Sunday, May 30, 2010

Are Dentists Erotic?

After you read Marcy Sheiner's essay at F-Stop today, I guarantee that your answer to that question is going to change forever! Provocative, sexy, funny, yet very serious indeed, Marcy's essay is the perfect mind-awakening complement to your morning coffee. Cosmic visions and sexual response await, so even if you've just had your teeth cleaned, the dentist is waiting! It's a special honor to host Marcy today because she's inspired my writing since the beginning when I devoured her anthologies for examples of smart, sexy stories that showed me what erotica could be.

Btw, this "Van Gogh" is a favorite image from Marcy's blog, taken by photographer extraordinaire Phyllis Christopher, so I used this announcement as an excuse to post it here for your viewing pleasure!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

An Encore of My First Sexy Radio Interview

If you missed it the first time, back in July 2008, you have another chance to hear me talk about sex, Japan, and my novel Amorous Woman with Ellen Shehadeh on her weekly View Point Radio show. I blogged about the behind-the-scenes experience here, and I'll tell you as I look back, the interview with Ellen was one of the highlights of promoting my novel. Her questions enabled me to learn more about myself, my work and my relationship with Japan. Besides, I always love the chance to talk dirty!

So, if you're lucky enough to live in the Bay Area, tune KWMR 90.5 FM today at 11 am PDT. If not, you can catch the show streamed "live" from KWMR's website. It will also be repeated on Friday, June 4 at 1 pm PDT.

And if you missed all that, you can catch the interview at my website.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sex and Poker: Susan DiPlacido's Shuffle Up and Deal

They say the best way for a writer to improve her craft is to read well-crafted stories in the genre of her choice. My goal is to write smart, sexy page-turners, but good educational materials are not always easy to find. Derivative bestsellers that stroke the same old synapses bore me, even if they are dressed up in flashy vampire or alien costumes. Stuffy, self-important “literature” bores me even more. Fortunately, my friend Susan DiPlacido, just came out with a glittering new Las Vegas erotic romance, Shuffle Up and Deal, that provides a perfect blend of entertainment and education for any erotic writer.

The first part of the novel is told from the point of view of Izzy Santillo, a thirty-something journalist with a talent for poker and a distant crush on the reigning champion of Hold ‘Em, Nick Nolan. She ends up meeting Nick in person in a very memorable way on a trip to Vegas, and in the second part of the novel, we get inside his head as their rollercoaster romance speeds ahead. The third part switches back and forth between them, and by now, the reader fully appreciates how the dueling perspectives embody the dynamics of poker itself. The better you are at reading others and bluffing them yourself, the better chance you have of getting what you want out of the hand (which isn’t always to win).

This novel really does have it all: a witty female protagonist who comes into her own by pursuing her passions at the poker table and in the bedroom, a plot that never ceases to keep the pages turning, great humor between the lovers, and best of all, plenty of realistic—and sizzling—erotic scenes that fit seamlessly into the story. Not only did I get a refresher course on how to keep a story humming, I picked up a few poker tips, which translate quite effortlessly to everyday dealings with fellow players in the game of love and life. But here’s the real reason to admire Susan’s storytelling skills—I truly came to care about Izzy and Nick and what happened to them, and when I read the final scene, I actually had to wipe away some tears.

If I can do that in my next novel, I’ll consider it a job well done.

Besides, thanks to Susan’s novel, Herr Doktor and I have a new euphemism for doing our marital duty (always a necessity with kids)—“respecting our relationship.” As in “Honey, should we respect our relationship tonight?”

Who can turn down that offer?

But it gets even better! Susan has graciously consented to stop by to chat with us over pomegranate cocktails on the topics of writing, gambling, and sex. Afterwards, we'll finish up with some of Susan's famous tiramisu. Now that's an offer you can't refuse....

Is playing poker in real life as sexy as you make it seem in Shuffle Up and Deal?

I know it's sexy for some people because it's so popular, but it's not for me. Poker is stressful for me because I'm lousy at it. So I don't play at all anymore since I didn't enjoy it or have any talent for it and I hate routinely losing money. But I still enjoy drinking and watching others play sometimes. It really is a great skill game, but my skill lies with actual cards, where in poker you have to be skillful with people, and I'm apparently not.

So where will we find you in your favorite casino?

Blackjack, definitely. That's my card game of choice. Then once I start drinking I usually end up at a rowdy craps table. Then if I get smashed I've been known to try some hands of baccarat because you're likely to run into some characters at those tables and the dealers are extremely accommodating.

I have to say, though, that I learned a lot about the subtle power play of poker from the novel, so maybe your observer’s perspective serves you as well as the avid player’s. Are you sure you wouldn’t recommend this book as an insider’s guide for newbie poker players in terms of helpful strategies?

Oh, thank you so much, Donna. I would NOT recommend this book for newbie poker players, though, as I've already admitted my lack of expertise at the game. At the best, you might be able to pull one good move out of it, and at the worst, it could facilitate you going bankrupt. So pick up the book hopefully for some laughs and steamy romance, but not gaming advice.

Like your protagonist Izzy Santillo, you’re an Italian-American writer who knows her way around a casino. Are there any other autobiographical elements to the novel?

That's a good question. There are a few little anecdotal scenes that are pulled from my experiences. Those things always pepper my writing, but they end up pretty well fictionalized most of the time. For example, some of the more unbelievable mishaps that Izzy suffers are things that happened to me, such as falling on my face and ripping my skirt in a crowd, and in particular in front of a guy I had a thing for. What can I say, I lead a charmed life.

That ripped skirt scene did seem especially authentic, come to think of it! Now, the novel alternates between Izzy’s and Nick’s point of view. This works brilliantly with your poker-love connection in that each narrator has to “read” the other player’s motives. Did the dual point of view present any challenges as a writer? Any tricks for getting into a male character’s head so convincingly?

Again, thank you for the kind words; I'm glad it worked for you. The only real challenge was the occasional fretting about whether readers would roll their eyes when reading from Nick's POV. But I think writers think more about that than readers do. Most writers do write from the other gender's POV quite often and readers never even think about it, they just roll with it. I didn't have any tricks, other than to keep in mind a book from a friend of mine: Don Capone's Into the Sunset. He's a guy, and he wrote a really humorous story about a guy suffering mishaps in love and it helped me draw the line between being overly sentimental and too stoic from the male POV.

I’d like to share a snippet of one of my favorite sex scenes—one of many in a narrative where the eroticism fits seamlessly into the story.

Deep and hungry kisses right away, he makes me hum with it as our mouths meet and before long that buzzing that he started sparks and I’m flush and fevered for him. I long to touch his body all over. His stomach brushing against mine, all those sinewy muscles in his arms. But he keeps my hands locked down near my head while he does the work with his body and mouth. He’s teasing me, and himself. Pressing his chest into mine, he undulates, rising up while pressing his hips into mine. He’s rock hard, I’m wet. He won’t release my hands though, so I can’t get leverage. It’s like he’s possessing me and owning me, but doing it only to give me pleasure.

I spread my legs and wrap them around his waist, try to force him down and into me. I get him close, but not inside. Instead, he’s careful and controlled. Still holding my writs, he kisses me deeply and slides his erection between my lips, gliding across my hot spot. Repeatedly. Repeatedly….

I do enjoy that kind of repetition myself! Do you have a favorite scene in the novel?

Aw, again, thank you! My favorite scene is probably when Nick gets really frustrated with Izzy's tilt poker play. He's crazy about her, but she drives him crazy at that point and even though, as a poker pro, he should be able to contain himself and his emotions, he still just can't maintain and I thought that was kind of funny and endearing about him.

I know you recently came back from a trip to the Riviera (see the illustrated travelogue at Susan's blog). Did you have any adventures—gambling or otherwise—that you’d like to share?

Well. Oddly, the main thing I came back with was a renewed love for Las Vegas. My favorite things to do on vacation are swim, eat, drink, and gamble, and you just can't beat Vegas in those areas. I felt compelled to visit Monte-Carlo and see what the legend was about, and I'm glad I did. It's beautiful there, and there were some great eats. (Robuchon!) And maybe I'll enjoy the atmosphere there more once I'm embalmed, as it seems like everyone else already is. But because of the formal and rigid attitude that permeates the area, it makes adventures a little less likely to occur organically, so it was more of a laid back trip. I also got my clock cleaned at the tables, so that may be contributing to my sour perspective. In other words, there was nothing that happened that I'd write home about, nor just write about at all. Donna, thanks so much for having me here and for asking such interesting questions that were fun to answer! I really appreciate your insight and thoughtfulness and time!

Thank you, Susan, and my god, this chocolate tiramisu is a winner at any table!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The “Cure” for Low Sexual Desire

One of my guilty pleasures since forever has been reading glossy, capitalist magazines (while always careful to preserve a modicum of leftist critical distance from their overarching message that salvation lies in consumption). I used to browse Cosmo and Glamour, which were always loaded with research materials for a student of popular culture, especially sexuality. But after a million or so ultimately unsatisfying articles on “His Top Five Erogenous Zones” and “What He Really Wants In Bed,” the desire just wasn’t there anymore, and I seldom fall victim to those teaser headlines. These days my preferred trashy reading materials are health and yoga magazines. At this point in my life meditation rather than make-up seems a more appealing route to a satisfying life. While sex is not featured as loudly as it is in magazines targeted at young singles, you will find one article on improving your sex life in every other issue, and I’m finding the spin for an older audience a cultural study in itself.
For example, the May issue of body + soul, Martha Stewart Omnimedia’s health magazine (it used to be a subscription to Dr. Andrew Weil’s hippie newsletter which folded and/or sold itself to Martha so I was transferred against my will, okay?) had an article about sexual desire that actually surprised and pleased me.
The article opens, as they do, with a case study. This time the focus was a 40 year-old married woman who has low sexual desire. That means sex about once a month, even though she swears she loves her husband and their relationship is not at issue. We then get some data, something I’ve read over and over, that about one-third of adult women experience little interest in sex (the typical breakdown is one-third are “average” and one-third show great interest in sex; not surprisingly, frequency of orgasm correlates directly according to most studies).
So far, so boring, but here’s where it got my attention. A common treatment for women with low desire is testosterone therapy—and indeed I’ve always attributed my interest in the deed with a lab-verified higher-than-average amount of the horny hormone coursing through my veins. However, the researcher in question, a Dr. Lori Brotto, found that there was no relation between hormone levels and a woman’s reported interest in sex. Okay, wow, so pills aren’t the answer, as much as the search for a female Viagra inflames the imagination. Moreover (isn’t “moreover” a great word?), women who said they weren’t interested in sex still manifested the same physical responses to sexual stimuli (Dirty pictures? Warm caresses from a handsome lab assistant?). They just didn’t realize their bodies were turned on.
Dr. Brotto found that the main difference between sex-obsessed females (you know who you are) and the woman in the article is a disconnect between body and brain. Her solution? A program of mindfulness training to bring them “back into their bodies” and override the stress and other factors that ”snuff out sexy feelings.” The program involves exercises like taking twenty minutes to eat an orange and enjoying every drop of sweet juice, the moist flesh on your tongue. In order to displace negative associations with sex, she suggests you focus on and savor the positive, whether it’s the emotional closeness or the physical pleasure—“feel the sensation going into your body like a sponge”—and thus strengthen neural pathways that associate sex with fun. The woman who served as the article’s focus found it took about six months to see results, but she noticed definite improvement.
Now, the reason I’m blogging about this here at “Sex, Food, and Writing” is not just because the orange exercise sounds like fun (it can be a raisin, too, or hell, even cheesecake), but also because it struck me that being mindful and paying closer attention to your sensual and sexual experiences is exactly what we erotica writers do for our professional development. In other words, being a writer improves your sex life. Now, my sex life was pretty good before I started writing, but after I started paying very close attention to what’s going on with me and my partner, after expressing the “truth” of sex became my passion, well, the fulfillment of my marital duty benefited accordingly. I’d never really thought of this as something that could work for non-writers, just more as a perk for poor smut scribblers who don’t get many breaks in life. But hey, the results look promising for everyone. Not to mention nurturing the spirit and mind always beats a quick-fix pill in my book.
There is a certain irony to the fact this “look within because the best things in life are free” article is embedded in a blizzard of ads for therapist programs, anti-aging probiotic mints and Home Depot. But it sure as hell is a welcome change from the standard emphasis on all the externals like “new” sex positions (how do those weird handstands and office furniture contortions ever help with female pleasure anyway?), pills and potions, body-enhancing bras or porn tapes for couples.
And let’s face it, even erotica writers can use a little reminding to slow down and pay attention.
It’s as simple as that. Pay attention.
You can bet next time I eat one of the season’s plump, glossy, fresh, organic strawberries, I’m going to make it last a long time!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Emerald Exposes the Omniscent Eye

This gorgeous photograph has a title. "Pause." And if you have a moment to pause and reflect, I highly recommend you head over to F-Stop to read Emerald's moving and thought-provoking essay, "Choice and Tyranny." Be prepared for a shocker. Emerald not only exposes herself, she sheds light on the ways the omniscient Eye of religion and other authorities hijacks our choices and in fact deprives us of a chance to make our own moral decisions in the name of pre-packaged Morality. I continue to be amazed at the courage and eloquence of F-Stop's contributors. Each week opens my eyes to something new!

Monday, May 17, 2010

BAK and Gina: Erotica's John and Yoko

I've been away from blogland for various top-secret reasons (don't ask, 'cause I'll never tell) but now I'm back, and I've got some catching up to do with F-Stop's latest literary gems. Over the past two weeks, we've had some awesome posts from erotica's most inspiring and free-spirited couple: Brad Garber and Gina Marie. I first met Gina over a year ago at her luscious blog, Aphrodite's Table. I knew I'd found a kindred soul, someone who got as much sensual pleasure from creating in the kitchen as in the bedroom and on the page--just like me! F-Stop continues to be an amazing project and you'll never look at erotica writers--or your own sexuality--in the same way again.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

D.L. King Unveiled

A beautiful May Sunday--what better time to take a tour of the world of one of the wittiest and most skillfully willful erotica writers today, D.L. King? You know just where to find her, "Naked on the Page" over at F-Stop. If the sly mention of a certain Brooklyn salon piques your interest, you can read a detailed report right here. A truly unforgettable education for this innocent and indeed a source of inspiration for a forthcoming story (stay tuned for details....)