Monday, October 20, 2014

Questless and Restless

Sacchi Green

There’s something about being on a quest, having a significant goal and striving toward it, that’s beneficial to a human’s well-being. If we don’t face any real challenges (or any that have a chance of being within our power to meet) we make up games to fill that lack. Maybe the mental and emotional exercise involved produces endorphins the way physical exercise often does, and/or maybe it’s hard-wired into our psyches from prehistoric times when the essential quest was for food and safety and survival in general, and only those who succeeded passed along their genes. It’s potentially beneficial to humanity as a whole, too, if we assume (as I suppose I do) that the exploration and migration that led our ancestors to populate most of the world, and the many advances in agriculture and science and other forms of “progress,” are good things. (I could argue either side of that proposition, but I’d just as soon not do it now.)

Not everyone has the same level of this sort of drive, and sometimes, in those who do, it manifests itself in destructive ways. Adolescents (of any age) may do stupid and even terrible things in a drive to be noticed, to feel some sort of power in a world in which they feel otherwise powerless. Their quest is to matter somehow. Or people who have achieved great wealth may be so addicted to the “game” that they’re driven to accumulate more and more, by any means possible, no matter how much harm is done to others. Wars are often seen by one or both sides as noble quests for righteous goals, and by some individual participants as quests for glory. Exploration and colonization have led to great suffering and even annihilation of those whose lands have been colonized. Quests for revenge are by their nature destructive, and tend to go far beyond any possible justice. But the drive to explore, to discover, to achieve great goals, whether on a communal or personal level, still feels like an essential and beneficial human trait. (And not necessarily only human; animals sometimes quest for new territory, mates, safety, just as we do, but whether they do this for any reasons beyond harsh necessity, we can’t tell.)

But our topic this time is really meant to apply to individual, personal quests, largely our own, and I’ve clearly been avoiding grappling with the heart of the matter. To my own surprise, at this stage in my life I don’t think I have much in the way of personal quests to discuss. There were certainly things I wanted to accomplish, and there were things I did more or less accomplish, although they weren’t necessarily the same things. Some dreams will go unfulfilled—I won’t travel around the world and become intimately familiar with those “faraway places” I used to read about—who’s old enough to remember that song? But I value the travel I’ve managed to do, and keep up pretty well on what’s happening in the world as it is now, which is far different from the world I used to read about anyway. And I won’t write “deathless” prose, but I’ve had indications that my writing has touched and even helped a few people, and I’ve helped some beginning writers who have the potential to do far more than I ever could, so I don’t feel that my quest, if I can call it that, has been entirely in vain.

Okay, I’m done with the pseudo-philosophizing part. Let’s get down to what we do as writers. In the “rules” about writing fiction, the quest imperative goes without saying (but is said anyway, and emphatically.) The main character in a story must have a quest, something to gain, and the elements of a story must work together to forward, obstruct, and forward again that quest. Every aspect should have some meaning related to the whole. In erotica, the goal is usually a sexual one, although for me the best erotica includes other intertwined factors. Readers’ mileage may vary.

But I came across some very interesting speculation recently about the role of a writer. A friend on a discussion group called our attention to a NYT article about a study undertaken at the Yale Mind and Development Lab. Here’s a link:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/19/opinion/sunday/does-everything-happen-for-a-reason.html?_r=2 

The study found that the majority of people, whether religious or atheist, believe in some sort of fate,  “defined as the view that life events happen for a reason and that there is an underlying order to life that determines how events turn out.”

They go on to say that this view only works when related to understanding the psychological perspectives of others: “This drive serves us well when we think about the actions of other people, who actually possess these psychological states, because it helps us figure out why people behave as they do and to respond appropriately. But it can lead us into error when we overextend it, causing us to infer psychological states even when none exist. This fosters the illusion that the world itself is full of purpose and design…In other words, the more likely people are to think about other people’s purposes and intentions, the more likely they are to also infer purpose and intention in human life itself.”

Hmm. Who is more likely to think about people’s purposes and intentions than writers of fiction? Another friend on the discussion group posed the question of writers being complicit in supporting this view of all life events happening for a reason. I, flippant as ever, responded that we writers get to be “gods and the creators of our fictional worlds. So of course everything in our stories has to have a reason--and that rifle hanging on the wall in the first act of the play had better be fired before the end. (Was it Chekhov who decreed that?)”

Upon further thought, I decided that we have to make our stories, our mini-worlds, have meaning and purpose and action that makes sense, because, as in playing games, people read fiction to fulfill a need for quests. If we don’t fill that need, they won’t read our work. Whether reinforcing beliefs that everything happens for a reason is harmful, I can’t say, but the need would be there anyway, so filling it may be a good thing. Fictional quests don’t always have to end well for the characters involved; the popularity of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones books proves that. But the quest itself, the seeking, the striving, exercises psychological and emotional "muscles" that desperately need that stimulation. (On second or third thought, maybe the Game of Thrones world manages the trick of exercising those muscles and at the same time dispelling the belief that everything happens for a human-centered reason.)  

What do you folks think?  

 



Friday, October 17, 2014

Quests

 

Spencer Dryden

What does it say about my mental function when the first time I sat down to write this post I wrote Qwest? I guess I have been fully enveloped by marketing. ET phone home.
My first thought on quests was on big ones. I just spent a month at my adopted home of Summer Haven, Florida (USA). Summer Haven is on the Atlantic side between Daytona and St. Augustine. It turns out Summer Haven is very close to the place where the Spanish crossed from the ocean to the Matanzas River on their way to what would become St Augustine. Along the way they had to dispatch a French colony, more or less by murdering them. Later, they built a little fort along the river to guard this back door. The fort is still standing.
 
 
The Spanish conquest of the new world was certainly a quest in the classic sense. I would say romantic, but plenty of it is ugly by twenty first century standards. Next September, St. Augustine is celebrating the 450th anniversary of its founding. The king of Spain is coming. There are no indigenous people left to invite. But as I say, it's futile to impose twenty first century sensibilities on sixteenth century people. Besides they had God on their side.
Over the years, a glorious quest requires that God is on your side. Start with the Israelites and march through time.  Hitler thought God was on his side in his quest to reestablish the supremacy of the Arian race.  Putin is claiming that he is reestablishing Russia's Christian heritage in his quest to reunite the former Soviet Union. Saddest of all, God is apparently on both sides in the Middle East.
Yes I'm playing pretty loose here.
On further thought, I turned to personal quests. I have been on several personal quests over the last few years. I think a guy on a broken down horse charging wind mills with a chamber pot on his head is the proper image for my quests, but please indulge me for a moment. They have been transformative.
Our first son was born with a congenital heart defect. Thanks to the quests of many others in treating this most common of fatal birth defects, he has lived to early adulthood. We have always allowed him to pursue what ever he wanted to try, except (American) football. Among his many achievements, he became an outstanding goalie in youth hockey. He is certainly not the greatest goalie to have ever come from the hockey community in Minnesota, but he is, hands down, the greatest goalie ever produced by the Minneapolis Children's Heart Center. Never mind he's the only one.
Years later he had to have a pacemaker installed to correct irregular rhythm and to increase the pumping strength of his heart. About the same time he got interested in welding as a career. His cardiologist advised against it. A pacemaker could be disrupted by the Electro Magnetic Interference (EMI) that is emitted by a welder. Old guys with pacemakers are told to put the tools down.
That simply wasn't a good enough solution for me. I set out on a quest to find a way.  I went in two directions at once-investigating the claim that EMI induces pacemaker failure and looking for a way to diminish the effect of the ambient EMI by protecting the device. At the beginning of a quest, ignorance is your friend.
I won't bore you with the details. What amazed me, and I even amazed myself- a quest brings knowledge to your door. I don't have enough medical or physics background to even begin pondering the question, much less proposing a solution. I just kept asking, why or why not? I'd learn a little and then ask better questions. At one point I connected with a manufacturer in China, who shipped me some of their conductive fabric at no charge. I met, via the internet, some of the greatest minds in the new science of conductive fibers. I learned about electro-magnetism. EMI's effect on sensitive electronic equipment is nothing new. Solutions abound. Most involve some application of a 'Faraday Cage' which diverts EMI around the object to be protected. I envisioned a simple vest impregnated with conductive fibers. I researched advanced medical journals, communicated with makers of industrial clothing. Badgered cardiologists.
A quest isn't about knowing the answer or the outcome. It isn't even about asking the right question. It's about constantly asking better questions.
In the end I learned it was possible, but not practical, to construct the protective vest I envisioned. On the flip side, I learned there wasn't a singe incident where a pacemaker has ever been disrupted by a welder or any other environmental source of EMI. The pacemaker manufacturers who promulgate the stern warning against welding or exposure to EMI have done rigorous testing and found nothing. They scare the shit out of people for no good reason. If I had listened to them my son wouldn't have played hockey, or done much of anything else. Living in fear is not living.
Ironically, my son completed his training, then pursued a completely different line of work. I folded the tent on my quest with no regrets. I'm both smarter and wiser for the effort.
My advice: put the chamber pot on your head and charge that windmill. Maybe God will be on your side.
 
 
 
 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

This Road Is Forked

by Giselle Renarde

You can start close to your life, but that’s a starting place.
The question is, what’s the journey?
SALMAN RUSHDIE

I spotted that quote on Twitter last night and it seem serendipitous. Lately, I've been thinking/fretting a lot about my writing career. (Have you noticed? I only blog about it every fortnight...)

All my life, I've always felt like I fit in. Even as the quirky queer genderfucked asshole I am, I've always been pretty comfortable anywhere I went. The schools I attended weren't clique-y. People were who they were and they liked what they liked and everyone was friendly. Peer-wise, I've led a pretty charmed life.

When I started my writing career 8+ years ago, I felt at home once again. Erotica authors were all so helpful. Coming from the business world, I expected everyone to care only about their own interests. That wasn't at all what I found. Furthermore, the erotica writers I met online were all... well, people like YOU: sex-positive, queer-friendly, kinky, open-minded, all that good stuff.

As many of you have noticed/commented on, our precious erotic fiction field has lately been conflated with/shoehorned into romance--a genre that doesn't much appeal to me even at its best and, at its worst, I find pretty problematic. Suddenly we erotica people have been tossed into a world that is not our own. Sure there's some cross-over between the two genres--erotica CAN end happily and nothing's stopping our characters from being in love--but erotica and romance are not the same thing.

I've often said that I came to erotica totally naively, and I'll repeat it again this week.  More and more, I'm starting to realize my writing career is a journey of discovery--a lot like life.  When I started writing, I was like a child: I wrote whatever pleased me and took gleeful pride in my work. I never thought about things like formulae or tropes. I never considered that readers might not want social commentary with their fiction. Never in a million years would it have occurred to me that readers would actively avoid a book because of a character's sexuality or gender identity or race.

I miss my naivety. I want it back. There are some things you can never unlearn.

And once you learn them, you have to make a choice: do I keep on truckin, writing the kind of fiction I love and believe in even if it's only read by five fervent fans, or do I whitewash my fiction and dull it down and create something that might sell a few more copies because it mimics what readers want... until they actually read it and realize this Giselle chick is MESSED UP and she obviously can't inhabit the mind of the average cisgender heterosexual female reader?

Phrased that way, the answer seems pretty obvious.

Guys, I feel like I'm in high school again--except it's a high school from American movies, where there are football guys and cheerleader girls and bullies and nerds and A-tables. My high school did not have those things. Honestly, I've never felt this way before. I'm a teenager for the first time in my life. Suddenly I'm at a crossroads and I have this really important decision to make: do I repress the real ME to fit in or do I say FUCK ALL Y'ALL and carve out the path I want to take?

Never mind. I think I just answered my own question.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"Time and the Maiden" ( A Story of a Voyage)


(Originally Published in Oh Get a Grip 2010 under the theme "My Dream Job", republished in the anthology "Coming Together Presents C. Sanchez-Garcia")


We move into the future. We look into the past.  We move into the future at different speeds relative to each other in space-time. The women walking briskly in the hallway are aging a fraction of a nano-second more slowly than I am in my hospital cot here in the burn ward. Relative to the speed of light, time slows down slightly for them as they are in a forward motion of some small speed.  At night, when one or another steals into my room against the rules, nervously closing the door,  finding me awake or coaxing me awake, we are aging at the same pace relative to the speed of light.  Never mind our increasingly vigorous motion in the little railed bed, because we are occupying more or less the same space when lying on top of one another, and space decides the speed of time. 
No matter who the woman is, at some point on the arrow of time she will sob into my chest, and violently tremble and in that incandescent instant it seems as though time has frozen its headlong plunge with the beating of our hearts.  Almost all of the women in this world, it seems, burst into inconsolable tears when they come. I find this charming.  Relieved and released by orgasm she will dry herself, dress, give me a grateful kiss (dreaming of babies) and skip wickedly into the hallway back to work, back into the forward motion into the future while I sink behind, drifting downstream into her past. 
Outside my hospital window it’s been raining and thundering tonight.   In the glass, I'd say about three feet away from me; I am seeing myself as I appeared in the past, measured in nano-seconds.  The light left my white gown and bandages and traveled to the glass in about five nano-seconds.  The glass reflected it back, and it returned to me another five nano seconds later.  This isn’t even counting the latency of optical perception, neural transmission and brain processing, all of which take infinitely longer than light.  I am eternally lagging behind myself like the tortoise in the past relative to my hare reflection racing ahead of me ten nano-seconds into the future. 
Compare this to something that happened last night when Head Nurse Paliamaiaknachuk rather took advantage of her status I think and woke me up for "some practical tests" and the complete and necessary harvesting of my semen with three condoms.  After disrobing and slipping under the covers she performed some vigorous tests of my stamina and rigidity and over the space of two hours got all of her condoms filled, leaving me a little worn out and sweaty. 
"I love to look at your face when you're ejaculating." she said.  "You look transported."
Oh, transported.  I could tell her about transported.  She has no idea. I suggested to her that if I must have my equipment so exercised I should have a bigger and more spacious bed.  She  almost tipped it over in her abandon a couple of times.  She said she would find something.
 While we lay in the afterglow with her cooing her big plans into my ear, I saw the constellation Orion the Hunter outside my window. The Orion Nebula, that lonely star that forms the scabbard of Orion's sword, suddenly glowed until it was the brightest object in the sky.  That would be a nova event I think.  Those photons fled their dying star one million years in the distant past.  Possibly at the very moment I was mounting the rough faced young girl, most likely genus Homo erectus, and pressing her hard into the flowers of an ancient African savannah while her clan looked on jabbering and chanting until we had consummated our act.  Though it was a million years ago for refugee rays of light, that event happened two days ago relative to my space-time. How time flies when you’re having fun.
At the moment last night as these photons were arriving at their journey’s end against my retina, Head Nurse Paliamaiaknachuk rolled on top of me, unwrapped condom number three and the sight was lost behind her bobbing shoulder.  About an hour later when she gave an ecstatic shriek and slowly climbed off of me, shattered and weeping with happiness, the sky was covered with clouds and has been since.
Outside my little window tonight the rain licks the glass.  Larry King in my old world, now long lost, asked me if the future could be changed.  I said to his audience that the future is changeable relative to the present, but fixed relative to the absolute.  I had hoped he would ask me what that meant.  He really should have.  I wonder where all those people are now.  Do they still exist somewhere in some parallel universe?
Outside the rain travels down the steamed glass in tiny streams.  A moving drop reaches a spot, hesitates, then jinks to the left.  Why does it go to the left and not to the right?  Why doesn't it go straight ahead?  Why doesn’t it stop?  I would have told Larry King the river of time has what Teilhard De Chardin called "omega points".  These are critical moments of change, for an individual or the destiny of a world, where the arrow of time meets a bend in the river or bumps up against a bit of karmic debris and history goes to the left instead of the right.   Why didn’t Larry King ask me about this instead of the lurid rumors about me and Angelina Jolie?
In Tunguska Siberia in 1903, something believed to be an ice fragment, most likely debris from the trail of Comet Encke, exploded six miles in the high atmosphere. A thousand square miles of uninhabited, mosquito infested tundra was leveled and burned in an instant.  That's not what is interesting to me. What is interesting is that if the comet ice had waited maybe three more hours to descend at cosmic speed, it would have ignited directly over a city on the same latitude as Tunguska.  The fragment would have exploded with the energy of a fifteen megaton thermonuclear weapon directly over the city of St Petersburg, where Vladimir Lenin would have been sitting over his morning tea at the very epicenter looking up.  Communism would never have existed. No Bolshevik Revolution. No Soviet Union.  No Joseph Stalin.  No communist China.  No Mao Tse Tung.  No North Korea.  No Cold War. No Viet Nam war. When a butterfly falls, mountains slide into the sea. 
That’s all gone now, I guess.  That’s the part I don’t know, and don’t really want to know, because I’m happy now.  I like this world better.  I like its people better, I would estimate about ninety eight percent female.  Here’s what happened.  Once upon a time, a very long time ago—there was this girl.
 The poor girl had been caught in quicksand.  I had been parked in the high atmosphere, out of the way of things, filming and observing, following the directives that had been given to me as a pioneer time traveler, dealing with technologies whose consequences could only be guessed.  I saw her fall in.  I saw her flailing.  She wanted so badly to live.  It was heart rending.  Anyone who observes nature in the wild becomes familiar and hardened to the sight of violent death.  But what man with a soul could see this young woman, and not want to save her?  To interfere with the way of things just this once?  After all I was working alone this time and who would ever know if I didn’t tell?  As her tribe watched helplessly for her to sink from sight, I descended from the clouds like a righteous god in a chariot, and jumped to the ground.  In an instant I tore off my shirt and pants and tied them together into a life line.  Naked, I threw her the end and pulled her out.
Those were simple times.  A sexually mature girl had only one reward to offer her champion.   By gestures and sounds the older ones made it clear that they desired me to take my reward.  I was ashamed and excited to discover that this was what I wanted too.  I lusted for her as terribly as ever David lusted for Bathsheba.  If the fall of a butterfly can knock down mountains, a grateful maid and a man with a raging hard on --Homo erectus indeed!—together can knock down worlds and steer them into strange trajectories.
A little while ago, Head Nurse Paliamaiaknachuk came by with a couple of her friends, wheeling in a larger and more accommodating hospital bed.  There is no jealousy in this world.  No possessiveness.  The human genus we inadvertently spawned between those slippery mud slicked thighs is more like that of social insects with a few male drones and not all of them potent, to several thousand fertile females each. Nurse Paliamaiaknachuk’s companions had never seen a naked man or a phallus.  They would probably never have a chance to see another in their lifetimes.  She invited me to give them a lecture on the facts of life and then perform an impromptu lab study for each, which I did eagerly.  I'm beginning to get a little sore down there.    Not that I’m complaining.
My last stop in time, before heading homeward, was to the end of the Cretaceous, about sixty five million years ago.  This followed immediately after my Paleolithic tryst, as I was assigned to do an atmospheric field study of the mass extinction event that had killed the dinosaurs.  I had basically been sent to measure nitric acid in the atmosphere and then get the hell out of there fast.  What I found was not the asteroid I had come prepared for.  I arrived in the midst of the vast coma of a gigantic comet, one of those rogue ice giants that drift in from the Oort belt which managed to get past the giant catcher's mitt of Jupiter’s gravity.  As the comet melted and disintegrated, it out-gassed mountain sized pieces of rock and ice which rained into the atmosphere, striking in a shot gun line from Mexico to Iowa to northern Russia.  A giant ice fragment clipped the time machine with its passing shock wave and cracked the hull, sending me into a spin.  I punched the emergency return system and rode the biggest piece back, the cabin filling with flames and poisonous smoke.
I came down somewhere in the neighborhood of what would have been Kansas, in a large field.  The kinetic brakes took the impact, instantly converting the lethal forward energy into a blast of pure light.  The wreckage was almost perfectly intact except for the system damage from the fire and I crawled out bleeding from second degree burns on feet and legs.  Then the women arrived.  The flash had been visible for a hundred miles.
The world population here is very small.  Due to the scarcity of precious testosterone, nation-states, war and violence are almost unknown.  Hell, Kansas is unknown.  The ecosystem is as pure and pristine in this matriarchal society as in that ancient savannah where two horny people suddenly diverted the raindrops of space-time from one track to another, taking all human evolution and its sordidness with it. Well done too, I say.
When Head Nurse Paliamaiaknachuk and her friends had taken their pleasure with me on my new bed, they told me about my tests.  My sperm count is extraordinary.  Nothing like it has ever been recorded.   The wigglies passed the hamster egg penetration test with the vigor of rapacious barbarian hordes.  The women doctors here like me. 
They have a job for me.  
In my old world, I had wanted to be a writer, but I lost hope along the way.  When the chance came to pioneer quantum displacement engines, I jumped on it.  Then I fucked it all up, literally.  In this world males are assigned fertility farms, to harvest and process their sperm for maximum reproductive efficiency.  It’s what males here are good for.  I have been assigned to several clinics and will travel to what I still call Japan as soon as my wounds heal. And then a kind of world tour to show me off. 
In effect I have been put out to stud. I like this place.
I think I’m going to like my new job. I think I'm going to like it very much.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Life's Journey...J.P. Bowie

Many moons ago when I was in the theatre, I had a friend, Mary by name, who believed strongly in the occult, fortune telling, tarot readers, the lot. One day she convinced me to join her at the Spiritualists Association of Great Britain (quite a title eh?) in Grosvenor Square in London. She had made an appointment for us to chat with a lady who went by the monicker Shaka Kan - no kidding. Well old Skaka who was as mystic looking as the greengrocer's wife at the corner shop - told us many things most of which didn't mean anything to me at the time and most of which I have long forgotten. She did get one thing right though. She told me I would make a long Journey across the oceans across the land until I reached a desert city where I would work for in an immense building for an almighty big company.

Of course I had visions of a Saudi Arabian palace and me being looked after by some fantastically rich potentate, and saying things like 'peel me a grape' to one of the many slaves that hung around to do my bidding. Well, that didn't happen, but I did some years later make that trip over the ocean and the land and ended up in the desert working at the brand new MGM Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas Nevada. Over the years I have journeyed through most of the States, Europe, but never made it to the Middle East - not that I'd want to go there right now.

The journey I took that more or less changed my life and the way I look at the world now was when I ventured into the world of writing. I didn't start out as an author of erotic romance, that sort of crept up on me. One of my first books was in fact titled The Journeyer and tells the story of a young Scotsman seeking a new life after the English had more or less laid waste to the Highlands and banned the wearing of the clan tartans, speaking Gaelic etc. Jamie and his mother plan to leave for the New World, but many an adventure awaits him before he reaches the colonies and his new life among the Native Americans.

Young and naive Jamie is press-ganged onto a pirate ship captained by the dashing Antonio Rodriguez and in this snippet I managed to write my first real attempt at man on man attraction - which now when I read it is strictly PG rated!

This I feel is Jamie's journey to a place in his life he never anticipated.

Jamie looked long and hard at the man, trying to understand what he was feeling at this moment. His mind was a turmoil of emotion. He liked this man!There was something about him that inspired him, thrilled him even…and yet, what had taken place a moment ago…was that not a sign of weakness among men? He had no experience of these things, only what the ministers had preached at him when he was a child, but Jamie was not a big believer in the Bible or its teachings. He had no fear of God in his far off remote heaven; seemingly uncaring for the suffering of the people he had supposedly created.
Antonio Rodriguez was not a weak man. He was brave…reckless maybe, but brave—and a respected captain. He was handsome, intelligent and would be, Jamie instinctively felt, a loyal friend. But he should not give in to the urges that now coursed through his body.
“I am sorry, Captain. I canna’ give what it is you want from me.”
“I understand, Jamie.” Rodriguez looked away. “I will not trouble you again.You may go.”
Jamie turned and left the cabin, closing the door quietly behind him. He breathed a deep sigh, not of relief, for that he did not feel.What he did feel was a strange sense of loss. He walked to the ship’s side and looked out over the ocean, his hands gripping the rail till his knuckles turned white.Damnation, he thought with bitterness. These feelings the captain had invoked in him were not so easily shaken off. He could not deny the man’s attraction, or the sense of excitement he felt in his presence. Could he go where Rodriguez wanted to take him? Could he put aside his disgust of what that meant? No, not disgust—fear, perhaps. Yes, that was it. He was afraid—afraid of what he now felt. Afraid of the sensations Rodriguez’s lips had kindled in his
body. Even now the memory of that feather-light touch brought a rush of blood to his groin. He groaned with frustration and turned to look back at the door to the Captain’s cabin. Did he dare? Could he go back and face the man and tell him he’d been a fool to reject him?
Could he?
He took one uncertain step toward the cabin, and then stopped. He looked up as above him the sails, sharply etched against the darkening blue of the sky, billowed and flapped in the wind. He clenched his fists and took a deep breath to steady his resolve, then…he knocked on the cabin door. His nerve almost failed him when he heard the command to enter. Swallowing hard, he pushed the door open and stepped inside.
Rodriguez stood in the center of the room, the glass of rum still in his hand,a questioning look on his face. “Yes?”
Jamie found he could not move. His lips parted but he could find no words to say.
“What is it, Jamie?” Rodriguez made no move toward him.
“Antonio…” The name escaped Jamie’s lips before he could stop himself.
“Yes, Jamie?” Rodriguez stood perfectly still, his eyes searching Jamie's face.
“I…I’m sorry, Captain…”
“Antonio will suffice, my friend. I like the way it sounds from your lips.”
Jamie took one stumbling step toward him and pulled him into his arms. “Och, I made a fool of myself,” he breathed against Antonio’s neck. “You…you were only trying to be kind and a gentleman…”
“No,” Antonio laughed gently, his cheek pressed against Jamie’s. “I was trying to seduce you.”
“Aye, you were, you scoundrel,” Jamie growled. “And it seems you’ve succeeded after all.”
“Are you sure?” Antonio’s lips touched Jamie’s ear making him shudder with desire.
“Yes, I am sure. I’m sure that this is where I want to be right now. Here, the two of us, holding each other…”
Antonio’s mouth stilled any more words as he kissed Jamie’s lips, gently at first, then with an urgency that started a flood of sensations both men could not resist. Jamie moaned, as his body seemed to melt under the heat of their combined passion.
He drew back suddenly. “But I must smell like an animal, from the fight and the loading and the prisoners! Are you not disgusted?”
Antonio’s nose wrinkled. “You do smell like a horse I once owned. Here, let’s get these clothes off you and I will take care of the rest.”
“What about the men? Will they not wonder…?” Jamie asked, allowing his shirt to be removed.
Antonio smiled. “They respect my privacy—and besides,” he added with a wink, “I will lock the door.”
Jamie watched him pour a liquid from a small vial into the basin of clean water he always seemed to have in his cabin. He then dipped a cloth into the water and beckoned Jamie over. His eyes lit up with admiration, as the young Scot stood before him, naked and trusting.
“Essence of sandalwood,” he explained as Jamie sniffed at the cloth, proceeding to wash the sweat and grime from Jamie’s smoothly muscled back and chest, causing the young man to tremble with desire. As Antonio knelt before him, touching him where no other man had before, he drew back slightly, his hand staying the sensuous movement and feel of the warm damp cloth in Antonio’s hand.
“Sorry, no one has ever done this to me afore…” he gasped.
“I am sorry too, for them…” Antonio smiled up at him, then began to wash Jamie’s legs and feet.When he had done, he handed Jamie a towel and watched the young Scot dry himself.
“Are you not a little overdressed for what you had in mind?” Jamie enquired, blushing at his own brazenness.
Antonio’s eyes widened in surprise, then he laughed. “So, not quite as shy as you led me to believe.” He pulled Jamie into his arms. “If I am overdressed, you must remedy that.”
Their mouths met in a kiss born of hunger and mutual longing. Jamie felt as though he were drowning in a sea of visceral sensation. Every nerve ending, every part of his senses came alive with a burning desire to become a part of the man who now held him in this crushing embrace. There seemed to be not enough closeness even as their bodies arched and strained together. All that had previously seemed alien to Jamie, now became almost a second nature. If Antonio had taken the lead, Jamie was a willing and able follower. His hands ripped away the fabric of Antonio’s shirt, his lips brushed the fine hair that covered the man’s chest and abdomen. As he unbuckled Antonio’s belt, he raised his head and smiled into his captain’s face. All vestiges of restraint were gone in that smile, for he knew now, without a doubt, where it was he wanted
to be.

The Journeyer was fairly successful on Amazon and it encouraged me to go on writing. However a friend who'd read it mentioned she would have liked a bit more 'spice in the mix' as she put it. I wasn't sure I could sustain spice all the way through so I decided to write a series of short stories with an erotic edge. One of the stories My Vampire and I ended up being a lot longer than I had intended and when I submitted it to the Totally Bound publisher in the UK, even longer and a lot spicier. That was I suppose the second phase of my writing journey - erotica bound. An exciting and seemingly never ending journey.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Discovering Yourself, Somewhere Else

By Lisabet Sarai


Anyone who has read much of my work or followed my blogs will know that I'm passionate about travel. My husband seduced me in a Burmese restaurant by telling me tales of his own international adventures. With him at my side, I've visited every continent except Australia (though I still have a long wish list of places we haven't been) as well as at least three quarters of the U.S. states. In less than two weeks, in fact, we’re leaving for ten days in a brand new country – part business, part pleasure, but I’m certain it will be fascinating.

Our topic at the Grip this fortnight is “Voyages and Quests”. I’m not the first to note that erotic novels often take the forms of a voyage of self-discovery. The protagonist begins the book unaware of his or her own needs and sexual proclivities. Over the course of the book, by participating in various erotic scenarios, the central character learns sometimes shocking truths about his or her carnal tendencies and what is required to satisfy them. Consider The Story of O, Molly Weatherfield’s Safe Word, Anneke Jacob’s As She’s Told, or Donna George Storey’s marvelous Amorous Woman. In each of these books, the heroine would never have believed, at the start of the tale, what she would be willing and eager to do by the end.

My first and second novels, Raw Silk and Incognito, definitely fit this model. In the former, the heroine Kate, though no nun, struggles to accept ongoing revelations about her sexual insatiability and her cravings for submission. In the latter, Miranda progresses from a woman so sexually damanged that she can let go of her inhibitions only in encounters with strangers to one who can integrate her prodigious appetite for sexual adventure with true emotional intimacy.

The journey in erotic fiction frequently feels like a spiralling down, a tunnelling inward toward the darkest desires buried in the core of one’s psyche. Or perhaps the process is more onion-like, peeling away the layers of self-delusion and conventional propriety to get to the juicy heart of unvarnished lust.

There’s something about physical travel that accelerates this process. We’re more open to experience when we’re away from the routine of our everyday lives, more vulnerable and also more accepting. Travelling offers a sort of freedom—freedom to be anonymous, to do things that might be a bit too outrageous in a city or a country where someone might recognize you.

I’ve explored this quite a lot in my fiction. One of the first short stories I published was “Butterfly”, in Mitzi Szereto's second volume of erotic travel tales, about an expat construction worker who falls in love with a transgendered Bangkok bar girl. Mitzi's next volume, entitled Foreign Affairs, included my M/M/F tale “Vows”, set in Luang Prabang, Laos—a story about the sexual craziness engendered by foreign climes. “Crowd Pleaser” is another example. A married couple travels to New Orleans to very publicly celebrate their anniversary. (The links above will take you to free versions of these stories on my website.)

One of my personal favourite sex and travel episodes occurs in Incognito. Most of Incognito is set in Boston, but this chapter moves to London. Miranda (a Harvard PhD student doing her dissertation on Victorian erotica) has been invited to participate in a panel discussion at a prestigious academic conference in London. She journeys there with Mark, the sexually irrepressible lover who has finally won her trust. Promising a surprise, he shows up at their hotel with bags from Harrods and enough make-up to turn Miranda into a slender, buff young man whom he christens “Randy”. 
 
****

The door was opened by a clean-shaven young man wearing a crimson bellboy’s uniform. He looked them up and down in an openly appraising manner. What he saw must have satisfied him, for he nodded and gave them a stiff little smile. “Good evening, gentlemen. Welcome to the Harkness Club.” They followed him into a modest anteroom furnished with coat hooks, an umbrella rack, and hunting prints. At the far end of the room was an arch covered with red velvet drapes. With a flourish, their guide pulled back the drapes to let them pass. “The curtain rises,” murmured Mark under his breath. Electric anticipation shot through Miranda’s body.

She was not sure what to expect, but her initial reaction was disappointment. The room on the other side of the curtains was large but remarkably ordinary. A gleaming mahogany bar ran along one wall. Brass trim and ranks of glassware suspended from the ceiling reflected the golden light of ceiling fixtures with oiled paper shades. The rest of the room contained shadowy groupings of low tables and chairs. Semicircular couches hugged the wall in the corners. The room was fairly full. People perched on bar stools, clustered around the tables, or simply stood around in tight knots with their drinks. Some violin piece played softly in the background. The swelling sound of conversation frequently overwhelmed it.

It took Miranda three breaths to realise that every one of the patrons was male.

The rich panelling, leather upholstery and old-fashioned lighting were so quintessentially traditional that Miranda expected more foxes and hounds, or perhaps flowers and fruit, to adorn the walls. When she looked closely at the many paintings, however, she saw that they were male nudes, artistic as opposed to raunchy, but undeniably erotic. She looked at Mark. “This is a gay bar,” she whispered, feeling a tiny hint of panic.

Mark grinned ever so slightly. “Well, you might call it that. I prefer to think of it as a gentleman’s club.”

As they walked into the room, Miranda felt the eyes of the patrons, discreetly surveying the new arrivals. She was suddenly, intensely, aware of the sock distending her trousers. Mark steered them to a table near one corner. A waiter appeared immediately. Mark ordered whisky for both of them.

“We can leave at any time,” he told her. “However, I thought that you might find this scene interesting. It's considerably more tasteful than most gay bars back in the States. There are no chaps showing bare butts, no tattoos, no strategically torn jeans. The only leather you’ll see is three-hundred quid custom-made suits. Even in this environment, the Brits are restrained. Personally, I find the additional social constraints heighten the erotic tension.”

“You think that everything heightens erotic tension!” commented Miranda, sipping her drink.

Before he could answer, she noticed a man approaching their table. He was medium height, trimly built, with salt and pepper hair and a small moustache. His clothing was well-tailored but conservative. He favoured them with a slightly nervous smile as he reached them.

“Good evening,” he said. “Do you mind if I join you?” He had a cultured voice. His accent reminded Miranda suddenly of Geoffrey. The memory made her sex heavy and wet.

“Please do,” said Mark, standing up to allow the other man access to the empty chair on the other side of the table. And to show off his physique, Miranda suddenly realised. There was just a hint of swish in Mark’s manner, a roll of the hips and a tilt of the chin that were not typical of his usual movement. As soon as their guest was seated, Mark held out a friendly hand. “I’m Marcus,” he said, “and this is my friend Randy.”

“Peter,” responded their guest. “I’m pleased to meet you both.”

“Likewise, Peter.”

“You’re American, aren’t you?” Mark nodded. “In London on business?”

“A bit of business, a bit of pleasure, you might say.”

There was general laughter. Miranda thus far had not dared say a word. She was fascinated, watching Mark flirt with their companion. Peter was attractive for a mature man. He had a ready smile and graceful, well-groomed hands. He and Mark chatted about London sights, shopping, entertainment. To Miranda, it seemed like every comment Mark made was a double entendre. Peter leaned forward, his lips slightly parted, his pale blue eyes gleaming, attention totally focused on her lover. Miranda felt slightly invisible. She didn’t mind.

They finished their drinks. Mark was about to order another round, but Peter held up his hand. “Excuse me, but I’ve got to visit the loo.” He strode across the room and disappeared through a doorway on the far side.

“Come on,” said Mark, grabbing Miranda’s hand and pulling her in the same direction.

“What…?”

“It’s a signal,” whispered Mark. “Come on.”

She followed him, a bit reluctantly, into the brightly-lit lavatory. It was immaculately clean. A vase of purple carnations sat on the sink.

Peter stood at a urinal along one side. She could hear the sound of his piss pouring into the porcelain fixture. Without hesitation, Mark took up position beside the older man, unzipped his fly, and extricated his penis. It was half-erect. His own cock still hanging out, Peter watched, fascinated, as Mark handled himself. Miranda hung back, her hands in her pockets. From where she stood, she could see both of their organs. After a few minutes of stroking, Mark began to pee. A queasy excitement settled in Miranda’s stomach as she watched the yellow stream arching through the air. Without realising it, she took a few steps closer, her eyes glued to the two men.

“So, Marcus, I’d like to give you a taste of how we entertain ourselves here in jolly old England,” said Peter softly. “Would you like that?”

Mark was stroking his cock again, making it swell to full tumescence. “I would, Peter,” he said with one of his angelic smiles. Peter reached out a hand, but instead of touching Mark’s cock as Miranda expected, he laid his palm on the black fabric stretched across Mark’s buttocks. “I’d like to give it to you here,” he said, almost in a whisper.

“Sounds good to me,” said Mark. He led the way toward one of the stalls. Suddenly Peter turned his eyes on Miranda. She saw, reflected in his blue eyes, the lust her boyish form inspired.

“And what about you, Randy? What would you like?” He licked his lips.

Miranda was speechless. Fortunately Mark stepped into the breach. “Randy’s a bit shy,” he said with a smile. “He just came out of the closet. I’m showing him the ropes, so to speak.” Peter half-smiled, half-leered at Miranda. Mark lowered his voice. “So far, he’s a virgin. But I suspect that he would not be adverse to giving you a blow job. Would you, Randy?”

Miranda swallowed hard. She tried to deepen her voice. “No, I’d like to do that,” she said. Then she realised that she meant it.

****
What follows is one of the raunchiest scenes in an admittedly explicit novel.

I had a wonderful time writing this chapter, because it let me explore cross-dressing fantasies of my own that I’d never previously articulated. I don’t know if I’d dare follow in Miranda’s footsteps – short and zaftig as I am, I probably couldn’t succeed in doing so – but imagining the situation aroused me deeply. Indeed, writing erotica can be a voyage of self-discovery, as much as reading it, if we’re willing to allow our subconscious to lead the way. 
 

Friday, October 10, 2014

And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street

by Jean Roberta

I often explain narrative point-of-view to bewildered first-year university students. Too many of them seem to think that a story is written in “first-person” if one major character has all the best lines.

I use the Dr. Seuss story, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” as an example of first-person storytelling. Did “Dr. Seuss” (himself a persona based on a pen name) actually see all the things he describes? Very unlikely, but this fantasy never loses its breathless air of immediacy because the narrator seems to be speaking directly to us, the reader.

Looking over my own stories to find a general pattern of viewpoints, I’ve realized that I am often confused myself, especially while a story is gelling in my mind. Whose story is it? Would it be told better by a major character who is directly involved in the action, or by a more objective (or more biased) observer?

The stories I’ve especially enjoyed writing have been told by an “I” who is clearly not me, or not the me who is visible from the outside (short, white, female, past menopause, Canadian). I like to inhabit other personalities partly because I secretly think of myself as a failed actor (have performed in a few plays, but never had anything resembling a career on the stage) and writing in first-person is another way to perform. (“Is this a dagger that I see before me? Out, out, damned spot!”)

Part of the pleasure of inhabiting a different personality has to do with preventing malicious gossip, or thwarting the gossip-mongers. Those who would like to find some dirt on the outwardly-visible me are likely to be frustrated when they learn that the “I” in a particular story is male, supernatural, or living in a past century.

Here is the beginning of a fairly lightweight erotic story (“Focal Point”) that I wrote from the viewpoint of a young man. I live in a country where “Jean” can be seen as a masculine name, so I kept it for my narrator.

“'We have a prop for you today, Johnny,' purred the avant-garde lesbian-feminist art instructor I thought of as Ms. Muff. I hated the way she used the royal 'we,' and I hated her version of my French-Canadian name, Jean.

There’s something about being naked in a roomful of fully-dressed people that makes it hard for me to assert myself. In fact, trying not to get hard usually took up most of my energy. I stood quietly, forcing my arms to stay at my sides, while Ms. Muff strutted around me in her black jeans, tossing her sun-bleached hair and looking amused. She probably fantasized about cutting me up and serving choice bits as hors d’oeuvres at the next lesbian brunch or gallery opening."

This story (with m/m sex) was based on my own experience as a model in university art classes, but the narrator’s perception of women as having cruel power over vulnerable men was a stretch for me. Being naked in public is definitely a vulnerable position for anyone to be in, but as a male friend pointed out to me at the time, I was never likely to have a visible erection. And as I pointed out to myself, writing this story might possibly expose me to ridicule, but not for being a gay man.

I wrote another m/m story (a fairly rare experiment for me) from a limited third-person viewpoint. The central character is a journalist, and I thought he would probably tell his own story in third-person, as though it were a news article. He is also a widower, and I thought his habitual use of third-person narration would be his way of keeping a grip, not giving in to his grief.

"The Pacific is playful and moody near Isla Negra, the final resting-place of the unofficial national poet of Chile and his faithful companera. Stan Boisvert waded ankle-deep into the surging wavelets, his pants rolled up high enough to show the plentiful, dark leg-hair that could be ruffled by a strong breeze.

It was January, full summer in the Southern Hemisphere. Nonetheless, the water was cold enough to raise goose-bumps on exposed skin. The breezes--¬some warmer and some cooler--helped. Stan welcomed the feeling of air and water on his body. He came to the beach to be reminded he was alive.

As a boy in Canada, he had waded into the grey water of Lake Ontario, never quite believing that it was a lake surrounded by solid land and not an ocean that could carry a curious traveler to other continents. The vastness, the restlessness and the dazzling effects of sunlight on water had all been the same then as now. Presumably, though, Stan knew more about the world now than he had as a child, not only in a geographical sense.

He was attracted to this beach because it had looked deserted. In some unacknowledged sense, he had hoped that if his own lost companera were to contact him, it would be here where the ocean surges onto the land like a horde of spirits persistently trying to touch the living. Grief had given him an irrational conviction that she must still exist in some form, and that she had left him to return to her home."


Those who know me generally know that when I tell a story from the viewpoint of a woman who adores a particular man (a hunk! a god!), this is another big stretch for me. The story I wrote for the forthcoming Mammoth Book of Uniform Erotica (edited by Barbara Cardy, who accepted my story) is basically a romance. I wanted to show a particular uniform from the viewpoint of the woman who loves to see her man wearing it.

“'Door-to-door delivery will continue until the end of the calendar year, but plans are in place to phase it out. The Corporation can no longer justify the expense of this service, especially in rural areas.' The television newscaster looked like a mannequin in a display window, and she read her lines without a trace of feeling. I wanted to shoot the messenger.

I could hardly imagine not seeing Bernard, my favourite mail carrier, striding up my front walk every weekday morning at eleven o’clock precisely. In winter, he wore his regulation black parka and the black balaclava that covered his whole face except for his sky- blue eyes. In summer, he wore his summer uniform: a short-sleeved khaki shirt and shorts that revealed his muscular, sun-tanned legs. In all seasons, he proudly wore the symbol of the Canada Post Corporation, a red chevron like an arrow speeding toward its target. Just seeing it made my heart beat faster."

Actually, I was only being somewhat facetious here. For years, I have honestly admired the men and women who brave the Canadian climate (which varies from region to region, but is generally unfriendly everywhere except the West Coast) to ensure that letters and parcels get delivered right to our mailboxes. And the federal government has threatened to phase out this service, so that at some point in the future, door-to-door mail delivery here will probably seem as quaint as the Pony Express.

I vaguely remember most of my lesbian stories as clear, simple, first-person, horse’s-mouth narratives, but a brief survey of them shows me that the dreaded head-hopping occurs in some of them. In this story, “A Bushy Tale,” I wanted to show an encounter from the viewpoints of both women. While writing, I think I was completely oblivious of the pitfalls of this approach.

"Louanne and Thomasina (who could stand being called Tommy but not Tommy-girl)were getting acquainted over leisurely cups of coffee on the patio of Café Mocha. They had been introduced by their mutual friend Mick, a dyke d.j. who enjoyed watching women on a crowded dance floor, and occasionally tried to match them up. The spring weather was bright and breezy, coaxing all the trees and plants in the neighborhood to show their first trusting leaves.

'Do you like your job?' Louanne asked Tommy, whose arm muscles impressed her. Louanne imagined being wrestled to the floor, and it made her blush. She had been told about Tommy’s sexual tastes, but decided to stick to safe topics.

'Oh, yes,' Tommy smiled. She was noticing the way sunlight brought out the reddish-gold highlights in the wood-brown hair that brushed Louanne’s shoulders. Tommy wanted to stroke it, gather it up in one hand, and pull it to bring Louanne’s mouth closer to hers. She decided to focus on the conversation.

'I work for the Humane Society, you know. When we get complaints about animal abuse, I go check them out. If I find that, uh, the animals shows signs of abuse, I bring them back to the shelter and we take care of them. I like watching them recover.'

Louanne beamed, and Tommy gave her an answering smile. 'I know what you mean,' Louanne assured her, even though she seriously doubted whether anyone really knew what anyone else meant. 'I’ve been a volunteer counsellor on the sexual assault and abuse line for a few years. Dealing with women who’ve been abused is hard, but it’s good to see them getting their lives back, little by little.'"

Too true that few people know what anyone else means. Sometimes I’m not even sure what I mean. I wanted to tap into the real-life comedy of two new acquaintances exchanging polite chatter while their parallel streams of consciousness run below their words like a bass line below the melody. It was fun to write. I just hope it isn’t too confusing to read. (It was published in Best Lesbian Erotica 2004.)

Several years ago, while randomly googling my pen name, I discovered “A Bushy Tale” on the website of a man who called himself Marcel Lee, and described himself as a 31-year-old heterosexual African-American man in Detroit, Michigan. WTF? I thought. This story was part of his on-line erotic library, pirated from various sources, and available for anyone to read. Marcel seemed to think he was providing a public service by making this material available to others. It was his way of attracting a following. It certainly attracted me.

I described this situation in the “Writers” list of the Erotic Readers & Writers Association, and got predictable advice. Several list-members advised me to threaten Marcel with drastic legal action if he didn’t remove my story at once. How dare he toy with my intellectual property?

I couldn’t work up a full head of steam over the theft of my story. I had already been paid for its publication in Best Lesbian Erotica. I wasn’t going to earn more money for it unless I submitted it elsewhere, which I could still do. Meanwhile, a whole new audience (probably not the usual readers of BLE) were seeing my work and my pen name. I decided to leave Marcel in peace.

Someday I might write a story from the viewpoint of a young straight man from Detroit who pirates lesbian erotica. Ha.