Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What's Your Sign, Baby?

The May-June columns are up early over at ERWA including my offering, "Getting to Know You: Character Profiles, Star-Gazing Shortcuts and Quick Culinary Getaways." Besides a delicious recipe for Japanese-style Vegetable Soup, which will take you on a quick trip to the Land of the Rising Sun, I share my special approach to creating characters. It's really pretty easy. I just invite them over for a glass or two of wine, spell out my story and their general role in it, then sit back and let them tell me what how they plan to deal with the situation. After a nice juicy conversation, we have sex of course--usually one-on-one, but sometimes we do the group thing. Well, it is going to be an erotic novel after all.

This time around, I decided to try a little shortcut by using astrological love guides to flesh out my characters and their erotic styles. Way back in college, my roommates and I often consulted our battered copy of How to Seduce Any Man in the Zodiac whenever a new beau came on the scene. I'm not sure it helped all that much, but it was good for some laughs and a tenuous sense of control. ("Never be late for a date with an Aries and be subtle in your flattery"--got it!). Not that I believe in astrology, but I'm finding the research, such as leafing through old Viva magazines for sex tips, to be quite enjoyable. I also want to thank Neve Black for her advice and expertise in this area. Neve knows her Zodiac!

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Secret Eroticist

I had another one of those encounters last weekend. Someone who knows me from my soccer mom life recently discovered my erotic writing. She said she enjoyed it, but that I was doing a great job of "hiding" what I did. She never would have suspected from looking at me.

Which raises again the question, what does an erotica writer look like? Large breasts? Tight leather pants? Lots of make-up? Basically a porn star? If so, I certainly fail the test.

I didn't put her on the spot, though. I answered sweetly that part of my "mission" was to show that ordinary people just like me have rich sexual lives. My new fan thought that was a wonderful mission, but still, her reaction makes me realize how far we have to go.

Speaking of images, I was looking through old photos as part of my background work for my new novel and came across the one above, taken many years ago by my older sister in her San Francisco craftsman apartment. Can you imagine this young woman would write erotica one day?

You know, I think I had it in me all along....

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Erotic Doppelgangers

To think I used to go to church on Sundays way back when, but now I head on over to F-Stop for my spiritual fix. This week M. Christian discusses the intriguing split between our erotica-writing persona and our "true" self. I'm not going to post the actual image from the essay here though, and if you want to see why, well, you'll have check out "He and I." And maybe you'll be inspired to think back on a picture from your own past...?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Talking Back to Shame

Our bodies are wondrous. Why should we be ashamed? Because just about everything we’ve ever heard our entire lives has told us that we should be. Afraid. Ashamed. Of who we are, what we are.

So says poet and erotica writer Erobintica in this week's brave and gorgeous essay at F-Stop. I found so much to relate to in her discussion of the fear and shame we all feel and the liberating power of saying f&*k it, I'm going to tell the world the truth about myself, my desires, and what it means to be a woman. Read it (and all the other essays in the F-Stop archive) and be inspired to your own act of courage.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Please, Sir--Pasta, Anyone?

I'm thrilled to announce that Please, Sir, Rachel Kramer Bussel's latest--and hottest--erotica anthology is now available at Amazon and finer book stores everywhere. The penultimate story in the book, "Just What She Needs," is definitely one of my smuttiest tales, plus, like a repeat viewing of The Godfather, it's going to make you yearn for a big bowl of fresh pasta puttanesca accompanied by a ruby-red glass of Chianti. Here's an appetizer for your dining pleasure. (To read the introduction and interviews with the authors, check out the Please, Sir blog.)

An excerpt from "Just What She Needs":

What I needed that night was pasta.

Or rather, my boyfriend, Greg, needed pasta. I was supposed to stop at Raffetto’s on my way home and get some fresh linguine fini. But I’d had a hell of a day with back-to-back depositions, and I forgot. Okay, I didn’t actually forget, but I figured for once Mr. Gourmet could make do with some of the packaged stuff.

Suffice to say I wasn’t in a very good mood when I walked in the door. However, the sight of curly-headed Greg at the stove stirring up puttanesca sauce with his big, capable hands definitely raised my spirits. The scent of good virgin olive oil, garlic and olives filled the kitchen and my mouth began to water. Greg was a web designer and worked at home, leaving him plenty of time to clean and cook and pamper me. I pretty much had me the ideal wife with a big, juicy cock attached. Sometimes I felt so lucky to have him, I had to pinch myself.

But tonight, I just felt tired and annoyed.

“Today was an absolute nightmare,” I greeted him, throwing down my briefcase on the bench inside the door and dumping my coat in a heap on top.

“That’s too bad, sweetie. But now you can relax. Dinner’s almost ready,” Greg said, giving me a kiss and a glass of Chianti. “I just need to cook up the linguine.”

“I didn’t get it.”

He frowned as if he didn’t quite get it himself.

“Can’t you use something from a box tonight? I mean pasta is pasta.”

“Pasta is not pasta. You know that.”

I rolled my eyes and reached into the cabinet for a package of spaghetti I’d bought before Greg moved in. “See, it says right here, this is Italy’s best-selling brand. What’s good enough for the Italians is good enough for us.”

Greg gave me a patient smile. “Okay, I know you’ve had a hard day. I’ll go buy it myself. You can start on the salad while I’m out. Some good food will make you feel better.”

He was right, but like I said, I was in a bitchy mood, so his understanding only made me madder. “Why does dinner always have to be such a fucking big deal?” I grumbled. “I’m not even really hungry. I’ll just have a yogurt.” I reached for the refrigerator door.

That’s when he said it, his voice so soft I could barely hear the words.

I know just what she needs.

My arm flopped to my side like a rag doll’s. Another five seconds passed before I remembered to breathe. When I finally exhaled, it came out as a soft whimper.

And my crotch was soaking wet.

I turned and glanced up at Greg. He wasn’t smiling anymore.

“You know just what you need, Karen, don’t you?”

There was a lump in my throat the size of a walnut. All I could manage was a nod.

“I want you to go take your shower. But first hang up your coat. You know you shouldn’t leave it crumpled on the bench like that.” Again his words were low and soft, a dead monotone.

Yet the voice seemed to reach up inside me and give my secret muscles a deliciously painful squeeze. In fact, my whole body already felt sore, worked over, memory and anticipation twisted together so tightly I felt drunk. I walked over to the door, unsteadily, as if making my way through ankle-deep mud. Hands shaking, I eased my coat onto the rack and glanced over at him, awaiting my next command.

Greg was watching me, eyes narrowed.

“I can sense the attitude change already,” he said. “Go get ready, I’ll be with you in a few minutes.”

I headed down the hall slowly, half hoping he might change his mind, call me back for a soothing hug instead.

Not that he ever did.

As I hung my skirt in the closet and tossed my blouse and underwear in the laundry basket, I heard pots rattling and water running out in the kitchen, ordinary sounds filtered through layers of thick gauze. But the ordinary world was already far behind me. With each step, each motion, thought slipped away, leaving only that sweet, throbbing ache low between my legs.

Soon I would be in the place where I always got just what I needed....

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Tangible Mirage

Today's offering at F-Stop is a beautifully-written and thought-provoking exploration of erotica writer Thom Gautier's relationship with Penthouse over the years. It's sure to bring back memories of your own erotic education, so lock that bedroom door (we don't want any parents barging in unannounced) and head on over to spy on a very special couple's pictorial: the fascinating interplay between sex and "the tangible mirage."

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Creativity and Darkness

Janine Ashbless takes the spotlight at F-Stop this Easter Sunday with an extraordinarily moving and courageous essay on depression and its role in her life as a writer. I find myself at a loss for words to describe its power--best perhaps for you to experience her journey through the darkness and return to the light for yourself. Thank you, Janine, for taking F-Stop to a new level of honesty and eloquence.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Stories in Our Bodies?

A while back I posted an article by Dani Shapiro on the challenges of the writing life, written no doubt as part of the promotional campaign for her new memoir, Devotion. (Shapiro is a publishing veteran, and I'm sure she knows it's best to get your name out there in every way possible when a new book is released). I somehow assumed the memoir would deal with the same topic, so I requested it from my library. When I finally got the book, however, I discovered it was more about her mid-life spiritual crisis--a very popular topic in U.S. publishing these days thanks to a large audience of Baby Boomers at a similar place in their lives. It was a very quick read, not exactly a good sign for such a book, but I did happen upon one passage that I liked a lot. And here it is:

…Some of my greatest moments of clarity—those little eureka moments of truth—had happened in unlikely places: wheeling a card down a supermarket aisle, driving along an empty stretch of highway, lying in bed next to Jacob as he drifted off to sleep. And I knew from my yoga practice that those insights are already fully formed—literally inside our bodies, if only we know where to look. Yogis use a beautiful Sanskrit word, samskara, to describe the knots of energy that are locked in the hips, the heart, the jaw, the lungs. Each knot tells a story—a narrative rich with emotional detail. Release a samskara and you release that story. Release your stories, and suddenly there is more room to breathe, to feel, to experience the world. I wanted to release my stories and find out what was beneath them—I wanted to work with the raw materials of my life—but I wasn’t sure how to do it.

So, the rest of the book is pretty much Shapiro's attempt to "do it," and I didn't find that especially compelling as I mentioned, but I could definitely relate to this idea of epiphanies or moments of sudden clarity to be a release of "knots" already embedded in our bodies. That's because often--maybe always--when I hit upon a truth in my life, I feel a lightening, a lifting, a physical release, generally in my chest area (my heart?). Now Shapiro presents it in a way that you might think these epiphanies are like buried treasure, maybe some ancient knowledge that is hidden with us from birth. I'd guess it's somewhat different: a difficult problem in our lives tends to create bodily tension that we hold inside us, sometimes for many years. The moment of clarity is indeed like shining a light on this tangled mystery and the very naming of it releases that tension.

I also like the idea of storytelling as a way to create more space in my life. That's how it feels to me, and more and more I appreciate experiences that make my heart and my mind feel more spacious.

Meandering on in the classic Japanese essay style, I'll conclude by saying that I have a large collection of cookbooks, many just for historical or cultural value, but a good portion I refer to for actual cooking. I consider a cookbook worth the money if there are at least three recipes I use over and over, but one really great recipe will do the trick. This paragraph from Shapiro's memoir saved the read from being a total waste--so thank you, Dani--but back it goes to the library this afternoon, to make room for more nourishing reading!

The photograph above is yet another from my summer vacation that will not be used in a blog post because I've decided not to bother finishing that particular memoir. It's the view from my oldest sister's terrace, set on a lovely woodland property near Monticello. Taken in high summer, I think the greenery is nonetheless appropriate for this weekend's celebration of spring and new beginnings.

Happy Passover and Easter to everyone!