Erotica, “Ukiyo.”

The best nonfiction book about geisha to my mind is still Liza Dalby’s Geisha, and I’m glad the book had a second release in the wake of Memoirs of a Geisha’s huge success. Dalby “became” a geisha in Kyoto’s Pontocho district as part of her research for her doctoral dissertation, and the book is very sensitive and engaging and makes you feel like you are part of that world, albeit as a foreign visitor. Other books I’ve enjoyed are Anne Allison’s Nightwork: Sexuality, Pleasure, and Corporate Masculinity in a Tokyo Hostess Club, which is also based on an anthropologist’s direct experience of the hostess culture. Hostesses are really a modern form of geisha—in spite of the stripper-like naked female legs on the cover, hostesses mainly sell attention and conversation. Jodi Cobb’s Geisha provides a gorgeous photographic glimpse into the “forbidden” world of the geisha. (Hey, would you even be interested if it wasn’t “forbidden”?) Cecilia Segawa Siegle’s Yoshiwara: The Glittering World of the Japanese Courtesan is a fascinating study of the queen of the floating world in its heyday a couple of hundred years ago, although it is more scholarly than titillating. It was an invaluable reference for my story “Courtesan with a Lover,” which appeared in The Gettysburg Review. Another inspiration for that story was Timon Screech’s Sex and the Floating World: Erotic Images in Japan, 1700-1820. This is an art history book, but you learn so much about classical erotic prints, it will add to your knowledge and enjoyment of “spring pictures” immeasurably. Plus the pictures themselves are fascinating.

Finally, I have a soft spot in my heart for the sometimes-sexist study of Japanese sexuality by Nicholas Bornoff, Pink Samurai: Love, Marriage and Sex in Contemporary Japan. An Amazon review notes that the book is no longer contemporary as it was published in 1991 and I have to agree. If you’re looking for tips on where to go to experience the latest sex trade fad, you’re better off looking elsewhere. Given the Japanese love of the latest thing, the shinhatsubai (“new release”) mentality, this book is very last century. But the truth is, most of us floating world junkies are interested in what has lasted over time, in Japan’s enduring charms, and Bornoff takes you right into this world, to the point of undoing his own zipper on occasion. (Plus, a used copy is $0.43, semen stains optional).

But what about the Japanese view of geisha and the floating world? Mineko Iwasaki’s Geisha: A Life, is a true-to-life memoir of a geisha, which provides an interesting perspective on Arthur Golden’s bestselling tale. I’ve spent too many hours reading Japanese literature to miss a chance to plug some of my favorite stories and novels from the great masters. The granddaddy of them all is Ihara Saikaku and his masterpiece is Life of an Amorous Woman, a humorous tale of a woman in 17th century Japan whose libido takes her on some interesting adventures. It was banned in Japan during World War II (as were parts of the Tale of Genji) and you won’t have any trouble figuring out why. It’s not just the sex. The Amorous Woman is a true iconoclast.

Proceeding roughly in chronological order, I can’t recommend Higuchi Ichiyo’s story “Child’s Play” highly enough. Higuchi lived on the edge of the Yoshiwara and her tale of a fledgling prostitute and a priest-in-training gradually accepting their fate is touching and haunting and oddly contemporary in its sensitivity. If you want to get a sense of the roue’s side of the floating world experience, you can’t go wrong with Nagai Kafu or Tanizaki Jun’ichiro. The Ohisa character from “Ukiyo” is lifted from Tanizaki’s Some Prefer Nettles. And don’t forget Nobel-Prize-winning Kawabata Yasunari’s great novel Snow Country. The first few times I read it, I found it almost irritating in its preciousness, but I’ve grown to love it and even understand it—to a degree. At any rate, it’s stayed with me and Komako is one of the most appealing—and saddest--geisha I’ve encountered. Okay, this is my last recommendation (aren’t you glad you didn’t take my Introduction to Japanese Literature course?), but I must include Enchi Fumiko’s Masks. It’s not really about the floating world, although it does contain an illicit encounter in Atami, one of Japan’s favorite places to commit adultery, but it’s worth a read. If you’re a feminist, you won’t be disappointed! And it has plenty of beautiful, mysterious and passionate Japanese women in it to please the rest of you.

Happy reading! And don’t worry, your ten page paper isn’t due until after the break ;-)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Seven Lists Inspired by Jolie du Pre

Here are seven lists of seven that may or may not enlighten you about who I really am. This very enjoyable exercise was inspired by a very hot lesbian erotica writer, Jolie du Pre, who has a great blog and is also a relative of mine ;-) I've taken a few liberties with the original list to keep with the theme of sex, food and writing.

Seven things to do before I die:

  1. Spend the winter solstice in Santa Fe
  2. Go to Paris for a macaroon taste test (Which has better pistachio? Laduree? Fauchon?)
  3. Spend a whole week in Bad Ischl eating pastries twice a day at Café Zauner
  4. Write a good erotic novel
  5. Write a good “serious” novel (with lots of sex scenes)
  6. Attend my kids’ college graduations
  7. Go back to Japan with my family—but just for a visit

Seven favorite food joints in Berkeley/Oakland:

  1. Chez Panisse (don’t skip dessert)
  2. Soi Four (papaya salad, crunchy tofu with cashews and sticky rice with mango)
  3. Intermezzo (veggie delight to go, no sprouts, herbal vinagrette on the side)
  4. La Farine (any of the breakfast pastries and stollen at Christmas)
  5. Picante (soft tacos with fried peppers and crumbled Mexican-style cheese; Mexican chocolate angel food cake)
  6. Ajanta (any of the appetizers of the month, kofta, paneer or kabuli naan, mango lassi)
  7. Acme Bread (with rustic baguettes like these, who needs Paris?)

Seven reasons I write a new story or essay:

  1. I’m inspired by an uncanny image or event
  2. I see a posting on The Erotica Readers and Writers Association Call for Submissions page that intrigues me
  3. There’s a memory I can’t get out of my head and I want to bring it to life and then play god and take it in a new direction
  4. I want to honor someone (as in my memoir pieces about my late parents)
  5. I want to climb inside someone else’s skin—which usually means I let my characters talk me into putting them in a hot sex scene
  6. An editor I admire approaches me and I can’t pass up a fantastic opportunity to work with her
  7. I want to work out issues and it’s cheaper than therapy

Seven books I love:

  1. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  2. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
  3. Anything by Alice Munro
  4. The Hours by Michael Cunningham
  5. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  6. Masks by Enchi Fumiko
  7. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Seven movies I would watch over and over again:

  1. The Godfather I and II
  2. Apocalypse Now
  3. Cabaret
  4. Seven Samurai
  5. Live Nude Girls
  6. The Six Wives of Henry VIII (not a movie, but this is my list and I make the rules!)
  7. White Christmas (Rocky Horror style which means you drink lots of eggnog and do a running—ironic--commentary)

Seven Soirees with Erotica Writers/Editors I’d like to shoot the breeze with over a glass of 1990 Chateau Mouton (or sake or a Peet’s latte)

  1. Jolie du Pre: maybe this summer? Red wine or white?
  2. The Mostly Dead Japanese Writers Round Table: Ihara Saikaku, Higuchi Ichiyo, Nagai Kafu, Nosaka Akiyuki, Yamada Eimi
  3. A Clean Sheets Romp: Bill and Des, Shanna and Susannah
  4. Editors and Educators: Susie Bright, Violet Blue, Rachel Kramer Bussell and Mitzi Szereto
  5. Shop talk in a low-lit San Francisco tapas place: M. Christian and Sage Vivant
  6. Just Because I Admire Their Work: Thomas S. Roche, Alison Tyler, Gwen Masters
  7. An ERWA Chat: Lilie Berlin, Mike Kimera, Lisabet Sarai

Seven Things I Cook That You Probably Wouldn't Mind Trying

  1. Chestnut Butternut Squash Risotto
  2. Venetians (six layer cookies)
  3. Scandinavian Rice Pudding Mousse
  4. Spring Vegetable Matzo Ball Soup
  5. Almond Cake
  6. Japanese-style Tofu Curry and Steamed Rice
  7. Mexican Chocolate Brownies

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Japanese Dinner that Started It All

Japan has been on my mind a lot recently with the release of my story “Ukiyo” in Best American Erotica 2006. Since many new visitors are here because of my story, I thought I’d say a little bit about my relationship to Japan. We’ve been buddies in one way or another for some time.

Looking back, the first strong stirrings of interest in the Land of the Rising Sun date back to my reading of the novel Shogun when I was fifteen. Here comes the true confession—I only read it because this guy I had a bad, totally unrequited crush on was reading it and he mentioned it was great. And so began a new love, one that proved far richer in the end than my obsession with David G. I didn’t begin to study the Japanese language, however, until my senior year of college when I decided I was completely unmarketable in any of your typical eighties careers—investment banker, computer whiz, publishing, medicine or law. Instead I would teach English in Japan and hope some other idea for what to do with my life would come along in the meantime.

As a single chick in her early twenties, I had a fabulous time during the two years I spent in the old capital of Kyoto. I studied traditional Japanese dance and the tea ceremony. I made tons of friends, even had a few romances and ate some awesome food, but also came back fifteen pounds lighter. How perfect is that? In the meantime I decided that what I really wanted to do was develop a real mastery of the Japanese language and literature, and so I returned to the safety of class work and libraries in the Ph.D. program at Stanford. It was there I met my husband, an engineer who was also studying Japanese. We fell madly in love, got engaged in two months and had lots of fun speaking Japanese to each other in public when we didn’t want anyone else to understand what we were saying. (Although sometimes, when Japanese people were around it backfired).

My story of Japan the Beautiful and Myself gets a bit darker at this point. Part of my Ph.D. program involved spending another year in Yokohama doing advanced language study. Unfortunately my husband couldn’t come with me, so we made do with $1000-a-month phone bills (this was before email) and his infrequent visits to Tokyo on business. My second stay was no where near as delightful as the first, although my Japanese improved a lot…alas, my skills have only gone down hill from there.

I came back to the U.S. and married life with an actual man, rather than a voice on the phone, determined never to live apart from my husband for an extended period. This is one reason I decided not to look for a tenure-track academic job after I finished my dissertation in 1993. The other was our plans to have kids, which became reality soon after my last trip to Japan in 1994. I have to laugh now when I think back on my pre-child days. To the innocent, children are little fantasy creatures—they’ll be cute, they’ll do things that make you proud, they’ll provide you with grandchildren. Never do you imagine you’re signing on for at least eighteen years of 24/7 parental duties with no break, no vacation, nada. And it’s great, it’s worth it. On top of that, I didn’t have the courage to try writing seriously until my first son was born. In spite of the sleep deprivation and the anxiety of doing right by the helpless little guy, a new courage was born within me.

I left teaching for good when my son came down with ear infection after ear infection in daycare. But Japan is still with me. Some memories are so very vivid, twenty years can melt away and I’m back there, in my summer yukata, swaying with the crowds at the Gion Matsuri, gazing at the crimson maple leaves in my dance teacher’s garden, tasting my first blowfish sashimi—it’s really delicious and the soup they make from the deadly fish is even tastier.

Japan is very much alive in the best stories I've written so far. The foundation for my story “Ukiyo” is indeed an actual meal at a fine restaurant called Chimoto in Kyoto’s Gion in August 1984 (unlike George Orwell’s novel, the year was a good one for me). My hosts were a dentist and his wife, my English student—they spoiled me like a daughter. The meal cost about $150 a person at those favorable exchange rates of 250 yen to the dollar. We dined on a terrace overlooking the Kamo River, darkness falling around us. I wrote down the menu in my journal that night. I didn’t write down descriptions of the dishware, which is unfortunate as it was all exquisite and perfect for the season. Here is the meal—close your eyes and enjoy:

  • Miniature hors d’oeuvres served on individual lacquer trays, lit with a tiny lantern painted with the great bonfire on Mt. Daimonji
  • Chilled cherry wine
  • Clear soup
  • Sashimi (tai and hamo) served on a small boat of ice
  • Eggplant with eel
  • Kobe beef grilled on a personal hibachi
  • Cold noodles with dipping sauce
  • Miso soup
  • Rice—very, very good rice
  • Watermelon jelly with fresh lichee (crisper and more luscious the canned stuff)

At the time, I knew enough to feel blessed I had the opportunity to be in that magical place. Of course I had no idea I would use it twenty years later to write a story about a different kind of magic.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Susie Bright Interviews Me!

As part of the publicity for Best American Erotica, Susie Bright has interviewed some of this year's contributors, including yours truly. I thought Susie asked some pretty good questions, that got me thinking and talking. She didn't even have to pour me a tokkuri of sake. Oh, and you can also see a picture of me in kimono, trying very hard to be Japanese. Check out the interview here.

The Writing Life (plus some sex and food)

Ah, finally, I’m sitting down to write about writing, as promised in my blog title! I’ve been writing seriously for almost nine years--April 2006 will mark my anniversary. I must say it’s a pleasure to hold my contributor’s copy of Best American Erotica 2006 in my hands and remember how uncertain I was, terrified really, that I would fail, that I didn’t have it in me to be a published writer. To be honest, the terror still lurks inside me—sure, I managed to publish forty-five stories over the past nine years, but can I keep doing it? Was it all a fluke?

I’ve come a long way since April 1997 and it isn’t all about the growing collection of books and journals that contain my work, all filed away on the “Donna shelf” of the bookcase. (Actually we have nine bookcases—I’m referring to the bigger one in the boys’ room). What has changed most profoundly is my understanding of what it means to write.

Many people—and I put myself at the top of the list even now when I supposedly know better--confuse the concept of “being a writer” and the humbler, but more interesting act of transforming sensual and intellectual experience into words on a page that other people want to read. Being a Writer is about image, the picture we hold in our minds about Writers, nourished by the media and even older cultural myths. There are two kinds of writers, right? The successful type, fabulously wealthy like Daniel Steele and Stephen King or any of Oprah’s picks. Their hot-shot agents, editors and even publishers return their calls within the hour. They have personal assistants, maids and pool boys. The entire nation hangs on their every brilliant utterance, their imagined worlds weave their way into our own fantasies so that they seem more real than what we’ve experienced ourselves. When you sit down to write your first novel, you know that if you achieve anything less than this, you are not a Writer. You are a Wannabe.

We all know what that means, too. These are the folks who announce at cocktail parties that they are Writers, when of course all they have to prove it are fourteen unpublished and unreadable novel manuscripts cluttering their file cabinets.

There is a middle ground here, the place where most writers, with a small “w,” reside. Your name is not a household word, although the editors of small, university-based literary magazines may recognize you by your cover letters. You make a few hundred bucks on a story now and then, if you’re lucky. But you have something better. Because it is the act of writing, not the state of Being a Writer, that makes your life so much richer. You don’t have to be published to reap the benefits either.

When I first started writing back in 1997, I was a sleep-deprived mom of a one-year-old. Each day flowed into the next with butt-wiping and mixing up Gerber oatmeal and mothers’ group park dates. How could anyone find excitement in a life of this? For me the answer was to write. And then everything, the smallest thing, became fascinating because I wanted to find a way to describe it truthfully, and sometimes beautifully. Every trip to the grocery store or Peet’s coffee yielded a new treasure: the mineral and seawater scents of the fish counter, the way a stranger held his coffee cup, which might find its way into my next story. My sex life shot off like a rocket. It was always good, but it got much, much better when I began to pay attention to what was happening inside of myself and between me and my husband. Eating became much more pleasurable when I focused on the flavors and the textures of my food.

Writing became a spiritual act, a richer way of relating to the world and myself. Not that I don’t celebrate when I sell a story. Not that I don’t feel a real thrill at making Best American Erotica. It is a dream come true. But what really makes me happy, deep down, is that I wrote a story that captures something about a foreigner’s experience of Japan and longing and the allure of fantasy and the tricks it plays on us, all themes that fascinate me. It’s never easy to write a story. Every one has involved hours of doubt and pain. But sometimes they work out better than you hope. Sometimes they let you soar.

So, if you write, keep at it. You’ll make the world a better place even if you don’t score a spot in the New Yorker. If you don’t, but you’ve always wanted to try, I recommend it. It improves your sex life and makes cookies taste better. What more can you ask for?

Well, that’s all for now. But I’ll be back soon with a nostalgic walk down erotica lane—a list of formative dirty stories I read on the sly in my younger years—plus more commentary on Best American Erotica stories, and a follow-up to my interview with Susie Bright, because I do have a lot more to say about sex and sensuality in Japan. Pour me a tokkuri of sake and I could go on all night…

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A Few Words About My Web Site

Like many people with an online presence, not to mention our ever-vigilant government, I am secretly watching you. Yes, you, the visitors to my blog and my web site. The data is interesting if not surprising. For example, visits to my web site skyrocket the day one of my stories appears in Clean Sheets. Another statistic I could have predicted: ten people choose my erotica page for every one who takes the literary route.

Now, I’m a little bit sad about that, but not for the reason you think. You see, my “literary” stories are jam-packed with sex, too. Not as explicit perhaps, but sly suggestion and clever euphemism can be just as powerful as letting it all hang out. “Somebody’s Lying,” which appeared first in Zoetrope: All-Story’s online magazine, is about phone sex and the erotic life of three sisters. “Hot Spring,” the story that garnered a special mention in Pushcart Prize Stories 2004, has two steamy sex scenes, and you don’t really have to use your imagination all that much. “Presidential Dreams” includes a dream about Bill Clinton—and what, pray tell, could that involve but sex, sex, sex? “Courtesan with a Lover,” picked up by The Gettysburg Review, is about an American who worked as a bar hostess in Japan and her present affair with a middle-aged American businessman. Can you say “erotic titillation,” “flirtation,” or “lots of sex scenes in this one, too, for sure”? And even sweet, nostalgic “Fruit,” the story I show my kids’ teachers, concludes with a couple in bed, playing a sexy game.

Of course, I like to think all of my stories are about more than just sex, that they touch upon broader themes and make you think, rather than just feel (although making a reader feel something genuine is usually much harder than engaging mere interest). I have an essay coming out this fall with no sex at all, although it does have death in it, that other great theme of literature. It’s about how a drug company murdered my mother for money and you can bet John Ashcroft won’t want you reading that one either. What those men did to countless innocent diabetics in the name of their stock portfolios was truly obscene.

Sure, I can do serious, everyone-keeps-their-clothes-on stories and essays, if I want. I just haven’t wanted to very much. So far. And, though I do have a numerical count of the people who check out my online offerings, I have no clue why you are doing it and what you want from it. The sex or the something more? In a sense, it’s like my stories. I follow what fascinates me and hope to make a connection with an audience. Some people do write emails or speak kind words at public readings, but for the most part, my readers are shadows. Dreams.

Well, it’s getting late and I told myself I’d be in bed by eleven. Sweet dreams to you all.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Best American Erotica 2006 Hits the Stores Today!

Although for obvious reasons the official release date is Valentine’s Day, you can now purchase your very own copy of Best American Erotica 2006 at Amazon, Powell’s or other large booksellers. Your local independent bookstore, which is where you really should buy the book to make the world a better place, of course, will have them in stock in a week or so. But a little anticipation can be a good thing.

I’ve had my contributor’s copy for a few weeks now and I must say this year is tops. I’ll be talking about some of my favorite stories in entries to come, but I’ll start off with some admiration of the editor’s work. Susie Bright has done an amazing job of assembling erotic pieces that span every sexual orientation, every literary flavor from lovely and lyrical to razor-sharp wit, every range of human response from quietly thought-provoking to steamy go-for-the-zipper smut (well-written smut, of course). I would classify my own story as one at the steamier end of the spectrum thanks to the scene with the ex-husband, though of course each reader must be her/his own judge. There’s also a lot of Japan-the-beautiful imagery, but in my defense, that part is not a fantasy.

Most of all, reading Best American Erotica makes you feel literate and smart and sophisticated…and horny, too. What more can you ask from a humble tome?