Monday, June 30, 2008

Two Sparkling Reviews of Amorous Woman

I wanted to announce—with a big huge happy smile--two new reviews of Amorous Woman. The first appeared on Cocktail Reviews, a long and luscious (and perceptive) reading by Singapore Sling who awarded me a whole bottle of Moet et Chandon. Which I promptly drank right up! Singapore Slings are actually my favorite mixed drink, probably because I remember my older sister talking about drinking a few at El Tio Pepe in Washington D.C. her freshman year of college. When the waiter realized she was underage, he gave her free coffee. I like to pretend I’m at the Raffles Hotel, where the potion was invented, when I drink my lovely pink drink. Now I’ll always think of this wonderful review!

The other review, brief but eloquent, is a total thrill for me. Erotica Revealed reviewer Kathleen Bradean mentioned my book on her blog yesterday.

All I can say is--Wow.

Lydia is still on the loose, and given her loose behavior, I’m afraid she’s going to throw herself at some married man. But fortunately, two very insightful reviewers were able to read her story before she escaped--so I'll console myself with some more champagne. Your loss, Lydia, I would have shared!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lydia Escapes!

Oh, my, I've got a BIG problem! I was all ready to head off to the next stop on my Amorous Woman blog tour, and of course, went to dip into the novel for the perfect excerpt when--to my shock and horror--I discovered that Lydia has escaped! She's gone. No sign of her. The big chunks of missing text are worrisome enough, but I know that girl can get up to some major trouble when she's on her own and feeling frisky.

The problem is, I think she's just discovered the Internet, and how easy it is to flit around the world that way. She's definitely not doing the nun thing anymore, so she's doubtless on the prowl for some good times. I certainly wouldn't want to endanger any of my friends' primary relationships because of that copper-haired vixen's shameless behavior. So keep an eye out for her--and do inform me of any cyberspace sightings. I can't rest until that wayward trollop is back where she belongs!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Erotic Haiku--Show Off Your Briefs

So, they’re having an erotic haiku contest over at Lust Bites and of course as the author of an erotic book about Japan, I felt duty-bound to compose a few poems. I also had fun doing it, too. Something about counting syllables (5-7-5) gives you a focus that allows surprising images to sneak into your head. Just as fun was reading the other entries for the contest. One of my favorites is by Jeremy Edwards—very sensual and cozy. Jeremy always makes me smile!

Buttocks on my lap—
Squirming heaven, oven-warm.
My playbill wrinkles.

Here are the two I composed on my morning walk, counting fives and sevens on my fingers:

Love hotel lobby
The bondage rooms all taken
Sunday in Tokyo

"I'll wash you," he says
Soapy hands between my thighs
Men's bath at midnight

Now, these are by no means classic haiku. They don’t have a seasonal word (kigo), for example. The classic haiku has a seasonal word, which doesn’t have to be as obvious as “cherry blossom” for spring. However, you do have to be aware of whether your word conjures early spring, mid spring or late spring. A frog suggests the entire spring season, but a colt conjures late spring. Cats “in love” are early spring (a good image for an erotic haiku?). Check out The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words—it’s oddly compelling reading.

The classic haiku also has a certain dynamic that I’m not sure my poems achieve. Ready for a quick haiku lesson? You’ve probably seen this famous poem by Matsuo Basho, the great 17th century haiku poet:

The ancient pond
A frog leaps in
The sound of the water

The translation isn’t five-seven-five, but the original was, so trust me on that. Anyway, back in haiku grad school, my teacher told me that this poem illustrates the classic haiku dynamic: a fixed situation, a surprising action, the consequence of the action. And it does so literally, which makes it a favorite example for teaching. Still pond, restless frog, PLOP! Not all famous haiku express this in exactly the same way, but I mention it here to suggest that there’s more to haiku than just syllable counting. But pop over to Lust Bites and you’ll see exactly what I mean! You can enter the contest until June 27--and don't forget to add a few haiku in the comments right here on sex, food, writing or all three for our own little poetry party.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Lusty Ladies in Their Prime

I have a number of publications coming out this summer and one of the most exciting and definitely most fun to write is my story “The First Time” which appears in the newly-released 39 and Still Holding, edited by the fabulous Robin Slick. I’m very excited to be in one of Robin’s anthologies—she’s been a great mentor and inspiration over the years. We first met a number of years ago through the Zoetrope online workshop, where I was absolutely enthralled by early drafts of Robin’s wonderful, funny and very erotic novel, Three Days in New York City. She and I subsequently went on to appear in the same issue of In Posse Review and both used the image of a heart-shaped ass—pure coincidence and proof positive that great minds think alike.

The line up of authors in 39 and Still Holding is very impressive, and I’m especially excited to be in the company of another talented Zoetrope workshop mate, Kay Sexton. So, if you’re interested in some very hot stories about women who know exactly what they want and how to get it, check it out—you can read an excerpt of my story here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hot and Sexy on the Haight: Booksmith Rocks!

So, you want to know how my reading of Amorous Woman went at The Booksmith in San Francisco last night? I’d have to say it went very well and I’m so glad I did it for all kinds of reasons. Although right before the event I confessed to my co-reader, Liza Dalby, that I wasn’t sure why I’d voluntarily signed up for such an ordeal. In fact, at that moment, I wasn’t sure why I’d even been born.

But the moment of panic quickly passed. After all, I’ve done readings before. I’ve even done readings where I describe sexual encounters in lingering, loving detail using many dirty words. And I’d recruited, not to say begged, my friends, my kids’ teachers, my former college professors, and talented writer colleagues in the area to come hear me speak. I owed them a good performance!

I’m happy to say, it worked out fine. The gracious Liza Dalby, the only American to train as a geisha—and it shows in both her elegance and her lovely prose—opened the evening by reading a passage from her Japanese-style memoir, East Wind Melts the Ice. I really do love this book, which is a combination of follow-the-brush essays and an almanac of the seasons, blending ancient Chinese seasonal concepts with Japanese versions of the same and a modern Berkeley translation as well. For those with an armchair traveler’s and/or gardener’s interest, you’ll be enchanted by all you learn. For those of you who know Japan, it is full of nostalgia, but also many enlightening tidbits about Japanese history and culture. The particular passage Liza read was a favorite of mine because it gives a glimpse into the more tangibly romantic aspects of her encounter with Japanese culture back in her Geisha days. Liza also taught us a Japanese term for female orgasm mimizu senbiki (a thousand worms). “The quaking and wriggling of a thousand worms twisting together. Exactly.”

Liza and I had planned it so she provided a provocative appetizer while I served up a hot and steaming main course. I then read the scene from my novel where Lydia’s wealthy lover, Kazu Kimura, treats her to a night at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo where a very special “gift”—in the form of a lovely Eurasian prostitute--awaits her. I had a good time reading it and my audience was wonderful. In every corner of the room was an engaged, smiling face to serve as an anchor for my gaze. The crowd was a modest but respectable fifteen or so but they were the best, and so cool to make time in their busy schedules for my reading. And the question-and-answer period afterwards was intelligent and lively, not a stumper in the bunch. Fortunately I had the help of Japan veterans Liza, Wendy Tokunaga (author of Midori by Moonlight) and my dissertation adviser, Susan Matisoff, to add valuable insights. As I said at the reading, we provided a very Japanese-style consensus by committee.

It was easy to do my best at The Booksmith under the utterly charming and consummately professional guidance of Thomas Gladysz, the events coordinator. After the discussion, Liza and I adjourned to a real, live author signing table with really nice pens! I also signed some extra stock, which is one of The Booksmith’s specialties. You can get signed copies of many newly-released books. They are so supportive of authors, even newbie eroticists like myself, and I urge everyone to shop there and of course buy lots of copies of signed books, especially mine! Okay, so I’m slipping into whiny, self-pitying artist mode here, but too often people on the business side of publishing don’t treat writers with respect. Thomas and The Booksmith were awesome and if you’re a writer or you love a good book, please reward them and their fellow independent booksellers with your business.

In the popular culture, a “successful writer” is one who makes lots of money. But I have to say that in my odyssey of book promotion I’ve found real wealth in the generosity of so many other wonderful writers, reviewers and booksellers. In that regard, Amorous Woman has made me very, very rich indeed.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

AW Blog Tour: Can Men Write Erotica?

The next stop on my fabulous Amorous Woman Internet Tour is the blog of Craig Sorensen, one of the most exciting new voices in the erotica world today. Craig is a gold member of that very exclusive club, Men Who Can Write Sex Scenes That Don't Make Me Roll My Eyes But Are Actually Intelligent Not To Mention Hot or MWCWSSTDMMRMEBAAINTMH for short. Craig definitely has a way with words, so check out his musings on "eroticists" and sexy writing here.

By the way, don't you think he looks a bit like Carlos Santana?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dr. Erotica Returns to Princeton

I’ve been so busy with book promotion, I haven’t had a chance to give you all a report on my trip back to Princeton for my 25th Reunion. I’m pretty sure the twenty-fifth is the most attended reunion for Princeton graduates. I didn’t check statistics, but when I signed the book, the number of attendees was close to five hundred, about half of the graduating class. And we’re not just talking a dinner with some speeches. Reunions weekend started on Thursday, May 29 with a public service project and ended on Sunday, June 1 with a nice brunch in the brand-new Whitman College dining hall with made-to-order omelets and plenty of roasted asparagus left over from the Italian dinner the night before.

In between, I showed my kids the lovely Princeton campus—with many new additions since my day. We attended some great talks like the panel with prominent Princeton alum journalists, including Todd Purdham who later appeared on the JetBlue TV screen on our return trip, defending his hard-hitting expose of Bill Clinton (Purdham seemed like such a sweet man!) in Vanity Fair. We went to the Triangle Show, where I once worked stage crew back in the day, and I have to admit it’s gotten much funnier and edgier than when an old vaudeville guy named Milton directed the show with the conservative tastes of the old alums foremost in his mind. The climax of the weekend was of course the P-rade, where our great class of 1983 led the way through the main gate and on down through campus to the soccer field in our new orange and black blazers, to be followed by contingents from the major reunions and finally the frisky class of 2008, who were learning how to be Princeton alums before they'd even graduated. Princeton is after all a lifetime commitment.

I can’t leave out mention of the food, which is also improved since my days working reunions. I remember steak, baked potatoes and limp green beans. For dessert, frozen cheesecake, which I remember prying apart and putting on plates as part of my duties. I liked working reunions because the alums would wink at me and say, “golly, I wish we had girls at Princeton back in my day.” By coincidence as James and I were walking out to the class dinner at the bucolic grad college, an older alum called out cheerily to us, “that's a good-looking jacket…and a good-looking wife.” Perhaps I should have been offended, but it all seemed charmingly nostalgic instead.

But back to the food…so instead of steak we had chicken breast with mango salsa and grilled vegetables and green beans steamed al dente with feta cheese and cherry tomatoes. The cheesecake was still on the menu, but one had several choices—chocolate cherry or oreo cookie or lemon. Breakfast sucked though—just bagels and muffins, coffee and juice. My body can’t take a carb-only start to the day any more….I’ll talk more about the delicious reception at my eating club in another post, which I came to realize, is the real root of my foodie flowering.

I’ve covered buildings and food, but, yes there were people at reunions, too. Besides a contingent of roommates I’ve kept in touch with regularly over the years, I did get a chance to chat with some friends I haven’t seen in many years. I even sold a few of them a copy of my book, although once at Princeton I felt suddenly shy about broaching the subject with people who knew me before I turned into Dr. Erotica. My most surprising and fun sale was to the fiancé of a friend of my roommate, a therapist who told me to sign the book “to the guy I just met, thanks for the $8.” And I did.

Perhaps strangest of all is that I discovered my college age self is still alive inside me. She still dislikes loud, big parties that reek of beer but also finds they fill her with that same bittersweet sense of yearning. She still recognizes so many faces among her classmates and wishes she could know more of them better but doesn’t have the courage to make the first move. She’s still able to endure the hardships of college life with aplomb—bunk beds, bathrooms down the hall, public laundries (although in Whitman College they are inside and FREE!) She still finds Princeton achingly beautiful and yet somehow remote, just out of reach, but always promising something, something she can never quite grasp.

Another interesting note—the class of 1983 is on the same reunion schedule as the class of 1973, the first Princeton class to have women graduates who’d attended all four years. Now they have two styles of reunion jackets, the regular boxy cut for men, a tailored style for women.

Princeton really does do quite a job with their reunions. Three and a half days of dinners, parades, dancing, drinking, air-kissing. I wonder if any other college puts on such a long, elaborate party? Has anyone else gone back to a college reunion—and what was it like? Were you glad you went? I am glad I went, but I don’t see myself going back to Old Nassau until my fiftieth if I make it that long. Until then I’ll put my orange and black jacket and straw hat in storage (to be taken out for Halloween now and then). But between now and then I’ll no doubt think of Princeton—as lovely a setting as you could ask for to endure your adolescent angst.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Special "Amorous" Issue of Clean Sheets!

The next stop on my shinkansen express blog tour for Amorous Woman is the big, beautiful erotica mecca Clean Sheets! I'm a huge fan of this magazine, known since its founding for first-rate erotic literature. They were also the first erotica venue to publish me back in 2003. The story I wrote for their first contest "The New Libertine" took first prize and went on to make Best American Erotica 2006 in a longer form under the title "Ukiyo." As you see, Clean Sheets represents a lot of "first's" for me!

But enough about the past. This week Clean Sheets is running three features about Amorous Woman. Leading the way, a review by Gwen Masters, one of my very favorite erotica writers. Praise from Gwen is high praise indeed! There's also an illustrated travelogue of photos of settings from Amorous Woman that I took during my trip to Japan in April. Wanna see where Lydia fell in love with the elegant dentist? The hot spring bath where she got into mischief? The streets of Gion where she escaped to indulge in seedier adventures? Or perhaps you'd like to climb the red stairway to the "Banana Room" and see what mysteries lie within to tickle your banana?

Finally, the Pillow Fiction section has my brand-new, never-before-seen story "The Day the Sun Goddess Got Laid" which is a riff on an ancient Japanese myth, with a decidedly erotic twist. Come frolic with the Japanese gods on the High Plain of Heaven. Things get pretty wild up there....

So stop by Clean Sheets and do leave a comment saying how wonderful and talented you think I am (but only if you mean it, of course!)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

UK Forum Gives Kudos to Amorous Woman!

Book promoting is a seriously hard work, but sometimes you get a sweet reward for all of that running around mailing out review copies. I just learned that Amorous Woman got a very positive review in UK Forum, by the editor Elizabeth Coldwell herself. This is especially thrilling because Ms. Coldwell's opinion is very well-respected and she's read lots and lots of erotic fiction, so she knows provocative fiction like no one else. I broke open a bottle of bubbly for this one, let me tell you. Here's the review:

"Having been turned on to the pleasures of sex by her female cousin, Lydia takes a job in Japan and falls in love with the country as well as the men who live there. However, her marriage to salaryman Yuji quickly begins to lose its luster when she discovers they can’t have children, and eventually she finds herself embarking on a string of affairs before taking a job in a hostess bar. And all the time, she is haunted by the erotic spectre of the fantasy man she created in her mind as a teenager to guide her sensual pleasure, and whose flesh-and-blood form she seems to be seeking among the older men to whom she is inevitably attracted…

Like her heroine, Donna George Storey has lived and worked in Japan and this, her first novel, is a perfect example of writing about what you know. Not only are Lydia’s adventures lusciously and erotically described, so is the Land of the Rising Sun itself. As for Lydia, she follows the well-trodden path of expanding her sexual experience via same-sex trysts, threesomes and bondage, but there’s a freshness to the descriptions and a coming to terms with her needs and desires which lifts her beyond the two-dimensional. A highly enjoyable read. E.C."

Here, I'll get a glass for you and we can all toast UK Forum and amorous women and highly enjoyable reads! Kampai!

Monday, June 09, 2008

My Book Party was a Great Success!

Yesterday marked the inaugural event of my Amorous Woman “in the flesh” book tour—a sushi brunch and reading/discussion of the book at my friend Sharon’s beautiful house in the Berkeley hills with a stunning view of the Bay and the famous bridges. I love my little craftsman bungalow, but the lighting is nowhere near as lovely for a book party. So thank you, Sharon, for providing the perfect venue for my book launch. Big huge thanks go to my friend and mentor, Autumn Stephens (author of the Wild Women series and editor of the amusing and thought-provoking anthologies Roar Softly and Carry a Great Lipstick and The Secret Lives of Lawfully Wedded Wives, for organizing the party and encouraging me to celebrate my achievement. I wouldn’t have done it without her!

Twenty guests helped themselves to sushi, New York style mini-bagels with a really nice lox cream cheese, shrimp shumai and vegetable gyoza, a pile of sweet strawberries and melon, rice crackers, mimosa and Japanese teas, hot or iced. Special guests included fellow Japan writers Liza Dalby, author of Geisha, The Tale of Murasaki, and East Wind Melts the Ice, and Wendy Nelson Tokunaga, author of Midori by Moonlight. Liza and I will be reading together at The Booksmith on June 17, so if you missed the brunch, come on down to the Haight for some hot Japan-inspired prose.

I’ll admit I was so busy getting ready for the brunch—dashing off to the Chinese grocery store for the dumplings, ordering the sushi, making sure my dark blue cheong sam was ready to slip into to make a good impression—that I didn’t really have time to prepare my introductory comments. I spent the spare moments the morning of the brunch mumbling to myself about how I would open the talk and fortunately came up with a sort of dumb joke. And so, as noon approached, I called the guests to assemble, took my place before the picture window with the sparkling San Francisco Bay behind me and began to speak.

Yes, there should be pictures, but my sainted husband was too busy steaming dumplings to do the honors. So just imagine—I looked good. I looked very good—sexy, slinky, superb!

I started off by thanking everyone for coming then went on to describe my fantasy of what it would be like before to write a novel before I wrote a novel. I pictured myself slaving away at my computer for months on end, lost in an artist frenzy. Of course I’d have to develop some addiction, to cigarettes or whisky or maybe diet Snapple, which is what actually happened as I was writing Amorous Woman. Then I’d go through the inevitable struggle to find a publisher, but once that happened, things would proceed apace and one wonderful day a box of my books would arrive at my doorstep and I’d hold my newborn baby novel in my hands—the happy ending to my story.

What I didn’t realize of course was that the publication of the book was just the beginning—as birth is just the beginning of parenting. The next part of becoming an author involves promoting the book, which is quite a switch for a person who prefers to sit alone at the computer in my pajamas and make up stories. However, in spite of the challenges selling my book and myself, I also discovered that connecting with readers and other writers, who have been INCREDIBLY supportive, has been so enriching to my spirit. I’ve come to realize that writing isn’t just a solitary endeavor. When someone reads my novel, they are giving me the gift of their time and attention, much more so than when they read a short story—although I’m grateful for that, too, of course! But, to borrow an analogy from the erotica genre, a short story is like a quickie encounter with a stranger. A novel is like an all-out affair.

So, I said some stuff like this, then introduced my book and my inspiration, Ihara Saikaku’s The Life of an Amorous Woman. Then I read one of the only PG-rated passages in the book, where Lydia has a flirty blowfish dinner with a patron of the hostess club where she works in chapter nine. Afterwards we had a very nice discussion about various aspects of the novel, stereotypes of Japan and erotica writers, differing reactions to the cover by men and women and other juicy topics. As a sweet finale, the guests were treated to three different kinds of my homemade cookies, which are pictured above—yin-yangs (half vanilla dough with chocolate chips, half chocolate dough with white chocolate chips), chewy pecan squares (brown sugar caramel with pecans on a shortbread crust) and Finnish spoon cookies (browned butter dough shaped with my grandmother’s wedding spoons from 1919 and sandwiched with raspberry jam). These treats are half of my famed Christmas cookie boxes and were apparently a big hit with the guests. I also signed some books. Many thanks to those who bought a copy or several!

When I published my first book, Child of Darkness: Yoko and Other Stories by Furui Yoshikichi, I gave away a lot of copies to family and friends. Some of the latter didn’t realize I was the translator until much later! But I didn’t do any kind of party or public acknowledgment of the book. Fortunately I had a chance to make up for that with Amorous Woman. And I’m very glad I did!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

A VERY Sexy Interview, Capone-style

My Amorous Blog Tour 2008 continues with a stop at the blog of Don Capone, author of Into the Sunset and honcho at Rebel Press.

It was a really fun interview, fully illustrated with photographs--don't miss the captions. And I have to say that photo of Ken Watanabe is HOT!

(There are some familiar favorite photos of me, too--and my thanks to Alison Tyler for making it possible!)

I discuss how NOT to write an erotic scene, Amorous Woman's future on HBO as "Sex and the City" set in Japan and why I chose fiction over memoir to immortalize my Japan experiences. Who knew a blog tour could be so much fun!

Check it out here and please leave a comment!

Friday, June 06, 2008

First Stop on the Amorous Blog Tour

My book is out in the US and it's time to head out on my blog tour! I've got some exciting stops planned, with a few in-person events along the way, and I think it is extremely appropriate that I start off right with a visit to the blog of Jolie du Pre, a wonderful erotica author and editor of Iridescence: Sensuous Shades of Lesbian Erotica.

Jolie has been a enthusiastic supporter of my work since I started writing and a fount of wisdom about the publishing biz since way back. She also asks some great interview questions that really got me thinking. I talk about the lessons I learned writing my first novel--tips anyone can use--the genesis of Amorous Woman and what lies ahead in my writing future. I've also posted a brand-new and very provocative excerpt. Please do stop by to read my interview on Jolie's blog and leave a comment!