Monday, May 26, 2008

Alana Noel Voth Has Great Taste in Fiction!

Well, she does! Just look at her list of stories that lingered, so many of which are on my "can't get 'em out of my mind" list:

Michael Cunningham's "White Angel"

James Joyce's "Araby"

Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried"

Maxine Hong Kingston's "No Name Woman"

Susan Minot's "Lust"

Raymond Carver's "Fat"

To my delight and disbelief, two of my stories made the list as well, "Blinded" and "Ukiyo" (both of which would also make my list of my own favorite stories, interestingly enough).

Making Alana's list is especially meaningful because she writes seriously excellent literary erotica. Her work is emotionally complex, often heart-wrenching, and amazingly insightful about the erotic impulse. "Attempt to Rise" in The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 7 has an artful blend of playfulness and pain that would make any writer envious. "Waif" in I is for Indecent gives "indecency" a new meaning, but you won't understand the full impact of that until the punch-to-the-gut ending (especially for a parent).

You know, I can be a real whiner about the publishing biz and the lack of respect for erotica in our sex-phobic world, but Alana's list, which includes some other wonderfully talented writers like Martha Garvey and Jeremy Edwards, makes me remember what a vibrant and supportive community we have here in our little corner of the literary world. There's no place else I'd rather be!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

See Me in My Undies!

I don't know what's gotten into me recently. Maybe it's the heady thrill of having my novel available in the US? Whatever the reason, I seem compelled to flash pictures of my butt all over the Internet. Tasteful pictures, I hope, but still....

As soon as I got finished posting the hidden seven-eighths of my author photo, featuring what EllaRegina dubbed my "superior posterior," Ms. Alison Tyler, editor and erotica writer extraordinaire, asked me if I'd be up for posting a pic of my undies as part of the Panty Parade on her blog. How could I say no to that?

So I enlisted the aid of my favorite research assistant, aka my husband, and we snapped some photos. First we took a few of my "research drawer" which holds items you might recognize from my stories. It is very neat, but I tend to be methodical in my work. (My house is another matter altogether). Then I put on a favorite pair of leopard print undies from Victoria's Secret and did my impression of a Modigliani model--thanks, Alison, for that very kind comparison.

Come on, admit it, you're curious right? Satisfy that urge right here!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

My Book's In Stock on Amazon US!

Yay! Finally, my book is in stock on Amazon. You can buy it now and it will go in your shopping cart and you can add a few more things and get supersaver shipping and book is really for sale in this country! It's been a long wait.... Somehow this seems like the REAL release date. Time to celebrate--how about homemade cornmeal crust pizza with roasted asparagus and caramelized onions? With a salad of organic lettuce and sweet tomatoes on the side? And naturally, a rustic but satisfying red wine. Come on over and let's celebrate!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Make A Scene: An Interview with Jordan Rosenfeld

I have a lot of writing reference books in my library—A LOT of writing reference books—and I’m rather picky when it comes to adding another one. But after reading Jordan E. Rosenfeld’s Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time, I happily made room in the easy-access “favorites” section of my bookshelf. This is one of those rare a how-to books that not only makes me feel sharper as an editor, it inspires me to dive back into the creative phase of the process, not to mention the humor and flowing prose made it a true pleasure to read. The book is a great resource not just for scene-building but for all the fundamentals of good writing, with checklists, or “muse points,” to help make characters more compelling and plots--even if you write literary fiction!—into the foundation of a page-turner. Beginners will get lots of new information, while veterans (I guess I qualify?) will benefit from stepping back and examining why they do what they do from instinct. This book is invaluable for the editing phase of novel writing—remember, each scene has to earn its place--and I know I’ll be referring to it often!

I’ve asked Jordan to answer a few questions about her book, her writing process and, naturally, her favorite seductive foods.

DGS: Appropriately, your book opens with a compelling scene where Stephanie, an exuberant salsa dance teacher, inspires you to move your body with a grace and energy you didn’t know you possessed. It turns out Stephanie also teaches writing and was the first person to teach you how to write a scene. I love how you express the writer’s task in a way that pulls your all-important first scene together beautifully: “To write well, you must take the readers in hand and teach them how to move to your beat, or follow a mystery, or care about two lovers whose relationship is coming apart at the seams. Your reader must be able to enter your story as if it were the auditorium of a theater, or an empty dance floor with strange music playing.” Did Stephanie teach you any other lessons that you could pass on to aspiring writers?

JR: Well, Stephanie (who sadly passed away a few years ago at the unfair age of 51) was a very unique character—as a person and writer. I was actually quite intimidated by her at first because she was SO confident and bold and sort of devil-may-care. I’d say what she taught me most was not to try to be like any other writer—in other words, we often see a style or a success story and think, “I’ll do that…” in pursuit of success and ignore our own voices. She taught me to proudly claim your own voice and style even if it seems “hard to sell.”

In your chapter on “The Senses” you mention that one of your pet peeves is a lack of scenes with characters eating. I am on a one-writer campaign to redress this balance and I totally agree with you that “taste provides great moments of potential conflict and intimacy.” Do you have favorite “tasting” scenes from your own work or the work of favorite authors you’d like to share as an illustration?

JR: First I love that you’re on a campaign to redress this balance! Fantastic. In my own work I tend to favor using the preparation of food, actually, more often than the tasting of it—I like kitchen scenes. So much potential for drama—fire! Knives! Hot sauce! Family dysfunction! But in my novel The Night Oracle, my character falls for a bartender who likes to mix creative cocktails and even though she’s not a big drinker, she tastes these drinks of his because she’s drawn to him and I felt it was important that she find his creations both unusual and alluring. The absolute most wonderful food scene I’ve ever read is in a book called How to Cook a Tart, by Nina Killham. The main character is a woman in her 40s—a juicy, shameless chef who believes in flavor over diet—and this teenage boy starts to fall in love with her. But rather than giving in to his advances, she cooks him a meal he will never forget—it’s like she makes love to him with food—and then sends him on his way. Oh, what a great scene!

What challenges did you face in writing a “meta” how-to-write book as compared to writing fiction? Was there any chapter that was particularly easy to write or particularly difficult?

JR: Ironically, I find I’m actually rather good at “meta” how-to, because I’m such a know-it-all. I edit manuscripts for a living, as well, so I’m used to being a bit bossy that way. However, it started out easy and got harder and harder because I did come up against a number of ideas where I thought “What do I really know about this? And how can I effectively show what I mean?” The challenge with how-to writing is that you can’t just generally talk about your subject, you have to illustrate and give directions. My editor was constantly asking me, “So what’s the take-away lesson for the reader?” And I’d slap myself on the forehead and try to figure that out.

The hardest chapter, I think, was 23, Your Protagonist’s Emotional Thread. I couldn’t figure out, at first, how to demonstrate the idea that in order for a character to be successful they must be changing and developing scene by scene. In general, the hardest part of writing this book was that I couldn’t just rely upon my basic craft knowledge; I had to constantly bring back the topic to the scene itself.

One of the many riches of this book are the wonderful quotes and examples of great writers’ work. One of my favorites is Paul Auster’s “Every novel is an equal collaboration between the writer and the reader and it is the only place in the world where two strangers can meet on terms of absolute intimacy.” Whew, that’s a real reminder of the power of fiction! Another favorite is Leora Skolkin-Smith’s discussion of the magic of Alice Munro’s work. How long did it take to research and assemble your examples?

JR: Fortunately I was able to pull examples as I went (and it took me a good year to write the book because I did it slowly)—I didn’t have to assemble them in advance. For every chapter where I needed examples I would literally hit the library and check out books I had already read that I knew were in line with the topic. Or, if necessary, I’d buy them from the bookstore where I worked part time (I spent a lot of time just skimming books I’d read). In fact, as an aside, one day I checked out like 20 books at the library and the librarian says, “Are you really going to read all of those?” And I said, “No, I already have!” Needless to say she gave me a weird look. The epigraph quotes were actually harder to find than other examples because I wanted them to really capture the essence of the chapter. The Auster quote is one of my favorites now; I read it to students when I teach workshops as a reminder of that very important truth. I was otherwise really, really fortunate to have some great author contacts and friends willing to give me those “scene-stealer” analyses of fiction they’d read.

In Chapter 17, “Action Scenes,” you write “The American action movie has changed the way people think about action, and not necessarily for the better…actions can be smaller and more personal…” Do you think Hollywood has had a detrimental effect on the expectations of agents, publishers and readers in the current market?

JR: I don’t know if it’s fair to place all the blame on Hollywood for the changing expectations of agents/publishers and readers, but it has definitely had an impact. I think many people now want books to do what movies do, which, to me, means to bypass acts of imagination—after all, when we read, even if there are specific visual details, our minds have to flesh them into being and no two readers will envision the same. I think this has spiked the sales of commercial fiction and put yet another nail into the already heavy literary fiction coffin. I also think that the internet/TV are as much to blame as movies—especially the internet where everything is available instantly. We’re becoming a literal, visual culture that likes shortcuts. Books don’t allow for shortcuts (unless you speed read) so naturally agents/ editors are paying attention to what sells.

I can see myself referring to Make a Scene again and again as I write. Do you refer to it when you write fiction? Is there any particular section you look to most? Or would recommend to a beginning writer to focus on?

JR: I do actually refer to my own book—to refresh myself when I’m stuck somewhere in my own writing (and often I barely remember writing it). For beginning writers I think the first two parts of the book, “Architecture of a Scene” and “Core Elements” are really crucial, especially if the scene is still a murky concept. I wrote this book because I realized that I’d written for a long time before I understood what a scene was, and it wasn’t until I began to actively write scenes that my fiction became sharper, for lack of a better word, a symptom I see often in my clients’ writing. I also recommend the final part of the book, creatively called “Other Scene Considerations,” to new writers. The Scene Types section is going to be more useful to the intermediate and advanced writer.

Describe your dream writing project (marketability doesn’t matter here)—and what is next for you as a writer?

JR: Hmmm. I’ve been really attracted to this crossover fiction often called “fantastic” or “surreal” fiction in which reality gets played with, though the writing is still relatively literary, and it doesn’t get shelved as “fantasy.” Everything I’ve been writing in the last couple years seems to be dipping into this, and though I’ve had a couple good attempts—my agent tried to sell one of my novels and we came really close, but no cigar—I feel I haven’t landed the right concept yet. My dream project is to find that story, write it impeccably well and sell it J So that will also hopefully be my next project. I’m trying to finish the draft of another novel I wrote a year ago that does have fantastic elements, but it’s sort of kicking my butt. For non-fiction, I’d love to be paid to do the kinds of interviews I do for Writer’s Digest magazine but for much bigger money and far more often, and it can extend beyond just authors. Essentially I want Terry Gross’s job, of NPR’s “Fresh Air”—but in print rather than on the radio. I love interviewing people.

Actually, I could probably use some tips from you on that, too! Finally, I can’t let an interview go by on “Sex, Food, and Writing,” without asking you to describe a perfect meal that would be guaranteed to seduce you—at least into an intimate discussion of the writing life by candlelight, if you have other commitments that don’t allow for more....

JR: Truth be told, I’m not a foodie though I love to eat. And I’m a grazer rather than a big ole’ meal type of eater. But the kind of food that would seduce me into a heated conversation about writing and life (being a happily married girl) might involve a salad of warm goat cheese, beautifully ripe sliced apricots and almonds, fresh spinach and balsamic vinegar with freshly baked bread and creamy butter on the side. I’m far more likely to swoon over a dessert though—caramel ice cream with ripe raspberries and dark chocolate shavings or something…

Mmmm, I just bought a new Cuisinart ice cream maker and have several good ice cream cookbooks in my library. If I find a good caramel ice cream recipe, I owe you a great big dish for this delicious conversation! Thanks for stopping by, Jordan, and best of luck with your future projects.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Peek Into My Boudoir--The Secret Revealed

Okay, so I'll admit my author photo is a wee bit aged...but better for it, like a fine wine, I think. Not that I ever really walked around in all that lipstick with moussed up hair anyway, but erotica writers do need an aura of glamour, don't we? Not to mention mystery. But I'm in the mood for some revelation today, as a break from sending out invitations to my reading and brunch. (Writing a novel is SO easy compared to promoting it). As you can see, my author photo was not a head shot, but captured my entire body in repose against a length of white satin. I suppose the tale of my boudoir photo session might be worth telling some day, but since I have to get back to promotional activities, this will be all for today. At least you have the whole visual story--although I guess you have to tell me if the end is happy or not!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Book Party for Amorous Woman

Celebrate the Amorous Woman!

My new novel, Amorous Woman, will be released in the US at the end of May. Please join me for brunch and a reading to celebrate!

When: Sunday, June 8, 2008 from 11 to 1

Where: Berkeley, CA. Contact me at for details

What: Nibble some sushi and sip tea or a sake-infused brunch beverage while I read a brief excerpt from my novel followed by an intellectually stimulating discussion of Japan, gender roles, sex, lies and amorous women the world over

About the Book:

Amorous Woman is the story of an American woman’s love affair with Japan and her intimate relationships with the many men and women she meets along the way. First-time novelist Donna George Storey, a widely published literary and erotica writer who holds a Ph.D. in Japanese literature, challenges the boundaries of culture and genre in this modern remake of Ihara Saikaku’s classic 17th century novel of the pleasure quarters, The Life of an Amorous Woman. Wise-cracking Lydia—the modern Amorous Woman—delves beneath the surface of Japanese society in her roles as English teacher, wife, bar hostess, and the mistress of a wealthy man. Described by critics as “rich with sensual detail, humor, and emotional complexity,” “hard to put down,” and “literary erotica at its best,” the novel will change your image of Japan—and erotica—forever.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A "Bless"-ed Review of Amorous Woman

Just when all the work of book promotion was getting me down, I had a wonderful surprise in the form of a new and wonderfully intelligent review of Amorous Woman by Janine Ashbless, whom I first met over at Lust Bites. We also rubbed shoulders in Alison Tyler's I is for Indecent, and I must admit, indecent as it is, that her flagship story "Wet" really lingered with me. Whew, yes, some of the details of the story are just so vivid....excuse me a moment.

Okay, I'm not in the stairwell of a car park anymore, skirt raised, my taupe silk and lace panties abandoned, I'm back at my desk being very serious and focused ;-). So, anyway, because I admire Janine's work so much, it's especially cool that she liked--and "got"--my novel. I know that some erotica writers can get pretty jaded as readers, too, so I don't take this for granted. In fact, I know my colleagues are a tougher audience. So when words like this come my way, I'm a happy little smut writer indeed. Here's a teaser, click on over to Janine's blog for the whole tamale!

"My tolerance for contemporary erotic memoirs is normally pretty low but this author managed to keep my interest to the end, with her skilful interweaving of modern Japan, with all its contradictions, with the personal journey of a restless soul. A really fascinating read."

Thanks, Janine, I'm glad I could return the favor!

Friday, May 09, 2008

An Amorous Interview by the Queen of Cool

Click on over to Susan DiPlacido's blog to read her interview with me on the topic of Amorous Woman, sex in Japan, writing and Jimmy Hoffa. Susan is one of the coolest writers and people I know and so it's a huge honor for me to be interviewed on her blog this week among the latest scoop on "American Idol." Please leave a comment if you have the time!

Susan's blog has other good news, her awesome short story collection, American Cool, (believe me, it is WONDERFUL and sizzling with lots of very HOT stories) was named runner-up in the romance category at the Beach Book Festival. Congratulations, Susan!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

More Random and Shocking Facts About Me!

I’ve been tagged by Kay Sexton and I have to say I enjoy these “random fact” lists. It’s kind of an excuse to show and tell. This time the number is six, all random, all true!

ONE: I own a very sexy Tupac T-shirt, which my son wore to school and shocked his friends by saying it was his mom’s

TWO: My first paying prose publication was for a breastfeeding magazine

THREE: I read The Godfather in fifth grade—my introduction to sex scenes was the stand-up encounter between Sonny Corleone and Lucy Mancini at Connie’s wedding

FOUR: Farmer’s markets turn me on

FIVE: I’ve never had a good (romantic) experience with a guy named “Tom”

SIX: My happy juice of choice is a rustic, reasonably-priced red wine, although I’ll endure the expensive stuff on special occasions!

I'll tag my six victims soon--got to get their okay first!

A Great Interview with John Lennon

I posted a link to my column over at my online writers' workshop, Zoetrope, and a friend pointed me to a great interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono by Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn in 1971. You can read the interview here or check out a print version in Tariq Ali's Streetfighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties.

John is very candid about being a Beatle, religion, politics, feminism and more!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

John Lennon Ate Here

I'm a bit late with my announcement, but I wanted to let you know that my May column is up at the Erotic Readers and Writers Association--John Lennon Ate Here: Fabulous Feasts, Fertile Fantasies, and "Following the Pen." I was always a "John girl" (aren't all writers?) and, although I'm not a celebrity hound about it, I was pleased to discover I was having lunch at a restaurant in the countryside near Kyoto where John and Yoko had dined in 1977. Of course, I also talk about sex and the traditional Japanese style of essay writing. Best of all, there are lots of mouth-watering pictures of Japanese food of the sort John himself enjoyed....

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Dirty Girls, Dirty Words and Kickass Cupcakes

So, I just wanted to report that I had a great time at the reading for Dirty Girls on Monday night. It was wonderful to have friends there to support me, the venue was a cool bar with red velvet banquettes and sake cocktails, and it was absolutely transporting to hear all the writers bring their stories to life with their sexy, expressive voices. (See the rest of the photos here.)

Rachel (far right--you know who she is) started off the reading with an excerpt from her introduction, which really does capture the wonderful variety of themes in the anthology. I think I fall into the "sultry sirens intent on performing on a sexual stage of their own creation" least my story has lots of sexuality on stages anyway.

Melissa Gira (far left in the photo) went next with her beautifully lyrical "A Prayer to Be Made Cocksure"--it was even better when read with the passion and poetry Melissa brought to the mike. I chuckled in places when I read Gina de Vries' (center) "The Next Thing," but her performance brought the house down at times, when she wasn't tugging heart strings with the poignant scenes in her tale. I went next and read one section of my fairly long story--Dreams Before Bedtime, where the narrator fantasizes about what sex was like seventy years ago at the time of the Chicago World's Fair. It's one of my favorite parts of my story, so it was fun to read. Carol Queen (second from right) delivered her lighthearted and very sexy story, "Shocking Expose! Secrets Revealed!" with such energy and verve, it was absolutely contagious.

It was a real thrill to be part of such a talented group and to chat afterwards. Oh, I can't forget the cupcakes. I sampled the red velvet cupcakes--devil's food cake with chocolate chips and a tangy frosting--and the sunken lemon cupcakes that had this wonderfully crispy edge and a moist, tart-sweet center. They were just fabulous and I might have to cook up an event of my own so I can order a bunch more (Sharlene's Babycakes only does special orders).

Anyway, I had such fun, I'm a little less scared about my own reading on June 17. Except of course I'm still worried absolutely no one will show up. But I wouldn't be the first author to suffer such a fate--it'll make me more of a seasoned pro, no?

I am going to try to get to more readings, even if I'm not behind the mike. It's VERY inspiring!