Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Birthday to Moi

Actually, I'm jumping the gun because today is officially Donna's Birthday Eve rather than the day itself, but I like to warm up with the self-congratulations and arbitrary indulgent commands to everyone in shouting distance. Birthdays are big at our house. In fact, they start the day before and continue on through the weekend. Naturally most of the celebration involves meals and other sensual treats. Tonight we're having a homemade pizza bash with friends--dessert is my friend Jennifer's famous homemade cheesecake which is luscious and light and my vote for the Best in the World (although admittedly of limited production). Tomorrow begins with a Japanese breakfast at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco. I'm not sure what other selfish whims will come to mind. There will be a nice wine in the evening and some costume drama chick-film I'll force on my men. We'll spend a quiet evening at home away from the drunk drivers, stay up until midnight, and stumble into bed.

What's it like to have a birthday on the last day of the year, you may ask? Even if you don't ask, I'm going to tell you. It's not the day I'd choose. I'd prefer another time of the year, one that isn't already saturated in specialness and self-indulgence. I mean, seriously, at this time of the year we're all sick of gifts and special foods. I'd rather have a birthday on October 9 or June 12 or some day that could be mine alone. Plus, I think I still haven't recovered from my birthday party in first grade, when I invited all the girls in my class. My friend Pam did that for her birthday in October and everyone came. But for my party, five out of twelve showed up because the rest of them were visiting grandma or otherwise engaged.

I was really bummed and I've been sort of spooked about throwing parties ever since.

Over the years, however, I've come to see some advantages to a December 31 fete. First of all, it's really easy to figure out my age at any given point of the year. Secondly, my dad was really happy about the tax deduction. And last but not least, the whole world is in a festive mood right along with me--and I can get great deals on champagne!

So, world, tomorrow night, raise a champagne flute to all you've learned in the old year, the new year of hope and fresh beginnings, and of course, yours truly who is one year older and a wee bit wiser (but still hasn't thrown a birthday party for herself except for one ersatz Kennywood Park party in May in fifth grade which was mildly dissatisfying because everyone gave me May birthstone jewelry....)

And yes, the photo is me--like my frilly dress?

Happy New Year to you all!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Luscious Doesn't Have to Be Hard!

Although of course, sometimes it is ;-).

I will admit I am hardcore about my holiday cookie baking. There really is something more than a tad nutty about my December passion--the more demanding and stern the cookie recipe, the more I worship it, paying homage with oven mitt and offset spatula in hand. But some of my holiday treats are not at domineering. Take the puffed eggnog pancake, for example. It's SO easy to mix up and yet it comes out of the oven souffled and gorgeous and fragrant with the winter holidays. We had this last Sunday, and I may just have to whip up another batch before the twelve days of Christmas are done.

Here's the recipe--for ambitious and laid-back cooks alike!

Puffed Eggnog Pancake

(serves 2-3; can be doubled and baked in a 13x9 inch pan)

3 eggs
2/3 cup eggnog
1/2 cup flour
1/4 t. nutmeg
2 T. butter (I've used just one and it worked fine)
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Syrup for serving

Preheat oven to 425F. Mix the eggs in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer until frothy. Add the flour, then the eggnog and nutmeg, beating until well blended. The batter will be slightly lumpy. Place the butter in a 8x8x2-inch glass baking dish and place it in the oven until the butter is melted and sizzling; do not let it brown. Remove pan from the oven and immediately pour the batter into the pan. Sprinkle the top with almonds and sugar. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until puffed and brown. Serve immediately with syrup.

Breasts and Cookies--Yet Another Link!

Little did I know how potent my postings yesterday would be! In fact, my musing about cookies and breasts even worked their way into the night-time reverie of my own fantasy chef, Kirsten Monroe. Here's how she describes my unwitting invasion of her dreams:

"I was sitting on your kitchen island surrounded by cookie porn. OMG! You wanted to talk about boobs and I kept coming back to your slippery apricot filling and browned butter. I said something -- can't remember what -- and you began laughing hysterically. It was dreamy. Your kitchen was just like Martha Stewart's only less shiny and it smelled like all the sweetness in heaven and all the browned butter in hell."

A less shiny--or should we say "naughty"?--Martha Stewart... yes, that is what I aspire to after all. I never really thought about roaming the earth as the Ghost of Christmas Cookies in the Japanese fashion of the living spirit wandering abroad at night, but there may be a future in it!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Should I Get Breast Implants?

Most people say “you don’t look like what I expected of an erotica writer.” Those who don’t say it are probably thinking it! No one has yet had the courage to tell me how the real me has differed from expectations. I know the popular image of the erotica writer at her desk probably involves a floozy wearing a corset, garters and stockings, and a damp thong, but surely my new friends wouldn’t think I’d wear such things to a meeting in public? It finally occurred to me the other day what the real message is.

They imagined I’d have larger breasts.

Not that size itself is the most important thing. Quality trumps quantity in my book, and I personally am quite satisfied with my endowment. But maybe, to please my public, I should consider breast implants.

What do you think?

Or maybe I should just shove a few dozen Christmas cookies in my shirt?

Pictures from an Orgy--Butter Included!

Orgies—they’re definitely fun, but it’s also a challenge keeping track of the different pleasures and possibilities happening around you. All the more so when you’re the director of the orgy, as I was this past week. Yes, I invited ten different participants into my home for a wild and slippery time of it. Five pounds of butter saw action, plus lots of fruity sweet thangs. I took pictures, too, so those who couldn't join in the action could watch from afar!

Okay, my regular readers have already guessed I’m talking about food, specifically holiday cookies. I’ve been indulging in my cookie orgy for five Decembers now, and this was a particularly wild year for me. I gave out eighteen boxes to teachers, soccer coaches, my writing mentors and such. I wish I could have sent you a box, but these cookies don’t really travel well. Instead, I hope food porn (of the photographic sort) and food erotica (of the written kind) will provide enough of a taste to get your mouth watering.

I made my classic recipes this year and tried out a few new ones that worked out well enough to make a repeat appearance next year. Of course, my bout of cookie madness had its predictable crises. I overmixed the base for the Pecan Squares just a tad and the Venetians were slightly unstable due to the fact the apricot jam had less whole fruit than usual resulting in a slippery filling. On the other hand, the Spoon Cookies were more flavorful--a hard year of book promotion gave me the courage to let the butter brown just a bit more than usual. But I suspect my recipients don’t bring the same critical eye and palate to my cookies. They seem to enjoy them with a sincerity you don’t really find in responses to writing.

To be honest, I love the excitement and satisfaction my cookies seem to inspire. Some highlights of this year: “Oh, the cookies! This is one of the highlights of our holiday!” “I look forward to these every year.” “These are the best cookies ever.” “You could get rich selling these.” “If I were married to your wife, I’d weigh five hundred pounds.”

Well, that’s probably enough to give you a taste of the acclaim. Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t swap writing for baking?

I promised pictures and here they are.

Exhibit A shows the hidden bottom layer of the first round of cookie boxes. It includes:

Yin-Yang Cookies—vanilla cookie dough with chocolate chips marries chocolate cookie dough with white chocolate chips

Chewy Pecan Squares—pecan caramel filling on a shortbread crust

Ribbon Cookies—layers of cherry, pistachio and chocolate cookie dough

The top layer has the more delicate cookies, including:

Venetians—Italian flag-tinted almond cake layers with apricot jam and bittersweet chocolate

Gevulde Speculaas—Dutch spice cookies with marzipan filling

Finnish Spoon Cookies—browned butter dough shaped with a silver spoon (that my grandmother received as a wedding gift in 1919) and sandwiched with mixed fruit jam

And some of the later boxes held a selection of the following, which you see on the plate, moving counter-clockwise from the upper left:

Cranberry-White Chocolate Drops—a double-vanilla sugar cookie dough with New England’s best dried cranberries and white chocolate chips

Mexican Wedding Cookies—a classic recipe with pistachios and the afore-mentioned dried cranberries

Lebkuchen—a German-style gingerbread with candied orange peel, almonds and cardamom. This is a new recipe that definitely tasted better after a few days of aging.

Not pictured and yet to be eaten, as they require a week to reach maturity (that is, they are culinarily under eighteen) are:

Rum Balls—the classic no-cook bon-bon made with vanilla wafers, pecans, cocoa and a nice jigger of rum

After handing out all of the packages and accepting the mostly enthusiastic thanks, my family got to enjoy the leftovers during our annual cookie buffets, where I spread out the tins of all the different kinds on our dining room table and we get to choose a few (or more than a few) each night. Because of the higher volume of gifting and gratitude this year, the cookie buffet only ran for about four nights, but it’s definitely one of my favorite parts of the holiday. Cookie madness is over for the year and I can sit back and enjoy the sweet rewards.

I hope your winter solstice holidays are equally sweet!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Do You Like Your Lingerie with an Amorous Twist?

Hey, the holiday treats just keep coming! It's not just the cookies. I have the sweetest pleasure to be featured on an awesome web site I've been lurking about on for some time now, ever since Jeremy Edwards introduced me to the pleasures of apricot panties and antique kimono.... Anyway, Ms. Slip of Girl got a copy of my novel, Amorous Woman, from her girlfriend Gracie Passette (a girlfriend after my own heart) and she liked it, too, and posted a wonderful review on her site.

She's also running a contest until December 18 where you can win a copy of Amorous Woman for yourself or a friend by doing one simple thing:

"All you have to do is tell me the most embarrassing place you've been caught reading erotica -- or, if you've never been caught, you can tell us your favorite place to read erotica &/or what's your favorite piece of lingerie to wear when you want to enjoy yourself reading erotica -- we're easy like that *wink*"

Now that's pretty easy, and it's also fun, so get your satin-clad booty (or boxer-clad booty or G-string or briefs or tap pants or whatever you wear under there-booty) over to Slip of a Girl and enter to win. I don't mind sending extra copies to my friends. I'm sure you have a girlfriend who'd like a little trip to Japan this holiday season?

Monday, December 15, 2008

It Gets Even Hotter at Dr. Dick's!

Forget Christmas, this is really what I’ve been waiting for: Part 2 of Dr. Dick’s interview with me is now available for your listening pleasure, and I mean pleasure! Maybe it’s because it always takes me just a little time to warm up properly. Or maybe it’s the lovely Malbec the doctor kept pouring into my glass while I sank deeper into that comfy beanbag chair. But the second half is probably my most intimate interview ever. I get naughty, I get bitchy, I even change genders for a brief time--and hey, it’s really interesting to be on the other side of the sex war! So, if you want to hear the real Donna George Storey (and her dirty-minded male alter-ego) let it all hang out, pop on over to Dr. Dick's right now! I guarantee you'll be moved ;-).

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My Naughty Secret Life

You may think I’m just an ordinary smut writer, but in fact I have a secret life…as...gasp!...a cookie-baking mom! This past Thursday I went public with my hidden vice by giving a presentation at my son’s school’s annual Festival of Lights.

Here was my blurb for the presentation:

“The Sweet Art of Cookie-Baking in Northern Europe

During the cold, dark Decembers of the northern hemisphere, kitchen artists in every house had to create their own light. What better way to brighten your life than delicious homemade cookies? Help stir up a batch of three-layered ribbon cookies, then sample the final sweet result, while we talk about traditions of baking and hospitality at year end in Europe and North America.”

In the photo above you see me prepared for the demonstration of assembling “Ribbon Cookies” (the kids helped add the flavoring to each of three portions of dough). Note that my gingerbread house is on display as well.

Now, I was fully prepared for a turn-out like most of my book readings, that is, a select, but intelligent and discerning group of people who appreciate life’s sensual pleasures. Lo and behold, the place was packed—by far a bigger crowd than all of my other book events put together (excepting In the Flesh LA and NYC which sort of don’t count). I think I may need to rethink my path to fame and fortune. Cookies definitely trump sex in terms of public interest, or so my research thus far has shown.

Before a standing room only crowd, I spoke about Christmas sweets customs in Europe and my childhood memories of my mother and her friends baking many kinds and serving them to guests. Polish poppyseed cookies, Swedish Nut Rolls, Russian Tea Cakes—it was like a mini trip to Europe for me! And so I continue the tradition today, when I’ll start the first batch of Christmas cookies 2008, Finnish spoon cookies, formed with a spoon my grandmother got for a wedding present in 1919.

But back to the event. After my brief lecture in which I confessed my cookie mania and made full use of my cookie map of Europe, I invited the kids to help with the final assembly of the cookies and about a dozen volunteered enthusiastically. I got several queries as to whether the gingerbread house could be consumed on the spot, but I held off the hungry hoards, determined to save that destructive pleasure for my own kids on Christmas Eve (they had to put up with the stress of the construction after all). Then parents and kids alike got to sample ribbon cookies and persimmon cookies I made from an old recipe of one of my son's classmates grandmothers. I got lots of compliments and requests for both recipes, which made me happy. I do like to make mouths water one way or another.

If you’d like to make your own Ribbon Cookies, here’s the recipe:

Ribbon Cookies
(from A Baker’s Field Guide to Christmas Cookies)

Yields 100 cookies

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
1/4 cup minced candied cherries or
candied orange peel
2 drops liquid red food coloring
1/4 cup finely chopped unsalted natural pistachios
2 drops liquid green food coloring
1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
1/4 cup miniature chocolate chips

Line bottom and sides of a 4 x 8” straight-sided loaf pan with plastic wrap, using enough to overhang all sides.

Whisk flour, salt, and baking powder together in a small bowl.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar gradually, beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla and egg.

Add about one-third of the flour mixture and mix on low speed. Gradually add remaining flour, mixing just until blended. Divide dough in three equal parts (use measuring cup to make sure they are even) and place in individual bowls. Add cherries or orange peel to one, stir until combined (I also added a few drops red food coloring), and pat in an even layer in loaf pan. I arrange about 8-10 flat measuring Tablespoons of dough into the pan and press it flat with an offset spatula, then smooth it to make an even layer.

Add pistachios to another, stir until combined and stir in food coloring. Pat into an even layer on top of cherry layer. Stir melted chocolate and chocolate morsels into the third until well blended, and pat in an even layer on top of pistachio layer. Fold plastic wrap over dough to cover completely and refrigerate until firm enough to slice, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Unwrap loaf pan and unmold cookie dough by pulling up on plastic wrap to aid the process. Peel plastic completely away. Cut 1/3-inch slices crosswise off end of loaf. Lay slices flat on work surface so that the various layers of cookie are horizontal in front of you. Cut each cookie into four pieces, top to bottom, so that each slice has all three flavors. Place two inches apart on cookie sheets. Bake just until light golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Slide parchment onto racks to cool cookies completely.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Amorous Woman Makes Violet Blue's Top 10!

Woo hoo! Pop open the champagne, not that we ever need an excuse, but I do have most excellent news: Amorous Woman made Violet Blue’s top ten sexy book list for this Christmas! The list is in no particular order, but I did come first, which I usually do, but I’m getting off topic here. The holidays have a way of putting me in the mood!

Anyway, Violet knows a good dirty story when she sees one, as is clearly evident in this year’s hotter-than-ever Best Women’s Erotica 2009. I’ll be talking more about this soon, but it always is a special December treat, and definitely a good way to cap off my writing year.

Alison Tyler's inspiring Never Have the Same Sex Twice and Rachel Kramer Bussel's delectable Tasting Him and Tasting Her are also on the list. As I said, Violet has the very best "taste" when it comes to these matters! And that makes for an offering that is sure to please for almost everyone on your winter solstice gift list....

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Am I Hardcore?

That’s what erotica writer Jane Black (check out her bittersweet and very hot story of sexual awakening on Clean Sheets this week--it's a good one!) told me when I described this year’s gingerbread house project. What makes this year’s special is a little experiment of mine, inspired by a recipe for stained glass cookies. I decided to melt some butterscotch disks and see if they might make nice windows for a gingerbread abode. And in fact, this leap of creativity paid off nicely. Note the golden glow emanating from the edible edifice—the perfect touch of tingly warmth for the long December nights.

Again I’m reminded of the refreshingly uncomplicated response this kind of creativity inspires. The compliments abound and they seem totally sincere. Maybe that’s because no one else is crazy enough to spend so much time on gingerbread houses? I mean, there are professional pastry chefs who do it for display in hotels or other public places. They’re definitely hardcore, but it’s their full time job and they get paid for it, the dominatrices of the genre. And then there are those kits of pre-baked pieces you glue together with icing and let the kids decorate. It’s a great idea, but, well, a little too soft and wimpy to turn me on.

I won’t lie to you. This little cottage looks simple and charming enough, but it took me hours to draw the pattern, bake the pieces, assemble and decorate. An absurd amount of time, really. There’s no doubt it’s like a short story. You want it to look seamless and self-contained. No sweat, doubts or swear words ever disgraced its conception. But they lurk just the same in the secret history of the smooth, finished piece. If those gingerbread walls could talk!

Anyway, I think Jane has a point, but I certainly wasn’t as hardcore this year as when I spent weeks on “Holiday Inn,” pictured above. That was definitely hardcore. But maybe this year it would be better to call me “mediumcore.” You know, vanilla, but made with fresh vanilla beans and organic cream, topped with homemade hot fudge and fresh, toasted pecans with a glace cherry on top?

What do you think? (Slack-jawed admiration of the magical wonder of my gingerbread house is shamelessly accepted).

A Note for Insane Gingerbread Architects: The windows are an easy trick to tuck in your bag. Just place two butterscotch candies together on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until melted and spreading, then smooth with a spoon, if necessary (it may not be). Lift them from the paper after about a minute with a spatula and cool on a rack. Glue them to the inside of the windows with royal icing and voila!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

My HOTTEST Interview Ever!

My favorite part of book promotion has definitely been the interviews. Each host who’s been kind enough to me into their airy salon has asked thought-provoking, intelligent questions and helped me see my work in a new way. I’ve felt true support and interest and each time my life feels a bit richer for the experience. Of course, radio has its restrictions and the George Carlin rules shaped our discussions, but rather like a good bondage session, sometimes restrictions can increase the pleasure.

Then again, sometimes it’s fun just to say, forget rules and let it all hang out! That’s what I’ve done on my interview with the charming and provocative Dr. Dick. Thanks to an introduction by the awesome Jeremy Edwards, Dr. Dick invited me to be part of his series of interviews with artists who explore the erotic in their work, called The Erotic Mind.

The first part of my interview on Dr. Dick’s Sex Advice: Sex Advice With An Edge is available for your listening pleasure right here. I read from a shamelessly juicy part of Amorous Woman and tell all about how I started writing, why I write under my own name, the allure of multi-cultural erotica and much more. And if you like part one, you are really going to enjoy part two. That’s when things get really steamy!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

An Armchair Trip to Japan's "Floating World"

My promotional activities for Amorous Woman have led me to some very entertaining and educational locales in cyberspace. Today I make a stop at Readerville.com's "Odd Shelf" feature with my list of favorite books on Japan's after-dark entertainment districts. Geisha, love hotels, spring prints, bar hostesses, pink salons and soaplands, the notorious Abe Sada, exquisite kaiseki dinners. If you have a vivid imagination--and I know the readers of my blog most definitely do--you can experience them all with my selection of elegantly written and beautifully illustrated books. Check out some of the other lists, too--and leave a comment if you're so inspired!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I'm on Cult of Gracie Tonight!

I'm getting all fluttery just thinking about it. If you have a few minutes tonight at 7 pm PST, stop by to listen, ask a question and hopefully feel some fluttery excitement right along with me! I'll give the tell-all report tomorrow....

Christmas Cookies are like Sex?

The December edition of “Cooking up a Storey” is up at ERWA this week. Can you believe I’ve been at it for one full year of erotic musings with recipe? This month’s topic is A Year of Living Shamelessly: Hustlers, Exhibitionists and the Libidinous Magic of the Ordinary. I talk about orgies, food porn and Christmas cookie sex. There’s a juicy excerpt from my story, “Six Layers of Sweetness” (or is that “Sex Layers of Sweetness”?) and a recipe for a cookie for shameless show-offs. Might that be you? Read it and find out for yourself!

By the way, the photo is an example of one of my annual Christmas cookie boxes. Sex layers of sweetness indeed....

Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Back Door" Eroticism and a Night to Remember

Thursday October 16 at the Happy Ending Lounge. The bar was packed, the erotic words were flowing sweetly as was the wine and spirits. Best of all I was surrounded by friends, some of my very favorite erotic writers and wonderful people—Heidi Champa, Jeremy Edwards, Emerald, and EllaRegina. Yes, it was a longtime dream come true, I was in the flesh at Rachel Kramer Bussel’s renowned erotica reading series “In the Flesh.”

The theme was oral sex in honor of the release of Tasting Her and Tasting Him, two juicy anthologies from Cleis. I have a story in each, but I was on tour for my novel, Amorous Woman, so I took that topic with a twist, reading from the infamously steamy hot spring scene where the protagonist of Amorous Woman learns all about a new—and forbidden!--erogenous zone thanks to the skillful tongue of an anthropology professor. (God, I love professor sex!)

I know, you wish you could have been there, but if you couldn’t make it or just want to relive a memorable evening, check out the video of my performance below. Rate it and leave a comment if you’re inspired, but ignore the jumpy editing at the beginning (my novel plug was excised!) Then, when you’ve (re)discovered your own new erogenous zone, head on over to hear the lovely Emerald read about an explosively satisfying tryst in the park and talented newcomer Heidi Champa take sex at the workplace to new and titillating heights.

It was definitely a night to remember!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Gratitude and "Writing That Touches"

Yes, I've been away from blogging for more than two weeks now, and I've definitely missed it. Family visitors and holiday preparations kept me pleasantly busy, but now I'm back with a lot of things to talk about!

Thanksgiving was especially sweet and relaxing this year. I discovered a recipe for a moist, tasty and healthy breakfast bread made with pumpkin, dried cranberries, ground flax seed, applesauce, spices and other things that will very likely become a Thanksgiving breakfast tradition for us. Dinner was simple--Brussels sprouts with chestnuts, my sister's famous salad and roasted halibut with almond cake for dessert, plus lots of good wine! At our candle-lit dinner we went around the table saying what we felt grateful for and I realized there was so, so much to be grateful for this year, including my blog-o-sphere buddies, so thank you all!

And today I have a special reason for giving thanks because I'm featured on Nikki Magennis' "Writing That Touches" blog series. I've have the pleasure to be in a number of anthologies with Nikki and she is truly one of my favorite erotica writers. One lovely sentence by Nikki can turn me on--on many levels--more than pages of steamy prose by lesser talents (present company excepted of course). And I'm finding her interview series to be very provocative and enlightening about other artists' creative process. That's my favorite kind of voyeurism!

So, check out Nikki's blog and while you're there, pop over to the interview with my friend, Jeremy Edwards, too!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

An Amorous Chat with Denny Smithson on KPFA

Yesterday brought another very enjoyable highlight of my Amorous Woman book tour when I was interviewed on Denny Smithson’s weekly show on books called “Cover to Cover” on my local radio station, KPFA (94.1 Berkeley). Of course, I was a little nervous beforehand as I always am, but excited, too, to be part of the historic Free Speech radio station, a Berkeley institution.

Unlike my midnight taxi adventure for Dr. Susan Block’s show, transportation was a breeze this time as I only had to park near my son’s school and stroll over to the station. Denny was there to greet me and I have to say he was totally charming from the start and immediately put me at ease. I could have talked with him for hours, and we did have a nice warm-up conversation about writing and sexuality and our own personal Berkeley histories as we were getting ready for the show. Denny has been in Berkeley since 1960, having been raised in the south and in France, while I’ve been living here since 1986, an East Coast kid. However, we both agree Berkeley is the home of our hearts and sensibilities.

Soon I was seated at the guest’s microphone with my water and my copy of Amorous Woman open to the place where I would read a teaser excerpt. The naughty parts were duly excised to avoid any on-air legal complications, but I hope the poetry of my language came through anyway! Denny opened the show with some celebratory comments about the election of Barack Obama, while I nodded—mutely—in hearty agreement.

We then went on to talk about erotica writing, Japan and sexuality, sources for my novel, the problems I face promoting a literary erotic book, our society’s focus on the superficial elements of sexuality over the quality of experience, and other juicy, but intellectual topics. It all went by so fast. Denny had read and enjoyed the book and was clearly supportive of my work. It truly was a pleasure to talk with him and I felt very enriched by the experience. At the end of the interview, I was the opposite of nervous—I felt I understood my own work better for having shared ideas with a smart, insightful reader.

And I guess practice does pay off—there were fewer “um’s” this time, a novice’s habit I’m working to improve.

If you’d like to hear my interview, you can listen from KPFA’s archives here.

And remember, make time to read a good book this week—preferably from Cover to Cover!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

A Great Good Place for a Reading

My Amorous Woman book events continue—including a radio appearance on Berkeley’s famous “Free Speech” radio, KPFA, this coming Monday—but I wanted to let you all know about my last in the flesh appearance last Thursday, October 30 at A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland’s charming Montclair neighborhood.

A Great Good Place for Books came well recommended by many writer friends as a place that is open-minded and supportive of local writers, and sure enough, the reports were all true! I’d been to a few readings there before and knew it would be a cozy, intimate venue, just perfect for my free “lips-on” erotica writing workshop and reading from my dirty novel.

The coordinator for books events, the very charming Jake, welcomed me, my two escorts and my tray of tasting chocolate and adult fortune cookies with news that she’d received more queries about my event by phone than any in a long time. This was perhaps due to the interview with me in The East Bay Monthly—and indeed four complete strangers did attend the reading because of the article, which is a record for this type of thing. Most attendees are either friends or friends of friends, so strangers to me, but with a referral.

While I waited, I browsed around the store, which truly impressed me with its thoughtful and intelligent selection of books. The fiction section was especially strong. I could just tell the books were chosen with love and care, and as you know, this is key for me. Jake gave me some more happy news—as thanks for reading at the store, I was allowed to choose one book to take home with me as a gift. This alone makes A Great Good Place for Books one of the Greatest, Best Places to Give a Reading. I urge Bay Area residents to make a stop there and check it out! And pick up a copy of Amorous Woman for the favorite people on your holiday shopping list while you’re there.

Anyway, I was rather giddy from Jake’s wonderful offer and as I looked around the store I was sure it would be impossible to pick one. But then, as if by magic, my eye was drawn to a book right in front of me on the shelf. The author’s name was “Sheila Munro.” I pulled the book out and discovered that Alice Munro’s daughter had written a memoir: Lives of Mothers and Daughters: Growing up with Alice Munro. I adore Alice Munro and long wondered whether someone would write a good biography of her. This was the answer to my longing! In the end, it took no time at all to decide on my prize, and I can’t wait to dig in and read about all the quotidian secrets of my idol and the way she balanced writing and motherhood.

But first I had an erotic-writing workshop to present. A little after 7 pm, I took my seat at the “head of the class” and began my introductory remarks for my workshop. It’s pretty hard to cover all the basics for sensual writing in twenty minutes, so I decided to focus on a few key ideas. And since the class was free, there’s no reason why I shouldn't share them here on my blog!

So, here are some of the highlights of my talk:

“A lot of people ask me why I write erotica. All of my writing is inspired by a question, a mystery—what’s really going on in this situation, inside this stranger’s head. When I was growing up, sex was definitely an unspeakable act in most polite books and movies, and I’ve always wondered what happens when the scene fades to the candle flame. There was a lot of writing about sex out there, but to me it was either too simplistic or somehow moralistic. There was very little sensual, not to mention intellectual, celebration of sex.

It seems to me that in spite of our culture’s obsession with sex, it is very limited in the way it is presented. The focus is all on appearances, how things look. The media is always quantifying the experience—how many lovers we’ve had, how often we do it, how many variations have we tried? What we really want to know is what it feels like for other people—that’s the connection we really want when we talk about sex. And erotica is a very good way to make that connection.

When you write, you try to capture experience from the inside. Transforming experience into words is a challenge that requires you to pay very close attention to what’s happening with all of your senses. You need to ask a lot of new questions. You may have eaten chocolate hundreds of times, but it’s going to be totally different when you mean to write about it. For me this very empowering and exciting, like the scene in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy goes from black and white Kansas to Technicolor Oz.

I think wherever you are in the continuum of the writing life--whether you’re an established writer or someone who’s just started journaling—taking on the challenge of putting “forbidden” sensual experience into words is worth doing. It will definitely change your life for the better.”

Okay, that’s from my notes, which I won’t quote in full (you’ll have to attend my next workshop to hear everything), but then I went on to read from my novel, then read a passage which I wrote for Don Capone’s interview with me on June 7 this year on how NOT to write a sex scene. Based on that passage I advised my “students” to avoid clichés, make the sex believable and frame the sex scenes in a story with strong conflict, interesting characters and fresh images. Easy, right?

I ended my lecture with the following advice for writing no-holds barred hot and sensual scenes:

“Create a safe space where you can celebrate your senses. No one is watching—not your parents, your teachers, church ladies, Fox News or God. Gather them all up and send them over to Starbucks (I'm sure God will set Sean Hannity back on the right--or should I say left?--course). You are protected from the moral majority. Remember that you’re dealing with some strong forces that are going to try to shut you up or at least ghettoize you, the idea is to be in a place where you can celebrate your sensuality. But there’s another group you need protection from—the editors, the people who tell you what a bad writer you are and how stupid your metaphors are and so on. This safe space is where you’re going to nurture the raw material of your writing. In this sense writing is like cooking. If you start with fresh, exciting ingredients, the finished dish is going to taste much better!”

By the way, this is advice I need to remember for myself every time I sit down to write.

Anyway, after I finished pontificating, I passed around a tray of three different kinds of Ghirardelli chocolate so my participants could do a focused taste-test—white chocolate, intense dark chocolate and the pleasantly subtle mint wafer. I guided the students through the process, suggesting they use all of their senses and take their time. The room was quiet except for the soft sound of mindful savoring and chewing and the scratching of pencils on paper as they jotted down notes. After a civilized time for meditation, I invited everyone to share responses to the exercise. I have to say I was very pleased with the answers, which reminded me again that teaching a class is more of a learning experience for the supposed expert than vice versa.

One person said she noticed her first reaction was to rate the chocolates rather than enjoy them on their own terms, showing how our “rational” judgment can get in the way of an immediate engagement with sensual experience. Another man said he noticed how the first taste of the chocolate was much more intense than succeeding ones, something I’ve found to be true. Someone said the smell of the chocolate brought back strong memories of a recent trip to Africa, and indeed our sense of smell provides a direct link to the past faster than any other sense. One man wrote an entire poem—it was pretty good—and another woman found herself making each chocolate into a character in a story. One was stronger, the other sweeter and more yielding.

Wow! The creative energy in the room was very inspiring. I tend to think of myself as a loner when it comes to my creative work, but there might be something to these writing workshops after all?

Afterward the formal discussion, we broke up and chatted a bit, I sold a copy of the book and left many more behind with Jake (remember, Amorous Woman is a low-cost trip to Japan for everyone on your gift list!) and headed out into the damp October night feeling very good about how far I’d come along the path of book promotion from the frightened and clueless newbie I once was. I know I’ll be much better prepared for my next novel--and I hope A Great Good Place for Books has a free night on their schedule for another workshop.

Speaking of which, I better get started writing that thing!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


It's been twelve long years since I've felt good the day after a presidential election, but boy do I feel good today! I have to say for the past eight years, the course our political leaders have followed has given me great pain. I've dealt with it by going numb to a certain degree, as if I were in deep freeze.

With Barack Obama's decisive victory, I'm suddenly back in the sunshine. As I listen to the post-election analysis on public radio (I wasn't able to stomach the news much during the "dark years"), I find myself tearing up again and again. Most of it is "good" tears of pride in my country for proving again it is the land of opportunity and hope, joy that a leader of intelligence, judgment and genuine caring will be taking over as president, and profound relief that we can begin moving forward again under the energy and vision of a leader in the prime of his life. But I also realize that some of the tears are due to the inevitable pain at the thawing of my protective armor. Hope does take courage. In some ways it is safe and easy to be cynical about politics, but I do care, and I've always cared what happens to this country for my children and for reasons beyond my own limited self-interest. I realized when I visited Ellis Island a few weeks ago, that America really was the land of hope, freedom and higher ideals for millions of immigrants. And that magic at the heart of the American dream is still there today as yesterday's results prove!

BUT, when I'm not crying, I am definitely smiling! And I thank all of my friends for their hard work in making this possible. Jeremy Edwards and Craig Sorensen helped us win Pennsylvania. My sister worked for Obama in Virginia. To everyone who voted, everyone who cared--THANK YOU! And to President-elect Obama--I know you'll show everyone that intelligence, an understanding of complexity, and the wise planning you learned from community organizing (I'll bet you're not snickering now Guiliani and Palin) make for a great presidency.

Whew this hope thing feels good!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Smarter Sex—or What Will the Neighbors Think?

My Amorous Woman national tour may be over, but my book promotion blitz marches on. This month I make perhaps my biggest splash with a profile in the “Up Front” section of The East Bay Monthly, the magazine with the largest circulation in the Bay Area. (I'm the "sex scribe" on the front cover!)

Renowned writer Autumn Stephens, author of the Wild Women series and editor of the essay collections Roar Softly and Carry a Great Lipstick and The Secret Lives of Lawfully Wedded Wives skillfully plied me with herbal tea and got me to spill my secrets about my shady past that inspired Amorous Woman, my higher goals in writing erotica, my thoughts on BDSM, and how I combine my day job as a cupcake-baking mom with my avocation as writer of very adult fiction.

Thanks to Autumn’s witty prose and incisive observations, my neighbors will never look at me in the same way again. I have to admit being interviewed by such a talented journalist—the Adam Gopnik of the West Coast--who makes me sound so interesting is a long-standing fantasy of mine. Who says (erotic) dreams can’t come true?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sarah Palin Erotica?!

Yes, it can be done, and I did it! Check out the latest issue of Clean Sheets for my gender-bending erotic dreamland tale about vice-presidential candidate "hottie," Sarah Palin. The story's called "Chasing Sarah," and it's teeming with action, suspense and innuendo of every kind.

Believe me, she's winkin' for a reason!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Learn My Sexiest Secrets--for Free--on 10/30!

One of the reasons I haven’t yet started blogging about NYC is that I’m preparing for my last big “in the flesh” Amorous Woman event right in my own back yard! Here’s the blurb from the flyer I’ve been posting all over town:

Spice Up Your Life! Free Sensual Writing Workshop

Join award-winning Berkeley erotica writer Donna George Storey for a free sensual writing workshop. Whether you’re an experienced writer who’d like to heat up your work or a newcomer who longs to try the passionate pen, you’ll find plenty to light your fire during this provocative evening of prose and pleasure.

We’ll talk about elements of a good sex scene, pitfalls to avoid, and the difference between erotica and porn. A sexy “lips-on” writing exercise will get your juices flowing (warning: chocolate is involved)! And of course, Donna will read from Amorous Woman, her sizzling new novel about an American woman’s love affair with the real Japan.

When: Thursday, October 30 at 7 pm

Where: A Great Good Place for Books
6120 LaSalle Avenue
Oakland, CA 94611
Tel: (510) 339-8210

If you can make it, I’d love to see you there. I’ll be offering Ghirardelli chocolate, my famous adult fortune cookies, and lots of extra-delicious excerpts from my novel.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Key to Happiness

Look no farther than the Princeton Alumni Weekly for the answer to all the big questions in life. Browsing through the class notes in the October 8 issue, I happened upon a sidebar on the work of Martin Seligman '64. Unlike most psychologists, Seligman doesn't study what makes up miserable, he researches what makes us happy.

In summary, if you want to be happy you: "Put aside the toys. Figure out what you're good at. And then apply your strengths to a greater purpose." Seligman has written a bestseller called Authentic Happiness in which he describes three levels of happiness. Pleasure is the first, the delight you get from good food and sex. Engagement is the second, the feeling of flow when you're doing something you're good at (like writing, perchance?). Most evolved is meaning, the fulfillment you get from being engaged in an effort greater than yourself.

Sounds good to me. Maybe I'm kidding myself, but I have to say all the effort I've put into promoting Amorous Woman has made me very happy because I feel I'm in it for something greater than myself--namely, I hope to connect with readers to present a more nuanced view of Japan to the Western world and show that our erotic lives can be celebrated and treated thoughtfully in fiction. That made my New York book tour pretty meaningful. Then again, there was a whole lot of good food and sexy doings and just all around pleasure involved as well.

As soon as I get my photos uploaded, I'll fill you in on all the juicy details!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Sizzling Midnight Talk with Dr. Susan Block

Good news! I finally have a link to my scandalous midnight discussion with Dr. Susan Block on September 27. You've heard about the Speakeasy, you've heard about my night-time ride through darkest LA, and now you can hear Dr. Suzy and I talk very frankly about Amorous Woman, its autobiographical elements, its sexiest scenes and how to pick up older Japanese women!

If you have an hour or so (preferably around midnight with some interesting rocking chairs nearby for your "comfort") lean back and get ready for some sizzle right here!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Amorous Woman Jets to Manhattan

As those of you who've read Amorous Woman know, Lydia is a restless soul, and the moment she got back from Hollywood, she was getting ready for another adventure to the other coast, where she--and I--were born and raised.

Yes, we're going to New York, New York and I've got plenty of fun things planned, both formal and informal, but if you happen to be in the city next week, you can catch me reading from my steamy novel at the following venues:

Thursday, October 16, 8:00 PM
In the Flesh Erotica Reading Series
Happy Ending Lounge
302 Broome Street, NYC

Friday, October 17, 7:00 PM
Amorous Women in the Big Apple with Robin Slick
Bluestockings Book Store
172 Allen Street between Stanton and Rivington

Sunday, October 19 at 6:00 pm
Kinokuniya Book Store
1073 Avenue of the Americas between 40th and 41st Streets

Be there or be square, baby!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Last Hollywood Hustle: Amorous Adventures, final episode

Yeah, I know, the last blog entry sounded like a finale, but every good show has an encore. Today I’m going to tell you about the last and most exhausting day of my LA book tour. In many ways it was the most educational, too. That’s been the real profit in my Amorous Woman adventure—learning more about what I’m capable of doing.

Who’d ever thought I could be such a whore?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Sunday, September 28 was the day of the West Hollywood Book Fair in Plummer Park and it was, in fact, the original reason I went to LA at all. As I mentioned, the wonderful Eden Bradley (with me in the picture above) suggested I join her and some of her Phaze colleagues at their booth this year. I’m not one to turn down an interesting opportunity, so I signed up, bought my tickets, and then later managed to include the Hustler Hollywood reading and Dr. Susan Block interview. Eden had warned me it would be hot, exhausting and fun. She also suggested I bring some freebies to give away as the fairgoers liked that sort of thing. Since we were doing an Asian/Exotic theme thanks to Eden’s new book Exotica: Seven Days of Kama Sutra, Nine Days of Arabian Nights as well as my Japan book and Christine London’s books set in England, I thought maybe fortune cookies with grown-up, sexy fortunes might be appropriate. I found a place that sold fresh cookies with up to 17 custom fortunes, made from a classic recipe called Good Fortunes, Inc. (There are lots of “creative” places with weird flavors like blueberry that allow only three fortunes and are more expensive, but I’d definitely recommend these guys).

Several people have mentioned, very kindly, that my book tour diary has made them feel they’ve traveled right along with me, so just to keep you all in the loop, these are the fortunes I wrote up:

Sip hot tea; swallow. French kiss your lover’s most sensitive spot.

Blindfold your lover; order him/her to remain still. Do things to make this difficult.

Caress your lover’s body with silk; try velvet, then your tongue.

Have your lover pick a number from 1 to 10. Caress his/her secret pleasure spot for that number of minutes.

FOR HIM: Sip crème de menthe; spread it over his member with your tongue. Blow gently.

Your lover’s been naughty. Maybe s/he needs a gentle spanking?

Give your lover an erotic book; mark your favorite passages first.

FOR HER: Don’t take off your lingerie tonight—make him (or her) “work around it.”

Have phone sex—even if you live together.

Make love anywhere but the bedroom. Be creative with the furniture.

If you have suggestions for others, do let me know for next time!

Anyway, on Sunday morning I was up early to fortify myself with the complimentary breakfast at the Magic Castle Hotel by the pool you see here. I really liked this hotel (my son wants to come back because of the endless free drinks, candy and cookies they offer at the front desk in lieu of a mini-bar). In a way it was a come-down from the Beverly Hills Hotel, rather like a star’s career in reverse. This was more like Marilyn Monroe’s first apartment in Hollywood, which we’d passed on the Starline Tour. It’s the kind of garden apartment complex you might expect an aspiring actor to live in if they have some subsidy from mom and dad. It cost me about $130 a night though and with the convenient location, and the access to their famous magic club—which is usually members only—it’s a great bargain.

Not to mention the art in the room was very cool—old tyme posters of magician’s acts which are just the kind of ephemera I love!

Okay, so I was up early, had my breakfast, packed up 20 copies of Amorous Woman and a few hundred fortune cookies, plus a kimono and dancer’s fan for decoration and was waiting for Eden in front of the hotel. She showed up in her van which was packed with all the necessities for our “harem” themed booth—a potted plant, cushions, a fur rug and sexy scarves. The book fair was not far from my hotel and we soon arrived, pulling into the area near our booth, E44, to unload. It didn’t take long to set up with four of us working and my kimono definitely added a touch of the exotic as our main wall décor.

You’ll note our sign read “California Erotica Writers” which included Eden, Christine London and Will Belegon, as well as yours truly, the Bay Area ringer.

We were all set up by opening time, and, as I mentioned before, I tend to avoid facing the facts of book promotion until they are staring me in the face. The fair was open and harsh reality was glaring at me, close enough to smell its foul breath. I was here to sell my book, but how the hell was I going to get people to come over to the booth? Then it occurred to me why Eden had suggested freebies. I had to lure these unsuspecting folk over and give them a sales job, face to face.

This is not something I’m good at. Never was, never will be.

But Amorous Woman has tested my limits before. I’d spent a nice chunk of dough to come to the fair, it was my duty to do my best for my baby. None of it came easy, but by the time the sun was sinking in the west, and shining right in my eyes, I’d hit on a strategy. Here’s what worked that day, more or less.

First, I stood behind the table and called out, “Would you like to try a grown up fortune cookie?” Standing out in the path of strollers just alienated them, I had to give them the space to say no and then more said yes. Although plenty said no, either expecting they needed to pay or watching their West Hollywood figures. Het couples were the easiest marks (West Hollywood is mainly a gay town), but singletons sometimes took the bait. The fortune cookies were generally a hit. Most people smiled, many shared what they got with us and thought it was a good idea, although the “give your lover an erotic book” seemed more mercenary than I’d originally intended. (For the record, I do think it’s a good idea—it doesn’t have to be my book, but it could be!)

Once I’d gotten them over to my book, I launched into my pitch. In this case, I went for the historical hook, mentioning that Amorous Woman was based on a 17th century Japanese erotic classic. This always got a look of curiosity. Then I’d say how it was based on my own experiences living in Japan. If that put a twinkle in their eye, I knew I might have a sale. And I did sell to a handful of wonderful people, strangers all--hey, you know who you are and I hope you enjoy the book!

In the meantime, I did have some nice chats with people, my potential reading public. Some who’d lived in Japan or traveled there. Some who wanted to talk about the fortunes or erotica. There were a few unpleasant folk. The drunk lady who talked and talked forever and just wouldn’t go away. The old guy who chatted for some time, then said “thanks,” pressed his crushed fortune cookie in my hand for me to throw away, and walked off empty-handed.

In the end, I only sold a modest amount of copies, but gave away tons of bookmarks, brought smiles to many faces and had a great time with my boothmates. Truly the most satisfying part of promotion is doing something for the good of the book. If it only sells a few copies, that matters less than if I had fun. Really.

In fact, the most satisfying and exotic part of the day was that I proved I could do something so very foreign to me. Here I am with Will and Christine, looking tired, but happy and ready to come home to rest up for the next part of my book tour.

Start spreading the news—I’m leaving next week for New York, New York, baby!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Night to Remember: Amorous Travels in Time and Space, episode 4

Cliffhangers—yeah, they keep the pages turning, but there is a downside. Sometimes all the suspense leads to a disappointing denouement—a ho-hum crash at the bottom of the drop--which is just what I’m afraid will happen in my penultimate LA Book Tour blog entry. Because now I am actually getting to the “climax” of the trip I’ve promised for so long, the part you’d definitely have to write home about if you had understanding parents…. But no more mystery, gentle readers, it’s time to tell all about my visit to Dr. Susan Block’s Speakeasy.

Dr. Suzy is a sex therapist, TV and radio show host and all around “peace through pleasure” personality. She’s running for Vice President and would definitely make America a better place than Sarah Palin! She’s also a Yale graduate and a good friend of the awesome LA-based erotica writer, Stan Kent, who has often enjoyed Dr. Suzy’s firm hand when he appears on her show. It was Stan who introduced me to Dr. Suzy and helped me get an invitation to talk about Amorous Woman on her radio show. I’m trying to get a link to the show, which aired through Blog Talk Radio, but it hasn’t been posted yet. I’ll let you know when I get that information!

But the show itself is only half of the story. The drama and darkness around it is what got my heart pounding, but then I am easily aroused. What am I talking about? Well, I’d briefly considered renting a car to have my own transportation after my sister returned to New York on Saturday, but ultimately decided I’d be much less stressed out if I relied on cabs—I probably did end up saving money that way as well. However, that meant I’d need a cab back from downtown LA after midnight on Saturday, which was also a bit stressful to contemplate. All this to say, there were some question marks on how I’d get home that night. However, I handled this the way I’ve dealt with most of my book promotion activities—I didn’t really think about it until the time arrived.

I did gather a few phone numbers of cab companies and felt all ready to go when my brother-in-law pulled up in front of the Speakeasy address on a deserted warehouse district street at 10 pm. I innocently pulled out my cell phone to call in to the official number to have someone let me in through the gated door--only to have my first shock of the evening. For some reason, my cell phone had gone wacko and was only showing letters when I tried to punch in the proper phone number. Now, I’m barely able to manage the basics of a cell phone and this really threw me for a loop. My sister wanted to get back to her hotel to get some sleep before a fiendishly early flight, Dr. Suzy was waiting, and I needed some way to get in touch with a cab to get home because I sure wasn’t walking the fifteen dark and scary miles! After about twenty frantic minutes, we rebooted the phone and it was back to normal, but I was already sweating, although I no longer had to worry about showing up early.

We were let in by a smiling woman with a Dalai Lama pendant and led upstairs in an old-fashioned elevator. Or maybe I should call it a time machine, because as the creaking doors opened, I was inside Dr. Susan Block’s world—there’s no other word to describe it really, because it certainly wasn’t the LA of the Beverly Hills Hotel, Starline Tours and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. The Speakeasy was altogether different, a cavernous loft space that seemed to exist in another dimension—New York City in 1969 perhaps? The smells and sights were straight from the flower child era, the vast, funky eclecticism reminded me very much of the Bowery loft where my sister first lived in 1983 with a collection of bohemian artist friends.

The Speakeasy is many things all at once: part museum, part art gallery, part party space, part living quarters for Dr. Suzy’s laid-back and wonderfully friendly group of pleasure-loving peace-niks. I was cordially welcomed and given a tour of the place by Mar, who also assured me he could call a cab after the show and it wouldn’t require reserving an hour in advance as the Magic Castle-recommended cab company had warned (whew!). In fact, none of Dr. Suzy’s crew drove a car, which confirmed my suspicion that the place was in fact located in some alternate version of NYC.

I was definitely not in a familiar world and yet it was very familiar, too. In many ways, Hollywood and Beverly Hills were “dreams come true” in that places existing only in my imagination were suddenly real. Dr. Suzy’s headquarters was similar in that regard—it was the kind of place we all imagine erotica writers live in or at least frequent for the wild sex parties they shamelessly lift for their next not-so-fictional story. The walls were hung with huge paintings with erotic themes. Glass cases housing arty dildoes were arranged here and there. Countless tapes of past shows with provocative titles were filed on shelves. Superannuated video cameras hung from the ceiling like Christmas ornaments. In fact, it’s always holiday time at Dr. Suzy’s—the bar area has a Christmas tree year round, and of course there’s a bondage cross, a necessity for any happening get-together (I don’t seem to have a picture although I thought I took one—perhaps the spirits wouldn’t allow it?).

In the back was a huge kitchen, obviously equipped to cook for a crowd, and only from here were the lights of LA visible. Huge, old-fashioned meat grinders were fixed to a butcher block table, an entire library of spices filled one wall. Back in the timeless, windowless darkness, I saw some samples of the special pleasure chairs Dr. Suzy designed and sells on her web site. Believe me, they’re even more interesting in motion!

And of course there was Dr. Suzy’s famous bed where she interviews guests for the TV show. I was amused to see the Yalie memorabilia—for God, for country and for Yale, indeed!

The tour was compelling enough that I pretty much forgot I was nervous about being on the radio and before I knew it, I was hooked up with my headphones and microphone and Dr. Suzy was introducing me as tonight’s guest on the show. I have to say this part was the true highlight of the day. First of all, Dr. Suzy has the sexiest voice ever and it was a pleasure to listen to her. Secondly, she clearly had read my book and seemed to have genuinely enjoyed it---which I understand is not very common with hosts (I love Jon Stewart, but would bet he’d only read one of the books by the people he’s interviewed in all the shows I’ve seen). Her intelligence, curiosity and generosity were so very obvious throughout and she made me feel relaxed and interesting (which is key as a host, even if it’s not true). I may not have had the easiest path of book promotion ever, but my radio show hosts have been amazing women!

We got only one caller, a man who was interested in hooking up with an older Japanese woman, and again I was impressed with how Dr. Suzy handled his questions with acceptance and humor. It turns out the show went for 90 minutes, but the time certainly went by fast. Before I knew it, we were off the air and taking our commemorative photos—it would truly be a night to remember!

Mar called the cab, which arrived within ten minutes as promised, and he led me down the back way to the street, flashlight in hand. The unlit stairway felt like another jolt in time and place—now we were in a tenement in 1870s New York or perhaps the set of the movie Scrooge. I kept waiting for a ghostly hearse to drive past us, the driver called “Merry Christmas, Guv’ner.” Once on the street, we spied the cab waiting and I dashed inside with a final thank you. An older Asian man with an expressionless face sat in the driver’s seat. He looked friendly enough, but never smiled. The windows were all wide open and at 1 in the morning, the desert air was moist and cool. After a few blocks, the driver stopped his car in the deserted street and got out. Okay, I was a little bit…concerned. Why were we stopping? But he only meant to raise the windows for my comfort—apparently this could only be done by pulling the window pane up by grabbing the edge with his hand and pulling!

We rolled on through the night, passing lumps of bodies lying on the sidewalks, streetwalkers in mini-skirts posing on the street corners. To be honest, this real and gritty Bladerunner part of LA was just a little too close for my liking, but soon enough we were back on the freeway, racing toward familiar neon-lit Hollywood. The driver pulled up in front of the Magic Castle Hotel and I handed him two twenties, this time my generous tip was from the heart. The night clerk cheerfully handed me my complimentary bottle of chilled water and, still talky, I mentioned I’d been on a radio show. He acted mildly impressed, but didn’t ask more.

I walked past the pool, up to my second floor room, passing through a group of other guests huddled on the stairway smoking and drinking in their own impromptu celebration of life's sensual indulgences. I let myself back into my room and nibbled on the Andes mint that had been left by the turn-down service. Never had I been so glad to be “home.” There’ve been a few times in my life when I’ve been alone in threatening places after dark and I remember them all very clearly—I’ll remember this one, too. But it will be mixed in with a traveler’s wonder at glimpsing another place and in this case another time as well. I do think every erotica writer has a Speakeasy loft inside her head waiting to stage the next edgy adventure. I had the opportunity to step right into it in the flesh and be part of it for a few hours, if only on my own safely voyeuristic terms.

It was a journey I I never thought I’d take—but I’m glad I did. Thanks again, Lydia!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Pleasures of the Dark Side

For those of you who were hoping for the next installment of my Hollywood story, it's coming, oh yes, it's coming. But lots of other fun things have been happening in the past few weeks, and I wanted to make sure you all knew about my latest column over at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association. This month I talk about the Pleasures of the Dark Side: Naughty Schoolgirls, Saintly Pumpkin and the Seductive Shadows Within.

Halloween really is the erotica writer's holiday in my opinion. We all love to dress up and play make believe in the dark, but wouldn't you say erotica writers make it a year-round indulgence? I also talk all about costume play--note the offerings at Hustler Hollywood--and I offer a low-fat, but delicious pumpkin pudding recipe to tease your taste buds in a seasonal manner. Since pumpkin filling usually makes for a gluey bottom crust of a pie, why not save the calories and have your pumpkin in a parfait glass with just a touch of whipped cream and chopped crystallized ginger?

Mmm, I might just have to go and stir up a batch. Except we are still working on my husband's homemade German chocolate brownie birthday cake. Maybe after my New York book tour?

Bon appetit!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Celebrity Revealed: Amorous Hollywood, episode 3

I’ve been mulling over the concept of celebrity recently—when you visit Hollywood, the topic is unavoidable. And so I got to thinking, what is the allure of movie stars after all? What do they really offer us? From one perspective, they are nothing more than attractive people who are good at reading a script someone else wrote and making us believe that a made-up story is real. Isn’t that just a form of lying or selling or both? I always found it sad and laughable that people would write to Robert Young of “Marcus Welby, M.D.” for help with their medical problems. There’s something wrong with this—why are we spectators so gullible, so needy?

But going to Hollywood itself and wandering around some of the places the celebrities live and work gave me a slightly different perspective, partially because I found myself getting caught up in the “Deanna Durbin stuck her feet in this cement—cool—and who is she anyway?” madness as well. And then, well, I am meandering here, but this past Friday night we were watching an episode of “Love American Style” from November 1969 and who should make a brief appearance as “the boyfriend” than Harrison Ford before he was famous. My husband and I started screaming once we figured out who he was, then pushed replay so we could see his scene again. Harrison did a fine job with his lines, but there was little to suggest this bit-player would be a superstar. And yet, it was oddly thrilling to see him at his humble beginnings.

For the same reason, it is strangely compelling to drive past Jackie Chan’s gated house or Cher’s condo, or wander among the graves at Hollywood Forever, or press my shoe over Olivia de Havilland’s footprint at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and see how small her foot was. I am seeing the ordinary humanity of people who’ve been made larger than life by the entertainment industry. And in some cases the excesses as well—you should see dead billionaire Merv Griffin’s space colony mansion perched in the mountains above Hollywood or John Travolta’s absurdly large castle rearing above the trees. “Welcome Back Kotter” led to this? There’s also the thrill of peeking behind the scenes, seeing something we aren’t supposed to see, the workings of the illusion industry, like Toto uncovering the tricks of the Wizard of Oz.

Why do we love celebrities so much? Why do we care? Is it because they’ve become part of our imaginations? The vehicles for our own desires and lusts and longings? Are we in fact worshipping part of ourselves that could be anything and do anything? Am I getting too damn intellectual here? Probably, but if you have any thoughts on the matter, please leave a comment. I love to penetrate mysteries and this is definitely a mystery to me.

Okay, it’s time to get back to the travelogue. After all, I have to get through Friday and Saturday before I tell you about the “climax” of my adventure.

On Friday morning, my sister had booked us on the VIP tour at Warner Brothers (all the tours are VIP) which is reportedly the best studio tour offered. I’d give it very high marks except for the stupid introductory movie, which was just a bombardment of 4-second clips of famous Warner Brothers movies and shows. But then we got to divide up into our groups of about 15 and board a large golf-cart like vehicle—after we turned over our purses and cameras to be kept in a locked compartment. No photos, remember! I liked our guide, Jessica, who gave us lots of information in a matter-of-fact way—she knew her stuff, but wasn’t under any illusions. The tour is very much a demystification—you learn how basic sets are remade for different shows, how “roof-top” scenes are usually shot at ground level, how a four second shot of a TV star entering a building takes an hour to shoot.

For example, we stopped by a working set to watch them film random cars driving down a street while the star walked into a shop. We stood by the line of extras waiting in the electric cars (that make no extra noise) reading the papers until “Action” was called, then they drove at random intervals through the set while about eight ordinary-looking people walked across the street in irregular groupings. A choreographed reality. Then “Cut” was called and it was over. I forget the name of the show—does it matter? But I did have a better understanding of what hard, unglamorous work it is to film a TV show. We also learned that dramas require much longer hours than comedies, which only take four short days of rehearsal and filming per episode. Most have live audiences which are purposely offered candy and sugared soft drinks so they are hyper and laugh more. Makes sense, huh?

We were allowed to take photos in one section of the tour, a sort of car museum which held the latest Batmobile, the car from the second Harry Potter movie and another car from the Matrix. Here I play Agent Smith—hard to tell the difference, isn’t it?

After the tour, we had lunch at Frank and Musso Grill, Hollywood’s oldest restaurant, established in 1919. It was once the power restaurant of choice, an honor now given to The Ivy, but Frank and Musso is still worth a visit. The menu is timeless—I love looking at old menus and this one has all the standard American fare, although the prices have changed over the decades. Jello costs four dollars, chicken ala king is twenty five! I had an omelette with fresh tomato, and I have to admit it was very tasty. The tomatoes were roasted and had a lovely smoky flavor.

Better still was the setting, a wood-paneled room where history lingered. I couldn’t help thinking of the lunch scenes from my current favorite TV show, “Mad Men.” This is definitely the sort of place where Don Draper would have a three-martini lunch with the braised short ribs special. Afterwards we asked the waiter, who was friendly in a surly way, to take our picture—my sister claims it is the first time she’s ever done this in her life, but that’s Hollywood for you, brings out the tourist in us all. The waiter pretended to be annoyed, but when I quipped that we hadn’t tipped him yet, so he should be nice, he laughed.

Dinner Friday was at a Joachim Splichal seafood restaurant called Paperfish. The food was excellent, but the setting was a rather residential area and I wouldn’t say the place was jammed. Too bad, because it was the best food of the trip—I loved my halibut with greens and the olive rolls.

A celebrity’s life is busy if nothing else, but Saturday morning we paid a visit to some celebrities who have a lot of time on their hands at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Peter Lorre, Jayne Mansfield, Don Adams, Nelson Riddle and Art Pepper are buried here, but we didn’t have a map, so our discoveries were hit and miss. We did see the gravestone of Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny and countless other Warner Brothers cartoon characters. We also saw the impressive grave of Cecil B. DeMille. More interesting however, were the marble chapels where the bodies are stacked in rows and columns. Most are from the 1920s and I couldn’t help imagining mourning ladies in cloche hats gathered around to say goodbye to “our dear aunt Frances.”

But as I said, my trip was full of surprises and Hollywood Forever held one of the most amusing. Some of the memorials we saw were not just names carved on marble, but a sort of shadow box of collected items that were important to the departed along with an urn of their ashes. One man’s shadow box had labels from wine wines he’d drunk, another had marathon medals. And then I saw it…the highlight of the cemetery visit.

I was standing in the presence of the memorial to Larry Tate from “Bewitched”! You remember him, the venal ad man, predecessor to “Mad Men’s” Roger Sterling. Larry has a “real” name—David White—but I always like to think of him as Larry Tate. Now, you may not believe this, but getting so close to Larry Tate like this was a sweet surprise. Funny and absurd, too, but somehow more moving than happening upon a more obviously famous dead actor.

After the cemetery, my sister dropped me off at my new hotel, the Magic Castle right in the middle of Hollywood, while she went off to have lunch with a TV star friend of hers (probably best not to mention the name here, but I saw lots of billboards in the neighborhood for the show). My room wasn’t ready and I had a few hours to kill, so I strolled down to Grauman’s Chinese theatre to get one of the famous Starline Tours of the stars’ homes.

The man at the ticket counter was very charming and commented that I had an interesting name. I told him it was even more appropriate because I was a writer. “What do you write?” he asked. I leveled my gaze at him. “Erotic novels.” He smiled. “Wow, my girlfriend and I would be interested in that. Where can I get your book?” I handed him my card, which he admired, and told him the story was set in Japan. It turns out he studies karate and loves Japanese art. Was this another sale? One copy at a time….

I then boarded my air-conditioned mini-bus for a two-hour tour of stars’ homes in Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Bel Air. My one bit of advice—try to sit on the right hand side of the bus, as I did. You get a better shot at the good photos. Now, this blog is going on too long, so I won’t list all of the homes I saw. But highlights for me were Jackie Chan’s house—actually we could see nothing more than his fancy gates—the white mansion used in Gone with the Wind for Tara, and, to keep with the “Bewitched” theme, the houses of Agnes Moorehead and Elizabeth Montgomery.

There was also the Reagan complex, Demi Moore and Bruce Willis living across the street from each other, a funky arty type who had an interesting mail box and George Harrison’s house. And then of course, my very favorite, the home of the Skipper in “Gilligan’s Island.” I don’t even know his name, but that is the one house I’ll remember best—it looks rather like something one of my friends might live in. Maybe that’s why it sticks?

After the tour, I checked into my room at the Magic Castle Hotel—I was in 209 again, which must mean something, I’m not sure what. Is 209 my lucky number, unknown until this day? More on my room and the hotel later. Celebrity doesn’t have much to do with that part of the trip!

Anyway, at around seven thirty, I met my sister for dinner. We were going to do something in Hollywood, but on a Saturday night, the place was packed with partiers, so we decided to drive over to the Farmer’s Market, which was also packed. I had an appointment to be on the Dr. Susan Block radio show that night and my sister would be dropping me off there, then heading back to her hotel to get a few hours of sleep before her return flight to New York early the next morning.

Over dinner in a French bistro, she asked me what the most surprising part of my visit had been. I didn’t have a quick answer, although what I should have said is that I was surprised I was having so much fun. But instead I said that I was surprised the stars of old Hollywood had such small feet. Even I sensed this was not the real answer, but I’m used to inadequate first drafts.

What I would answer now, after time has sharpened my editor’s eye, is that the biggest surprise was my experience with Dr. Suzy and her entourage in deepest, darkest L.A. at midnight that Saturday, a mere hour after the question was posed. Amorous Woman really has taken me to some places I never, ever thought I would go. And for a brief moment there, I wasn’t sure if I would ever make it back home.

Next time: time travel, bondage crosses, and letting it all hang out on blog talk radio