Sunday, February 28, 2010

Craig Sorensen Shines This Sunday

Today at F-Stop we have our first male artist revealing himself and his art in a rich and moving essay "Warm Comforts on Naked Flesh." This photograph of the author in his writer's "zone" was taken by Craig's talented wife, DeDe Sorensen--I just love that spiritual glow. When you read Craig's essay, I'm sure you'll be inspired to expose yourself at F-Stop, too, so hop on over for a true Sunday treat and then put on your thinking cap. We want you naked!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I've Been Tea Bagged!

I just got a Google Alert for a mention at the right-wing blog "Side-Lines" in "Yet Another Liberal Who Loses It by Just Thinking About Sarah Palin." They also post the first paragraph of my Clean Sheets story "Chasing Sarah Palin" followed by some ill-aimed slams of yours truly.

One says: Porn is a writer's way of saying, "I'm out of imagination."

We all know better and if you read the story you see it is very imaginative. (Perhaps it's folks who watch Fox News who are out of imagination?)

But anyway, tea baggers, thanks for reading and bringing my story back into the public eye!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Beauty in the Eye

Well, this week it's my turn over at F-Stop to reveal my "naked I," or at least a few choice body parts. I'd say my first entry falls on the shy, virginal end of the spectrum, but then again I am describing my first experience in public erotic self-expression. We're open to all forms of self-exposure at F-Stop.

Let me know what you think, and get working on your own post for us--pretty please!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Accidental Ambassador

Today I'm making a very special kimono-clad appearance at Yvonne Burton's Japan-U.S. Business blog. I met Yvonne on my New York stop of my Amorous Woman book tour, and we had the most inspiring breakfast at French Roast in the West Village. Every time I talk with Yvonne, I feel so positive, like I really can make the world a better place by telling others what I've learned in my Japan travels. Plus, you know, I used to want to be in the Foreign Service, and in a very strange way my dream has come true.... So check it out and let me know what you think!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

F-Stop Debuts with a Very Naked Truth

It's Valentine's Day, the we celebrate erotic love and chocolate, and what better occasion to kick off our new blog F-Stop: Expose the Naked I? Today Shanna Germain pulls down the sheets to reveal herself in a way that--to take my turn at revelation--grabbed my insides, shook me up and really turned me on. Click on over and see what you think. There will be a new erotic artist revealing her/himself every Sunday, so if you'd like to take it all off with us, drop me an email and start unbuttoning!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Roaring Interview at Logical Lust

This weekend, I have roaring good news to share with you on official blog day. Valentine's Day is tomorrow, bringing not just just chocolates and flowers, but the release of an awesome new erotica anthology, The Cougar Book, edited by Jolie du Pre.

Today I'm interviewed over at the Logical-Lust blog, with some insights into the inspiration for my creamy story, "Comfort Food." It's all about the power of pudding to heal and arouse. Butterscotch pudding, rice pudding and the chef's special pudding. Recipe included. And I have to say the condom on the cover of the book is also especially appropriate for my story!

So stop on by with your spoon in hand and leave a comment if you're in the mood!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

How to Write Good Sex

Can't keep me away from my blog, can you? Well, I'm just popping in to let you know about a very educational interview over at The Loft Literary Center's website called Capturing Chemistry: Writing Good Sex. Veteran erotica writer Catherine Lundoff mentions yours truly as one of her favorite erotica writers in company with some of the best writers in the genre. Thanks so much, Catherine, and by the way, the feeling is mutual!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Amorous Woman at Fleshbot!

Well, just when you thought Lydia had truly taken her vows, she's back to her old tricks at the super-sexy site Fleshbot, with an excerpt from the ever-popular threesome scene with Kimura and Naomi from my novel, Amorous Woman. If you'd like a little nibble of some Japanese delicacies, stop on over and enjoy!

What's in a Name?--A Website for Writers

Okay, this is about my novel. Really. I'm researching names for my third major male character and I found this website which lists the most popular names by year. I own a copy of Beyond Jennifer and Jason as a professional resource (somehow using both Jennifer and Jason a lot in my stories), but this site really is more useful in terms of placing names historically, whether it's Edna in the 1880s or Michael throughout the twentieth century. The real reason I'm here, though, is that I discovered the name Donna was the seventh most popular girl's name of 1961, my birth year. I don't think of it being especially popular (and never really loved the name to be honest), but there you go--I'm popular!

And I have settled on a name for the guy, which is way better than calling him "young guy." Mission accomplished and back to work!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

An Insight About CEO's Who Like to Bottom

So, I was on my walk this morning and somehow I got to thinking about the phenomenon of CEO's or other powerful men who like to be sexually dominated, and sometimes use their great wealth to purchase the services of a dominatrix. I read an article about this in The New Yorker back in the Tina Brown days, and ever since it seems that even minimally savvy people know this is a truth of human nature. How ironic indeed that the powerful yearn to be powerless in their deepest fantasies.

But I got to thinking about this in a different way, especially with regard to my own checkered past as an traditionally ambitious person (I don't consider myself such now). In fact, these "powerful" men are not overturning their basic nature when they kneel before their Mistress. They are simply continuing in their obeisance to an outside power that defines what they should do to be worthy. For indeed even the highest powers in Hollywood, Wall Street and the government have surely had to bend over and take whatever to get where they are, so that they can dish it out to others.

I don't know, maybe this isn't the most earth-shaking epiphany, but it struck me as an enlightening shift of perspective, a fruitful way to challenge "common wisdom." I've been in a questioning, challenging mood recently. Good for novel writing, perhaps?

What do you think? (And pass those cookies, please!)

Monday, February 08, 2010

Crappy Novels and the Years in the Cold

In honor of the big snow storm on the east coast, I thought I'd pass along this essay by Dani Shapiro that I saw reprinted in a friend's "room" at the Zoetrope writing workshop. This essay really touched on a lot of topics I've been pondering recently. It's long, but worth reading. Dani Shapiro is a "literary" writer, but her work has appeared in Best American Erotica as well.

This article is from The Los Angeles Times. And you know, I'm thinking I might need to read Shapiro's new memoir....


In the late 1980s, when I was a graduate student working on short stories and flirting with the idea of a novel, I came across an essay that was being passed around my circle of friends. It was titled "Writing in the Cold: The First Ten Years," and the author was the legendary editor and founder of New American Review, Ted Solotaroff.

Ten years! In the cold! Solotaroff wondered where all the talented young writers he had known or published when he was first editing New American Review had gone. Only a few had flourished. Some, he speculated, had ended up teaching, publishing occasionally in small journals. But most had just . . . given up. "It doesn't appear to be a matter of talent itself," he wrote. "Some of the most natural writers, the ones who seemed to shake their prose or poetry out of their sleeves, are among the disappeared. As far as I can tell, the decisive factor is what I call endurability: that is, the ability to deal effectively with uncertainty, rejection, and disappointment, from within as well as from without."

The writer's apprenticeship -- or perhaps, the writer's lot -- is this miserable trifecta: uncertainty, rejection, disappointment. In the 20 years that I've been publishing books, I have fared better than most. I sold my first novel while still in graduate school and published six more books, pretty much one every three years, like clockwork. I have made my living as a writer, living off my advances while supplementing my income by teaching and writing for newspapers and magazines.

As smooth as this trajectory might seem, however, my internal life as a writer has been a constant battle with the small, whispering voice (well, sometimes it shouts) that tells me I can't do it. This time, the voice taunts me, you will fall flat on your face. Every single piece of writing I have ever completed -- whether a novel, a memoir, an essay, short story or review -- has begun as a wrestling match between hopelessness and something else, some other quality that all writers, if they are to keep going, must possess.

Call it stubbornness, stamina, a take-no-prisoners determination, but a writer at work reminds me of nothing so much as a terrier with a bone: gnawing, biting, chewing, until finally there is nothing left to do but fall away.

I have taught in MFA programs for many years now, and I begin my first class of each semester by looking around the workshop table at my students' eager faces and then telling them they are pursuing a degree that will entitle them to nothing. I don't do this to be sadistic or because I want to be an unpopular professor; I tell them this because it's the truth. They are embarking on a life in which apprenticeship doesn't mean a cushy summer internship in an air-conditioned office but rather a solitary, poverty-inducing, soul-scorching voyage whose destination is unknown and unknowable.

If they were enrolled in medical school, in all likelihood they would wind up doctors. If in law school, better than even odds, they'd become lawyers. But writing school guarantees them little other than debt.

The instant score

Rereading Solotaroff's essay, as I did recently, I found that he was writing of a time that now seems quaint, almost innocent. By the 1980s, he bemoaned, the expectations young writers had of their future lives had "been formed by the mass marketing and subsidization of culture and by the creative writing industry. Their career models are not, say, Henry Miller or William Faulkner, but John Irving or Ann Beattie."

With the exception of Irving, most of the writers referenced by Solotaroff (Beattie, Bobbie Ann Mason, Joan Chase, Douglas Unger, Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Alan Hewat) would draw blank looks from my students, and the creative writing industry of the mid-1980s now seems like a few mom-and-pop shops scattered on a highway lined with strip malls and mega-stores. Today's young writers don't peruse the dusty shelves of previous generations. Instead, they are besotted with the latest success stories: The 18-year-old who receives a million dollars for his first novel; the blogger who stumbles into a book deal; the graduate student who sets out to write a bestselling thriller -- and did.

The 5,000 students graduating each year from creative writing programs (not to mention the thousands more who attend literary festivals and conferences) do not include insecurity, rejection and disappointment in their plans. I see it in their faces: the almost evangelical belief in the possibility of the instant score. And why not? They are, after all, the product of a moment that doesn't reward persistence, that doesn't see the value in delaying recognition, that doesn't trust in the process but only the outcome. As an acquaintance recently said to me: "So many crappy novels get published. Why not mine?"

The emphasis is on publishing, not on creating. On being a writer, not on writing itself. The publishing industry -- always the nerdy distant cousin of the rest of media -- has the same blockbuster-or-bust mentality of television networks and movie studios. There now exist only two possibilities: immediate and large-scale success, or none at all. There is no time to write in the cold, much less for 10 years.

I recently had the honor of acting as guest editor for the anthology "Best New American Voices 2010," the latest volume in a long-running annual series that contains some of the finest writing culled from students in graduate programs and conferences. Joshua Ferris, Nam Le, Julie Orringer and Maile Meloy are just a few of the writers published in previous editions, but now the series is coming to an end. Presumably, it wasn't selling, and its publisher could no longer justify bringing it out. Important and serious and just plain good books, the kind that require years spent in the trough of false starts and discarded pages -- these books need to be written far away from this culture of mega-hits, and yet that culture is so pervasive that one wonders how a young writer is meant to be strong enough to face it down.

The new bottom line

At the risk of sounding like I'm writing from my rocking chair, things were different when I started. My first three books sold, in combination, fewer than 15,000 copies in hardcover. My editor at the time told me there were 4,000 serious readers in America, and if I reached them, I was doing a good job. As naïve as this may sound, it never occurred to me that my modest sales record might one day spell the end of my career. I felt cared for, respected. I continued to be published, and eventually, my sales improved. I wrote a bestselling memoir, appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and published a subsequent novel that found a pretty wide readership. My timing has been good thus far -- and lucky.

But in the last several years, I've watched friends and colleagues suddenly find themselves without publishers after having brought out many books. Writers now use words like "track" and "mid-list" and "brand" and "platform." They tweet and blog and make Facebook friends in the time they used to spend writing. Authors who stumble can find themselves quickly in dire straits. How, under these conditions, can a writer take the risks required to create something original and resonant and true?

Perhaps there is a clue to be found near the end of Solotaroff's essay: "Writing itself, if not misunderstood and abused, becomes a way of empowering the writing self. It converts anger and disappointment into deliberate and durable aggression, the writer's main source of energy. It converts sorrow and self-pity into empathy, the writer's main means of relating to otherness. Similarly, his wounded innocence turns into irony, his silliness into wit, his guilt into judgment, his oddness into originality, his perverseness into his stinger."

The writer who has experienced this even for a moment becomes hooked on it and is willing to withstand the rest. Insecurity, rejection and disappointment are a price to pay, but those of us who have served our time in the frozen tundra will tell you that we'd do it all over again if we had to. And we do. Each time we sit down to create something, we are risking our whole selves. But when the result is the transformation of anger, disappointment, sorrow, self-pity, guilt, perverseness and wounded innocence into something deep and concrete and abiding -- that is a personal and artistic triumph well worth the long and solitary trip.

Shapiro's new book, "Devotion: A Memoir," is just out. She will read at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena on Feb. 24 and Diesel Books in Brentwood on Feb. 26.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

I Love Sex With Strangers

Well, not exactly, but "Sex with Strangers" is title of my guest blog over at the wonderful "Oh Get a Grip!" today. I weigh in on the relative merits of sex versus love in erotica and life, and of course, given my focus on writing new stuff, I tie it all into the theme of "keep writing." I guess I'm just an obsessed would-be second novelist! And special thanks to Ashley Lister for inviting me to be part of the blog, and helping me to decide where I come down on the choice of sex or love. My answer surprised me!

So, I actually made some good progress on my outline this week, thanks to green tea. Honestly, I bought some new premium green tea at my local Japanese grocery store (you all have one of those, too, right?) and the first morning, I was so clear-headed I just sat down and typed out a skeleton outline. I can see why the medieval Japanese monks loved this stuff for meditation! Coffee just makes me jittery. Snapple makes me feel like an aspartame addict. But green tea--the best. And this time my novel isn't even about Japan. In the process, I got a much clearer sense of one of the lovers, almost as if he was sparked to life in my head and started talking to me.

Hmm, I know this makes a writer seem a bit crazy, and maybe we are, but it's a good crazy, ya know?

I hope you all had a good writing week. If you're so moved, head over to "Oh Get A Grip," leave a comment and check out the other wonderful posts on this very pertinent topic.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

A Call to Expose Yourself

I'm very excited to announce a new blog project that Shanna Germain, Neve Black and I are starting up called “F-Stop: Expose the Naked I." Our goal is to create a space for erotic artists working in a variety of media to reveal themselves and promote their work in a sensually and intellectually stimulating way. And we started with our awesomely lush and sexy banner designed by Cyn Sorensen (website TBA).

It is the nature of erotic art to expose hidden truths about sexuality through photographs, paint, or words, but in the process we are also exposing ourselves. At F-Stop we’d like to explore the ways we reveal ourselves both literally “in the flesh” and through our art. Beyond that, we have no restrictions; each guest blogger can explore this as creatively, playfully or seriously as s/he chooses.

Because F-Stop was originally inspired by our own author photographs, we’re planning to inaugurate the blog with a “naked I” series which focuses on the concept of nudity and revelation. We want you to be part of it! Here are a few possibilities for your post: you may feature a photograph with a short blurb describing/explaining/questioning something about the image and/or a piece of your writing that goes along with the image in some way; you can just send an excerpt from your written work with or without an author photograph that is especially revealing; or send artwork or something else that pushes the boundaries of our imaginations. We’ll also include a short bio with links to your website and blog, so this will be a good way to get your name (and other parts of you) out there to new eyeballs.

Btw, a “naked” image doesn’t necessarily mean a full-body boudoir portrait if you’re not comfortable with that--an eye, a hand, lips, a glimpse of shoulder all qualify!

If you’re interested in participating, contact me we’ll put you on the schedule and let you know when your post will go live. We'll be starting the fun on Valentine's Day, of course!

We hope you’ll consider exposing your “Naked I”!

Monday, February 01, 2010

It's My Pleasure

Just wanted to let you all know that an excerpt from my "I Dream of Jeannie" story, "Yes, Master," appeared in Fleshbot's book club feature. This ode to genie power is part of a very spicy anthology edited by Alison Tyler, Pleasure Bound: True Bondage Stories. I'm really thrilled my story was chosen from so many excellent, spell-binding pieces. I probably have Barbara Eden's magic to thank for that!

Clearly I'm preparing for the Big Holiday tomorrow by venturing forth from my groundhog hole into blogland....