Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Naughty Martha Stewart?

I’ve been so frigging busy baking cookies and gingerbread chalets and sending off packages and stirring up Russian ceremonial porridge, I haven’t had time to mention a very cool development in my writing life.

I’m officially a columnist and book reviewer over at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association. As I’ve mentioned, ERWA has been the most valuable resource for me in my erotica writing career. Most of my published stories are due to their fantastic call for submissions bulletins. I’ve gotten countless tips from the long-running columns of Ashley Lister, Shanna Germain (check out her sexy new pic!) and Ann Regentin among others. Brenna Lyons has a very helpful column on e-publishing which I plan to follow very closely as my promotional efforts for Amorous Woman gear up in the coming year.

My first column went up in December and focused on the transformative power of gingerbread and X-rated sugar cookies, Naughty Cookies and Sugar Walls: A Year's End Indulgence in Architecture, Seduction, and Sensual Healing. In it I discuss the genesis of this edible hotel pictured here, made by my hands alone. Except my kids decorated the roof. But there’s stuff about sex and writing in the column, too.

This month’s entry has just gone live: Tie Me Up, Please: Resolutions, Blindfolds, and the Eroticism of Oatmeal. I talk about New Year’s resolutions for writers, lovers and eaters. If you’re any one or all of these, check it out! And then there's my debut book review of Lisabet Sarai's erotic romance about a Ph.D. candidate with a wild side (no, it's not about me!), Incognito.

I think my goal here is to become the “Naughty Martha Stewart.” Can my own line of holiday-themed sex toys be far behind?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Tough Critics, Soft Landings

There’s a new review of Amorous Woman up on, a popular chicklit review blog based in the UK. It’s a good review, although I could tell from the beginning, the critic (editor Keris Stainton) wasn’t exactly on my side from the start. And I can’t blame her. She rightly points out that the cover of Amorous Woman, both back and front, does not allow reading on the daily commute. It screams “dirty book”! Which it is—but I hope it’s so much more.

Yes, there’s no doubt Amorous Woman is a strange beast, neither fish nor fowl, nor even a side of beef or a vegetarian seitan kabob. But Ms. Stainton seemed to like it in the end anyway. After pointing out that Lydia’s story would take more than a few hours to tell in real life (okay, maybe, depending on how fast she talked), the review continues:

“…the book is compelling and beautifully written. Despite the fact that Lydia behaves fairly appallingly throughout, she is so open and honest about her wants, needs and weaknesses that I couldn't help but like her.”

And then there’s this:

“Since it's an erotic novel, you probably want to know whether it is indeed "erotic" (that word's never been the same to me since Waynetta Slob). It is. (Ha! Coy enough for you?)”

From a mainstream perspective, that’s as good as it gets.

It all reminds me of my challenge in promoting the novel. Amorous Woman does have a lot of sex scenes since I was writing on commission for an erotica line and there were certain expectations. Many “mainstream” novels have lots of sex scenes, too, but not as dependably or as required perhaps. Then again, Field Marshall McBirdie at LoveHoney was surprised when I didn’t make an encounter with a guy into a full-fledged sex scene, so it is hard to please everyone.

So I guess I’ll just have to settle for “compelling” and “beautifully written.”

More soon!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Erotic Woman!

December has been so crazy busy for me, and I haven't even started on my cookie-baking spree yet! But all kinds of sweet things are happening and one wonderful surprise is the publication of one of my favorite stories, "Suit and Tie," online at the super-spicy female-friendly site The Erotic Woman. I love the photo they chose for the illustration--it's perfect for the story! Read it and you'll see just what I mean.... And I really like the quality of the comments, too. I hope to make more appearances on this site in the future. It's a great big heaping bowl of eye candy, not to mention I'm in the company of some of my favorite writers. Also check out Gwen Masters' fabulous story "Indiana Jones, with Camera."

Happy erotica reading!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Dark Beginnings of an Erotica Writer

Our sexual histories are more than just a list of lovers, a catalog of positions tried and techniques mastered. From Hollywood flicks to Playboy centerfolds and Penthouse letters, media plays a huge role—too large, in my opinion. Doctors say the story of our sexual urges and satisfaction is hard-wired, involving the hypothalamus, dopamine and oxytocin. Psychiatrists point to the influence of the family.

This month I became a columnist for the Erotica Readers and Writers Association with my first entry "Naughty Cookies and Sugar Walls." It's a big step from writing fiction to writing about fiction and it's got me thinking about another important factor in my sexual awareness—the power of the written word. Back when I first started writing, with my interest in erotica coming soon after, I bought myself a copy of BAE 1997 for research and pleasure. I’ve read many great erotic stories since, but my favorites from that volume are burned into my brain. Ivy Topiary’s “My Professor” was a favorite because it was smart and witty and all about sex in your head and your professor’s office, one of my favorite pastimes and one of my favorite fantasies, respectively. “Lunch” by Mark Stuertz fascinated me, not just because of the unusual repast featuring a highly aroused woman, lots of spinach and a dwarf. It was the narrator’s friend Drew, the guy who nosed out this weird form of sexual gratification, who really captured my imagination. Drew was one of those sexually obsessed guys who’d be checking out other women when he took you on a date. We’re all just food to him anyway. But when a person is deeply interested in something, they tend to be good at it, and Drew seemed to know his stuff. Plus there was that seminal moment when his mother fed him a dab of creamed spinach on her little finger. Yes, Drew was no good, but I longed to go back in time, before I was happily married and I let myself get mixed up with trouble like him, and find out more about his kinkiness firsthand. This is a fictional character we’re talking about. I’d have to say Mark Stuertz did a damned good job on that story. Then of course, everyone’s favorite, “She Gets Her Ass Fucked Good” by Rose White and Eric Albert. That story taught me the power of dialogue in erotic fiction. For me there is nothing more immediate, no other description, no matter how poetic, lets you slip right into bed with the characters (or wherever the action is happenin’).

But let’s go back even further, to the Ur Sex Scene, pages 27-29 of The Godfather. I was in fifth grade when the movie was released and everyone seemed to be reading it. My older sister talked about it so much, I begged to be able to read it myself, but it was deemed too racy. A compromise was reached—my sister would read it to me and excise the parts that were inappropriate for my tender age.

It was then I learned to be a sneak. And it was then I encountered pages 27-29. (Interestingly enough, as Susie Bright recalls in How to Write a Dirty Story, this was her first exposure to the erotic power of the written word as well!) It was shocking, it was thrilling, it was imperative I show it to my best friend as soon as possible. She was equally fascinated and horrified and speculated that if her mother caught her reading it, she would probably feed her hot dogs swimming in ketchup as punishment—another disgusting, but oddly exciting image.

When I go back and look at this scene (the book lies open on my lap to the scene in question), I am amazed anew but for a different reason. By any realistic measure, what Sonny Corleone did to Lucy Mancini could not have brought her true pleasure. It couldn’t have lasted more than a few minutes in fact. There was no foreplay at all, just some pawing and panty-ripping (unless her anticipation of the event provided enough warmup, which can happen, but usually not for the first time with someone). Next came a lot of violent thrusting, not to mention Lucy was in a rather contorted position which, in my experience, can be distracting. No wonder hot dogs and ketchup came to mind—the whole focus was on the “enormous, blood-gorged pole of muscle” and its magical ability to bring pleasure merely by filling up a big “box.” There is something romantic about this, oddly enough. That is, if you find the right guy, with the right meat and the right motion, this perfect match will result in instant orgasm. Nice idea, but very unfortunately, quite misleading.

The other sex scene that sticks in my memory is on page 342, Michael’s honeymoon night with Apollonia. It is perhaps more memorable in the movie for its flash of naked breasts, but I remember having to sneak the book from its hiding place for this one, too. Even at the time, I liked this one better, because it was less scary and because I could put myself in Apollonia’s place, the bold, curious bride, “all eagerness, surging against him wildly in a virginal erotic frenzy.” I’m sure. Mario Puzo didn’t waste many words on foreplay here either, which, you could argue, fits with the ethos of the Corleones’ world. But part of me wishes that all of us teenagers and pre-teens who drank this in as the milk of our erotic education had a little more realism to work with. And I’m realizing that one of the many reasons I write erotica is to redress that long ago misconception—my own—of what good sex is.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Mind-Blowing Sweets from The Best Pastry Shop in the World

Today I launch my Foodie Friday feature, which will cover some aspect of the “food” theme of my blog: recipes, restaurant reviews, food porn, and other edible topics. I’ll post twice a month, at least, more if there are foodie musings I’m inspired to share.

I’m going to start big with my homage to The Best Pastry Shop in the World. I’ve eaten many pastries in Europe, the US and Japan. Many of them have been exquisitely delicious. The warm walnut cakes in Tsumago. The hazelnut-raspberry-cream torte in Edinburgh. But the sweets of Café Zauner in Bad Ischl, Austria are by far the best for subtlety of flavor, a depth of experience that is truly comparable to an erotic afternoon in bed with the love of your life.

My husband and I stopped in Café Zauner on our drive from the storybook town of Hallstatt to Vienna in the fall of 1992. It was mid-morning, so we bought a slice of torte and a poppy seed pastry to go, having feasted on lovely walnut bear claws at our pension. I wanted to stop at Zauner because it was an institution even back in the 19th century when Emperor Franz Joseph summered here with his (platonic) mistress, Katharina Schratt. Katharina’s chef baked a raisin-studded Kugelhopf coffee cake for the Emperor’s morning call each day, but it was said she had a standing order for one from Zauner in case of unforeseen disaster in her kitchen.

Later that afternoon we stopped at a church with onion-domed spires on a bluff overlooking the Danube. There wasn’t much to see inside, though the place was full of tourists, mostly from Eastern Europe, who seemed hungry for life in the capitalistic West. It was then I remembered the cakes we’d bought that morning. I ripped the box open and divided each carefully into two pieces. We ate them with our fingers, my husband from the napkin, I from the torn box. The mocha torte was delicious, dense hazelnut cake layered with cloud-like cappuccino mousse. The poppy seed Danish was a marvel of the pastry maker’s art, not gritty and leaden like most poppy seed fillings, but silken smooth, almost frothy, with a kiss of lemon essence. The silence in the car was broken only by murmurs of pleasure. I knew without question—and how often do you understand these things precisely when they are happening?--that I’d never eaten anything more exquisite in my life.

I hope to return to Austria some day. My ideal vacation would involve a whole week in Bad Ischl with visits to Zauner for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Fortunately, the internet age has made it possible to order some of its less perishable treats for delivery in the US (no mocha torte, alas). In fact, I ordered some Christmas specialties this year: stollen (a yeast fruit bread), lebkuchen (gingerbread), and fruchtebrot (more on what this is in a moment). True to its reputation for refining pastry to the level of art, Zauner’s special gingerbread is a multi-layered affair, unlike the generous, moist and nutty disks of the classic Nurnberg bakery, Lebkuchen Schimdt (also recommended, but homier). A thin layer of nutty gingerbread is covered first with a rich, dense fruit jelly, then a layer of marzipan. The entire miniature square is glazed in fine chocolate. It’s superb. We’re saving the stollen for Christmas, but I’d bet it’s nothing like what you’d buy in your local supermarket.

And the fruchtebrot? We had some last night. Zauner’s has a thin pastry crust, decorated with almonds and angelica. The filling is a moist blend of dried fruits and booze that reminds you simultaneously of mince pie, plum pudding and fruitcake. Yet the sum is greater than all three. The Zauner version has a silky texture that is unique--it’s the essence of an old-fashioned Christmas and you find yourself eating it not just with your very happy palate, but with a luscious dose of nostalgia and wonder as well. After all these years, Zauner still holds its magic. If you don’t mind spending a bit on the postage, you can sample some of that magic here.

So, I hope you enjoyed a trip to The Best Pastry Shop in the World. Stay tuned for Mysterious Monday (sex) and Writer’s Wednesday (writing, of course).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rave Review of AMOROUS WOMAN from a Field Marshall in the Orgasm Army!

Most of the time, the novelist’s path is a lonely road. (Take out your hanky….) It’s hard to write a novel, harder still to get it published. Then comes the most terrifying part of the process—your virgin work is thrown to the critics to do with it what they will. I was fortunate enough to be initiated gently into this phase with Victoria Blisse’s wonderful review of Amorous Woman on SexyReads.

This week, I’ve moved into the thick of battle with an interview and review from a big gun in UK erotica criticism, Field Marshall McBirdie who blogs for LoveHoney, a super-sexy online store that will satisfy your every need. Or mine, anyway, because it’s the only place where you can buy Amorous Woman right now with no delay!

I can’t tell you how thrilling it is to get such a fantastic review from a reader who knows her stuff. The Field Marshall said it was rare for her to give a novel 4.5 stars and I am totally honored! Do go check out the interview and review and please consider leaving a comment. I’ll be eternally grateful.

To tease your palate, I’ll give you one of my favorite bits: “Focusing on sex in Japan is a great departure from the more usual erotic scenes and I certainly enjoyed getting a peek into such a different culture. Storey clearly has a love for and an interest in this land, and that comes through with her writing. A piece of erotica that works equally well story-wise and for an insight into a whole other life makes this a great addition to your erotic bookshelf. I have no doubt I'll be rereading this in the future.”

For a novelist, the praise doesn’t get better than that. So put away the hanky for the moment and join me in a glass of champagne as the Orgasm Army marches on to what I hope are many future victories!

Naughty Stories for a Very Nice XXXmas

I just got an early Winter Solstice present—my contributor’s copies of Alison Tyler’s newest anthology Naughty or Nice: Christmas Erotica. Alison always puts together a great anthology, but this one really rings my bells. It may be because I’ve always been enchanted by the year-end festivals of light (all of them, Diwali, Chanukah, Solstice…), or it may be that the stories are such a yummy winter buffet of sexy, smart, and funny with a dash of the bittersweet to add a satisfying complexity of flavors.

The book starts off with a champagne popping bang with Andrea Dale’s “The Queen of Christmas.” I ADORE this story! It’s so hilarious, I was laughing the whole way through, except when I was lusting after that very sexy, Christmas-loving electrical engineer across the street. And then I was kind of smacking my lips and making plans to attack my own electrical engineer husband later.

I’m next with “Fezziwig’s Balls.” When I review an anthology with my own story, I don’t pretend I can comment on its quality, but I do like to mention one or two of my favorite lines. In this case, the title is my favorite line! If you like corsets and dress up and fallen women and the electric thrill of waltzing with a stranger who dances divinely, you might like the story, too. I hope you do!

Get ready for a very sweet peppermint treat with Shanna Germain’s “A Good Little Girl.” Sparkling humor and glittering prose—it’s as magical as a Christmas tree. Really. I was grinning at the clever story and the awesome writing the whole way through. Sitting on Santa’s lap has never been so much fun, and I can’t seem to get that that Christmas tree dildo out of my mind. Someone has GOT to make one of those and give Shanna a cut of the profits.

Lisette Ashton gives us a witty, X-rated reinterpretation of Charles Dickens’ classic in “Carol’s Christmas.” Lisette knows her stuff, of course, as she hails from Merrie Olde England. The strong and silent Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come gives the heroine a chance to change her ways, posing the question dearest to the hearts of men--will she or won’t she? Come, that is. Read it and find out for yourself ;-)

Two of my other favorites are Joel A. Nichols’ “Nog” and Michael Hemmingson’s “Two Gifts.” Both have a bittersweet realism that strips away the fantasy of Christmas. What lies beneath is surprisingly and profoundly arousing. Kudos to Alison for giving us some savory stories as well as sweet ones to feast on in this book. Oh, and at that next Christmas party, remember to ask college kids in the house exactly what’s in the eggnog!

I’ve been a huge fan of Sharon Wachsler since I read her “Sappenschwester” in M. Christian and Sage Vivant’s Garden of the Perverse. “Tagged” fulfilled my yearning for more of her funny and very sexy stories. Thomas S. Roche’s “Hollywood Christmas” combines the delights of smart social satire with a steamy and very La-La Land interplay of voyeurism and exhibitionism. Of course at this time of year, interesting things happen when the lights are low. Saskia Walker’s “Caught Watching” is a perfect ambisexual cocktail of seeing and doing. You can always count on a red-hot story from Saskia and it’s always a thrill to be in her company in a toc.

Alison gives us a wham-bam finish with “Naughty or Nice?” It’s everything you ever wanted for Christmas—since you turned eighteen, that is. I could go on and on, but to keep it short—we all have shopping to do, right?--I highly recommend this anthology. I was told at the Cleis reception earlier this month that the major bookstore chains were stocking the book, so you can toodle down to Barnes and Noble and check it out. It’s a good gift for any naughty friend you want to be especially nice to this year!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Thrills at Virtual Wordsmith!

Happy Halloween! This has always been my favorite holiday because like all writers I love pretending to be someone else for a brief time. This year I pulled out the hanbok I bought in Korea in 1983 and I’m going as Jang Geum, the title character from the popular Korean historical drama about the only woman to rise to the position of head physician in the Chosun court of the 16th century. I’m pretty excited about that because the dress is gorgeous, even though it makes me look fat, but everyone looks fat in hanbok. You could be eight months pregnant and no one would know.

But I’ve got even more exciting news today—a visit with Virtual Wordsmith blogger Mary Lynn Lewis. Lynn reviewed my novel Amorous Woman in her August 28 post and followed up with an interview today, Halloween 2007. Lynn and I did not know each other before I found out about her book review blog, but I liked what I saw and queried her about doing a review of my book. I was a bit nervous when she said yes. I can count on friends to be diplomatic at least, but with strangers I knew I’d be getting an honest response to my work. Imagine my delight—that’s a big, huge, happy my-heart-is-soaring grin—when Lynn posted her very positive review.

“Donna George Storey is a storyteller, as well as a writer. I had a difficult time stepping away from this book, because I felt transported while reading it. I also didn't want it to end. I wanted to know more!”

Really, I couldn’t have dreamed of a better one! To read more of the review plus an interview with me where I discuss feisty characters who rebel against my writerly plans, why erotica can justly claim to be “real” literature and not just a poor cousin, and how I get creative highs away from the keyboard, stop by Virtual Wordsmith. And check out the other book reviews as well!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cyber Book Tour: Kay Sexton and Writing Neuroses

Okay, everybody, the book promotion fun has begun in earnest! I’ve kicked off my cyber book tour for Amorous Woman with my first stop at Kay Sexton’s UK-based blog, Writing Neuroses. This is especially appropriate not only because of the location, but because Kay’s blog is a wonderful resource for writers. Kay herself has been a generous source of information and support for me as I try to figure out how to promote my book across an ocean.

The other reason you should check out the interview is because the questions really got me thinking—and prodded me to articulate a few things I’d never really tried to put into words before. You can find out all kinds of secrets about the earliest roots of my novel, what I do and don’t know about writing sex scenes, and my fantasy life lolling away the day on a desert island while I wait for the rescue boat to arrive.

So, pop on over to Brighton and check it out!

Monday, October 22, 2007

What Turns You On?

Check out the latest entry in the Blushing Ladies Journal, a series of essays by some of my favorite erotica writers on the topic of what turns them on and what turns them off. I have an entry, too, and granted I do get pretty worked up about the allure of fresh vegetables, but there's stuff about people, too!

I found it an interesting exercise to put my turn on's into words. Usually a turn on is a visceral, sensual experience, something you don't have to or even want to verbalize. I also found it interesting that for most authors, they seek something beyond what our society deems sexy. That is, a turn on as rebellion, liberation, discovery. That's very cool in my book.

But back to vegetables. Look at that beautiful Listada eggplant in the photograph! The creamy skin marbled with streaks of marroon. The plump fullness of it that makes you yearn to cup it in your hand. I've never eaten a Listada eggplant, only admired them from afar, but I'm trying to get up the nerve to buy one and...go all the way. Grilled with a sprinkling of basil? Or chopped up for ratatouille? It seems a sin to peel that lovely thing.

Til later, then, I'm off to Monterey Market!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Method Writing?

Check out the latest hilarious entry (October 20, 2007) in Sage Vivant's Amalgamated Erotica Corp blog, which chronicles the ongoing saga of the wild shenanigans that go on at Custom Erotica Source. As a proud staff member, I can tell you that it does get wild! And Sage has spilled my biggest secret: I need a healthy dose of real-life material to create my stories. This is absolutely true! But she forgot to mention that sometimes when I'm doing the housewife thing, I don't wear panties at all....

Friday, October 19, 2007

Talking Dirty on a Sunday Afternoon

Last Sunday, October 14, I was invited to read my story “Suit and Tie” from She’s On Top along with erotica icon Thomas S. Roche and the wonderful editor and writer Rachel Kramer Bussel at Good Vibrations on Valencia Street in San Francisco. Here we are, with a backdrop of dildo harnesses, although we actually did the reading in front of a wall of dildos, varied in color, but uniform in their state of perpetual arousal. There was even refreshments—grapes, strawberries, cheese, sparkling water—my fanciest reading yet!

Rachel read first—a story she wrote under a pseudonym, so I’m not sure if I’m supposed to give it away. But it was very juicy—trust me. Thomas went next with his story from He’s On Top, “Schoolgirl and Angel.” It’s a fun story, but even funnier when read by Thomas himself. He’s a very charismatic reader and had us all laughing about apple fritters among other things.

I went last, so it could be girl-boy-girl and I was sort of terrified, but my friends in the audience claimed it didn’t show! Perhaps those dildos calmed me down, like soldiers in rank behind me. It was actually fun to read the story in the voice that filled my head as I wrote it—slightly bratty and sarcastic with touches of dreamy lust. Truth is, I do fantasize about defiling men in suits….

Rachel mentioned there will probably be a San Francisco party for the release of Dirty Girls: Erotica for Women, which has my story “To Dance at the Fair.” I hope the dildos will still be there to offer their unflagging support.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

First Review of AMOROUS WOMAN

It’s official! Amorous Woman is now in print. You can buy it in Maxim Jakubowski’s Murder One bookstore in London’s West End. For now this is the bargain--$14 for the book, $3.25 shipping. The book is not listed in their online catalog but you can email them and request a special order. Since one of the owners of the bookstore is Maxim Jakubowski, the editor of the Neon series, he'll be happy to help you.

You can order it from Amazon US through a third-party seller, but the current one is steep--stay tuned, though, I'm trying to get Amazon to carry it in a reliable fashion and you'll be the first to know. You can order from Blackwell’s Online for $14 for the book and $7 shipping. It's available on Amazon UK for $11 plus $14 shipping, so that's not the best deal for now. Hopefully word of mouth will help with the availability. So please (she said with a winning smile) order your copy, write reviews on Amazon and Blackwell and your blog, grab the sleeve of the guy next to you in the coffee shop and tell him all about it. You’ll have my eternal gratitude—and if you drop me a line, I’ll even send you a very classy Amorous Woman refrigerator magnet, a facsimile of the novel's cover. I'm sure you'll agree no home should be without one.

The best news of all is that I got my first official review on a Web site called Sexy Reads, a recently-launched forum for erotica writers and readers to give honest reviews of books in the genre. I discovered it on MySpace, and this alone makes that place worth the time I’ve spent networking there. I encourage everyone who takes erotica writing and reading seriously to stop by Sexy Reads, add some reviews, chat about the writing life and give our genre the respect it deserves! Oh, and for writers, Victoria Blisse, the creator of the site, is inviting you to submit your book for review as part of the grand opening celebration.

Here’s a sampling of what she said about mine: “This is one of those books where you find yourself thinking ‘Oh go on, just one more chapter.’ And you end up being up half the night reading because you just can’t pull yourself away from the story.” Is there sweeter music to a writer’s ears?

No, dear reader, there is not.

So, pop on over to Sexy Reads to read the full review here, add your own comments, if you like, then check out the other threads and help support the cause.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

My Gorgeous New Web Site!

My Labor Day weekend was busy. We went to the California State Fair in Sacramento, which, alas, was disappointing. Our governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, promised in the program that we'd leave the fair saying, "I'll be back." I doubt it. The exhibits were low-wattage and the food was pure processessed chain food fare. This is California, for heaven's sake, and there wasn't one leaf of arugula to be found! Fortunately the closing day Weird Al Yankovic concert was awesome! Even on stage Weird Al can take on many guises. He even sang some of our old favorites: "Amish Paradise" and "Bob" and "Fat." The concert definitely saved the day.

A more exciting and productive activity of the weekend was that my technical advisor and I updated my Web site in preparation for the release of Amorous Woman. Each page is now adorned with a lovely wood block print by Kawase Hasui and there's a new "About Me" section that will tell you more about me and my path to the writing life than you ever wanted to know. There are also excerpts from Amorous Woman. Lots of goodies, so please drop by the site for a visit!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Jolie du Pre's Iridescence: Do Judge a Book by its Cover

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Everyone’s heard that bit of wisdom and yet, well, I do generally judge a book by its cover, at least on the first go-round. Even though I know now the editor and/or author has little say in the matter (unless s/he’s famous and powerful). Sometimes it’s a mistake to do this. Fortunately, with Jolie du Pre’s Iridescence: Sensuous Shades of Lesbian Erotica the cover and what’s inside are a perfect match.

And my, oh my, do I love that cover. The background blue is strangely mesmerizing. I happen to like dark shades of blue anyway, but this one is so rich and deep, drawing me into it. Somehow the hue shifts just a bit with each blink. Now it’s a bit more violet, now blacker, now with a touch of bright peacock. Then there’s the gorgeous sinuous line of that dark-skinned female torso, the graceful, yet powerful-looking hand, the delicious contrast of the skin with the white cloth wrapped around her hips. (Is Jolie the model? Could be….) After staring for far too long—remember, my house is a mess and I should be vacuuming, not enraptured by book covers—it strikes me that the cover is a perfect preview of what the stories inside provide.

And that is something more than just hot, sexy stories. They are hot and sexy and juicy and if that’s what you’re looking for, you won’t be disappointed. But as I read, I realized there was something else going on for me which sort of confused me at first because it was new. I was actually caring about the characters as women, as people. I REALLY wanted them to get together with their new lovers or find solace with their long-time partners. I haven’t read a lot of erotic romance—that new gold-mine of a genre—but this struck me as a very romantic collection of stories. I’ve been into looking up words in the dictionary recently, words I thought I understood, but I’m going to refrain this time, because my personal definition is what matters here as a reader. For me romance isn’t necessarily roses and chocolates or gorgeous lovers sweeping down to save me. All it really means is that it makes a difference who you have sex with and it matters to them that they’re having sex with you. Perhaps that is a female thing, but I think this was the case for every character in Iridescence and that’s what made me relate so closely.

I’ll mention a few favorite stories, the ones that stayed with me for days after I read them. Starting off the anthology with Fiona Zedde’s “Night Music” was a wise choice, I think, for immediately all of the reader’s senses are engaged. The narrator, Rhiannon, is drawn to a striking-looked and very talented violinist named Zoya. After the concert, Zoya invites Rhiannon to her dressing room for a delicious meal in which chilled fruit and curried chicken salad are followed by a most luscious dessert involving leather bonds and knowing tongues and a concert of lovely sounds of pleasure. As I reread the story, I admired again the sensuality vibrating in the prose as well as the action. It’s a great story.

We move on to CB Potts’ “Test Your Luck,” stepping from the polished world of the concert hall to a gritty, downbeat Native American Casino. After a rough night on the beat as a Tribal Policewoman, Sesi comes home to her lover Marlee. Again, the sex is hot, but it’s not just that. There’s such deep feeling here in a single kiss—“all the anger, all the fear, all the sorrow and all the terror”—that someone feels when her lover in danger every time she goes off to work. The sex that follows is more than just sex. It’s always more than just sex in a good piece of fiction.

“Grease” by Isabelle Gray is the third story, and this is where I realized this was a special book. Often when I’m reading erotica, I’m like—okay this intro stuff is fine, but when are they going to have sex? Here I enjoyed every minute of the build-up. The narrator and her girlfriend Tia were just so likeable and human, I wanted them to get together and dine on homemade tamales and have sizzling sex. It was as if I were there with them, wanting what they wanted. And getting what they got!

Another standout for me was Teresa Noelle Roberts’ “Special Delivery.” I myself frequent a few Indian restaurants in the neighborhood and there are a few hostesses who are lovely and intriguing and seem to harbor mysterious secrets. Thus is was refreshing and gratifying to get to know the real woman, Amy, behind the sari and the Kama Sutra fantasy, in this case “a special delivery of a hot American dyke.” Bring on the sag paneer, baby!

Last but not least, Jolie du Pre’s “Monisha” is another story that tugs on my heart as well as my groin. Is there anything more depressing than spending Christmas alone? Worse still, the protagonist, Gladys, is cut off from her family because she’s been honest about her sexuality and they can’t handle it. Fortunately, she’s invited for Christmas dinner by a sexy woman who works in her favorite coffee shop, but of course the turkey isn’t the most memorable part of the evening. The ending is warm and bittersweet, and it lingers, just as a memory does in real life.

I could go on and on about Dylynn DeSaint’s dressing room tryst in “Shopping in New York” or Cheyenne Blue’s “Glory B.”—but in short, this is a collection worth reading and thinking about. Recently I’ve started corresponding with a guy who saw my ERWA Circle of Friends bio and he asked me about the goals I’m reaching for in my writing. For better or worse I think I’ve moved beyond “finding my voice,” or avoiding the pitfalls of a beginning writer like using passive voice or whatever. What I want to do is write stories that touch people and change their lives in some small way. It sounds simple perhaps, but it is in fact very, very difficult. In Iridescence, I have some very good examples to study.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sensuous Japan #2: Ready for a Kabuki Dance Lesson?

The first stop on your journey to Donna’s Japan is a kabuki dance lesson with Fujima Kansome at her traditional home high in the hills of eastern Kyoto. I was introduced to Kansome Sensei by one of the administrative assistants at “Voice of Kyoto,” the English conversation school at the intersection of Shijo Karasuma where I got my first job. The job sucked, but the Nihon buyo lessons and concert performances were highlights of my stay in Japan. Here’s a description of a lesson from an earlier draft of Amorous Woman, written back in 2001 before the novel took on its erotic focus. Lydia does mention to her charming dentist in chapter three that she takes Japanese dance lessons, but the following scenes never made it to the novel—and for good reason. It’s pure description with not a shred of juicy conflict. It’s clearly better suited to a leisurely personal essay or travel memoir, but I hope it gives you a good sense of how and why I love Japan. So, have a sip of that cold barley tea and read on.

My dance teacher lived in a traditional Japanese villa set halfway up a mountain in the eastern part of Kyoto. The house was over a hundred years old, I’d guess, the posts of the front gate well-weathered. Two huge maple trees crossed hoary arms over the stone path, a canopy of green lace against the summer sky. The garden was always a few degrees cooler than the city streets below. I paused to dab my forehead with a handkerchief, a Japanese custom I'd adopted in the past few weeks. In August Kyoto was, true to its reputation, a steam bath.

I didn't bother knocking. The whine of shamisen music within was answer enough. I slid the wooden-slatted door open far enough to slip through, then closed it behind me as quietly as I could. Leaving my sandals at the entryway in neat alignment with a pair of black lacquer geta, I stepped up into the anteroom.

Sensei was at her usual post at the entrance to the zashiki, the spacious formal tatami room where we practiced our lessons. A small figure wrapped in a pale green summer kimono, she was barely larger than the hulking boom box at her side. I bowed. She nodded back. The student on “stage” inclined her head a cordial centimeter in my direction without breaking her pose. With another bow, I hurried into the changing room, one tatami mat wide, pulling the sliding door of translucent paper closed behind me.

I took my kimono bag from the wardrobe and replaced it with my own sweat-dampened dress, neatly folded. Through the glass doors overlooking the city, I could see part of Nyoigatake mountain where a great bonfire would be lit in a few weeks to light the dead back to the underworld after their annual mid-August visit to the land of the living. I’d seen pictures of the Daimonji, the huge Chinese character for “great,” glowing orange against the darkness. To me it looked like a human figure, one horizontal stroke for the arms, one sweeping diagonal forming the head and leg, then a second stroke curving out from the arms as if poised to step over the mountainside. But this close, in the clear afternoon light, I saw only a swath of bare earth gouged from the surrounding forest like a wound.

I quickly fastened the metal clips of my tabi, socks of snow-white cotton split between the first and second toes to accommodate the strap of a sandal. With their thick soles, designed to both grip and glide, they were the slippers of the Japanese dancer. Then I put on my yukata of dark blue cotton, securing it around my waist with a single cotton sash. Dressing was easier in the summer. When I first started my lessons six months before, I had to struggle with two layers of underkimono bound up with numerous cords and belts, followed by a wool kimono. The practice obi was the same all year, a narrow yellow sash which needed no pads or scarves like the formal version. I’d finally mastered the technique of tying a simple bow in front and tugging it around to its proper position in the back, a source of some pride, although I’d heard a graduate of a kimono dressing school was required to tie an obi in an elaborate butterfly shape behind her back without a mirror.

The shamisen music stopped. Through the paper door I heard the other student murmur her thanks to the teacher above the hum of the air-conditioner. I quickly pulled my hair back into a ponytail and took my dancing fan from its case of orange brocade.

My legs bound in a column of cotton cloth, my back erect in the obi’s steady embrace, I left the changing room much differently than I entered. A Japanese girl glides, toes pointed inward, rooted to the earth, yet supple like a willow or a flower. It is the Japanese way--in dance and in life--to transform constriction into art.

The practice room was empty. The other student must have gone home in her yukata, wearing those geta in the entryway. I waited, breathing in the incense riding the chilly currents of air. The dusty fragrance originated, I assumed, from the Buddhist altar in the far corner of the room, a large cabinet of glossy wood trimmed in gold, with mysterious little shelves and drawers, and a small bell resting on a cushion before it.

The door to the right of the practice room slid open. Sensei excused herself for her absence with a smile. I caught a glimpse of a TV in the corner, the edge of a low table. Once, from a different angle of the room, I'd seen a white-haired old woman huddled at that table. I knew little about my teacher’s other, ordinary life, only that she spent half of each month in Tokyo, performing, studying with her own teacher, the head of this school of kabuki dance, and, she once intimated, attending to the pleasures of a wealthy patron.

"Shall we begin?" she said in Japanese.

"Hai," I replied, dipping my head. After nine months in Japan, this constant bowing seemed almost natural to me. I moved to the center of the room, turned to face the teacher and sank down into the formal seated posture. Laying the dancing fan before me, I placed my hands on the tatami so my thumbs and forefingers formed a triangle and bowed low, my forehead grazing my hands.

"Onegai itashimasu." It is the most humble form of "please" used in the presence of teachers and other superiors. "Give me the favor of your instruction" is understood.

"From the beginning."

I arranged my body in the opening pose of the dance I would perform for the recital the following month: crouching, one knee touching the floor, the open fan shielding my bowed head. Thanks to my practice at home, I no longer wobbled as I waited for the music to begin.

The hiss of the tape gave way to the trill of a bamboo flute--a cool, lonely sound--then the harsh strum of plecturn on cat-gut shamisen strings. My cue was the singer's nasal voice, warbling words I only half understood:

The most famous place for cherry blossoms is Yoshino,
For maple leaves, the Tatsuta River,
For tea it is the village of Uji.

Lowering my fan, I was the Tea Maiden, rising to her feet like a new leaf unfurling. I held the fan over my head, a bamboo hat shielding the maiden from the sun as she went to pick the first and finest tea leaves of spring. With a flourish and a quick change of grip, the fan was a basket. The tea maiden picked three leaves in pantomime, then bent, tired from her labor. She took three steps, turned, slipped her left hand into her sleeve, then posed for three beats, closed her fan and sank to her knees again to perform a tea ceremony, the trusty fan now serving as a tea scoop. Before the dance was through I would dally with a lover, parade as a high courtesan and mime an old crone finding solace in a brew of well-cured leaves as a temple gong signaled the end of the illusions of this mortal world.

Sensei watched from the front of the room, mirroring the more difficult movements of the hands, her face set in the customary expression of the Japanese dancer, detached but slightly pained as if she were pretending not to overhear some unpleasant gossip about herself. I was about to move on to the next section of the dance where the maiden flirts and quarrels with her lover, when she clapped her hands, switched off the tape and joined me on "stage."

A Japanese doll from afar, up close my teacher’s face had a vaguely Mediterranean look. I sometimes wondered if her patience with my awkwardness wasn’t a result of a dash of foreign blood in her family tree.

"Now, Donna-san moves like this." She stepped forward, toe-heel, toe-heel, bobbing like a marionette in the hand of an unskilled puppeteer. She paused, then tilted her head toward me with a playful smile. I laughed and blushed.

"But the Tea Maiden moves like this." Her body suddenly took on new gravity as she glided across the floor and turned with a smooth dip and swivel of the hips.

I fixed my eyes on her lower body, wishing I could part her kimono to observe the movements of her legs. We never discussed technique. In Japanese dance, the student was to learn karada de--with the body--not words.

Eyes twinkling, Sensei positioned herself in front of me, slightly to my right, so I could watch her as we practiced this passage of the dance together.

“Again,” she said, and we stepped and turned, stepped and turned over and over. At first my feet resisted, as if I were pushing through thick mud, but with each repetition they grew lighter, the tatami smoother. At last, I felt it, the barest glimmer of what it would be like to know in my muscles and bones the secrets of her grace.

Sensei nodded, satisfied with my efforts for the moment. I was not. I knew her criticism was a sign she thought I was ready to move one step further in my study, one step further toward perfection. I silently vowed to practice at home until I got it right, until I could dance the Tea Maiden just like a Japanese girl.

Back in the garden, I picked my way gingerly over the mossy stepping stones. Ribbons of soreness rippled along my outer thighs. I always seemed to discover a new muscle after my dance lesson. In spite of the freedom of my Western dress, I still hobbled a little.

I paused under the maples. The deep, water-rich green leaves tapered into points like fingers, set off perfectly by the wooden fence, the mossy earth below. Today’s lushness was only a precursor to the dazzling crimson of October. I thought of the courtyard of Akikonomu, the lady in The Tale of Genji who loved autumn. The beauty of this place gave me a strange, hollow ache as if I were already missing it and the young woman I once was. I’d been told it’s a Japanese feeling, as if the land itself brought out this sweet melancholy from the human soul.

But I had an appointment to keep, a private English lesson in the western part of the city. Passing through the wooden gate into the twentieth century, I hurried down the narrow, tree-lined street to the bus stop. Halfway down the hill I recognized a slender, sleepy-looking young woman ascending the path. Her name was Chieko, another dance student whose parents owned the kimono store at the foot of the mountain where I had my winter dance kimono made at a special discount. I learned then, over tea and sweets, that their daughter was an English major at a prestigious private university in the city.

Chieko nodded, but I felt my stomach tighten as she crossed to my side of the street. The first time she approached me I thought she was after English lessons, but it soon became clear that she had been assigned the role of go-between to explain the many financial obligations of the dance student. Every time I talked with her, I ended up at least ten thousand yen poorer. Sensei herself never mentioned money. At the beginning of each month a low table appeared in the anteroom with wallets of white paper calligraphed with our names, into which we quietly slipped a crisp ten thousand-yen bill. Over the past months, Chieko had informed me that I had to buy a package of tickets every time the teacher appeared in a concert and include an additional month’s fee in July and December as the customary seasonal gifts.

Today, after a cursory greeting, she explained in careful English that my portion of the fee to rent the hall and print up the programs for our concert was eighty thousand yen, due with the next month's tuition. I would also have to pay the special kimono-dresser ten thousand yen and give the teacher an extra ten-thousand yen gift on the day of the concert.

I felt my eyes widen, but I had enough presence of mind to stop my jaw mid-drop.

Chieko’s eyes flickered uncertainly.

"This is our Japanese custom," she said, smile of apology playing over her full, round lips. "I have been studying longer and must pay much more."

After a moment of panicked arithmetic—a hundred thousand yen was a half a month’s salary and I had about eighty thousand in the bank to last until next month--I forced my lips into a weak smile. "Yes, I understand."

Chieko rewarded me with a grin. "Thank you."

We both bowed quick goodbyes, she no doubt relieved to have discharged an unpleasant duty, me anxious another moment in her presence would bring more unwelcome news for my bank account.

I reached the bus stop just as the light green city bus came into view. Forfeiting more coins into the fare box, I sank into an empty seat beside the exit door, leaned back and closed my eyes. One hundred thousand yen! I realized now that serious expression Japanese dancers wore was not Buddhist detachment, but worry about how much it was all going to cost.

Sensual, Sensuous Japan: The Journey Begins

Okay, so my novel is coming out this week and it’s time to get interesting here on my blog. Amorous Woman is the story of a Western woman’s love affair with Japan and it’s appropriate, I think, to let you all know more about my own yearnings for the country and its culture. I plan to introduce you to my favorite places in Kyoto and Tokyo, take you to the rustic, but elegant hot spring inn that is the setting for many of my stories, tell you about some of the parts of Amorous Woman that are based on my life, talk about Japanese porn comics and delicious blowfish dinners and even my favorite Japanese restaurants in Berkeley for a mini-trip to Nippon. Plus, now that I know how to download pictures, there’ll be some gorgeous eye candy as well.

I wasn’t sure how to title this series because I was a little confused about the exact meaning of the words “sensual” and “sensuous.” Webster’s College Dictionary has this to say about the matter: “both refer to experience through the senses. ‘Sensual’ refers to the enjoyments derived from the senses, especially to the gratification or indulgence of physical appetites. ‘Sensuous’ refers to that which is aesthetically pleasing to the senses.” The examples they give are “sensual pleasure” and “sensuous poetry,” which sort of divides them into low and high culture in a way. Both apply in this case, however, and I may switch back and forth depending on the topic. I realized that “sensuous” will forever be a dirty word for me because of The Sensuous Woman, which is the first dirty book most girls of my generation ever read--hurriedly at recess in a hidden corner of the school yard. But it turns out Webster’s thinks “sensual” is worse!

So wipe your hands on that hot oshibori towel, tear off the wrapper of your chopsticks and get ready for the feast to begin….

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sexy Cover, huh?

Ha, well, my house is still a mess, but I did get the photo tutorial from my technical advisor. You may note a few upgraded book reviews with book covers added below. Visuals really do add an important element to a blog. Maybe I'll start posting dirty pictures and some of my visitors will stay more than three seconds!

Why not start with the cover of my novel, Amorous Woman? When I first saw it, I was a bit confused, because the novel is about an American woman's experiences so I thought a cross-cultural image would capture the theme better, but in the past weeks the image has been growing on me. Now I've decided I love it. I love the golden lighting, the way the viewer looks up at the woman, her mesmerizingly willowy torso. It definitely captures the "enchanted by the East" feeling. What do you think? And hey, who is her Pilates instructor?

I've decided I'm going to do a few more book reviews before I launch into my pre-publication entries on "Sensual Japan." Here and on Amazon, I only review books I really like. It seems bad karma to me to say critical things about other another writer's work in public. I am glad there are critics who make it their business to separate the wheat from the chaff, but I'm going to indulge myself and just scoop up the good stuff to make some homemade bread to share with you. Next up is Jolie du Pre's Iridescence. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Good Day for a Writer

I've been feeling overwhelmed recently--overwhelmed by my messy house. (Why clean it? It'll just get messed up again in five minutes.) Overwhelmed by the list of stories I want to write but can't seem to find the time to work on. Overwhelmed by life, ya know?

But now and then nice things happen that bring a smile to your face. A few days ago I posted a review here and on Amazon of Sage Vivant's Your Erotic Personality. I really enjoyed reading it and once I got past the selfish mode of trying to identify my own erotic leanings, I realized I was holding a great reference for my writing as well! So, two books for the price of one--and I always like a bargain. Anyway, Sage was cool enough to acknowledge me on her blog, and although I'm blushing, I'll give you a link to her entry right here. It's August 13, 2007, in case you're reading this some time in the future.

She has the cover of Amorous Woman there and damn if I don't have to learn how to download photos on this blog. I'm such a techno-feeb, it's frankly a miracle I can blog at all and do email, but this is getting ridiculous. It's like I really AM 98 years old like my MySpace profile says! So, I'll have to bribe my engineer hubbie into a tutorial this weekend. I mean we live in such a visual culture. I just KNOW all of those guys who click here from Violet Blue's podcast are expecting...visuals. Ah, well, they'll just have to settle for words.

In the meantime today I'm going to designate a room--maybe the front hall, it's small--and clean it today so I get some sense of accomplishment.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Your Erotic Personality: Identifying and Understanding Your Sexual Self

Okay, this shouldn’t be a surprise given the fact I write erotica, but the truth is I not only spend a lot of time writing about sex, I like to think about it and read about it, too. The reading part, of course, is also research for the writing, but it tends to be enjoyable as well as educational. I was expecting a good read when I picked up Sage Vivant’s Your Erotic Personality: Identifying and Understanding Your Sexual Self. After all, it’s Sage’s business to translate her clients’ fantasies into stories at Custom Erotica Source. That means she’s heard a lot of secrets from a lot of different people, and it’s not surprising she’s discovered “distinct personality trends” in the erotica she is asked to create. I’ll admit, too, there is a bit of the thrill of the voyeur (or Watcher as Sage calls it) in stepping inside the fantasies of so many people who’ve whispered in her ear over the years. Don’t we all want to know more about what goes on in other people’s minds and bedrooms?

Well, I was not disappointed. I got my good read and more. Your Erotic Personality is hard to put down. It breezes along with smooth prose and laugh-out-loud wit, especially the quizzes that open each chapter profile. I can only imagine how much fun it was to think up those! But this isn’t just a sit-back-and-let-it-wash-over-you sort of book. By the second chapter, you’ve become an active participant with a quiz that makes you think seriously about your own erotic yearnings. Not that I expected to be “found out” as early as chapter three. Yes, Sage has us erotica writers pegged. There is definitely a lot of the Escapist in me—wild flights of fancy combined with a need for security. Are we that easy to read? But it didn’t stop there. As I read on, I recognized other aspects of my psyche in the chapters to follow. Apparently I’m also a bit of a Wanderer and have clear Show-Off tendencies, as well as a healthy dash of the Student’s scientific curiosity.

Gee, I’m more interesting than I thought!

Sage writes that for her clients, the very process of articulating their desires--yearnings we are rarely if ever encouraged to talk about--brings self-knowledge. Knowledge, of course, is power, in this case, the power to accept, explore and enjoy who you are. The pang of recognition I felt not only made me feel less alone, which is always good, it also made me realize how my erotic imagination offers me so many flavors, so many options to explore.

As I’ve mentioned before, I believe exploring your own erotic map is an immensely valuable thing, whether through reading this book, articulating your fantasies with a partner or writing your own erotica. Perhaps the only erotic type Sage profiled that made me sad was the Name-Dropper, a person who allows media images to define what is desirable. Okay, we’re all vulnerable to this to some degree, especially as teenagers, but how much happier would we all be if we could break free of junk-food, ready-made, overly-processed porn and find out what really turns us and our partners on? (See my earlier blog entry on Junk-Food Porn and Mom’s Homemade Erotica).

Throughout the book, Sage speaks with authority and a generous, nonjudgmental spirit. I found I not only understood myself and my partner better, but I got some intelligent insights into other lifestyles, for example BDSM and sex with multiple partners (at the same time, that's the Partier). In fact, I quickly realized that when I finished the book I would not put it on the shelf with my other erotic books and guides (of which I have a considerable collection). Where it really belongs is with the writing references, because I know this will be a very useful aid for my own writing. If I have a character in a story who gets off watching his wife have sex with other men, I’ll turn to the Cuckold chapter for some clues into what makes him tick—his dreams, his vulnerabilities, the range of behaviors this might involve. And because every human being is motivated by her/his sexual desires to some degree, the book could be a gold mine for all writers.

Smart, witty, fun and educational. What more can I say? Your Erotic Personality is a great book and I hear there’s a sequel in the works. I can’t wait!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Elvis Seals the Deal

Okay, this is what you've all been waiting for--photos straight from the Graceland Chapel in Las Vegas where my husband and I renewed our vows on our twentieth wedding anniversary in June. To tell the truth, I wasn't expecting much. We weren't allowed to request our Elvis "type," so we could well have gotten one of the fat ones of questionable singing talent. But our Elvis was "larger than life" in the best way. He was charming, funny (leading us through the infamous "Elvis vows" in which we promised not to treat each other like hound dogs or step on the other's blue suede shoes) and could sing very well indeed. Along with our renewal-of-vows certificate, we received a copy of Elvis and Priscilla's marriage certificate. I pointed out that it was a rather strange gesture, since that pair divorced, but my ever-glib and diplomatic husband replied that since 50% of marriages reportedly end in divorce, we get to be the lucky half! All in all a highly recommended way to tie the knot or pull your existing knot a little tighter!

Thumbs up with Elvis

"I'll never leave you at Heartbreak Hotel."

"E" is for Excellent, Sexy Stories

Good things do come in small packages. I just got my contributor’s copies of E is for Exotic, the latest volume in Alison Tyler’s erotic alphabet series and I’m REALLY impressed with it! It’s a bit smaller than Cleis’ usual format and thus perfect to hold in one hand. Ahem. The cover art is awesome, with a 1930s vamp in a harem-esque green outfit casting her sultry spell over the viewer.

It worked for me.

Inside is even better. My story “Spider” starts off the show, which is a real honor—more background about my story later. Next comes the luscious “Native Tongue” from Shanna Germain--you can always rely on her for stories that arouse the body and the mind. This time she takes on the power of language to lubricate a relationship in its presence or absence. Not speaking the same language definitely adds a charge to an encounter—I will attest to that from experience!—but reading “Native Tongue” is a good way to find out if you haven’t had the chance in your own travels.

The third story is by Michael Hemmingson, who has been a favorite author since I read his “Naughty Yard” in Maxim Jakubowski’s Mammoth Book of International Erotica over ten years ago. I usually have some trouble with the way men write sex scenes, especially in mainstream fiction, but Hemmingson’s voice is absolutely mesmerizing. He’s so witty and cool, I find myself liking these guys in spite of their, well, maleness. Like this line: “We checked in, walked up to the room, and attacked each other. Seriously, we ripped each other’s clothes off, threw each other around the room like POWs being interrogated.” The scene continues with details (I don’t want to ruin it—read the book!) but I just loved the strange images those words create. Those bodies are still bouncing and banging around in erotic abandon in my head days later.

Another favorite was Kis Lee’s “Bus Ride.” And it’s not just because my husband and I just renewed our vows at the Graceland Chapel in Vegas. The story was hotter than a Las Vegas afternoon (104 degrees, anyone?) and reminded me how words can be the sexiest things. This one is definitely staying with me. Who thought Barstow could be the beginning of all good things?

Saskia Walker takes you to Greece in “The Things that Go on at Siesta Time,” where a maid with a “practical” turn of mind, the lovely young daughter of the house and a dark and handsome gardener don’t get much rest at naptime. I’ve been fortunate to appear in several anthologies alongside Ms. Walker and her work is always so sensual and seductive. I loved that scene in the closet….

The anthology ends with a bang—how else?—with Alison Tyler’s “Un, Deux, Trois." As promised in the first line, the story transforms and transports the reader as well as the narrator as you glide into a sex club for Parisian sophisticates. Every detail is provocative: the elegant clothes, the rooms designed for decadent pleasures, the unexpected softness of the stranger’s kiss each time the narrator’s boyfriend spanks her with his belt in front of a transfixed crowd. How could any real-life adult play club be any better than this? I literally could not put this story down, even when less fictional good times were proffered—just ask my husband!

The other stories linger, too, the special corset in Teresa Noelle Roberts’ “Learning His Ropes,” the smells and sounds of Bangkok (not to mention those of some gorgeous Thai men) in Lisabet Sarai’s “Mad Dogs,” the very dirty antics of a married couple in Mathilde Madden’s “Wet,” the delicious, haunting obsession of Nikki Magennis' "Essence." Sex and travel do seem to be a magical combination in life and in writing—E is for Exotic is proof aplently.

So, a bit of background about my story. Yes, it is based on a real event. While I was studying Japanese as a graduate student in Yokohama in 1987—88, I was living in a very cheap, tiny apartment in the suburb of Konan Chuo. My cold water-only washing machine was outside the front door and one day as I was hosing off the dirt from the lid, a HUGE spider jumped out from behind the machine. No, I’m not really that scared of spiders. It wasn’t just a daddy-longlegs. It was literally as big as my outstretched hand, with thick brown legs and a huge body. It was a tarantula. Honest. I screamed and turned the hose on the spider and it jumped across the path and disappeared in the weeds. When I looked up I saw a cute young man staring down at me from the apartments on the floor above. He asked me what was wrong in Japanese and when I told him I’d just seen a huge spider, he did not come charging down to rescue me by finding and killing the spider. He just laughed at me indulgently. The bastard. For the next few weeks I was terrified the monster would come back and attack me, but I never saw it again. And I was happily married at the time, so I didn’t start anything up with the cute neighbor. The scene, however, did come back to me all these years later. I took a character from my novel, Amorous Woman, put him in the place of the sexy neighbor and “Spider” was born. Another truth from the story--I don’t look at spiders in the same way at all. Read my story and see why!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A New "Portrait" on Fishnet

I’m very excited to announce that my story, “Portrait,” has just been published online in Fishnet: A Journal of Erotica. I’ve dreamed of making Fishnet for a long time. The stories are smart and extremely well-written—everything I aspire to—so, hey, I’ll pop a bottle of champagne and let’s celebrate!

I wrote “Portrait” back in 2003, inspired by an amazingly beautiful and sexy photograph of Clean Sheets' editor Bill Noble with a former partner taken by the awesomely talented Michael Rosen. You can see it here or in the book Photo Sex: Fine Art Sexual Photography Comes of Age by David Steinberg. I highly recommend it. It’s sexy without making you feel like you need a hot (not cold) shower afterwards.

The story also gave me an excuse to buy a vintage Playboy and indulge my nostalgia for mid-twentieth-century sexual mores. Plus poke a little fun at Japanese literature academics (not that any I met were as interesting as Robert!) Most days you'll find me kvetching about the writing life, but today, it's all smiles!

Monday, June 04, 2007

He IS on Top

Hey, I’m the first to admit it when I’m wrong. Most of the time anyway. And I was wrong. I’d predicted that She’s on Top would outsell He’s on Top because, well, the figure of the sexy dominatrix seems so powerful in our society. Don’t those captains of industry all pay big bucks to yield their responsibilities to a leather-corset-clad mistress for an hour? That’s what I read in the New Yorker! But He’s on Top has made the Amazon top ten erotica list. She’s on Top has good numbers, too, but He definitely seems to be on top in this respect.

I can’t help but wonder why. I like to wonder why, most of my stories are sort of a wondering why, and here’s a possible explanation for this one. I had thought that female domination was the more taboo dynamic as a reversal of the status quo, but actually, in our post-feminist culture, male domination is actually naughtier perhaps? Of course, men are still firmly in control in politics, the media, finance, etc, even if their iron grip has loosened somewhat. But they’re not allowed to admit it in public, nor are women allowed to admit their own desire to be dominated without fear of the dreaded stamp of political incorrectness. And so we turn to a collection of erotica to spark our hidden fantasies and give us permission to dwell in this forbidden world for a time.

I think another reason He’s selling well is because it’s a great collection, a nuanced and—to me—infinitely sexier version of classic BDSM. (She provides the same). It’s cool to have my story nestled in with the work of such fabulous writers. I’m including my “review” of the book here today (with She to follow). I use quotation marks a lot around “ordinary” words—a legacy of grad school, no doubt—but this isn’t a traditional review, which usually consists of a general evaluation of the book’s quality followed by highlights of several favorite or not-so-favorite stories. However, since this is my blog and my ideal review is to honor each writer for her/his hard work and imaginative gifts, that’s what my goal is here. I can’t be a fully objective critic anyway so why try?

The collection starts with the longest and most delicious foreplay you can imagine in “Not Until Dawn.” This story is in fact more like a poem, which drew me into its refrain, plus I especially like stories where the female protagonists have small breasts! Lisabet Sarai’s “Incurable Romantic” appeals to my mind as well as my libido—the image of Ilsa doing laundry the old-fashioned way while she got a special shampoo really stayed with me. I also liked the new perspective on the vanilla scene. Sarai really does make the master-slave relationship seem more romantic and more committed. “Seizing Monica” by Debra Hyde also provides a sweet dose of the cerebral as well as more carnal explorations. There is a tension between the thinking man’s pleasures and the groin’s primal desires. BDSM and this story bring the two together.

I like the sense of humor and the twist ending in Gwen Master’s “Confession,” plus given my upbringing, Catholicism always adds spice to an erotic story for me. Masters uses the confession trope (okay, I can’t resist) masterfully to bring new zest to a married couple’s sex life. And, hey, it might work for you, too. I’m next with “Yes,” and I’ll just say that my favorite line in the story is: “You silently thank your dear friend Sean for being such a boring, predictable fuck as you get up and walk out of the room.” Don’t know why, but that makes me smile.

The title of M. Christian’s “In Control” has more than one meaning. The first reference is to the narrator’s domination of a slutslave he meets on the internet, with a poignant twist of an ending. But the real show of control is in the words, the images, the pacing, the insight. I’ve admired M. Christian’s work from way back when in the mid-nineties when I first started reading erotica. Now I think I’m even better at appreciating a master who knows what he’s doing very well!

“A Good Reference” by Mackenzie Cross approaches the theme of the anthology from the perspective of what I think of as the classic BDSM scene. I especially appreciated the narrator’s humor and his epiphany, which brings a resistant sub to her knees. (I can even understand the appeal of the “lessons”). Didn’t you learn in school that all good short stories have epiphanies? “Boardroom Etiquette” by Lee Ash opens with humor and flair. A cheeky underling baits his boss in a meeting and is kept behind to receive his proper recompense. Of course, it’s not what you expect…unless you read that article in the New Yorker!

“The Sun is Ordinary Star” by Shanna Germain—a powerful and poignant story, takes a risk but pulls it off beautifully. And the writing, as always with Germain, is just so good. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this story in BAE 09. If you’re in the mood for a little Christmas cheer, Andrea Dale’s “On the Twelfth Day” is a clever riff on the classic Christmas carol, with each day a new gift for a neophyte submissive. Suffice to say, Stacie has a very nice holiday, indeed. “Thrill Ride” by Matt Conklin is about another cerebral top (my favorite kind) who challenges his wife with a birthday gift that challenges her deepest fears. The interplay between fear and arousal is the foundation of BDSM, but we see here again, as in all of the stories, the surprising truth is that love is at the heart.

“Catherine When She Begs” (Jason Rubris) provides a dash of lesbianism, which is always good, and involves professors, another favorite theme of mine which fits well with power play. This is a story that capitalizes on the promise, the power of “the moment before.” It leaves you teetering on the edge, which is just where you want an erotic story to leave you. Interestingly enough Amanda Earl’s “Brianna’s Fire” also guides you to the brink in a slow, sensual and, for a BDSM outsider like me, instructive way.

I’ve long been a fan of Mike Kimera’s work since I read the “American Holidays” series on Clean Sheets (look in the series archives, the interlocking stories are awesome). “Christmas with Suzy and Mary” is another festive romp in BDSM territory as an older man discovers his true sexual nature. “Reclaiming” by Theresa Noelle Roberts gives us another corporate executive woman who enjoys a very different life in private. Roberts’ prose is hypnotic, poetic—good stuff.

The anthology ends with a bang with Rachel Kramer Bussel’s “Late for a Spanking” and Thomas S. Roche’s “Schoolgirl and Angel.” As is fitting for the editor of the very popular Naughty Spanking Stories 1 and 2, Rachel’s story makes spanking sooo sexy. The tension between the dom, who faces his own constraints, and his wayward sub makes the piece sizzle—it’s one of my favorites in the book. (Really.) And of course you expect something good from Thomas S. Roche. He delivers with a funny, hot and very well written story.

Okay, I’ve given you the tour, but my summaries hardly do justice to the stories themselves. This is a great collection. I understand why it’s an Amazon erotic bestseller. But I still hold a special place in my heart for She’s on Top. Possibly because I like to be on top? A review to follow soon!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

"Suit and Tie" gets the nod from a pro

So, She's on Top is now available on Amazon and enlightened book stores near you. I also got my first review from a reader who knows all about women on top. Radical Vixen, a self-identified "kinky hippie political activist who talks dirty on the phone." I like her already!

But it gets better. In her blog review of She's on Top, VR pays me the awesome compliment of calling my story "Suit and Tie": "erotic and realistic"--which is an important combination for her, as it is for me--PLUS she called the ending "superb."

Hey, in general the writing life is lonely road with too few positive strokes for us struggling scribblers (are those tears of sympathy I see, aw thanks!), but now and then--specifically now--when you get a thoughtful review from someone who clearly knows the scene... whew, it doesn't get any better.

I'm especially jazzed by VR's comments because I do try to make my stories realistic and it's not always easy in erotica. I usually present the wilder scenes explicitly as fantasy, where anything goes, and I try to present the sex in the context of a believable relationship, hence my penchant for sex between people who know each other. (Imagine that!) Not that there aren't great erotic pieces that slip beautifully into the impossible, just that I've decided to take on the challenge of presenting sexuality as it can be in the real world--on good days. (Hey, who doesn't like a "happy ending"?)

Most of all, I'm happy because "Suit and Tie" was a sort of a departure for me. Ironically, I relied a great deal on my imagination to portray my dominatrix character. That a knowledgeable professional found truth in my efforts is delightfully validating. And you know, "Suit and Tie" IS definitely one of A-list stories. Buy the book, give it a read. I bet you'll like it, too.

Friday, March 09, 2007

"On Top" Books Coming Soon!

She's On Top and He's On Top are coming soon to Amazon and enlightened bookstores near you! I'm so excited because both of the stories I wrote for these anthologies have really stuck with me. I don't always love my stories when they're done, but these two have a little extra something that puts them on my list of favorites.

Rachel Kramer Bussel, an awesome editor, was interviewed by Cleis Press about the anthologies and she even mentioned my story, "Yes"! Yes!! Here's the link. Rachel has some interesting and surprising things to say about the dominant's role. Contrary to first impressions, it's not about being bossy and mean and selfish. A skillful top actually needs to be very sensitive to her/his partner's needs and desires. Frankly, I think it would be much harder to do the top's job well. Of course, I'm not really part of the BDSM scene, so I can't speak as an expert. And in fact, I hesitated to try to write something for these anthologies because I didn't feel I could compete with "insiders." But then I got to thinking that power plays such an important role in all human relationships. BDSM is just a particular subset of a relationship dynamic all of us are intimately familiar with (I know, you strict grammarians are clucking your tongues and saying "with which we are all intimately familiar").

Rachel was asked about the potential audience for the books and she said she thought both tops and bottoms would be drawn to the stories. I'd predict the books might even attract more of the "mainstream" crowd, because, let's face it, don't we all nurture some kind of power play fantasy in our steamy little heads? There is something particularly potent about power--pun intended--and something very sexy, too. She's On Top overturns our society's usual hierarchy by putting women in the driver's seat. He's On Top explores an even naughtier taboo by looking deeper into the mind and motivations of the dominant male. Men do still rule, but we're supposed to pretend they don't and we're supposed to pretend there's nothing good about it. But...gulp...sometimes there is!

One more thought about writing and power. I often think of writers as masochists. Why else would we continue to "submit" our work and our egos to callous editors and publishers? But after writing "Suit and Tie" and "Yes," I became aware of how we are like "tops" as well, controlling and crafting an experience behind the facade of the narrative voice. It was a very good experience!

Happy Topping!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Behind the Scenes in “Picture Perfect”

I’ve noticed a lot of people coming to my blog after seeing/hearing my story “Picture Perfect” on Violet Blue’s podcast, and maybe they did come for the cookie recipes (which are definitely worth a visit), but I’m assuming the real reason is some curiosity about my story and its creation.

As I mentioned, “Picture Perfect” was my very first erotic story to see print in an erotica anthology. “Blindfold” appeared in Rain Crow in print and “The Cunt Book” was online in In Posse Review 15 (both are inarguably erotica), but this was the first time my story was in the company of erotica greats like Alison Tyler and M. Christian. I remember Violet called to give me the good news because her email to me had bounced due to some internet bug going around at the time that was falsely marking my mailbox as full and bouncing everything! If Violet had been less conscientious, I might have missed the opportunity to publish the story, which is scary, huh? And now the story is in Italian and everything. Ah, yes, tales of the trade. But that’s not what you really want to know, is it?

You want to know if the story is based in my real life, right?

Permit me a digression of sorts. As I was thinking about the inspirations for this story, I kept going back to an idea I took away from my reading of Jack Morin’s The Erotic Mind: Unlocking the Inner Sources of Passion and Fulfillment. Morin claims that each of us has a “core erotic theme,” a sexual fantasy that taps into our deepest needs. Not that we can’t enjoy a variety of sexual fantasies, but each of us does tend to gravitate toward fantasies with similar dynamics (sex in public, he’s on top, she’s on top, etc). In a questionnaire he includes for readers he helps us identify this by asking which fantasy we turn to when we’re having trouble getting turned on, the one that always works like a charm. I think it’s a worthwhile exercise in self-knowledge to identify what turns us on. Knowledge is power, ya know?

Anyway, when I look at my body of work, now grown much larger since Violet’s exciting call of acceptance back in 2003, I’d have to say my core erotic theme has something to do with revelation and exposure. This makes sense for a writer—as I’ve discussed earlier here in my blog, we writers are all exhibitionists of the soul more or less. But this theme finds its way into many of my stories in concrete form such as “Picture Perfect” and “The Cunt Book” (which is sort of a still-photo version of PP. You can read it here.) So there you go, the story is based on my most profound psycho-sexual truth. Another dynamic many of my stories share is that the female partner always takes an active role in creating the sex scene. Although her lover may cajole her into doing something “naughty” at first, she quickly gets on board and comes up with some of the best ideas herself! This is definitely true of Kira in “Picture Perfect”—and that’s what gives the story momentum, the give-and-take of a couple creating a scene together.

Another digression—bizarre as this sounds, I first saw Nagisa Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses with my mother! I more or less knew what I was getting into when I suggested we see the movie in an art house in Georgetown back in 1985, and I did a pretty good job of playing it cool to show my maturity, even when Sada Abe was doing that weird thing with the egg. Afterwards, when we were having the requisite discussion of the film—a must for art house movies--I tried to argue that behind the non-stop sex scenes was a political allegory. I believe this is true, but I suspect I was trying a little too hard with mom due to a lingering discomfort of seeing a dirty movie with her and blurring that false, yet powerful, boundary our society has erected between motherhood and sex. So, okay, “Picture Perfect” is not the international masterpiece Realm is (remember, though, it has been translated!), but my intention was also to challenge the socio-political hierarchy in a small way.

Kira and Brian’s fantasy—that a dot-com billionaire is paying to watch them have sex—is based on the assumption that the voyeur has the power because he has more money. He is the one getting his wish because he is buying his chance to see a “proper” wife’s sexuality fully revealed—far more rare than say a professional porn actress’ supposed ecstasy. And yet, with the last line—the rich guy gets the couple’s loving kiss for free—completely reverses this power dynamic. (Yeah, I know, it’s kind of like that terrible cliché “the best things in life are free” but it’s true and that last line always gives me a little thrill. Take that dot-com billionaires!) The rich guy who can supposedly have everything he wants is now just a lonely masturbator in his private screening room, cut off from all the passion and creativity and connection Kira and Brian are enjoying in the flesh.

Come on, this is profound, okay?!

What? Cut the warmed-over, pretentious grad school bull, you say? All you really want to know is if the story is based in real life? Now come on, do you really expect me to answer that? Okay, okay, fine, you came all the way to my blog to find out and it took a lot out of you to click the mouse, right?

So, here's your answer: Yes. Sort of.

Satisfied ;-)?

Thanks for dropping by!